Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Toy, Cookie Are Mistaken for Bomb Parts

A terminal at San Diego International Airport was evacuated Tuesday after luggage screeners mistook a child's toy and a cookie for bomb- making components, officials said. A screening machine at the Commuter Terminal detected what appeared to be bomb-making material in a carryon bag around 7:45 a.m., said Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Jennifer Peppin.

A bomb squad was called to the terminal, which serves regional flights, and investigators determined the bag did not contain any "IED," or improvised explosive devices, Peppin said. "Essentially what they did find was a child's toy and some organic material in a bag that turned out to be a cookie," Peppin said. "Those two items combined on-screen, they very much appeared to be an IED, and it turned out not to be."

The terminal was reopened about 9:20 a.m. and passengers were allowed back in, Peppin said. Five commuter flights to Los Angeles and one flight to Salt Lake City were delayed, said Steve Shultz, an airport spokesman. The discovery followed bomb threats called in earlier Tuesday to airports in Long Beach and Orange County. The calls triggered massive searches of both facilities but no explosive devices were found.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Embracing the creativity and innovation encouraged by its corporate culture, EVA Air has teamed up with Sanrio Company, Ltd. to unveil the world’s first “Hello Kitty Jet.” Revealed today in a heartwarming celebration at the Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corporation hangar that was co-hosted by EVA Air President K.W. Chang and Sanrio top management, the cheerful special-edition EVA Airbus 330-200 is painted nose-to-tail with super-sized characters from the charming world of Hello Kitty.

On the right side of the aircraft, identified with “Hello Kitty EVA Air,” Kitty and her friends greet passengers with welcoming smiles. Daniel Star, his aviator glasses perched on his forehead, stands nearest the cockpit with Kitty by his side. Tim and Tammy, the mischievous monkeys, sit over the wing. Joy, the blue mouse, is poised on the engine. And Mimmy White, Kitty’s sister, joins parents Mary and George White, near the back of the aircraft. On the left of the aircraft under “EVA Air Hello Kitty,” Kitty stands nearest the cockpit beside her friend Kathy, the white rabbit. Rory, the yellow squirrel, frolics on the engine.

Tim and Tammy and Kitty’s family are featured in the same positions as on the other side of the aircraft.EVA repeated the livery theme inside the cabin by creating a Hello Kitty fantasy with sweet Hello Kitty paintings on the walls, and by outfitting flight attendants with Hello Kitty ribbons for their hair and Hello Kitty aprons.

Passengers booked on EVA’s Hello Kitty Jet will get pink Hello Kitty boarding passes and luggage tags. Onboard, they will enjoy a series of inflight Hello Kitty service accessories, Hello Kitty meals, and have access to exclusive EVA Air Hello Kitty duty-free shopping. A special EVA Air Hello Kitty Web site has also been created in Chinese and Japanese languages at http://evakitty.evaair.com/.

The aircraft hangar where the festive event was staged was decorated to represent the wonderful world of Hello Kitty make believe, and Hello Kitty family and friends entertained guests with special appearances and dances.EVA Air’s special Hello Kitty Jet will fly to Fukuoka every day, starting on Oct. 22.

To meet anticipated demand and serve passengers’ requirements, EVA is working with travel agents to design special Hello Kitty tour packages featuring visits to Harmony Land, the make-believe world where Hello Kitty and her friends live, and where fans are bound to want to go.Trips to Fukuoka will include appealing local attractions such as the famous hot springs, too. Additional information, reservations and bookings are available on the EVA Air Web site, http://www.evaair.com/.

This just in, DISNEY HAS CREATED THEIR OWN AIRLINE , the imagine ,featuring those two GAY squirrels Chip and Dale will allow you to fly from several American cities to San Francisco's GAY FREEDOM DAY FESTIVAL at a price of $69.69
TSA Management at SMF Says Pregnant Screener Can't Work

An open letter to FSD Ron Pelayo, DHS Inspector GeneralThe Transportation Security

Administration management officials at Sacramento International Airport have done it again. A Lead Transportation Security Screener at the airport was on light duty status as a result of her doctor's recommendation due to her medical condition, a high risk pregnancy.

The Lead Screener was assigned to Terminal B, the slower of Sacramento's two terminals, and was working productively, well within her physician-recommended restrictions. But then, things changed and TSA management went back on its word and refused to let the screener work even though she is perfectly able to do so.

