Committee Corner
News from ALPA's Committees

National Security Committee Hosts Conference

Security Committee

By Jan W. Steenblik, Technical Editor
Air Line Pilot,
January 2004, p.26

"We are going to be the most politically correct extinct society if we don’t get our heads out of our behinds," declared Capt. Steve Luckey (Northwest, Ret.), chairman of ALPA’s National Security Committee, during the Association’s most recent aviation security conference. Never one to mince words, Capt. Luckey was speaking of the current U.S. trend to tiptoe around the politically sensitive issue of passenger "profiling." Security measures, he argued, should be "threat-driven" to maximize the effectiveness of limited resources.

The ALPA Security Conference, held Nov. 13–14, 2003, near Washington Dulles International Airport, drew more than 79 security-minded individuals from four countries, including 53 ALPA members from 11 airlines. The conference followed the 3-day ALPA International Aviation Security Academy, during which the Association trained 72 pilots and government and aviation industry personnel.

Welcoming attendees to the Conference, ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, said that Capt. Luckey "gave the warning in 1999" that ALPA needed to strengthen its ability to deal with national and international aviation security issues. "We were ready," Capt Woerth said, "when facing these threats became a full-time job."

Following are highlights of the Conference:


Tom Blank, assistant administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, discussed several hot topics.

He said that the TSA would like to improve U.S. air cargo security to the extent that "a TSA employee could stand up here and say, ‘We are screening 100 percent of air cargo.’ We expect to be taking several steps to [improve air cargo security] while waiting for final laws to be enacted."

Regarding the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, Blank said that "results have been overwhelmingly positive." He noted that FFDOs have flown more than 10,000 flights and asserted that moving FFDO training to New Mexico will double the number of candidates in each class.

Asked why the Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) program still was not in place at U.S. airports, Blank said that he thought that the TSA was ready to implement a national TWIC system soon. "We ran two pilot programs—at the Port of Long Beach and Los Angeles International, and at the Port of Wilmington [Del.] and Philadelphia International," he said.


Dan Wright, unit chief of the Major Theft/Transportation Crimes Unit of the FBI, said that the FBI had recently undergone "a massive reorganization," but that the FBI’s jurisdiction hasn’t changed since 9/11.

"We have about 400 FBI agents around the country assigned to airport liaison," Wright explained. An airport incident involving disruptive passengers or other security issues "will lead to an investigative response," he declared, adding that the response "is going to be swifter and more dramatic than before."

The FBI is prepared to provide "a full tactical response," Wright advised, with SWAT teams, hostage rescue teams, negotiators, and other resources.

Chuck Miller, an FBI special agent based fulltime at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport for 9 years, praised the local police department ("we couldn’t do the job without them") and noted, "the FBI isn’t there 24/7, but the police are. We at the FBI are on an alphanumeric paging system; we’re usually notified [of an airport incident] within 20 minutes.

"We can’t work without your help," Miller told the pilots in the room. "We can’t wait until the day of the incident to get to know each other." He urged pilots to remember that law enforcement officers need timely notification of incidents.

An airport police officer from Seattle/Tacoma International Airport said that ALPA helped get a law passed in Washington State so that disruptive passenger cases could be prosecuted on the state level.

New cargo security programs

Clint Fisher, director of Stakeholder and Industry Affairs of the TSA, discussed the TSA’s strategic plan for air cargo security. The federal budget for FY2004, he noted, includes $85 million earmarked for aviation security; $30 million of that is for air cargo security. Some $10 million of the $30 million is to hire and deploy 100 special air cargo inspectors.

Capt. Dave Lynn, one of FedEx’s chief pilots, is the liaison between FedEx corporate security and flight ops. He described FedEx’s new Cockpit Defense Readiness Program, a 1-day, 8-hour course adapted for flightcrew members with about 2 hours of classroom training and about 6 hours of hands-on training.

"Every fight involves three fights—the emotional/psychological fight with yourself, the actual altercation, and the aftermath—the legal fight," Capt. Lynn asserted. "Our use-of-force policy is designed to help alleviate the third fight; this also gives our crew members permission to win."

Trainees learn to use "natural weapons—elbows, knees, headbutting, teeth—everything’s fair in this fight," he continued. "We emphasize tools that work in all environments and under duress."

A pilot asked Capt. Lynn, "Do you see any problems in integrating this with the FFDO program?"

Capt. Lynn responded, "This does not replace or supercede the FFDO program. When we get the mandate to train FFDOs, we’d hope they’d go through this training, and vice versa."

Psychology of terrorism

Dr. Jerrold Post, a psychiatrist who developed "at-a-distance assessment techniques" for analyzing foreign leaders and applied them for 25 years in the service of the CIA, pointed out that "most terrorists are psychologically normal, not crazed, deranged individuals." But when "hatred is bred in the bone," he cautioned, ending terrorism is neither easy nor swift.

Dr. Post noted that Al Qaeda is known to operate in 68 countries: Expulsion from Afghanistan led to decentralization of the group’s leadership, changing Al Qaeda from "a central, controlling organization to the inspiration for an international Islamic movement.

