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Pilots Given Free Pass at Security Checkpoints

July 18, 2008

By Tom Fontaine, Beaver County Times, Pa.

Jul. 18–HOW ‘CREWPASS’ WORKS

A uniformed pilot will go to a separate checkpoint and present his airline credentials to a TSA screener.

In Pittsburgh, the pilot will then proceed down a hallway to a room that has been used for private screening.

There the pilot will present a TSA officer with his credentials and a government-issued identification. The security officer will run the IDs through a computer database, confirming the pilot’s identity and that his credentials are in order, before sending the pilot on his way in around 30 seconds. Their bags will not be screened.

Tom Fontaine

Times Staff

FINDLAY TWP. — The Transportation Security Administration launched a test program Thursday at Pittsburgh International Airport and two other U.S. airports that enables uniformed pilots to bypass crowded security checkpoint lines and get to their planes faster.

And by removing pilots from the checkpoint lines reserved for passengers and other airport and airline employees, TSA officials and pilots say, the test program should make waiting times in those lines shorter and screeners’ jobs easier because they will have fewer people to screen.

“There are 55,000 pilots in the Air Line Pilots Association alone, and on any given day, one-third of them are flying. This program could remove them from regular checkpoint lines,” said Capt. Randy Helling, vice president of finance for ALPA, the largest pilots union in the world.

“That’s not just good for pilots. It will allow passengers to get through faster, and it will free up resources so TSA agents can address true aviation security threats,” Helling said.

TSA spokeswoman Ann Davis agreed.

With regard to pilots bypassing checkpoints that include metal detectors and screening of carry-on luggage, Davis said “the TSA feels comfortable with that because pilots are one of the most heavily scrutinized work groups in the country from a security standpoint, and there’s nothing they could carry onto a plane that would give them more control than they already have. After all, they’re flying the plane.”

Corey Caldwell, a spokeswoman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said flight attendants should have been included in the program as well.

“There’s no reasonable explanation for providing just pilots the exception, because flight attendants have passed the same employment screening, the same criminal background checks and are an integral part of the flight crew,” Caldwell said.

“It makes sense to let all the crew go through at the same time.”

CrewPASS, the test program, will be tried out at Pittsburgh, Baltimore-Washington International and Columbia (S.C.) Municipal Airport for the next 60 days.

Tom Fontaine can be reached online at tfontaine@timesonline.com.

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