TSA Removes CrewPASS Implementation Hurdle

Last week, ALPA president Capt. John Prater met with the secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, and the TSA administrator, John Pistole, to urge their support for obtaining CrewPASS in the near term. Late on Friday, ALPA received an invitation to meet with the TSA this afternoon to discuss this important program. ALPA was informed that the administrator had taken ALPA’s message seriously and that he wants to see CrewPASS implemented as quickly as possible. To help facilitate that, TSA has now dropped its previous requirement for pilots to be enrolled with a biometric (e.g., a fingerprint); this provision will be restored in the future, but what it means for now is that CrewPASS becomes much simpler and less expensive to implement than previously.

The TSA is meeting with the airlines tomorrow (Tuesday) and has asked us to coordinate with the other parties in an effort to facilitate the success of this program. Capt. Prater has reached out to the other crewmember unions and industry officials to develop a consensual solution.

TSA today emphasized that ALPA had “cleared the way” for CrewPASS to become a success.


In Security Alert Bulletin 2010-4 published last Friday, a promise was made to update the membership with the answers to common questions about security. Following are two that we have received over the last few days:

Q. Once CrewPASS is made operational, are pilots required to be on duty to use it?
A. No. TSA does require that pilots be in uniform in order to go through the CrewPASS lane, but they are not required to be on duty, nor are they required to wear the uniform downstream of the security checkpoint.

Q. At what point are pilots considered to have “presented themselves” for security screening?
A. TSA has had many legal challenges involving withdrawal from screening and screening legality with respect to the Fourth Amendment. The courts have upheld airport screening as constitutional under the Fourth Amendment, in that it is an administrative search and falls under the category of legal warrantless searches as long as the search is specific (i.e., looking for prohibited items) and is reasonable to ensure public safety.

The exact time that screening begins is not well defined. Screening of items has traditionally been held to begin for bags when they are placed on the belt to be X-rayed and for persons when they step through the walk-through metal detector (WTMD). However, the laws have not caught up with the threat or the technology; for instance, the current threat and countermeasures deployed against that threat involve explosives.

One of the methods of mitigating this threat is the use of Explosives Trace Detection (ETD). If a pilot is in the queue at a screening checkpoint, he or she can turn around and leave in most instances because screening has not yet begun. However, if a transportation security officer approaches someone in the queue and asks him or her to submit to an ETD random test, screening has begun, and the person must now complete the process. Another example involves the TSA’s position of travel document checker (TDC). Verification of identity by the TDC is a layer of security and is considered to be a method of screening, so when one’s credentials are presented to the TDC, screening has begun. One more consideration — at some airports, there is a sign that indicates the initiation of screening when the sign is passed.