Tag Archives: Transportation Security Administration

Top Five Interesting Stories Of The Week

5 Dec

It was just another interesting but busy week in aviation, so let’s get right to it.

  1. I don’t think anyone was surprised with American Airlines’ Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing.   You can read my quick take on that over at the Business Journalism blog.  But every time there’s an airline bankruptcy filing, there’s the inevitable airline merger speculation.  And in my humble opinion, no one did it better last week than Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder with his post — Why I Want US Airways to Buy American.
  2. Regular readers know that my idea of the first circle of hell is travelers being allowed to chat on their cell phones while on a flight.   But I do like to have my electronic toys — iPhone, iPod, iPad, Kindle and DVD player — available while flying.  And I always wonder why we’re told we have to power down our electronic devices at take-off and landing.  But the New York Times’ Bits blog says it’s not clear why we have to do this.
  3. After covering airport security for four years, I still have a strange fascination with all the speculation on what the future is for the Transportation Security Administration in general and the traveling public specifically.  This CNN story takes a look at what security checkpoints might look like in the future.  But this speculation has been going on for quite a while. Check out my Aviation Week blog posts from 2008 on this topic here and here (the program has since been dismantled).
  4. On the business/general aviation side of the house (which is now paying my mortgage), the industry won a major victory on maintaining the privacy of aircraft owners, reports AIN Online.  After Congress restored the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program, the Dept. of Transportation and FAA decided not to move ahead and respond to a lawsuit filed by organizations including the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (my employer), the National Business Aviation Association and the Experimental Aircraft Association. For those critical of aircraft owners wanting their tail numbers blocked, I ask you this — would you want the government or anyone with a laptop to be able to track you by your license plate number? I’m just asking…
  5. I’m one of those people who has a germ phobia.  I keep hand sanitizer, baby wipes and a portable can of Lysol in my purse.  And after reading this Budget Traveler article — 6 Places Germs Breed in a Plane — I want to encase myself in a hazmat suit on my next flight.  Hint — I’ll never look at those tray tables the same again!

I also had a few media appearances last week.  I was a guest on the Airplane Geeks podcast, talking about my new job at AOPA (if you join, tell them Aunt Benet sent you!).  And I was also interviewed by the fine folks at National Geographic on the seven most extreme airports (although I’m sorry St. Maartin wasn’t included on the list).

We’ll end the week with two last items.  First, my former Aviation Week colleague Madhu Unnikrishnan had an item about how the Air Transport Association’s name change — to Airlines 4 America — yielded some “interesting” results on a Google search.   And last, the folks over at Taiwan’s NMA.tv have me on their mailing list, and sent this YouTube video on American Air’s Ch. 11 filing.  Enjoy!

TSA Works To Speed Security Checkpoint Lines

23 Nov

TSA security checkpoint at BWI Airport Photo by Benet J. Wilson

Regular readers know I covered the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a beat for about four years.  I learned the good, the bad and the ugly about an agency that is about as popular as the IRS.  I think we all understand the need for airport security.

But what frustrates me, and many others, is the inconsistency in implementing its policies.  For example, my daughter has been flying since she was 10 days old, but until recently, she still had to take her shoes off.  And a big pet peeve with me, as the daughter and granddaughter of Air Force officers, is why military personnel in uniform have to go through the same screening as the rest of us. I’d hate to have to take off those boots all the time!

So I’m happy to see that TSA is trying to ease the process, just in time for the holidays.  First, TSA is testing expedited screening for military members at California’s Monterey Regional Airport, reports CNN.  Under the pilot, soldiers still have to go through screening, but it would be expedited, similar to the PreCheck program currently being tested with frequent travelers on Delta Air Lines in Atlanta and Detroit and on American Airlines at Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Back in 2008, TSA introduced airport self-select lanes at Denver International and Salt Lake City International airports.  These lanes allowed travelers to choose from 3 lanes — Families & Special Assistance, Casual Traveler and Expert Traveler.  When the lanes worked, they worked very well.  Business travelers well versed in security weren’t stuck behind families with lots of stuff to unload.  And TSA screeners were there to guide travelers to their correct lanes.  But it seemed like a year or so later, the lines seemed to have petered off — until now.

