Tag Archives: John Pistole

New York Times Exit Interview With TSA Chief John Pistole

The New York Times’ Business Day section did an extensive interview with John Pistole, the outgoing administrator of the Transportation Security Administration. Among the topics discussed: the growth of TSA’s PreCheck program; possibly switching the program to private contractors; and the record number of guns being found at TSA screening checkpoints.

Today, I’m With TSA

tsa_logoI have been watching the voices coming out strongly against the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) over a decision to allow small knives onboard aircraft.  And I am siding with TSA on this issue.

Say what you want about the agency — love them or hate them — they are here to stay.  They have a job to do, and there are times when I agree with their mission to maintain the security of the country’s national transportation system.

I agree with TSA Administrator John Pistole that his agency needs to focus on larger threats like explosives detection.  “A small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft and an improvised explosive device will,” he told CNN. “And we know, from internal covert testing, searching for these items, which will not blow up an aircraft, can distract our officers from focusing on the components of an improvised explosive device.”

My thought is in a post-9/11 traveling world, passengers, flight crews and air marshals (when available) will — and have — intervene when a traveler crosses a line, as illustrated over the years in my “Strange But True Aviation News” Friday posts.  We’ve seen it in cases ranging from attempted shoe bomber Richard Reid to the case of the JetBlue Airways pilot who had a breakdown.

But I do take issue with the decision to also allow travelers to carry up to two golf clubs, certain toy bats or sports items including ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks and pool cues. Those are all items that can do serious damage, and passengers may not be able to stop someone wielding them as quickly.

Frankly, I prefer to have TSA screeners looking for items that can be real threats to an aircraft.  So, what do you think? Please take my poll.

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

This is always the week I look forward to.  The holidays are completely over, and it’s back to work for everyone, including the airline/aviation industry.  So Happy New Year one last time, and let’s get to it.

  1. Normally, this pair of stories would have gone straight to Strange But True Aviation News on a Friday, but I thought it warranted being an interesting story.  California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks), a strong opponent of gun control, says he “forgot” he had a loaded .45 caliber pistol in his carry-on bag, which was discovered by Transportation Security Administration (TSA), reports NBC Los Angeles.  The TV station followed up with a blog post: The Guns of Tim: Five Lessons, including: Donnelly was allowed to board his flight while others were detained and even arrested.
  2. During my time as Aviation Daily’s airports and security editor, I wrote about — and saw — my fair share of airport scanning machines.  So I found this story from Pro Publica comparing millimeter and backscatter machines.
  3. Speaking of security, this story in Aviation International News talks about how TSA Administrator John Pistole is starting to respond to critics, including House Transportation Committee Chairman Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), over his agency’s policies and way of doing business.  “[To] those who say that we’re inefficient or bloated, I’d be glad to sit down and go through the books and say, ‘OK, how would you staff this differently?’” Pistole said in an interview with Bloomberg News last month.
  4. I’m one of those aviation geeks that could spend my life visiting aviation museums.  I didn’t know about the Carolinas Aviation Museum until I heard it was receiving US Airways’ “Miracle on the Hudson” Airbus A320 for its permanent display. Which is why I really enjoyed this blog post over at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer — complete with pictures — about the museum.
  5. I’m old enough to remember the mini controversy that ensued when United Airlines paid for the rights to use George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” in its branding and advertising campaigns.  But now the song has become so closely affiliated to United that my daughter knows it as the UAL theme song!  So I was happy to hear from our friends at the Chicago Tribune that the Chicago-based carrier will continue to use the song.

Let’s end this post with one of my personal favorite commercials United Airlines used with “Rhapsody in Blue.”  It’s called “Dragon,” and it was created for the Beijing Olympics.  Enjoy!

Why Banning TSA Screeners From Your Business Is A Bad Idea

I read with interest a Feb. 19 article by consumer travel advocate and journalist Chris Elliott about how a cafe at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were banning Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screeners.

Elliott quotes an employee who says the ban was put into place after the agency began installing more of its controversial body scanners at Sea-Tac.  The gist of the ban is screeners will not be let in until the cafe feels passengers are being treated with respect.

I felt very uneasy when I read about the ban.  I am a black woman who is only one generation away from a time when businesses could ban my father from entering their establishment based only on the color of his skin.

While I can understand the general frustration with TSA, but taking it out on those who are the nearest — like screeners — it just seems wrong.  These are folks who are trying to make a living or feed their families.  The screeners don’t set the policy — they have the unfortunate job of having to enforce it.  So why shoot the messenger?

Back in April 2007, TSA let me spend an afternoon with transportation security officers at Concourse A, the Southwest Airlines terminal at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.  You can see my blog post on my time with the TSOs at BWI at my old Towers and Tarmacs blog.

I’ve also traveled regularly across the country and 90+% of the time, I have had nothing but courteous and efficient TSOs.  I was so impressed with the service at Jacksonville International Airport I filled out comment cards and sent a letter to TSA headquarters.

But I digress.  My point is I think it’s wrong to ban screeners who are doing a thankless job from buying a meal during their break time because someone has a problem with a policy created in Washington, D.C.  TSA Chief John Pistole has made it clear that body scanners are the future, and woe to those who oppose them.  But why should a screener be punished and have to hunt for a place to eat because of a policy they had no part in creating?

What do you think? Are you as uncomfortable as I am with the stance this Sea-Tac cafe is taking with screeners? Or do you think I’m crazy and way too soft when it comes to screeners? Or somewhere in between?