Friday, December 16, 2005

TSA vows speedier passenger screening

'Common sense' now rules security precautions

Express Staff Writer

Forget those nightly TV news pictures and stories of long lines of frustrated, fuming airline passages held up by screeners looking for fabled fingernail clippers as possible security threats.

Now, there's a "new" look — speedy screening for boarding passengers and virtually no concern about items that once stalled airport passengers unreasonably to the breaking point of their patience.

In fact, the federal Transportation Security Administration's security director for Idaho, Doug Melvin, this week vowed that screening for departing passengers at Hailey's Friedman Memorial Airport now takes only between three and five minutes.

"We have a responsibility to communities to help grow their airports," Melvin said, "as well as a commitment to passengers that it's safe to fly. We want people to get through (screening) in a short time" and find the process "pleasant and enjoyable."

During a conference phone call with a Mountain Express reporter, Melvin and deputy TSA security director for Idaho, Rick Gordon, said TSA has taken "a giant step forward" by slashing the list of personal items prohibited as passengers carry-ons and focusing on more vital security concerns.

Melvin said airline flight-deck doors are hardened and locked, many pilots now carry handguns and many flights include federal air marshals boarding as passengers.

"We're focusing on something that will cause a catastrophic issue aboard an aircraft," Melvin said, "not finding a pair of cuticle scissors." He said it's TSA's new "common sense perspective."

He said passengers no longer have to remove all shoes (only those that are singled out by the metal detector for further examination). Small scissors and screwdrivers are now permitted.

Gordon said TSA is "doing our best to expedite" the screening so passengers can board and their flights depart on time.

Friedman's security director, Steve Guthrie, also said during the call that "we've seen a tremendous change and improvement" in the screening of passengers.

Melvin suggested passengers also check the security agency's Internet Web site ( for information on screening.

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