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Bushflyr
01-11-2004, 17:18
Here's a good article on the lack of progress in aviation security. http://www.newsmax.com/archives/articles/2004/1/11/122221.shtml


Pilots, Mostly Unarmed, Say Skies Unsafe
Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
Monday, Jan. 12, 2004
The Orange Alert may soon be history and our blue skies of flying found to have been terror-free over the holidays, but dangers still lurk in the air.

That warning comes from the pilots who fly commercial jets, and other experts who advise that gaps in air security still exist.


In recent Capitol Hill testimony, former Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) chief James Loy gave a glowing report on the progress made in air security since 9/11.


Waving aside embarrassing report cards from the Government Accounting Office and others, he touted the millions of pointy objects and other contraband seized from travelers and further declared, “By the end of FY04, at the current pilot application rate, we expect to have trained the vast majority of pilots who have volunteered for the [Federal Flight Deck Officer] program and met the initial background requirements.”

Sounds reassuring -- and coupled with the latest bill signed by President Bush to arm cargo pilots as well, it’s no wonder that in polls the public generally responds that we’re safer in the air now than before 9/11.

But many pilots say there is not great cause for optimism.

The hard fact is that in the year since Congress ordered the agency to arm pilots, fewer than 1,000 have been trained, according to Capt. Bob Lambert, president of the Airline Pilots’ Security Alliance (APSA).


Furthermore, Lambert says that as many as 40,000 commercial passenger pilots want to carry weapons while flying. (There are about 100,000 commercial-passenger pilots.)


Lambert also estimates there are 25,000 cargo pilots in the United States -- yet another pool of ready volunteers for riding shotgun. An enthusiastic Capt. Lee Collins, chairman of the security committee of the Independent Pilots Association, which represents about 2,500 UPS pilots, says he expects 50 percent to 60 percent of the UPS pilots “to step forward and volunteer for the program.”


Why the Pilots Want to be Armed



In a recent American Air Line Pilots’ Association presentation, it was shown that terrorists can make knives from both ceramics and Kevlar, which are undetectable by current screening. In an aircraft full of disarmed citizens, the terrorist with a ceramic knife has control. Without full-body searches, enterprising terrorists will get weapons on planes.


But even wielding a ceramic knife a terrorist would these days have to burst through the reinforced cockpit door to take charge of the controls. Another blast of cold water: a graveyard shift cleaning crew at Washington’s Dulles Airport slammed a food service cart into one of the reinforced doors on a United Airlines plane. Reportedly, the door sprung from its hinges.


The gung-ho attitude of the cargo men and women is also buttressed by the fact that air marshals don’t fly on cargo flights, and last November, Homeland Security warned that intelligence suggested that cargo planes may be hijacked and flown into U.S. nuclear plants, bridges or dams.

In summary, there is lawful authority in place and plenty of pilot-volunteers who share the mindset that armed pilots would have been the last, best chance to foil the 9/11 hijackings.


So what’s the rub?


Roadblocks to Arming Pilots:



APSA recently told Aviation Weekly that the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program was “rife with roadblocks” that discourage pilots from signing up. The Alliance pointedly told the publication that TSA “needs to fix the [FFDO] program before the next orange alert,” including lifting the training rate, improving screening process, and eliminating the requirement for guns to be carried in lock boxes.


Part of that fixing may involve the training facility for FFDO. Immediately after the first class graduated, the facility was shuttered and relocated. The new facilities in New Mexico are, according to a recent New York Post report, inconveniently located four hours-plus from the nearest airport.

But perhaps the most vexing roadblock to arming those many pilots who are willing is the psychological testing and screening, which reportedly are more rigorous and invasive than that faced by the cadre of air marshals now flying on selected flights. Some point to the irony that about 70 percent of the pilots who fly for the major carriers have military backgrounds – these vets are no strangers to guns in or out of the cockpit.

According to the Post report, some pilots have voiced fear that if they are not viewed as competent for the FFDO program, they may be viewed as not competent to continue being pilots.

Last but not least, FFDO volunteers must take time off and travel at their own expense for the training.
Although the TSA has refused to divulge the exact number of pilots qualified to date with guns, it has gone on the record as saying the agency intends to accelerate the FFDO program in the New Year.

Meanwhile -- guns or not in the cockpit -- flight crews are ever vigilant, scoping out quirky passengers who may be casing a particular flight. Reams of these observations are passed onto the various airline security departments, which in turn pass along possible terror probe info to the TSA, which in turn sends it in a neat package to the national Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC).