The Hill wrote about a Nov. 15 post on the TSA Blog that is encouraging holiday travelers to use the lanes again.  But it looks like they are only bringing back the family lane, which I guess is better than nothing.  I do hope that they’ll have TSA screeners to guide travelers like they did when the program was first launched.  Have a great Thanksgiving!

Top Five Interesting Aviation Stories – Oct. 24-28

31 Oct

Now up – some interesting stories from last week’s aviation news, for your reading pleasure. And this is my 200th post! W00T!! Enjoy!

  1. Did you guys see Jon Ostrower’s coverage of last week’s ANA launch of Boeing 787 service? If you didn’t, check it out here, on his Flightblogger page.  He covered this event so closely I was surprised he didn’t actually pilot that Tokyo-Hong Kong flight!
  2. I’m breaking a little rule with this story, which came from Germany’s Der Spiegel on Oct. 20, entitled “Lufthansa ‘Can No Longer Be Top Dog Everywhere’.” In a long-ranging interview, Lufthansa CEO Christoph Franz, whose airline has been on a buying spree in the past 10 years, says that factors are forcing the carrier to focus more on European operations.
  3. My friend Geoff Fischer has done a fantastic guest post over at Brett Snyder’s Cranky Flier blog entitled “Best. Flight. Ever. First Class on the Cathay Pacific 777-300.”  After reading it (and seeing the pictures), I’m ready to book my flight — NOW!
  4. Jay Evensen, a writer for the editorial board Deseret News, writes about how the Transportation Security Administration’s efforts to scan for guns is lacking in a nation that carries them regularly — even occasionally getting them past airport security checkpoints.
  5. The AirportIMC blog posts about the social media and branding efforts of Akron-Canton Airport to see if the promise — “a better way to go” — matched the actual experience.  Read the post, but writer Sean Broderick says YES!

I’m catching up again with my Airplane Geeks episodes, but I really enjoyed Max Flight’s Episode 169.5, a series of short snippets from the recent 2011 AOPA Aviation Summit.  Take the hour to listen — the time really flies by!

The ORIGINAL Strange But True Aviation News

28 Oct

So it’s Friday.  I thought I was going to clean my house, catch up on my soap operas and eat bon bons during my first week of unemployment — but no.  I’ve picked up some freelance work (thanks to you all for the business) and kept up with all the craziness in aviation.  So enjoy the ORIGINAL Strange but True Aviation News — bringing YOU stuff I can’t make up since 2006.  Enjoy!!

Someone was asleep at the x-ray machine.  Baggage handlers for Alaska Airlines found a .38-caliber handgun as it tumbled out of a duffel bag at Los Angeles International Airport, reports the LA Times.  The gun’s owner was questioned, but allowed to take a later flight.

Nobody wanted to spring for sushi? Masaaki Tanaka has been subsiding on soy sauce and wasabi at Taiwan’s Taipei International Airport after his visa expired, reports our friends at Jaunted.  After blogging about his experiences, readers sent him enough money for a new visa and a flight home to Japan.

Guns + airports = bad idea. A Transportation Security Administration screener at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport found two pistols, three ammunition magazines, eight knives and a hand saw in the carry-on bags of Raymond Ritter, reports MyFoxDFW.com.

(Inert) land mines in airports =worse idea. Salt Lake City International Airport was forced to delay some flights  for 20 minutes after four inert land mines were found in the luggage of a military member doing training in Utah, reports the Washington Post.

Boarding pass? I don’t need no stinkin boarding pass. TSA is investigating how Elvis Jackson managed to get past security at Chicago Midway Airport and try to sneak onto a Southwest Airlines flight to Birmingham, Ala., without a boarding pass, reports the Chicago Tribune.

I got sleepy just reading this. A new independent study finds that more than 50% of members in the Swedish Airline Pilots’ Association say they have fallen asleep during flights, reports The Local. Responses from 625 pilots also found that 70 percent of them admitted to having made mistakes caused by tiredness, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reported.

What is WRONG with these idiots?  Budget Travel magazine reports how a video camera caught a man pointing a laser at an aircraft.  It also  wrote about how an Aeroflot jet nearly crashed when  a 15-year-old boy beamed a laser pointer at the cockpit, citing the Moscow Times.

