TSA makes immediate changes to airline pilot screening

The Transportation Security Administration will be taking additional steps to streamline airport security procedures for pilots, who had objected to going through the advanced full-body imaging scanners or undergo what they viewed as invasive and unnecessary pat-downs, according to a pilot union executive and a soon-to-be-released agency announcement.

According to a written TSA announcement obtained by National Journal Friday, eligible pilots will enter a secure area after presenting their airline identification and an additional form of identification to the TSA officers, who will then cross-reference their credentials against a "secure, real-time airline flight deck crewmember database, which includes a picture and other information to verify the individual's employment status," the agency news release says.

Eligible pilots must work for a U.S. carrier, be traveling in uniform, and on airline business, the release says. In addition, "flight-deck crewmembers who utilize this program will also be subject to random screening and other layers of security,." it says.

"Pilots are trusted partners who ensure the safety of millions of passengers flying every day," TSA Administrator John S. Pistole says in the release. "Allowing these uniformed pilots, whose identity has been verified, to go through expedited screening at the checkpoint just makes for smart security and an efficient use of our resources."

Sam Mayer, communications director at the Allied Pilots Association, said the agency revealed the changes in procedure to the APA, the largest independent pilots association with a membership of 11,500 American Airlines pilots, earlier this morning.

"Pilots traveling in uniform on immediate business will see immediate modifications" to the screening process on the ground, Mayer said.

The TSA had "definitely want[ed] to get this resolved before the holiday travel season," he said.

The APA, whose members have been concerned about the health risks of repeated radiation exposure, had advised its members not to go through the full-body imaging machines and to opt instead for an enhanced pat-down procedure by a TSA official of the same sex as the pilot, potentially causing congestion at airport checkpoints and delaying flights.

"Basically, TSA administrator [John] Pistole has agreed with us," Mayer said of continuing discussions that the APA has held with the agency.

He added that Pistole admitted it was "stupid" to waste resources to screen a trusted group like pilots. Mayer described Pistole as saying, "Let's build a database and get on with it."

There has been no indication to the unions so far about what the full range of modifications will be, Mayer said. "We'll have to work with them [the TSA] over the next couple days to see what is going to be phased-in here, what exactly the details of the implementation process are. But it's a huge step in the right direction."

The pilots unions have been requesting a special biometric identification system for crew members for almost 10 years, Mayer told National Journal earlier this week. He noted that the current system is both time consuming and insulting to such a highly-vetted group of people, physically in charge of flying the airplanes themselves.

Now, Mayer said Friday, his union has "the commitment for the biometric program that we are looking for."

"We understand that's not going to happen overnight," he continued. "The hardware has to be bought and installed and the system has to be set up. We imagine that it's going to take a few weeks to get all the hardware and software on board, testified verified and working.

Mayer added that he is "concerned" about the intermediate steps as the groups work out the exact details of the long term solution, but that the airline management American Airlines, along with executives at other airlines, have been working internally with their pilot union counterparts to resolve the situation.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.