Here again a little dose of reality goes a long way to stifle any warm, fuzzy feeling of security.

Intelligence Not Shared:


Although the TTIC was indeed created to bring together information gathered by the CIA, FBI and other agencies, a recent report by the Markle Task Force on National Security in the Information Age, concludes that the center hasn’t put in place “the necessary staff or framework for analyzing information and sharing it broadly.”

Another critic of the reporting system as presently configured, Rafi Ron, a consultant who headed security for Israel’s El Al Airlines, says, “The fact that this information doesn’t have a clear central address is certainly a weakness.”

Ron and others envision an ideal database to which pilots and flight attendants can submit unedited reports of unusual incidents. Flight crews formally trained to identify possible terrorist activity from disruptive passengers crank out reports that would be systematically mined by government intelligence experts looking for behavior patterns that they can act on or investigate.
The Nettlesome Issue of Luggage

More than one thousand bomb-detection machines have been installed in airports since the start of 2002 to search checked luggage. Furthermore, the TSA has deployed 5,300 explosive trace-detection devices -- like the ones used when the screener swabs your laptop for traces of bomb residue. Roaming through the baggage areas and boarding lines are bomb-sniffing dogs.

Nowadays the airline checks that both passenger and bag make it on board.

But just as the passenger-bag check has an Achilles heel (Match-up is a requirement for originating flights only – any bomber could exit during a layover while his bag stays on.), all that screening and frisking provides no real failsafe.


Ceramic knives taped to the inner thigh aside, the TSA screeners have shown a propensity for overlooking even the obvious. In the summer of 2002 screeners missed 24 percent of the weapons and mock bombs planted during undercover security tests. TSA’s retort: “This report notes the continuing need to improve screener performance. We concur with that finding.”


And, of course, there is the case last November of a college kid named Nathaniel Heatwole, who breached security six times over an eight-month period at Raleigh-Durham International and Baltimore/Washington International airports.


Carrying aboard box cutters and a knife, along with bleach, reddish molding clay resembling a plastic explosive and matches, he went undetected – finally stowing his contraband in the lavatories of two Southwest Airlines jets.


In desperation, the young investigator sent federal authorities an email alerting them and identifying himself as the instigator. The case eventually broke when a pilot complaint about a toilet in the rear of a plane. Workers discovered the items, which had sat undetected for five weeks.


Heatwole managed his hat trick on passenger flights. Cargo flights feature thousands of low-paid workers roaming airports, ramps and runways without undergoing personal inspections or having their belongings checked. Despite a congressional mandate that 100 percent of cargo on passenger planes be screened, it is rarely inspected. Cargo companies and airlines maintain that the measure would be too costly, and the government has not pushed the issue.


Progress Being Made



Boston’s Logan International Airport is the nation’s first test site for electronic X-ray scanning of cargo stowed on passenger flights. If accurate and successful, the feds will eventually be bound to impose the system nationwide.


Additionally, work is being done to develop blast resistant cargo containers that hold either cargo or luggage and can contain an explosion – even in flight.


And as far as those roaming employees, there is the fledgling Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) program. This program is hard at work developing a system-wide uniform credentialing standard which, if necessary, has the potential to be used across transportation modes for personnel requiring unescorted physical and/or logical access to secure areas of the nation’s entire transportation system.


Keeping with the new old adage that the best defense against air terrorism begins on the ground, the TSA has been tasked with creating a computer system to detect a terrorist before he ever grabs a boarding pass – much less has a chance to pull a weapon while in flight. In the offing is the controversial Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System II (CAPPS II), which will use data-mining technology to scour government and private databases to detect ringers.
The system will take four pieces of passenger information: name, address, telephone number, and itinerary. This data will be run through government and private computer systems -- tracking information such as driver’s licenses and credit.


CAPPS II will then assign each flier a color: green to go, yellow for extra scrutiny, and red for stop -- no ticket, no board.


The problem here is that many domestic airlines have been remiss to cough up the passenger information to test the system, wanting more assurances that information will be properly protected.


Furthermore, watchdog groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have raised a hue and cry. The ACLU’s Barry Steinhardt maintains that the TSA is creating a “surveillance monster that won’t make anyone safer.”


The trust gap may close now that the TSA has backed off its decision that CAPPS II would serve to flush out any lawbreaker. In its most recent pronouncement, TSA maintains that CAPPS II will track only terrorists -- and violent criminals with outstanding arrest warrants.


