Sunday, December 26, 2010

Comment on - ABC News:
Pilot Hasseled by TSA After Uncovering Security Breaches at Major Airport

Pilot Hasseled by TSA After Uncovering Security Breaches at Major Airport - ABC News

There is a serious security issue with the poor level of screening of many of the airline and especially of the contractor personnel who gain access to the secure area. This applies to both the Public Area of the concourses beyond the TSA checkpoints and the Air Side that the public normally do not have access to. The later includes the aircraft and baggage handling areas. Many of the people who are employed in these areas are not US citizens and background checks are often inadequate.

The pilots have always felt a grievance about what they saw as the irrationality of making them go through screening when they are going to have the controls of the plane in their hands. Checking their flight bag for a knife or screwdriver strikes them as irrational given that there is an axe attached to the bulkhead of the cockpit. Part of their discomfit is social. They see themselves as senior personnel, often they are military officers as the pilot in this story was, who are uncomfortable with the fact that most airlines treat them as simple hourly hired labor whose status and income has declined over the last 20 years. They find having to go through the public screening as degrading.

One problem is that the flight crew are not authorized to move around freely on the Air Side outside of their aircraft. If a pilot has to move from one terminal to another they often have to exit the secure area and then reenter. There are safety reasons for this and each airport is physically different. If the pilots and copilots were granted access separate from the public then the question would arise of how to treat the rest of the crew. In theory a special pilot's or flight crew screening could be established and then secure ground transportation could be established to move fight crew to their terminals but to do so would be very expensive.

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