The following is an open letter sent to Federal Security Director Ron Pelayo about his managers' refusal to allow the screener to work and other issues surrounding their arbitrary decision. A copy was also sent to the DHS Inspector General for review.
Mark Arsenault [Contact info deleted]
Ron Pelayo Federal Security Director, TSA Sacramento International Airport 6900 Airport Blvd Sacramento, CA 95837 Via Fax: (916) 928-2192
April 20, 2005 FSD Ron Pelayo:
I am writing to express my concern about the way that my wife's light duty assignment has been handled and to ask you to look into possible misconduct by TSA management and HR officials under you at Sacramento International Airport.
Lead Transportation Security Screener Margaret Arsenault has been on light duty for several months due to her medical condition (as documented in medical paperwork possessed by your office).
A recent light duty "contract," dated February 23, 2005, was set to expire on March 2, 2005. My understanding of AVO 400.30.11 Light Duty Assignments for Screeners is that light duty extensions may be granted for 45 days at a time. For some reason, my wife's light duty contract was extended for only about a week and, coincidentally, it was set to expire at about the same time that depositions were scheduled to begin in my wife's EEO case (EEOC No. 370-2005-00014X, Agency No. TSAF-03-1036).
On February 23, 2005, my wife was told by HR Rep Bud Angel that when that light duty contract expired on March 2, 2005, that my wife would be required to "return to full duty or stay home."
The next day Margaret spoke with HR Rep Bud Angel and asked for something in writing to indicating that her light duty contract could not — or would not — be extended and Mr. Angel told her that her light duty contract "is all you're going to get."
After sending you a letter (via fax) on February 28, 2005, my wife's light duty contract was extended, even though she was told by HR that it couldn't be extended.
The latest light duty contract, however, was only extended until March 25, 2005 — a mere 23 days, not 45 days as allowed per AVO 400.30.11. In addition, the date of expiration again coincides with the rescheduled start of depositions in my wife's EEO case. I find that to be an incredible coincidence, especially when considering the allegations of past misconduct and retaliation against my wife (detailed in her EEO complaint).
What's more, my wife was told that in order to extend her light duty assignment beyond March 25, 2005, she would need to provide yet more medical paperwork from her physician to support her request. My wife has already submitted paperwork from her physician indicating that she is on light duty for a "serious condition" (a high-risk pregnancy) which is expected to continue to her estimated delivery date of June 15 or 16, 2005. Furthermore, that documentation contains all of the information required by TSA and further indicates that the condition is covered under the Family Medical Leave Act.
According to TSA policy, "Employees may be asked to provide additional information if medical certification is unclear or does not indicate that the employee is incapacitated for duty" (HRM Letter 630-3). The documentation provided by Margaret would not seem to be "unclear," as no questions were raised about it since it was first submitted. If the documentation has been sufficient in the past, why, then, was it not sufficient for this extension?
Margaret subsequently provided yet more medical documentation (on or about March 23, 2005) to substantiate her light duty extension, even though her condition (high-risk pregnancy) has an obvious duration of 9 months, with a projected delivery date on or about June 16th. Please note that Margaret never received a light duty contract after the one with an expiration date of March 25.
After reviewing TSA's own policy on the issue of light duty and being intimately familiar with the circumstances surrounding her EEO case, I find it very difficult to believe that the TSA truly requires duplicative paperwork from my wife to substantiate a condition that has not only been documented (several times) but which common sense would indicate will not "end" until her delivery. Why, then, would your management staff require even more paperwork from my wife and why would they only extend her light duty contract until the depositions in her case were scheduled to begin?
Most recently, a new "schedule bid" was conducted at Sacramento International Airport (in or about the week of March 24th), in which each employee would have a 5 minute window of opportunity to submit a bid for their desired regular days off (RDO). Margaret's "scheduled time to bid" was 6:10 a.m. Margaret at the time worked a 12 Noon to 9 p.m. shift.
I don't need to tell you how ludicrous and unreasonable this "mandate" from your management staff is, do I? If the shift bid is being conducted using a seniority basis, surely there is a better way for screeners to submit their bids other than to have a "five minute window" in the middle of their off-duty time to do so.
As it turns out, Margaret was able to submit her bid early, because she was out for depositions on her EEO case against the TSA. Her bid request was for Thursday, Friday and Saturday off and did, in fact, receive those days off. Her schedule was changed to Fridays and Saturdays off, however, to accommodate her light duty contract (of 5 days at 8 hours per day).
As a result of the bid, however, Margaret was reassigned to a different terminal (from B-2 to A). As you no doubt are aware, Terminal A is a much busier terminal, and the pace was causing issues with Margaret's duty restrictions. Specifically, Margaret was getting exhausted and the work load was causing additional stress and severe back pains. Margaret has submitted numerous documents from her medical provider (Kaiser Permanente), including formal documentation identifying Margaret as having a "serious medical condition" (high-risk pregnancy) that is covered under the Family Medical Leave Act.
In case you are unaware of some of the differences between work assignments at Terminal B and Terminal A, Margaret has identified the following:
Terminal A / Terminal B Leads are not in rotation / Leads are in rotation Multiple lanes (3-4 open on p.m.) / 1 lane Leads don't sit at Exit / Leads do sit at Exit Leads don't sit at X-Ray / Leads do sit at X-Ray Steady busy pace; no time to sit/study / Slower pace; time avail, to sit/study Leads resolve many alarms / Seldom any alarms to resolve Leads give numerous prohibs options / Seldom have prohibs
It's also interesting to note that out of 30+ Lead Transportation Security Screeners, Margaret was the only LTSS assigned to Terminal A checkpoint on p.m. shift for 4 out of 5 of her assigned work days. Moving Margaret - and no other Lead Screeners - to Terminal A appears to be in retaliation.
On or about April 4th or 5th, Margaret spoke with Scheduling Officer Dale (unk last name) and requested she be moved back to Terminal B. At that time, Dale told Margaret that he could move her back to Terminal B but that he would need to have yet another document from her physician indicating that Margaret would need to work "a slower pace."
Margaret contacted her physician's office shortly thereafter and a document was faxed to TSAHR later that week.
On Thursday, April 7th, Margaret was working at Terminal A and began suffering from back pain, cramps, and contractions (20 minutes apart). On the advice of her physician, Margaret left work early and went home sick. After speaking with the Kaiser Advice Nurse via telephone, Margaret was advised that the symptoms were brought on as a result of her increased work load.
On or about April 8th, 2005, HR Specialist Bud Angel called Margaret at home and told her that TSA would not be able to accommodate her light duty.
During this conversation, Margaret requested this decision be provided to her in writing, to which Mr. Angel responded "We don't normally do it in writing but I'll talk to someone and see what I can do."
I find it interesting that your staff would refuse to provide responses to light duty and/or modification requests not once but twice, when AVO 400.30.11 specifically requires denials be in writing. What's more, if "operation need" were an important factor in your staffs decisions regarding Margaret's work assignment, it would seem quite feasible to move one of the more than 30 other Lead Screeners to work her assignment so that she could work at Terminal B, where she had been working successfully for some time.
As a result of your staffs decision not to accommodate Margaret's request for transfer to Terminal B, Margaret has since been on Leave Without Pay status.
The fact of the matter is that, even with the medical restrictions ordered by her physician, Margaret is fully capable of working productively at Terminal B. It should be noted that during her entire time on light duty, Margaret has never been assigned to an administrative or other "sit down" or "office" job, even though this is fully within the ability of TSA to provide, as your staff has done for at least one other pregnant female screener at SMF in the past.
Subsequent to being placed on Leave Without Pay status, Margaret requested a copy of the medical form that was submitted to TSA HR from her medical provider. The medical provider was unable to locate the document and Margaret had yet to see it. She requested a copy of the form be faxed to her by TSA HR.
Margaret called and left a message on Lisa's voicemail on or about Monday or Tuesday, April 11th or 12th. It was not until the afternoon of Tuesday, April 19 - a week later - that Margaret received a copy of her last light duty contract (March 3-March 25, 2005) via facsimile. It was not the form that Margaret had requested.
Margaret called and left another message and subsequently called HR on Wednesday, April 20, and spoke with HR Specialist Bud Angel. She told him that she received the light duty contract but that she had requested the medical form that Kaiser has sent to HR. Mr. Angel told Margaret that the form was not "readily available" and was in some "piles of paperwork" that "needed to be filed first" before it could be located.
We did finally receive a facsimile of the requested document, which was sent from HR at 3:56 p.m. on April 20, 2005. A copy of the document is attached for your review.
Please note that the restrictions indicated on the medical form would still enable Margaret to work at Terminal B, as she has described the requirements of that work assignment to me. TSA's "operational need" would seem to suggest that you can use every person available to fill positions, even if it means assigning Margaret to Terminal B.
I believe that the actions by the aforementioned managers are intended to cause unnecessary stress and inconvenience on my wife, the ultimate affects of which could go far beyond just her ability to work; it could affect her personal health. In fact, the decisions of your staff have already begun to have an adverse effect on Margaret, as indicated earlier. We feel that these actions and decisions on the part of your staff constitute retaliation against Margaret for her protected EEO activity (filing an EEO complaint on March 31, 2003).
This has been an ongoing concern and the discriminatory and retaliatory acts against Margaret by your staff continue to mount. I find mis to be outrageous behavior and harassment that violates TSA's "Zero Tolerance Policy" against sexual harassment and retaliation, as well as other TSA policies, federal law, professional ethics and simple morality.
In a policy statement letter, dated April 7, 2004, (then) Acting Administrator David M. Stone wrote: "TSA's greatest asset is its talented and dedicated employees" and that the "TSA will ensure that all employees... are treated in a lawful, nondiscriminatory manner without regard to race, color, national original, religion, age, gender, disability, parental status, or genetic information. In addition, TSA will ensure that any barriers to equal employment opportunity are removed." Further, in the same letter, Stone wrote: "At TSA, mere is zero tolerance for harassment in the workplace and in the delivery of its services. Harassment can create a hostile, offensive, or otherwise intimidating environment for employees and the public, and will not be tolerated" (emphasis mine).