Where is the love?  Social media analytics firm Amplicate says that American Airlines is the most hated carrier on social media because only 12% of tweets and Facebook comments are positive, reports the New York Daily News.
Love was literally in the air.  Arvin Shandiz used at Delta Air Lines flight from New York to Chicago to propose to Alexandra Williams, who he met on the same flight two years earlier, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Working with the airline, Shandiz used the inflight intercom to propose, and Delta provided champagne for all the passengers aboard the flight.
Jack the Cat is back!  After being lost for two months, Jack — a cat lost  out of the cargo hold of an American Airlines plane at JFK Airport — has been found, reports USA Today. Owner Karen Pascoe took to social media after she felt airline and airport officials weren’t doing enough to find her cat.

Top Five Interesting Stories – Oct. 17-21

24 Oct

Welcome to what used to be the Friday news roundup.  Even though I was busy finishing my last week on the job, I still managed to find some interesting aviation stories for your reading pleasure.

  1. My first story is one from my former employer, Aviation Week, entitled “Airbus CEO Bemoans Slow Pace of Change.” In the article, London Bureau Chief Robert Wall quotes Airbus CEO Tom Enders: “Somewhere in the last 40 years we learned to save fuel and forgot how to take risks and manage them properly. We forgot how to turn our ideas into reality before they were out of date.”
  2. Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) says that the Transportation Security Administration is one of the agencies he’d eliminate if he won the election, reports The Hill’s Transportation blog.  He also accused the agency of humiliating women, molesting children and abusing disabled people in a radio address this summer, the publication adds.
  3.  I never got to fly on Concorde, but I did get to sit inside one operated by Air France.  I know the ongoing fascination that people have with supersonic flight, so I read this story in Budget Traveler Chicago to Tokyo in Two Hours? — with great interest and some trepidation.  I’ve read stories for years on commercial and business aviation efforts to build Concorde’s successor, and the quest continues, as KLM  announces it is investing in a new technology for supersonic flight, Space Tourism Curacao.
  4. I was chatting with Brett “Cranky Flier” Snyder last week as he was driving to speak on a panel about the air travel experience at the annual Airports Council International-North America conference.  We got into a conversation on what airports are doing to keep passengers in their facilities longer, and Brett then did a blog post on what travelers REALLY want from airports.
  5. Capitol Hill was feeling Hollywood when actor, pilot and general aviation advocate Harrison Ford spoke before the Senate General Aviation Caucus on how aviation has enriched his life, reports Politico.

I finally caught up with all my Airplane Geeks podcast episodes, and highly recommend listening to episode 169, with Martin Rottler.  And don’t forget — Random Aviation Photo is now on Thursdays.  Enjoy!

Five Interesting Aviation Stories

14 Oct

Kids, I must confess — I was so busy with this week’s National Business Aviation Association annual conference that I barely had time to keep up with the rest of the industry.  But I did manage to find five interesting stories I’d love to share with you.

  1. Back on July 9, I got to take a day trip up to United Airlines’ Chicago O’Hare hub for a party being held for Tom Stuker, who accumulated 10 million (yes, million) Mileage Plus miles (my AvWeek blog post on that is here).  One of the gifts given to Stuker was a Boeing 787 model. During his remarks at the festivities, United CEO Jeff Smisek said the 787 would be in the fleet by 2012.  He also quipped about how he had been waiting four years for the delayed plane.  And now, my Aviation Week colleague Darren Shannon writes about how another 787 production delay has caused United to cut its 787 delivery schedule from six to five of the type.
  2. Are you one of those people who use websites to manage all of your frequent flyer miles (I’m not one of them)?  if you’re using sites including AwardWallet, MileWise and GoMiles, you may be facing some trouble, according to the Wall Street Journal.  Southwest Airlines and American Airlines have sent “cease and desist” letters to these companies over their activities.
  3. SmarterTravel’s Ed Perkins gives us the skinny behind the Transportation Security Administration’s PreCheck trusted traveler program, which is quite similar to the old registered traveler programs (which were privately run).  But he also asks some very good questions about the program, including cost, locations and enrollment.
  4. My friend Sandra Gonzales, a multimedia journalist in New Orleans, shot this piece on how Louis Armstrong International Airport has become one of 8 American approved airports to fly to Cuba.
  5. As you know, the nostalgic aviation geeks had been waiting with bated breath for the new ABC-TV series “Pan Am.”  You can see my review of it in this Sept. 26 post.  Which is why I enjoyed this post from travel expert Peter Greenberg’s thoughts on the real Pan Am.