Fine-tuning the System


This sort of mixed signal is nothing new with TSA. After scrambling and speeding billions to flesh out an army of over 50,000 federal screeners, the agency decided it had too many screeners for the passenger load at certain locations. At other locations, particularly those in large metropolitan areas, there were too few screeners.


The solution: a part-time workforce segment to better and more efficiently cover the peaks and valleys of scheduled air carrier service. The agency reduced the number of screeners by 3,000 in and September of 2003. Enter a part-time screener force.


And then there is the real kicker – a slow but apparently inevitable return to the use of private contract screening companies. Already, TSA is operating a pilot program at five airports using private screeners that, by law, must meet all TSA eligibility, training, and performance requirements and must receive pay and other benefits equal to those of TSA screeners.


Beginning on November 19, 2004, any airport operator may apply to have screening performed by a contract screening company under contract with TSA.


Looks like we’ve come full circle, but not-so says the TSA, which maintains that screeners -- public or private -- are forever a new breed from the old days.


They receive a minimum of 40 hours of classroom training, and 60 hours of on-the-job training. Screeners are subject to periodic proficiency assessments and unannounced testing. They are made aware of new threats and methods of concealment.


“This stands in marked contrast to the workforce responsible for U.S. airport security screening before the creation of TSA,” announced Loy before being kicked upstairs from TSA to the number two spot under Homeland Security secretary Tom Ridge.


The new lean-and-mean screeners are required to undergo weekly x-ray image interpretation training using state-of- the-art computer-based training. TSA personnel at airports have received the first of a series of screener performance improvement videos, and will have access to more than 350 courses via the agency’s Online Learning Center.


More Updated Gadgetry Inbound


TSA is in the process of implementing an updated version of the Threat Image Projection System (TIP), originally deployed by FAA after operational evaluation and validation testing in 1999. TIP is a system that superimposes threat images on x-ray screens during actual operations and records whether screeners identify the threat object. By frequently exposing screeners to images of a variety of dangerous objects, the system provides continuous on the job training and immediate feedback and remediation, and allows supervisors to monitor screener performance.


A more comprehensive library of 2,400 threat images is the goal.


That’s good news, but is all the training, hardware and expense working to make screening better?


The good news is that the answer is yes. The bad news is that since covert testing of the TSA system began, there has only been an improvement of about 10 percent.

All aboard!

Texas T
01-11-2004, 20:00
The only thing all this screening does is make the sheep more comfortable. They see uniformed people doing "official looking" acts and they assume that they are safe. I would bet the majority of flying customers have no clue as to how much stuff actually gets through the checks.


T

TheGrinch
01-12-2004, 16:15
Originally posted by Bushflyr
APSA recently told Aviation Weekly that the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program was “rife with roadblocks” that discourage pilots from signing up...

Part of that fixing may involve the training facility for FFDO. Immediately after the first class graduated, the facility was shuttered and relocated. The new facilities in New Mexico are, according to a recent New York Post report, inconveniently located four hours-plus from the nearest airport.

But perhaps the most vexing roadblock to arming those many pilots who are willing is the psychological testing and screening, which reportedly are more rigorous and invasive than that faced by the cadre of air marshals now flying on selected flights. Some point to the irony that about 70 percent of the pilots who fly for the major carriers have military backgrounds – these vets are no strangers to guns in or out of the cockpit.

According to the Post report, some pilots have voiced fear that if they are not viewed as competent for the FFDO program, they may be viewed as not competent to continue being pilots.

Last but not least, FFDO volunteers must take time off and travel at their own expense for the training.
Although the TSA has refused to divulge the exact number of pilots qualified to date with guns, it has gone on the record as saying the agency intends to accelerate the FFDO program in the New Year.



The facility is four hours away, but the TSA provides transportation to and from airports the pilots can fly to for free. The facilities they are now using are outstanding, far better than the original location which can't support the training load.

They also have accelerated the training. While a large number of airline pilots are former military, a small percentage carried guns, or have maintained proficiency or has had the CQB training to use them in a cockpit.

If they say they don't need screening, then they shouldn't be afraid of screening. Especially since that screening can not be used against pilot in their flying job.

If the threat is so bad, then pilots who want to be armed should be willing to put up with some "incovenience" in order to obtain the proper training. They said they would do it on their own time for free, and many are doing just that. Those who aren't willing to do so do not seem serious.

Grinch