Tag Archives: security

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.

Best of Aviation Queen – Shoes And Laptop And Drinks — Oh My: Why Are We Still Behind On Airport Security Technology?

The Cobra EDS machine tested at BWI Airport.  Photo by Benet J. Wilson

During my time as airports/security editor for Aviation Week, I spent a lot of time writing and blogging about checkpoint technology designed to get passengers through the process as quickly as possible.  I was particularly focused on how the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) was testing x-ray machines that would allow people to keep their laptops in their bags and studying technology that would allow travelers to carry more than 3.4 oz bottles of liquids past security.

Back in October 2007, I did this post on AvWeek’s Towers and Tarmacs blog about how New Mexico’s Los Alamos Laboratory was looking at how Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) could be used at airport security checkpoints to scan bags and liquids.  Back then, TSA officials were hoping they could start testing that technology in 2008.  We’re still waiting.

I write all this because of a post on Forbes’ business travel blog — Want To Carry Drinks Through Airport Security? This Machine Could Let You.  It discusses how Japanese airports are using Bottled Liquid Checkers (BLC) to scan for potential hazards — and have been for years.  A TSA spokesman told the writer what they told me five years ago — that they continue to work on technology to allow them to move past the liquids ban.

I’ve traveled outside the country regularly since tighter security was put in place after 9/11.  And I’ve seen all kinds of security that allows passengers to keep their shoes and coats on and laptops in their bags.  And I know TSA has been working on policies, procedures and technology to stick with their security mandate but also  make the process easier for travelers. So here’s my question — 11 years after transforming security, why does it feel like we’re still in the same place?

– See more at: http://www.aviationqueen.com/shoes-and-laptop-and-drinks-oh-my-why-are-we-still-behind-on-airport-security-technology/#sthash.v2jzkYh7.dpuf

Best Of Aviation Queen: Top 10 Travel Safety Tips For Women (And Men)

On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of moderating an online forum — Safety and Security: Threat Mitigation for the Traveling Businesswoman — for the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA).  This is a topic near and dear to my heart, especially after the theft of my wallet in New York City earlier this month, which I blog about here.

The presenter (who was fantastic) was Katie Colberg, who works as a travel security management consultant at MEDEX Global Solutions.  We also heard from Caroline Bryan, a Gulfstream G550 captain and safety adviser and Terri Fuhrmann, a supervising flight attendant coordinator.  These women, along with participants on the webinar, came up with some great safety travel tips.  Below, I summarize the top 10.  Enjoy!

  1. Put a scanned copy of your passport on a memory stick. I love this one, because paper can get lost.  I always have a thumb drive in my purse and on my key chain.
  2. Ask for specific rooms in hotels. You want one away from the stairwell, between the 2nd and 7th floors and near the elevators (noisier, but safer).
  3. Wear an inexpensive wedding ring. I have a family ring I wear that when turned around, looks just like a wedding ring. You are less likely to be approached if you seem to be married.
  4. Carry a small flashlight and lighter in your purse, and pack a candle.  I do all three — the flashlight is for dark spaces; the lighter is to light the candle (which doubles as a room freshener) and other assorted things.
  5. If you leave the television on in your room and leave, turn it on to a local channel when traveling outside the country.  A potential mischief-maker is less likely to target a person they think is a local.
  6. Pack extra food and water. In the case of the Mumbai hotel attacks, some guests were trapped in their rooms for up to three days without food or water.
  7. Carry a “Go Bag” and keep it with you at all times.  The bag should contain ID/passport, meds, important phone numbers, a pen, paper and batteries. Colberg says that with this bag, if you have to leave your destination quickly, you can.
  8. Your luggage tag should NOT be a business card. Colberg recommends having one that’s covered, and it should only include your first initial, last name and the address of your office, if possible.
  9. If you should be attacked, fight dirty.  Women are advised to yell loudly, make a scene. Kick/attack spots including groin, knee caps, eyes and the nose, where you can do major damage.
  10. If you’re lost in an unfamiliar place, be street smart. Approach families or women with children to ask for directions.

There were many more, but you have other blogs to read.  But I’d love it if you would share some of your favorite travel tips!

Best Of Aviation Queen: Does IATA Have The Answer To Better Airport Screening?