DC-3 prop in Susan Elliott's Delta social media office Photo by Benet J. Wilson

I’m still catching up on my Airplane Geek podcast episodes.  I just listened to Episode 166, featuring Delta Air Lines social media guru Susan Elliott.  It was a great episode., and you have to love a woman who has a genuine DC-3 prop and a white leather sofa in her work space!!  And I got to guest host Episode 168, with Lori Ranson, he America’s Air Transport Editor at Flightglobal. And don’t forget to read this week’s edition of Strange But True Aviation News!

I have one more week to go at Aviation Week.  And I thank you all for your kind tweets and emails.  But as a result, there will be some changes on my blog.  Mondays will now be my top stories of the previous week.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays will remain the same.  Thursdays are for Random Aviation Photos and Friday will be Strange But True Aviation News.    I hope you’ll continue to support me here!

Top Five Aviation Stories Of The Week

30 Sep

It has been a busy week for me.  I started out recovering from two journalism conventions where I had the chance to speak (and raise my aviation geek flag), and it ended with me cranking out stories for my day job.  So here are my picks for the week.

  1. I’m giving props to my Aviation Week colleagues Guy Norris and Mike Mecham, who led our team coverage of Boeing’s first 787 delivery, to Japan’s ANA.
  2. Speaking of 787s, I was at United’s Houston hub on Tuesday (a separate post is coming out about that) and I saw a mock-up of the 787  in the E Concourse.  CEO Jeff Smisek tells the Chicago Tribune that his carrier’s first 787s are coming into the fleet by the second half of next year. He couldn’t resist a dig a Boeing, noting he’s been waiting for the plane since Continental ordered it in 2004.
  3. JetBlue CEO David Barger used an appearance on the CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley to call the partial shutdown of FAA earlier this summer “criminal.”
  4. I was intrigued by Scott McCartney’s Wall Street Journal story on kids attaining elite status on the world’s airlines.  My daughter, 5, started flying when she was 10 days old. She was one of the youngest children to earn a Rapid Rewards ticket on Southwest Airlines.
  5. I’m a bit behind with this story (Sept. 19), but I wanted to share this Marketwatch story on what the Transportation Security Administration is doing to speed passengers through airport checkpoints.  TSA fought the registered/trusted traveler concept for so long, it fascinates me how now they’re going in that direction.

My beloved Airplane Geeks were smart enough to interview one of my favorite social media peeps, Susan Chana Elliott of Delta Air Lines, in the latest episode.   And we have the usual basket of crazy over at AvWeek’s Things With Wings blog with Strange But True Aviation News.   I’m going to watch episode two of ABC-TV’s “Pan Am” this Sunday, but three strikes and they’re out!

My Top 5 Airline Story Picks For The Week

16 Sep

It was a fast week, with a veritable aviation news smorgasbord to choose from.  But I force myself to pick only five, so here goes!

  1. It seemed like a good idea at the time:  Rep. John Mica, (R-Fla.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, was the father of the legislation that created the Transportation Security Administration. But 10 years later, he grades the agency he created with a D-, telling Human Events that “the whole program has been hijacked by bureaucrats.”
  2. It was a split order for Air France KLM, which announced plans to buy 25  Boeing 787-9s for KLM and 25  Airbus A350-900s for Air France, reports SeattlePI.  It was the first joint order for the carriers, which merged back in 2004.
  3. The Mercury News writes about how the city of San Jose has been fighting to get a direct flight to Japan from Mineta San Jose International Airport, including hosting officials from ANA and having Mayor Chuck Reed lobby for the flight during a trip to the Asian nation. The carrier plans on putting a display of its Boeing 787 seating in city hall for two days, seen as an encouraging sign.  But the airport faces stiff competition against more established Asian hubs, including Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
  4. Talk about King Solomon’s choice! The folks running Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport faced a difficult decision after one of its higher-paid employees was arrested for a non-work-related crime: let him continue to come to work or pay him to stay home.  They chose the latter, reports the Star-Tribune, who notes the airport doesn’t have a formal policy to handle this type of issue.  What would you have done (put me down for stay home)?
  5. My airport soul sister Harriet Baskas uses her MSNBC Overhead Bin column to discuss airbags on commercial airline flights.  The airbags are used for passengers in bulkhead seats.

