Little by little, Congress is chipping away at silly security rules that have made air travel such a hassle.

This week the House struck a faint blow for common sense when it reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes the time passengers are required to stay in their seats flying in or out of Washington’s Reagan National Airport.

Passengers whose bladders aren’t what they once were will be exceedingly grateful for this change because, in short flights from Washington, by the time the 30 minutes expired the plane was already beginning to descend and the seat-belt sign was on.

The House also made another needed change. Before, if a passenger got out of his seat in that 30-minute period, the pilot was required to divert to another airport. Now the cabin crew is given the latitude to determine whether a passenger who stands up during no-no time is a genuine menace or somebody who is simply forgetful or just retrieving a sweater from the overhead compartment.

And, under pressure from Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., whose state is home to Zippo Manufacturing, makers of the iconic lighter, the feds have rescinded a rule banning unfilled lighters from checked baggage. Be reassured that we are not left totally naked to the butane menace. Fueled lighters are banned from checked baggage and all lighters are banned from carry-ons.

The rule was a particular hardship on that small but valued group of our fellow citizens who collect lighters as a hobby and need to haul them to conventions and swap meets.

Keep up the good work, lawmakers. There are still miles to fly.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)