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. as amended, protects qualified employees and applicants with disabilities in the Executive Branch of the Federal government from employment discrimination based on disability. Further, it requires Federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodation for known physical or mental limitations of qualified employees and applicants, unless to do so would cause undue hardship.
I find it unlikely that reassigning Margaret to Terminal B would "impose an undue hardship (defined by OPM as an action that requires "significant difficulty or expense") on [TSA's] everyday operations."
I would also like to bring to your attention that the U.S. Office of Personnel management indicates that "All denials of reasonable accommodation requests must be made in writing, and the decision must specify the reason for the denial. The denial should be written in plain language, clearly stating the specific reasons for the denial. After denying a request, the individual must be informed that s/he has the right to file an EEO complaint, has the right to pursue any applicable union grievance and informal alternative dispute resolution."
Further, AVO 400.30.11 specifically requires denials be in writing.
Clearly, your staff's refusal to provide their denial to Margaret's request for accommodation in writing would seem to be not only unethical and a violation of TSA policy, but also a violation of other federal laws, as well.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act is an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the Act, "Discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions constitutes unlawful sex discrimination under Title VII, which covers ... the federal government. Women who are pregnant or affected by related conditions must be treated in the same manner as other applicants or employees with similar abilities or limitations."
As I'm sure you know, 5 U.S.C. Section 2302(c) requires federal agency heads, and officials with delegated authority for any aspect of personnel management, to: prevent prohibited personnel practices, including reprisal for whistleblowing; comply with and enforce civil service laws, rules and regulations" (source: US. Office of Special Counsel).
I am of the impression that you were not aware of the situation involving my wife's light duty status until receipt of her letter, dated Febraury 28, 2005. This may or may not be the case, but other recent events lead me to believe that there are a number of things being done by management officials beneath you that you are not aware of (such as the recent issue involving the 4/10 schedule for screeners and HR's denial of Margaret's request for accommodation - which was requested by the scheduling officer).
I appreciate that you seem to be resolving issues that have plagued SMF since long before your arrival to replace FSD William Wade. By all accounts mere have been a number of actions and omissions by TSA management at SMF that have caused unnecessary hardship on the screeners there, including actions and omissions that, as they have been described to me, would seem to violate TSA policy and federal law. The things I mentioned above are only the tip of the iceberg. There is so much more.
I respectfully request that you:
Authorize an extension of my wife's light duty contract to June 16, 2005, without requiring her to submit additional, duplicative documentation from her physician unless changes in her condition warrant a modification to her light duty status.
Authorize reassignment of Margaret to Terminal B.
Convert Margaret's "Leave Without Pay" status from April 8 until she is reinstated to light duty to paid Administrative Leave, as a result of management's inappropriate denial of her request for accommodation.
Authorize Margaret to deal directly with you regarding issues surrounding her light duty status. Past interactions with other management officials at SMF have been less than fruitful and on several occasions my wife has been lied to by your staff, denied requests for decisions in writing, and so on. We further request that you provide a direct telephone number to your office, as Margaret has been unsuccessful in her attempts to obtain same.
Direct or request an investigation of the TSA management staff at SMF for inappropriate conduct, mismanagement, retaliation and violations of TSA policies. I request that this investigation be conducted by the TSA Office of Internal Affairs (OIA), and that any such investigation be conducted in a manner that allows the investigator free access to all screening staff (to include Supervisory Transportation Security Screeners, Lead Transportation Security Screeners, and Transportation Security Screeners) without encumbrance, interference or influence by TSA management officials at SMF.
Respond to this letter in writing, via mail or facsimile. I would be happy to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss these and other issues plaguing your airport. In addition, I have copies of the transcripts of depositions by some of your staff (re: Margaret's EEO case) which I think you would find quite enlightening. I would be happy to share those with you if you don't already have them.
Thank you for your time and consideration. It is my sincere hope that these issues can be dealt with in a positive, professional and timely manner.
/ Signed / Mark T. Arsenault Representative
Encl: Original letter to FSD Pelayo, dated February 28, 2005 Offer of Light Duty Assignment, dated March 3, 2005 Visit Verification/Family Medical Leave Health Care Provider Certification, dated April 5, 2005 TSA Civil Rights Policy Statement by David M. Stone, dated April 4, 2004.
cc: Depart, of Homeland Security, Office of the Inspector General HotLine (via facsimile, to 202-254-4292) TSA Office of Civil Rights (via e-mail, to TSA.CivilRights@dhs.gov) Gony Frieder, AFGE Office of General Counsel (via facsimile, to 202-639-6441)
Fired Airport Security Chief to be Top School Cop