I was pleased as punch to guest host episode 164 of the Airplane Geeks podcast.  And the bonus? The guest was my good friend Henry Harteveldt, who just partnered with 2 other gentlemen to create the new aviation consultancy Atmosphere Research Group.  And we can’t end the week without my Strange but True Aviation News column for Aviation Week’s Things With Wings blog.  Enjoy the weekend!

Top Five Aviation Stories Of The Week

19 Aug

Brett Snyder, Henry Harteveldt and me at Henry's birthday party

Oh, it’s just another day in this paradise that we call aviation.  I’m honored — and pained — that my frenemy, Brett Snyder (AKA @CrankyFlier) has just named my little blog as one of his Top 10 Airline Blogs.  Brett is like the annoying little brother I never wanted.  I hope he doesn’t think I’ll start being nice to him just because he threw me some major link love!  I kid, of course.  Let’s get on with this week’s stories, shall we?

  1. My Aviation Week colleague Guy Norris wrote two good stories on the progress of Boeing’s 787:  Boeing Confirms Completion Of 787 Testing and Tests Ending For Rolls-Powered 787.
  2. It was the title on this “Today Show” travel story that got me: Airport security: You ain’t seen nothing yet.  After getting over my shudders, the story goes into what we might see in airport security 10 years after 9/11.
  3. The Overhead Bin column on MSNBC Travel shows some love to iPhone AND Android apps designed for business travelers.  I loved the trick to extend the iPhone’s battery life, a persistent problem for me.
  4. Like many aviation geeks, the topic of Amelia Earhart always fascinates (despite the recent horrible movie). My Twitter follower @CravenTravels hipped me to a Kickstart project by Rich Martini, who is looking for money to fund his documentary of what “really” happened to Earhart.
  5. This story on Jaunted (and passed along by @LaurieHosken combines two of my favorite things: aircraft and the very occasional adult beverage.  The post profiles five airport bars made from actual old airplanes.  My favorite, of course is the Jumbo Bar at Stockholm-Arlanda International Airport, Sweden — because it’s made from a Boeing 747!

Speaking of Brett, I must throw him some love for five years of blogging over at Cranky Flier.  He has turned that blog into one of the most influential on the planet (as determined by the Guardian, no less) and is a must-read for me.   I’m still a bit behind on my Airplane Geek podcast episodes, but I really enjoyed Episode 159 with guest @PatFlannigan of the Aviation Chatter blog.

We’ll end the week with some YouTube video showing classic footage of my favorite aircraft of all time — the Boeing 747.  Enjoy!!

10 Things You Didn’t Know About The TSA’s Bomb-sniffing Dogs

18 Aug

  1. The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Explosives Detection Canine Handler Training Center is located at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.
  2. The facility trains around 100 dogs a year.
  3. All the dogs are named after victims of 9/11 or soldiers who died in  Iraq or Afghanistan.
  4. All photos by Benet J. Wilson

    The center primarily trains Labrador Retrievers, Vizslas, German Shepherds and Belgian Malanois.

  5. Canine handlers are employees of the city, county, state or airport law enforcement authority that has been tapped to protect the airport.
  6. Handlers go through 10 weeks of intensive training.
  7. TSA has created a simulated airport ticket counter, cargo area, passenger waiting area and baggage claim, with all the equipment donated by airports, to train the dogs.
  8. The dogs are motivated to find explosives by being rewarded with chew toys.
  9.  The program runs year-round, except for 2 weeks at Christmas.
  10. TSA currently has more than 800 canine teams deployed at approximately 100 locations, including airport, maritime and mass transit environments since it took over the program after 9/11.
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