Release #12.26
May 16, 2012

ALPA Presses Congress for One Level of Airline Security
Secure-Area Access Standards Must Apply to Passenger and All-Cargo Operations

WASHINGTON – Capt. Sean Cassidy, first vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association, Int’l (ALPA), released this statement today following his testimony at a U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation hearing titled “Access Control Point Breaches at our Nation’s Airports: Anomalies or Systemic Failures?”

“Controlling access to secure airport areas is critically important to the safety and security of the airline industry and the traveling public. The Transportation Security Administration and airport authorities do a good job of controlling and preventing unauthorized access to these areas. ALPA believes that, like the vast majority of airline passengers, the overwhelming share of airline workers are trustworthy individuals who want to see their industry succeed.

“In this context, the insider threat to passenger and all-cargo airline operations has always existed. Advances have been made in identifying those individuals who are reliable versus those who could pose a potential threat; however, effort is still needed to enhance the security of airlines and airports by ensuring those who have access to aircraft and payloads are appropriate to do so. The solution lies in advancing a risk-based approach to aviation security and in achieving one level of security for all airline operations, regardless of whether they fly passengers or cargo.

“Adopting a threat-based approach must also mean creating and fostering a ‘security culture’ at airlines and airports in the same way that our industry has sought to achieve a ‘safety culture.’ Such a security culture needs investments from airline, airport, and regulatory leaders, and decisive action to establish and enforce a true security culture. Achieving a security culture will call for these organizations to place more emphasis on providing meaningful, practical security training for employees. A security culture will also require that all airline and airport workers become eyes and ears for potential threats.

“Unfortunately, a significant disparity exists today between the security of passenger and all-cargo flight operations. This gap is a serious concern for ALPA. For example, the Air Cargo Final Rule, published in May 2006, does not require all airports that serve all-cargo airline operations to establish Security Identification Display Areas (SIDAs). As a result, individuals with access to secured areas of the airport are background checked only through a biographic process, rather than through the fingerprint-based criminal history records checks that are required for employees working similar jobs at passenger airlines.

“100 percent physical screening of individuals entering the secure areas of airports is not the answer to counter the insider threat. Rather, we need to develop and immediately implement a risk-based, systematic method of employee vetting that includes fingerprint-based criminal history background checks of every employee with unescorted access to passenger and cargo aircraft and air operations areas. To this end, Congress must take action to ensure that full SIDA requirements are mandated for all airports serving FAR Part 121 all-cargo operations.

“A risk-based approach to aviation security, coupled with more traditional methodologies and a commitment to developing a ‘security culture’ at all airlines and airports, will help our industry reduce the insider threat at a very reasonable cost. Equally important, realizing such an approach will enhance aviation security for all who depend on air transportation and will ensure the U.S. airline industry continues to fuel the nation’s economy.”

Founded in 1931, ALPA is the world’s largest pilot union, representing more than 53,000 pilots at 37 airlines in the United States and Canada. Visit the ALPA website at


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