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.
Editor’s note: Kids, I just happened to find a nice pile of Transportation Security Administration-related crazy stories this week, so I decided to make it the theme for this edition of “Strange.” Enjoy!
That cane could cause pain. In the November 14, 2014, edition of items found by TSA screeners, one of my favorites — a sword hidden inside a cane — was found at Dayton International Airport, the agency reports on its blog. Other items found included: 35 firearms, (29 loaded and seven with rounds chambered); an inert warhead used for training; and 14 stun guns.
Knitting needles: yes. Fake chainsaw: no. As the holiday season approaches, TSA wanted to remind travelers of what they can — and can’t — take in carry-on and checked bags, reports Mashable. Things on the no-no list include: sparklers, nunchucks, fake chainsaws, toy weapons, real knives, handcuffs and bullets.
Meat with a street value. CNN reports that TSA screeners at California’s Mineta San Jose International Airport found tree pounds of cocaine hidden inside raw meat and packed in a man’s checked luggage. The man, flying from San Jose to Seattle, was arrested.
Show and tell at JFK. TSA officials at New York’s JFK Airport thought it would be a good idea to show some of the thousands of items its screeners confiscate at security checkpoints every year, reports NBC News. Items on display included knives, Clorox bleach, a toy chainsaw, an ax, a small anchor and a meat cleaver.
I’d *really* like you to be MY teddy bear! TSA screeners at Boston Logan International Airport found a child’s teddy bear stuffed with dozens of credit cards with different names, reports CBS Boston. State police are investigating the find.
Don’t Mess With Texas! Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport has the dubious distinction of leading the country in guns found at security checkpoints, reports NBCDFW. The agency said screeners found 104 firearms had been discovered at the airport so far in 2014. DFW was followed by Hartsfield-Jackson, Phoenix Sky Harbor, Houston George Bush Intercontinental and Denver International.
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
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!
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
Editor’s note: I’m taking the week off for vacation, so check out some of my favorite blog posts of 2013. Everyone is always looking for the best travel apps, so here are some of my picks. The post below first appeared on the blog on Aug. 13. Enjoy!
Last week, my friend Jim asked me a question about a travel app. He said that I should do a blog post on my favorite travel apps, and I agreed. Apps have revolutionized the way we travel, and I have 10 in my travel apps folder on the iPhone that I can’t live without, in no particular order. Enjoy!
- MyTSA (free) – I have to give props to the Transportation Security Administration for creating an app that uses crowdsourcing to tell how long security lines are at airports and if there are any flight delays. It also allows users to type in an item and check if they can bring it in their carry-on or checked baggage. Finally, it offers a guide that answers the most common security questions.
- Smart Traveler (free) – this official app from the U.S. State Department is great for my international travelers. It offers information including official country information, travel alerts, travel warnings, maps and U.S. embassy locations.
- Next Flight ($2.99) – this one is most valuable if you’re experiencing a flight delay or want to catch an earlier/later flight. Type in your city-pair and travel date, and the app shows all the flights available that day. That can be very handy if you get a less-than-helpful gate or ticket agent.
- Flight + ($3.99) – this app is the perfect companion to Next Flight. It offers the ability to track any flight in the world, check out flight boards at hundreds of airports, weather, maps and the ability to sync with calendars and share flight information via e-mail, text message, Facebook, and Twitter.
- GateGuru (free) – TripAdvisor bought this handy little app, which has expanded greatly since the acquisition. The JourneyCard section provides all your day-of-travel information in real time, including security wait times, flight delays, gate changes or layover time adjustments. The Airport Card is GateGuru’s calling card, offering maps, details and reviews of food/beverage and retail outlets and weather.
- Packing + TO DO (99 cents) – if you’re like me, sometimes you forget to pack key items (underwear). This app has a catalog of 800 items and allows you to customize your packing lists. You can also access the lists in the cloud. And the app is very handy in case your luggage is lost, because you can give a detailed list of items you packed.
- Kayak Pro (99 cents) – this is my go-to app when checking on airfares. It covers every carrier except Southwest, and gives dozens of options and price ranges. The app also lets you check hotel and rental car deals, book hotels, track flights, manage your flight, check bag fees and view maps for more than 100 airports.
- Hotel Tonight (free) – let’s say the worst happens; your flight is delayed or cancelled, and you’re stuck. This app offers amazing same-day deals at hotels in dozens of cities across the world. And these are not Motel 6-type facilities (no disrespect to Motel 6). Most of them are chic boutique hotels at bargain basement rates.
- Taxi Magic or Uber (free) – Taxi Magic allows you to book, track, pay for and get receipts for cab rides, all from your smartphone. Uber is similar to Taxi Magic, but it offers a range of cars (from UberX to Lux) to fit your budget.
- The Plane Rules (free) – With all the myriad rules airlines have in place when it comes to travel. Frequent flyer guru Terry Tripler’s app is a godsend to travelers who may not know the rules when it comes to airlines’ contract of carriage, liability for flight schedules and rules for same-day standby and flight changes.
– See more at: http://www.aviationqueen.com/10-must-have-travel-apps/#sthash.YDnOEPWl.dpuf