Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Legislation will expedite crew access at U.S. airports

Today leaders of the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives signed a bill that has important implications for aviation security. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid signed H.R. 1, titled Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, which includes provisions that will expedite airport access through screening check points at U. S. airports for airline pilots and flight attendants.

The Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) is one of several industry-related organizations to applaud the Congress for passing this bill. ALPA has come up with a proposal for a system that could be used to implement the new legislation. The union intends to work actively with the Transportation Security Administration on aspects of the new legislation related to airport screening of crews:
The measure includes an ALPA-backed provision which requires the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to establish a process that would give flight deck and cabin crew members expedited airport access through screening check points.

“This bill, upon the President’s signature, starts a 180-day clock for the TSA to consult with airlines, airports, and flight crew unions on how to improve airport access,” said ALPA President Capt. John Prater. “ALPA has prepared for this opportunity. We have a proposal that provides a low-cost and effective process to leverage existing technology to screen crew members, saving TSA time and money.”

Developed by a small industry working group in February 2007, ALPA’s proposal, called Crew Personnel Advanced Screening System (CrewPASS), is based on the TSA’s highly successful Cockpit Access Security System (CASS). CASS uses employee databases of participating airlines to electronically confirm the identity and employment status of pilots so that they may gain access to the jumpseats of airplanes belonging to companies other than their own.

CrewPASS would extend the CASS concept to crew portals and security screening checkpoints to electronically screen flight crew members quickly, efficiently, and effectively, thereby fixing the current security deficiency. CrewPASS would not require purchasing or issuing new identification cards, saving the industry money during the implementation process.

“ALPA's National Security Committee (NSC) and industry are moving forward with a CrewPASS prototype program and we are in the process of identifying airports with established crew portals to test the program,” Prater said. “The group is also looking at how long the prototype phase should last, how many airports should be part of the prototype program, and what infrastructure would be needed at each test site.”
ALPA's prototype CrewPASS program is a biometric-based flight crew security screening system, described in an 18-page ALPA white paper issued in May of this year.

Sections of the legislation that are aimed at strengthening aviation security include:
  • Installation of in-line baggage screening equipment
  • Aviation security capital fund
  • Airport checkpoint screening explosive detection
  • Strengthening explosive detection at airport screening checkpoints
  • Extension of authorization of aviation security funding
  • Inspection of cargo carried aboard passenger aircraft
  • Appeal and redress process for passengers wrongly delayed or prohibited from boarding a flight
  • Transportation Security Administration personnel management
  • Strategic plan to test and implement advanced passenger
    prescreening system
Congressional leaders have been calling for implementation of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission for some time. The bill now awaits the President's signature.

For those who may be interested, here is a link to H.R. 1, Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 in its entirety (276 page 'pdf' file).