"You don’t fight a war for hearts and minds with smart bombs and missiles," Dr. Post argued. He advocated giving grants to change the education system in Islamic countries—i.e., to get young students into a politically moderate curriculum. "This will take decades," he warned.

Industry perspectives on aviation security

Capt. Luckey warned that "unfunded mandates" to provide expensive security measures "are killing the airline industry." He said that "judicious allocation of resources" was critical in achieving the goal of a secure air transportation industry and urged that U.S. national security efforts be threat-driven, rather than dictated by public opinion and political decisions.

Carter Morris, vice-president for transportation security policy for the American Association of Airline Executives, noted that the TSA last year missed the congressional deadline to implement electronic bag screening at 20 of more than 400 U.S. airports. A year later, some of those airports likely still won’t screen all bags electronically.

He added that the bag screening equipment "started out as big as a VW bug and has grown to the size of a Winnebago."

Morris discussed a new Department of Homeland Security initiative—U.S. VISIT, a program to check all visa-holding foreign visitors to the United States. Starting January 5, U.S. VISIT will go into effect for foreign visitors arriving at more than 100 U.S. airports.

Deborah McElroy, president of the Regional Airline Association, joined the chorus of aviation industry insiders who are warning that the airline industry cannot continue to carry the unfunded mandates for security improvements. "The bottom line," she said, "is that aviation security is a national defense function and should be funded as such" by Congress.

Passenger profiling

Arik Arad, president and CEO of Arcon Security Corporation, argued that "the Achilles heel of the current security system at U.S. airports is that the focus is more on finding things than on analyzing people and their intent."

Asserting that a better aviation security system "should assess passenger risk levels based on a broad range of data," Arad asserted that the U.S. Customs Service and Immigration and Naturalization Service have been conducting de facto profiling for a long time. The TSA should be allowed to do so, too, he said.

Arad said that TSA employees should be trained in subconscious profiling, the goal of which is to "turn the subconscious into the conscious screening, by focusing on specific suspicious signs," instead of race. He then listed specific signs about appearance, behavior, documentation, belongings, and accompanying individuals.


Tom Quinn, director of the Federal Air Marshall (FAM) Service, reminded conference attendees that the FAM Service’s mission transformed dramatically as its jurisdiction changed from "doors closed to doors open" to "the entire aviation spectrum. The real issue for us," he declared, "is defining the threat… and the mission… to make sure we have the right strategy…and operational concept. The threat is multifaceted."

One of the FAMs’ greatest challenges, Quinn emphasized, "is the real danger of focusing on building a bureaucracy and losing focus on the essential mission."

Quinn said another challenge for FAMs is staying proactive. Though a typical FAM today flies "more trips in 2 months than a FAM flew in an entire career before 9/11,…it’s not just about taking a seat on an airplane and waiting for something to happen," he explained. "We have briefings every day. We have to have a broader awareness." Meanwhile, he noted, "We have to raise the mission tempo worldwide to the point that it makes a difference."

A pilot told Quinn that some pilots are frustrated that the FAM Service has information it’s not sharing with pilots. Quinn said, "What we deal with every day is the absence of intelligence—there’s not the specificity of information that you may think."


First Officer Kevin Dunlap (United), assistant director for intelligence and emerging threats of ALPA’s National Security Committee, introduced a panel on man-portable air defense systems (shoulder-mounted missiles, or MANPADS), noting that "long before MANPADS became an issue in the headlines and for congressional committees, the ALPA National Security Committee decided this was important and got on it."

Jack Pledger, director of EO/IR Business Development for Northrop Grumman, said that varying reports put "thousands or tens of thousands" of MANPADS, with shelf lives of 10-30 years, in the hands of terrorists; 27 terrorist groups are known to have them.

The zone of vulnerability for aircraft is 15,000 feet AGL and below, and some MANPADS can reach more than 4 miles. For each runway, the zone of vulnerability covers an area 50 miles long and 6 miles wide.

Northrop Grumman’s Directional Infrared Countermeasures (DIRCM) system uses an "eye safe" laser to hit the guidance system of the incoming missile with a high-intensity IR jamming signal; the missile misses, then usually self-destructs. DIRCM would cost about $1 million per airplane and be installed during a C check.

Ed Woolen, vice-president for homeland security for Raytheon, agreed with Pledger that "the threat is real." Raytheon’s concept, he said, involves mechanically dispensed circles of specially treated metal foil, each about the size of a potato chip, that attract IR seekers by creating an intense heat signature when exposed to air friction.

Capt. Rob Wayne (Delta), until recently the Senior Aviation Advisor to the U.S. provisional government in Iraq, noted, "Boeing is promoting a highly sophisticated groundbased unit to be installed at specified airports—at $30 million per unit."

Asked what MEL status they would seek for MANPADS countermeasures on airliners, Pledger and Woolen both said, "Deferrable." Pledger explained, "If you’re flying from a place with no threat to another place with no threat, you don’t need it. If you’re flying into Baghdad, you can’t go without it."