Aviation Security – Real and Imaginary (As in politically correct)?
Bring up the topic of “Aviation Security” and my response is “Are you trying to ruin my day or what?”
I remember all too well the events of 9/11/2001, considering I was just departing my home for a meeting near Manhattan when the first plane struck, and years before I conducted the rooftop heliport test landings atop the World Trade Center as a pilot for the Port Authority, owner of the Towers. I immediately knew things would not be the same.
As a result, I certainly support aviation security that provides actual protection, but become frustrated over ineffective, imaginary or politically correct requirements. Such non-security distracts from real threats and creates unwarranted costs, operational inefficiency and logistics nightmares for the traveling public and aircraft operators alike.
I started carrying a “tiny as a toothpick” pocket knife and had it with me on a trip to the airport. Next thing I know, TSA is announcing “Security Check, lane 2.” I found myself in possession of a prohibited security item, and could not board the aircraft unless I checked it, FedEx it to myself or let TSA take it. Considering it cost $2 and never cut anything anyway, I politely told them to keep it. In frustration, I commented to a TSA supervisor that I saw no logic in their action since I had received a comp first-class upgrade where I would be served a fine meal with two seven-inch stainless steel knives. You have the love the polite response from the TSA supervisor: “Sir, I understand your frustration, but the onboard knives are not my concern. I am only concerned with security issues at this checkpoint.”
On another occasion my wife and I were traveling together and her carry-on liquids exceeded the TSA limit. Again with the “Security Check, lane 2.” Watching this, I approached the TSA supervisor and said, “We are traveling together and I have no liquids. Can I take her excess with me?” Again in a polite manner, he said that was fine and even helped me pack half my wife’s liquids in my carry-on bag. Starting to see where I am going with this?
With regard to general aviation operations, I simply state “The Stadium TFR.” This congressionally mandated temporary flight restriction prohibits all aircraft operations at or below 3,000 feet AGL within a three-nautical-mile radius of any stadiumthat seats 30,000 or more when there is a Major League Baseball game, NFL game, NCAA Division One football game or major motor speedway event occurring. Now that I look at this list, I guess Congress is not concerned with protecting soccer or tennis fans, nor concert attendees, but I digress. Pretty much everyone, including security experts, admits that the Stadium TFR does not provide any real security, but it will create that politically correct feel-good mindset.
The only real Stadium TFR product is FAA enforcement action against pilots who make every effort to comply with all the requirements noted above, yet stray into the TFR. For compliant pilots, it creates diversions and increased costs, and in areas like New York City with three major stadiums in close proximity, within high-density airspace, the logistics can be a nightmare.
Keep the faith; sanity may yet prevail as new legislative efforts to eliminate the Stadium TFR and similar ineffective security requirements move through Congress. Don’t get me wrong, I still support common-sense security initiatives that truly protect us from a repeat of the 9/11 horrors. After all, who is more at risk than the aviation community itself.
Now in fairness to the Transportation Security Administration field staff, they were professional and polite, and I feel their pain having to enforce policies they obviously realize are flawed. I acknowledge the TSA and U.S. Department of Homeland Security do not have an easy assignment, but they should be more results-oriented and not create ineffective political correctness. To TSA and DHS, just be honest with the public regarding risks you cannot realistically keep us safe from. Don’t try to give us a false sense of security, we can handle it. Finally, a big thanks to TSA and DHS and all the security agencies for keeping us safe, I and my family truly appreciate it.
That is my story and I am sticking to it. What are your thoughts; let me know at TAILROTOR@AOL.COM.
As always; Safety First, Fly Neighborly.
Matt Zuccaro is President of HAI.
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