James B. Golden Jr., who was fired last year as federal security director for the Philadelphia International Airport, is in line to become the top security official in the School District of Philadelphia, the Daily News has learned.Golden's 18-month tenure at the airport was rocked by reports of security lapses and charges that he improperly hired his son-in-law as a manager of security screeners.

Allegations also surfaced that a former exotic dancer was hired as a screening supervisor.In February 2004, Golden, 55, was fired by the federal Transportation Security Administration, which has been in charge of the nation's airport security since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"After a thorough investigation, Mr. James Golden received a letter from the TSA advising him that his employment has been terminated for failing to follow TSA's policies regarding the hiring of relatives and for exercising poor judgment as a manager," read a TSA statement.

After appealing his termination, Golden was placed in a TSA administrative job in Arlington, Va., in October 2004 and then moved to another administrative job in February where he stayed until joining the school district, according to Cecilia Cummings, executive director of the district's Office of Communications.

Golden, a former Philadelphia police captain, police chief in Saginaw, Mich., and police director in Trenton, could not be reached.

The hiring of Golden Monday to fill the $115,000-a-year No. 2 security job at the school district - and his problems at the airport - were news to some school officials.

Cummings said she was not personally aware of his problems at the airport. The decision to hire Golden, she said, was made by Dexter Green, the current safety chief who is a long-time friend of Golden's.

Green, a respected former official with the Philadelphia police, could not be reached for comment.

Sources said Green has told school officials he will resign from the district in July to pursue other career prospects.

Following Green's departure Golden would be next in line to take over the safety office, which is charged with keeping order in the city's 270-plus public schools. The office has an annual budget of more than $30 million and 435 school police officers.
Couple Tangles With Federal Officials Over Incident At Bradley

A $15 penknife found in a diaper bag at Bradley International Airport could wind up costing an Oxford couple $12,000 in civil penalties.Federal officials say the case against Christopher and Karen Lyons, scheduled for a hearing next week, stems from the deliberate concealment of a banned weapon in carry-on bags.

The Transportation Security Administration says the steep assessment is justified because the Lyonses admitted hiding the knife, a Swiss Army brand with a 2¼-inch blade, so it would not be confiscated.

It was found inside a full canister of Huggies baby wipes, midway down.

Chris Lyons, a corporate pilot who flew with the Marines in the 1991 Gulf War, and his wife, a former flight attendant, say the allegations are ridiculous.

They say they were as shocked as anyone when his red knife turned up during the X-ray scan last Feb. 23, as they and their 2-year-old son prepared to board a flight for a Disney World vacation. They said they must have lost track of the knife during their rush to get to the airport that morning.

"We didn't even know it had fallen out of his pocket," Karen Lyons said. She suggested the knife may have gotten into the wipes canister when she restocked it from another container. They also deny admitting to anyone that they tried to hide the knife. Charges outlined by the TSA dispute their version.

"On the above-mentioned date and place, you admitted to the Connecticut State Police that you did conceal the knife in question," says the agency's "notice of proposed civil penalty," sent to Karen Lyons on May 11. "You also made a statement that you were tired of losing knives at security checkpoints and that is why you and your husband attempted to conceal the knife."

The TSA said that under federal law, she and her husband are both liable for a penalty of as much as $10,000. It proposes a $6,000 fine each.
Grenade in Ontario Terminal a Gear Shift Knob

A terminal at Ontario International Airport was evacuated Thursday morning after airport security detected what appeared to be a hand grenade in a piece of luggage.The object turned out to be a automobile gear shift knob that had been made to look like a grenade, said airport spokeswoman Maria Tesoro-Fermin.Baggage screeners with the Transportation Security Administration spotted the suspicious-looking object about 6 a.m.

