TSA Relaxing Airport Restrictions

By: Venton D. Blandin
By: Venton D. Blandin

December 2, 2005

Security changes at airports all around the nation are stirring up controversy. Airline passengers soon will be allowed to carry small scissors and some sharp tools onto planes, but there will be a trade-off: the prospect of more thorough pat-downs and other extra security checks before they get to the gate.

Four years after the attacks of 9/11, the Transportation Security Administration is relaxing the rules on what you can and cannot bring on your next flight. Surprisingly, what you can bring include some knives and screw-drivers.

To make airport security screenings as painless as possible, most frequent fliers know the drill: laptops out, shoes off, and absolutely no sharp objects.

Flyers should prepare for changes later this month. The Transportation Security Administration announced pat down searches will be more thorough -- previously limited to backs and abdomens -- screeners may now also pat down arms, legs, and below the mid-thigh.

Passengers will be allowed to carry some sharp objects aboard airplanes -- some scissors less than four inches long, and some tools less than seven inches long.

"But we will be testing and implementing additional unpredictable screening techniques and procedures that will be easy for passengers to navigate but difficult to for terrorists to manipulate," said Kip Hawley, of the Transportation Security Administration.

The idea of sharp objects in their workplace isn't sitting well with some flight attendants.

"This is ludicrous. TSA should not be allowing sharp objects or other dangerous items that could be used as weapons aboard aircraft," said Chris Whitkowski, of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Part of the rationale for easing restrictions is that hunting for the items is time consuming for screeners, and explosives are now the greater focus of the T.S.A.

At some U.S. Airports, like the Charlottesville-Albemarle Regional Airport, devices help detect explosive materials, but offer no guarantees.

"All machines have some limitations regarding the chemistry of the explosive that they're trying to detect," said Jack McGeorge, of the Public Safety Group.

Homeland Security officials say federal air marshals, reinforced cockpit doors, and improved screening make the changes possible.

The changes will go into effect starting December 22, 2005.

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