Galley Gossip: Four year-old kid discusses airport security & TSA pat downs


The following video was created for parents traveling with small kids who might be a little nervous about subjecting their children to the new TSA procedures. Regardless of how you may feel about the new enhanced security measures, there’s no need for children to be scared. My son will explain to them what a pat down is and even share a few tips. But first a few things the TSA would like you to know about going through airport security with children…

  • TSA will screen everyone, regardless of age, including babies.
  • NEVER leave babies in an infant carrier while it goes through the X-ray.
  • All children must be removed from strollers and slings when passing through the machine.
  • All children’s items must go through the X-ray; diaper bags, toys, strollers, slings, etc.
  • If any of your items do not fit through the X-ray, a TSA officer will physically and visually inspect it.
  • If your child can walk through the metal detector unassisted, TSA recommends you and your child walk through separately.
  • Do not pass your baby to a TSA officer to hold as you walk through the X-ray machine.
  • If you choose to carry a child through and the alarm sounds, TSA will check both of you.
  • Medication, baby formula, food and breast milk, and juice are allowed in reasonable quantities exceeding 3.4 ounces, and are not required to be in a zip-top bag. Declare these items for inspection at the checkpoint.
  • Children under 12 who require extra screening will be subjected to a “modified” pat down. It’s less intrusive than what an adult might receive.
  • Click the link for information regarding children travelers with special needs or medical conditions.




Photo courtesy of Tatiana Mik

Pilot body scans and counter-terror operations: distant consideration for special forces

special forces counter-terrorist operations and TSA body scanners

The uproar over TSA body scanners and pat-downs has hit every corner of the aviation world, from passengers to pilots. The vocal consensus, at least, is that nobody likes them, even though 64 percent of Americans support the practice and 70 percent don’t expect it to impact their travel. A friend of mine, flying today, tweeted that he made it through security at New York’s JFK airport in a mere nine minutes.

Nonetheless, flight crews have voiced vehement opposition to the scans, with one pilot becoming an overnight celebrity by refusing to submit himself to that or a pat-down. We all have to do it, though, so this has left me to ponder … what’s the big deal?

I’ve been particularly intrigued by the attitude of pilots toward body scanners. At first blush, it struck me as a privileged perspective: the top dogs on the plane felt as though they shouldn’t have to be subjected to the same scrutiny as the rest of us. Patrick Smith, resident pilot at Salon.com, wrote of the recent TSA change over crew scrutiny, in which “airline pilots will no longer be subject to the backscatter body scanners and invasive pat-downs at TSA airport checkpoints”:


For pilots like myself this is good news, though at least for the time being we remain subject to the rest of the checkpoint inspection, including the X-raying of luggage and the metal detector walk-through. Eventually, we are told, the implementation of so-called CrewPASS will allow us to skirt the checkpoint more or less entirely.

He continues:

Not everybody agrees that air crews deserve this special treatment. That’s not an unreasonable point of view, and I don’t disagree with it, necessarily. As security experts like Bruce Schneier point out, if you are going to screen at all, it is important to screen everybody, lest the system become overly complicated and prone to exploitable loopholes.

This made me wonder, what is the risk associated with not screening pilots as intensively? The only scenario that came to mind involved a terrorist incident. As I let my mind race, I constructed a hypothetical situation in which terrorists got on board a plane, took control and asked for demands of some sort – i.e., they wanted more than to cause death and destruction. In this situation, I suspected, counter-terrorist teams, such as 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment-Delta (1st SFOD-D, also known as “Delta Force”), would be called into play.

My thinking continued: if a pilot hadn’t been scanned, he could have brought a weapon … which could have been taken from him by terrorists. Would the special forces teams want to know if a pilot had been scanned?

As I continued through my hypothetical exercise, I could hear my platoon sergeant’s voice from close to 15 years ago, drilling me from across time: “Actions on the objective,” he used to say, “always spend most of your time rehearsing actions on the objective.”

You have to admit this about military training, it really sticks with you!

So, my first thought was whether, while rehearsing actions on the objective, the special forces teams would want to know every last detail of what was on the plane. My training falls far, far short of that, and my efforts to reach someone from 1st SFOD-D didn’t pan out (unsurprisingly).

Fortunately, I knew a great person to call: Don Shipley, Senior Chief (Retired), U.S. Navy. Now, Shiply runs Extreme SEAL Experience, a destination program that simulates various aspects of Navy SEAL training. Before that, of course, he lived the life, having served with SEAL Team ONE and SEAL Team TWO.

I laid out my hypothetical for Shipley: during mission planning, would the operators want to know if the pilots had been scanned, at least to have a better sense of whether they’d carried any weapons on the plane?

The answer, quite simply, is that it wouldn’t be an immediate concern. I spoke with Shipley by phone today, and he said that whether the pilots had been scanned “would be a very distant ‘what if’.” He explained of the special forces teams, “They’d want to know who they [i.e., the crew] are,” as well as background on how long they’d been flying and any other information related to the incident. Also, Shipley said the teams would want to know if there was an air marshal on the flight. The role of body scans, however, would not be a major factor in planning or rehearsing an operation.