The upper level of the airport's Terminal 2 was immediately cleared and Ontario police, firefighters and bomb disposal technicians were called to the scene.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Security screener at JFK Airport charged with stealing $80,000 from checked bag

A security employee at John F. Kennedy International Airport was charged Thursday with stealing $80,000 in cash from a checked suitcase headed for Pakistan, the Queens district attorney's office said.

The Transportation Security Administration screener, Frank Ulerio, Jr., 23, allegedly stole the money when he was inspecting checked luggage on Oct. 7 in a Pakistan International Airlines area at the airport. Prosecutors said he stole the cash from the suitcase of a 45-year-old passenger from Astoria, Queens who was flying to Pakistan.

The victim discovered the theft when he landed in Pakistan and police from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, began an investigation. When confronted, Ulerio admitted stealing $60,000 and said he used some of it to pay off a gambling debt.

Police recovered $18,000 when he was arrested at work Wednesday. Ulerio, a Queens resident, faces charges of grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. If convicted, he faces up to 15 years in prison. Ulerio is awaiting arraignment and will have a court-appointed lawyer, said Kevin Ryan, a spokesman for the Queens district attorney's office.

The owner of the money did not declare the cash but Ryan said he was never asked if he had anything to declare and likely will not be charged with a crime.
Dangerous bugs found in water on US planes

Dangerous levels of bacteria have been found in drinking water aboard 15% of planes at US airports, an investigation carried out by the US Environmental Protection Agency has found.

Twenty-four US airlines have now agreed to routinely disinfect their water supplies and monitor water quality in response to the EPA study. "Passengers must feel confident of the water safety on an airplane," says Grant Nakayama of the EPA. "These new protocols will provide protection."

The agreement, announced by the EPA on Wednesday, is a voluntary one. But the agency will spend the next two years drafting mandatory regulations for drinking water on aircraft.

The EPA tested water stored on 327 domestic and international airplanes at 19 US airports from August to September and then November to December during 2004 and found coliform contamination in 3 of every 20 craft.

Although no known illnesses resulted from the contamination, the water could have made people sick, especially those with impaired immune systems. Coliform is a bacterium commonly found in the lower intestine and its presence in drinking water may indicate faecal contamination.

Conflicting findings

Airlines generally serve bottled water to passengers, but often use water from the tanks to make coffee and tea, and passengers may drink or brush their teeth using the taps in lavatories.

The EPA says it is unclear how water becomes contaminated. Previous tests overseen by the EPA but carried out by the Air Transport Association (ATA) in Washington DC, which represents 14 major US airlines, found no contaminated water.

ATA’s assistant general counsel Catherine Andrus said the EPA sampled only a relatively small number of aircraft, and suggests that sampling and testing might not have been done properly.

Outside sources

According to the new agreement, airlines will empty and disinfect water holding tanks on planes quarterly, and disinfect water trucks and hoses every month. They will also test every plane in their fleet once a year and provide the results to the EPA.

If a test comes up positive, the EPA and the public will be notified immediately. As some water may be taken onboard outside of the US, the new guidelines require airlines to also study possible outside sources of contamination.

But Erik Olson, with the environmental campaign group Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington DC, says the agreement may not go far enough. He says testing each aircraft once a year is too infrequent and believes the EPA should have penalised those airlines found to have contaminated water aboard their aircraft.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

TSA Testing New Recruits at Undisclosed Airport.

Hello, Mrs. White Person! Please put your suitcase on the scanner! You are going to a tropical island? That sounds like so much fun, Mrs. White Person! Have a nice flight! Maybe you can bring me back a pet wombat!

Hello, Mr. Brown Person! I’m afraid you are on a watch list. That is because you are a bad person, Mr. Brown Person. Please come in the back room with me while I put on these tiny rubber gloves. No, your lawyer cannot help you.

Playmobil Security Checkpoint
3172 Security Check-in

Friday, October 14, 2005

Man Accused of Punching Out Plane Window

A passenger punched out the interior pane of an airplane window on an American West flight from Las Vegas to Florida, authorities said.

Ryan J. Marchione, 24, shattered the inner plastic shield covering the glass window and disconnected its frame about 90 minutes into the flight, according to an FBI affidavit. The outer window was not damaged and the plane did not depressurize, the airline said.

Marchione was arrested when the plane landed Wednesday at Tampa International Airport. He faces up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted of a charge of damaging or destroying an aircraft while it was operating.

About 90 minutes after the plane departed, Marchione "woke abruptly from his sleep and turned to the passenger seated in 7B ... raised a clenched fist to his shoulder as if he was going to strike the passenger in 7B, then suddenly turned and struck the exterior window," the affidavit said.

"It appears to have come out of nowhere," said Marchione's attorney, Thomas Ostrander. "Perhaps it was some sort of a psychotic episode as a result of drug abuse."