Editor’s note: I’m taking the week off for vacation, so check out some of my favorite blog posts of 2013. Airports around the world have struggled to work with their governments to to find a good balance of checkpoint security efforts since the aftermath of 9/11. The organization representing the world’s airlines weighs in with its thoughts. The post below first appeared on the blog on June 24. Enjoy!


The security checkpoint at BWI Airport.  Photos by Benet J. Wilson

My former colleague Lori Ranson is a respected freelance aviation journalist. She recently wrote an excellent piece for Mary Kirby’s (another great aviation journalist and former colleague) APEX Editor’s Blog entitled “IATA seeks to restore humanity to airport screening.”

Ranson went into fascinating detail about what the International Air Transport Association (IATA), an organization that represents the world’s carriers sees as the airport checkpoint of the future, first released in 2011.  In a nutshell, IATA wants to bring back the humanity in the screening process, allowing passengers to keep on shoes and jackets, and leave laptops in their bags, among other things.

“COF’s goal is to create a security framework that moves away from a one-size-fits-all approach to procedures built on a risk-management approach supported by optimising and enhancing technology, improving data management, and using biometric identification and behavioural analysis to strengthen security screening, increase check-point operational efficiency and improve the passenger experience at screening checkpoints,” writes Ranson.

When I read this, and read the words “checkpoint of the future,” a bell went off in my head. During almost six years of covering airports and aviation security for Aviation Week and Aviation Daily, that concept became a central theme for the Transportation Security Administration.

Back in April 2008, TSA announced — with a media event at Washington National Airport — that it was unveiling what it called the Airport Security Checkpoint of the Future. We were all shuttled out to an empty hangar, where we saw a mock-up of that checkpoint.  You can read my AvWeek Towers and Tarmacs blog post on that event here.  It was based on a study done by Palo Alto, Calif.-based innovation and design firm Ideo.

The concept was put in place at my hometown Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport about a month later. Elements included things designed to calm the checkpoint process, including: soothing lights; new age music and bird tweets (yes, bird tweets); profiles that personalized TSA screeners; an area to throw out trash and items that couldn’t be taken past security; and more clearly designed queues.  You can hear my 3-minute podcast on my experience going through the checkpoint here.

So IATA jumping into the checkpoint arena is interesting, since this has been the turf of the Transportation Security Administration, partnering with airports.  IATA is stepping up its efforts to test technology that weeds out “known travelers” from those with higher risk factors.  So it will be interesting to see what IATA will be able to achieve by its 2020 deadline. You can see a video on the checkpoint of the future here.

– See more at: http://www.aviationqueen.com/does-iata-have-the-answer-to-better-airport-screening/#sthash.zUwP010b.dpuf

Why Airports Shouldn’t Sue The TSA


An exit security lane at BWI Airport. Photo by Benet J. Wilson

After the horror of the 9/11 attacks, it was decided that airlines could no longer handle the job of aviation security, so Congress created the Transportation Security Administration. The agency was first part of the Department of Transportation, but was moved over the new newly created, massive Department of Homeland Security.

TSA mattered to airports because their transportation security officers took over all checkpoint and baggage screening at airport entrances and exits. My hometown airport, Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, was one of the first to have TSA screeners take over.

It was a chaotic time, because airports had to rebuild security checkpoints quickly and come up with space for TSA management and workers — at little or no cost. There were the inevitable culture clashes and power struggles as the new agency continued to create itself and airports were forced to make the adjustments.

So fast forward to October 2013, when TSA suddenly announced that it would no longer staff airport security exits as of Jan. 1, a service they’ve been offering since their beginning. The agency, which claims airports should handle the task,  says the move will save it almost $90 million a year.

Airports disagree, so they are suing to block implementation of the policy. The American Association of Airport Executives argues that TSA collects a security fee from passengers to handle security duties, which they say includes covering exit lanes.

Although TSA should not have abruptly pulled the plug on a service it has been offering since the beginning of its existence, my question is why do we actually need humans at the exit lanes? I see TSA screeners sitting there just staring into space. Why not just add unmanned electronic exit gates? This has or is being done at airports including Philadelphia, Las Vegas, and Seattle.

In a perfect world, TSA would give airports more time and the funding to install the electronic exit gates. But I guess that’s just wishful thinking…