Let’s see some ID

USAir always seems to find itself in the headlines for something it doesn’t want to be in the headlines for. Several years ago it was the luggage fiasco at Christmas time as the employees expressed their displeasure with management over the merger with America West. There were two bankruptcies. The merger with AWA has been an unmitigated disaster on so many levels that books will be written for decades and PhDs will be earned from it for eons (even though you only see one paint job, they are still two separate carriers). They had the misfortune of having an Airbus hit enough geese to kill not just one but two engines. On the same airplane. The only ones that had a worse day than USAir on that day were the insurance companies involved. Oh, and the dead geese. And now, they are in the news for having to offload an airplane because an employee may not have been legally involved with loading the luggage.

In this case, though, the right thing was done. The FAA and TSA take badging issues and violations very seriously. They randomly conduct tests at airports—especially busy hubs—to see if employees are not only in compliance with visible badges, but also to see if the employees are checking each other. Several years ago, an airline employee noticed someone from one of the federal agencies on the ramp at a busy airport without a visible badge. The employee turned the G-man into security, despite his protestations that he was just doing his job. Score one for the employees.

This has always been a concern, but even more so after 9/11. The most obvious reason is because those people issued badges have been subjected to a background check. Further, it usually requires a multistep process to access the ramp, and if someone has figured it out without having a badge, then something is seriously flawed with the security system as designed. Simply put, anyone inside the secure area or on the ramp at an airline airport must have a badge, and it must be prominently displayed. Shirt clips, lanyards and arm bands are all acceptable, depending on the airport and the employee’s job. Exactly how the recent USAir situation in Philly developed I am not sure, and it doesn’t matter. As inconvenient as it was, the right decision was made and the plane was put through a security check. The odds of finding anything were remote, but in light of 9/11 and the failed shoe and underwear bombers, we can’t afford to take chances.

If you see anything suspicious, by all means report it. If you are pursuing an aviation career, keep your nose clean. And get used to the idea of a badge. Violations can and have resulted in terminations and sizeable fines, and can even lead to certificate revocation. It won’t be long before you feel naked without it, and panic if you can’t find it. Your badge will be even more critical to your process of getting dressed every day than underwear and shoes.

–Chip Wright

  • http://www.orlandogatewaysportpilot.com Orlando Sport Pilot

    It is necessary for all of us to be vigilant to keeping the skies safe for all to enjoy the luxury and excitement of aviation.

  • Andrew

    It might not be a bad idea to review TSA security Awareness training. Aviation Security goes alot further than “fake employees” at a commercial airport. Suspicious students at small GA airports with small planes are just as serious.

    TSA Security Awareness Training

  • Jeff Millard

    Sorry, I must dissent. Not on the point that reliance on badging is and will be on the rise, but that it has any more need or value than a crystal life-force bracelet has to your overall health. I have just about reached my limit (and so has my wallet with the growing number airport badges I need to carry) with people trying to turn small public airports into Fort Knox. No, Andrew… suspicious students at small GA airports with small planes IS NOT just as serious as someone wandering around the baggage area of an airline terminal. We seem to have this fear that if anything to do with aviation is compromised then it will be 9/11 all over again. Which, as tragic as it was, killed fewer people than we will lose next month on the highways.

    What bothers me more is people buy into the whole badge inspector thing– I routinely walk onto ramps where others are questioned because I have my pilot uniform on and my badge. (I made my own badge and bought my uniform from sportys). Just the other day the badge nazi at one of the airports I needed to renew my badge at noticed on my sponsor application form that my sponsor had signed my application more than a month ago. “Oh…this date is too old”, she said, “it needs to be within the past month”. Where upon she got her whiteout and CHANGED the date next to signature of my sponsor.

    I didn’t get my badge/gate pass however because I didn’t have the $10 cash renewal fee on me. So with my wallet one badge lighter, I drove back to the gate by my clients hangar and gently lifted up and out on the handle of the locked gate which everyone knows opens when you do that.

    I move we go to armed guards to keep people from getting to work… you know, in the name of aviation security. Your homework for today is to read the 4th amendment to the constitution.

  • http://www.save-ga.org Ken

    I have to agree with Jeff. Where is the security in peoples driveways every morning to ensure you don’t have a car bomb in your trunk? Who searches holiday shoppers to ensure our safety in the mall? Why don’t we have these ‘security’ measures in place? Because, unlike the majority of people in the United States, we are less than one percent of the population, and are not a threat. Aviation has a bad enough time in enticing people to join our ranks without putting up razor wire fences around small planes. “If it has a fence like that… well it must be dangerous.” is what this kind of security makes people think. We need to use common sense. I’ve worked military flight lines and secure areas, and a badge often makes security worse, in that if someone sees a badge, then “He must be OK, he has a badge”. Without badges people have to know each other, and interact. And here’s another thought. We, certificated pilots, already have credentials. A pilot’s certificate. This should be all that is needed to access any airport. Are there any special use highways you can think of? “Oh no sir, you can’t drive here, you aren’t cleared”. No. We need to stop rolling over and playing dead in the face of blatant violation of our basic constitutional freedoms. Freedom in not free, so let’s stop giving it away. I, and all the other veterans out there, have fought to long, and too hard to see the fruits of our labor thrown out by a well meaning but ill-informed populace. As Ben Franklin said “One who would trade liberty for security deserves neither”. Just my two cents worth.

  • Jeff Millard

    Wow Ken, if just a few more Americans step forward we could be a free society again. Thanks for your service to our country and quoting Franklin– it is one of my favorites. It is truly difficult to decide what is worse– that so people think any of this (and I mean ANY of this beyond secure cockpit doors and armed crew) makes us one bit safer or that it is okay to throw away basic constitutional freedoms even if it did. Rather than write acquiescing articles we need more people with the public’s ear to push back and call attention to every egregious example out there of this lunacy. C’mon Chip, you can do better than puff pieces like this… I’ve seen them!

  • Chip Wright

    When it comes to airline badging, unfortunately I think this is close to the best we can do–there are too many people involved to try to do this on a who-knows-who basis. Further, badging requirements differ based on the job description and location in the airport (SIDA vs non-SIDA). But the weakness is in the photo requirements: I have to get my driver’s license photo updated every two years. NONE of my aviation badges comes close, and in this respect, I am totally in favor of a photo-enhanced pilot certificate that should be updated AT LEAST every two years. Even my passport has a 10 year window. The next (and, as I see it, final) step in security at airports that serve airlines is a badge with a biometric component (finger print or retinal scan), which can not be easily compromised.

    All of that being said, I agree that the badging emphasis at GA airports is over-the-top, but the public and Big Media are convinced that small airplanes can do the same damage as 757. Maybe what we need is some old Cessna’s video taped in tests to prove that in a worst case scenario the damage would be capped to a fraction of a road vehicle. Maybe then common sense might begin to make a come back…