Marchione was released on $25,000 bail to home detention with electronic monitoring.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Joy Rider Charged

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. - A man was arrested on charges of stealing a charter jet and taking it on a 350-mile joy ride from Florida to Georgia, police said Wednesday.

The circumstances of the theft were not clear, but nothing threatening was found on the plane, police spokesman Darren Moloney said. The incident "appears to be a joy ride."

Daniel Andrew Wolcott, 22, of Buford was charged with felony theft and misdemeanor reckless conduct, police said, adding that additional federal charges were expected.

Investigators said they made the arrest after interviewing five people who said they were on the 10-passenger, $7 million Cessna Citation 7 when Wolcott flew it.

The plane, which is owned by Pinnacle Air of Springdale, Ark., was found Monday at the Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field near Atlanta, police said. Moloney said a key is not needed to start the plane. The plane has a lock on the door, but it isn't difficult to pry open, he said.

Wolcott has a commercial rated pilots license but is not licensed to fly that type of plane, police said. The exact circumstances of how Wolcott obtained the plane were unclear.

Bryan Cooper, assistant manager at St. Augustine Airport, said the plane was still there at midnight Saturday but was gone by 5 a.m. The plane landed at Gwinnett sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday and 6 a.m. Sunday.

It had some damage to the front edge of one wing.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Plane Carrying Viruses Crashes in Canada

A cargo plane carrying small amounts of flu virus crashed on railway tracks near Winnipeg's city center Thursday, killing the pilot but missing buildings and vehicles, authorities said.

The research samples of frozen influenza and herpes viruses were destroyed in the crash and ensuing fire along with other freight, Federal Express spokeswoman Karen Cooper said.

She said the Cessna 208 was owned by Morningstar Air Express of Edmonton and was under contract to FedEx.

Morningstar spokesman Don Boettcher didn't immediately identify the woman piloting the aircraft. "She'd been with us for about five years," he said, without providing further details.

The plane took off from the Winnipeg airport en route to Thunder Bay, Ontario, at about 5:45 a.m. and traveled about four miles southeast of the airport before it requested a return, Transportation Safety Board investigator David Ross said. "The aircraft then descended below radar coverage and contact was lost with the aircraft," Ross said.

"It has crashed on railway tracks and does not appear to have collided with any other objects, houses or cars," police Sgt. Shelly Glover said.

Winnipeg police spokeswoman Carolyn Kwiatek said there was no damage to the surrounding area from the fire. The crash did tie up traffic on nearby streets during the morning rush, but no accidents or injuries resulted.

In its cargo were six vials of virus samples being sent to Thunder Bay for research, Cooper said.
Although the samples were labeled dangerous goods, they weren't considered hazardous at the crash site since all the cargo was destroyed in the blaze, Cooper said.

Police Sgt. Kelly Dennison said weather may have been a factor. Reports suggested light snow and mist in the area, temperatures near the freezing mark, moderate winds and about four miles of visibility.

Ross said the plane probably wasn't carrying a flight data recorder.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Become a TSA Funeral Home Partner and become part of this important initiative.

Funeral Home Partners:
The Transportation Security Administration has implemented a new procedure affecting those passengers attempting to transport a crematory container on airplanes as carry-on baggage.

Passengers are still allowed to carry-on a crematory container, but the container MUST first pass through the x-ray machine. If the container is made of a material that generates an opaque image and prevents the security screener from clearly being able to see what is inside, then the container will NOT be allowed through the security checkpoint.

In respect to the deceased, under NO circumstances will a screener open the container even if the passenger requests that this be done. Documentation from the funeral home is no longer sufficient to carry a crematory container through security and onto a plane.

As a result of this policy the TSA would like to partner with funeral homes throughout the country to accommodate passengers transporting remains via air travel. To ensure that a TSA screener can successfully x-ray the crematory container’s contents, the TSA recommends that remains be transported in containers constructed of light-weight materials such as cardboard, plastic, or wood.

We realize that containers made of these materials may not be desirable as the container used to permanently house the remains of a passenger’s loved ones; however, it can be used as a temporary container to transport the remains to their final destination.

Using such a solution, passengers are ultimately faced with the dilemma of how to transfer the remains from the temporary container to the permanent container.

The TSA Solution:

Form a voluntary partnership with willing funeral homes. TSA Funeral Home Partners agree to offer a complimentary "Remains Transfer Service" at no charge to the traveler. This allows the passenger to obtain a temporary "security friendly" container for transporting the remains via air travel and in addition purchase a permanent container that can be made of any material they desire.