“There are some pretty good people in charge of those planes,” Shipley noted, “good bunch of guys and gals.”

Does it suck that someone else gets to go through security faster and more easily than you do? Yeah, it feels like an injustice. But, let’s be realistic: there really isn’t much at stake here aside from a sense of fairness. Let’s e smart about this, though. The airline industry – and the air travel experience – is fraught with inefficiency. If we can make the operation a little smoother by giving the crew an easier time of getting to work, let’s just bite the bullet on this issue.

[photo courtesy of Extreme SEAL Experience]

Five reasons why you’ll be miserable during Thanksgiving travel

snow stormWe’ve all heard that the day before Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for air travel. And, the roads tend to get clogged up with people going to visit friends and family – not to mention stuff their faces with turkey, potatoes and other traditional holiday fare. Travel isn’t going to be fun tomorrow, but you already know that.

But, do you know why?

Personally, of course, I have no doubt you do. Like me … like everyone … you have your own collection of Thanksgiving travel horror stories (and we’d love to read them, so leave a comment!). There’s also a big picture though, which provides a bit of context as to why this travel day can be unbearable.

Let’s take a look at five reasons why Thanksgiving travel is going to suck this year:


TA’s Thanksgiving travel trends survey found 28% say Turkey Day traveling stresses them out, especially heavy traffic.less than a minute ago via HootSuite

1. You won’t be alone: AAA estimates that more than 42 million people will be traveling at least 50 miles from home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Whether you’re in an airport or on the road, you won’t be alone. Be ready to share – you won’t have a choice.

2. It gets more crowded than airports: I’ve flown my share of Thanksgiving Eves, and it is miserable. But, the roads will probably be tougher (as I cope with childhood memories that fall short of fond). AAA notes that 94 percent of these travelers – 39.7 million people – will reach their holiday destinations by car. Traffic mean’s a whole lot of “Alice’s Restaurant” while you wait to merge.

3. The weather won’t help: according to CNN, there are “[w]inter storm warnings, watches and advisories” starting in California, Utah and Nevada and going all the way up to the Canadian border. Blizzards are on the list for most of Utah, western Colorado and southern Idaho.

Have the sense to stay off the roads when driving would be colossally stupid.

4. The media won’t help: doubtless you’ve seen a few stories about body scanners and “National Opt-Out Day.” If you think this won’t lead to longer lines at airport security checkpoints (if a mass protest actually happens), you’re out of your mind. Indignation means longer waits, so if National Opt-Out Day happens, I hope for your sake you’re a supporter. There’s a good chance you aren’t, though, as 64 percent of Americans say they support the scans, according to an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

There’s also a good chance you’re living in a dream world, since 70 percent of respondents to that poll believe the new TSA procedures won’t affect their flying plans.

5. It always does: right?

So, what’s your worst Thanksgiving travel experience? Leave a comment below to let us know!

[photo by atlih via Flickr]

German body scanner protesters remove clothes at airport

In Germany, a “fleshmob” of semi-naked activists from the Pirate Party staged a body scanner protest at the Berlin-Tegel Airport, reports Discover magazine. German authorities plan to begin using “Nacktscanners,” or AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology), which uses high frequency radio waves to produce images of a passenger’s naked body, across the country within the next two years.

Here and elsewhere abroad, the TSA and its international partners are increasingly employing body scanners as an airport security measure, so items like explosives, weapons, or drugs can be detected beneath a passenger’s clothing. The use of the scanners has become a subject of much public controversy, ever since the would-be “underwear bomber” was thwarted at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport on Dec. 25 of last year. Many passengers feel that the use of full-body scanners is a violation of their privacy.

Wired states that the German protesters scrawled comments such as, “Be a good citizen–drop your pants,” and “prosthetic [with arrow pointing to the wearer’s leg],” on their bodies. One flesh-toned-clothed woman bore a sign reading, “pixelated,” referring to the option modest passengers have to request a scanner be programmed to produce a blurred image of their body.

For more information on your rights as an air traveler, Reddit has created Fly with Dignity, a “site-based initiative to inform the public.” Want to personally protest body scanners? National Opt-Out Day is November 24th.

ExpressJet pilot refuses body scan, puts privacy over safety?

ExpressJet Airlines pilot Michael Roberts wasn’t at all interested in getting a body scan, and now he’s wondering how long he’ll have his job.

Roberts was selected to be scanned at Memphis International Airport last Friday. He refused. He was offered a pat-down. He refused that, too. Then, he went home, according to an Associated Press report.

The pilot says he doesn’t want to be “harassed or molested without cause.” Meanwhile, the TSA is citing “federal security procedures,” the Associated Press reports.

How do you feel about this? Is Roberts some kind of obstinate nut? Or, does he have a real point about privacy in the workplace? Drop a comment below, and let us know.

[photo by quinn.anya via Flickr]