Once the passenger reaches their final destination they can contact their local "TSA Funeral Home Partner" and have the remains transferred free of charge.

Please share this program and the new TSA crematory container policy with your patrons to help extend TSA's public outreach and education efforts.

Benefits to Our Funeral Home Partners:

Your business will be listed as a Funeral Home Partner on our website and will include a link to your website.

You may post the TSA website link on your website and advertise that you are a TSA Partner to encourage those seeking this service to visit your establishment.

Funeral Home and Cremation websites that list area or nationwide Funeral Homes can advertise that your establishment offers this service and that you are a TSA partner.

This partnership allows you to get possible buyers in the door where you can sell the traveler a permanent crematory container at the point of their final destination.

You will be performing a service for the public that will be appreciated, remembered, and possibly reflected in future funeral service or crematory container purchases.
Oregon woman kicked off flight in Reno over offensive shirt

A Portland woman's flight home was stopped short in Reno, all because the message on the T-shirt she was wearing.

Lorrie Heasley claims it's a freedom of speech privilege, but airline officials say the message brings safety concerns. Heasley, "There are bigger problems in the country, I can't believe people can be so petty."

Heasley boarded her flight Tuesday morning in Los Angeles, headed for Portland, Oregon with a stopover in Reno. But when Southwest Airlines employees asked her to cover her shirt, her stop over became a stop off her flight.

"I was told that basically that I had to cover my shirt, or I was told if I cover the shirt I can basically stay on the plane."

So she covered the shirt, but during a nap while passengers were boarding in Reno the cover came off. And Southwest employees insisted, change the shirt, or change flights. "I didn't feel that I should have to change my shirt, because we live in the United States, and it's freedom of speech and it was based on the move "The Fockers", and I didn't think it should have offended anyone."

But it did.

The shirt had pictures of members of the Bush Administration, and a phrase based on the movie "Meet the Fockers," but with one crucial vowel changed.

It was enough to cause complaints from other passengers and it's a problem the airline has had to deal with before.

Beth Harbin, Southwest Airlines, "We do get it occasionally. What someone is wearing, what someone is reading, what someone might be saying and it's very much a judgment call. But when other customers become concerned we do have to become involved in that and see what we can do to make everyone as comfortable as we can."

And while Southwest may have kept the peace on it's afternoon hop to Portland, a woman, not afraid to use her freedom of speech will now be using her freedom of choice.

"I most likely wont be flying Southwest Airlines again after this."

Southwest Airlines told Heasley she could take a different flight home if she changed her shirt.
She refused and opted to rent a car and drive home.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Feds Unable to Search Own Anti-Terrorism Database

TSA Stops Deleting "Secure Flight" Records, But Drags Feet On Project Transparency

WASHINGTON - September 29 - After receiving hundreds of requests from Americans asking to know what personal information the government has obtained about them, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) told passengers that it "does not have the capability to perform a simple computer-based search" to locate individual records.

TSA revealed last fall that it would use private passenger data from all domestic airline flights taken in June of 2004 to test its troubled "Secure Flight" passenger-screening system. In response to a fruitless Privacy Act request by four Alaska residents, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) encouraged other airline passengers to request their own files.

TSA recently began notifying the passengers who filed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act requests that it lacks the ability to easily search its records. TSA also said that it would close such requests unless individuals provided additional detailed information, such as the air carrier they used, the dates of travel, and their phone numbers -- part of the data that requestors were seeking in the first place.

"TSA is failing to follow the law," said EFF Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman. "The Freedom of Information Act and the Privacy Act place very clear obligations on government agencies for searching their records, and TSA has simply said that it doesn't want to go through the effort. It's bad enough that Secure Flight has repeatedly failed to show that it can be a useful tool to strengthen airline security. However, that doesn't excuse the federal government from telling Americans about the private information it has gathered and used to test the project."

In light of the high volume of record requests that it has received, TSA recently agreed to stop deleting the passenger data it obtained for testing Secure Flight until it processed its backlog of requests. However, TSA told initial requestors that some of their data had already been deleted.
Secure Flight, a passenger-profiling system aimed at identifying security risks, is the successor of the controversial "CAPPS II" program that was cancelled in the wake of questions about its cost, effectiveness, and impact on privacy and civil liberties. The Secure Flight screening process would involve comparing airline passenger reservation data with an interagency terrorist watch list to determine who should be subject to more invasive screenings or arrest. After repeatedly misleading Congress and the public about its intention to use data provided by commercial data brokers to supplement the watch list, TSA recently announced that it would not use such data in the program for the time being.

Despite the controversy surrounding the project, TSA has stated that it is moving forward this fall with plans for a partial roll-out involving two airlines.