Couple of things to talk about today; let’s begin with new policy from the TSA…
Beginning April 25 you’ll be able to carry most pocket knives onboard a commercial airline flights (as long as the blade is less than 2.36 inches long). To that you can add billiard cues, toy bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs (limit two, yes "two"), and several other items. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) made the announcement yesterday. You can see the TSA announcement here.
I suspect most fliers will welcome the changes — but not everyone. Apparently TSA didn't consult with one of its most important stakeholders: flight attendants. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants put out a blistering press release. Here’s part of what it says:
“The APFA and our colleagues at other Flight Attendant unions have enjoyed a close working relationship with TSA since its inception,” said APFA President Laura Glading. “That’s why I’m a little puzzled that such a momentous decision would be made without consulting us. In addition to being industry stakeholders, first responders, and September 11th victims, Flight Attendants are a resource. Nobody knows what it takes to keep passengers safe better than we do.” While the APFA welcomes the periodic review of items banned from being carried on the airplane, it categorically rejects a proposal to allow knives of any kind in the cabin. Additionally, today’s announcement includes relaxing restrictions of such large items as hockey sticks, golf clubs, and ski poles, a policy which could lead to a more stressful and potentially dangerous environment for air travelers and employees.
So what gives? Why change the rules? I think the TSA's thought process has evolved since 9/11. There's been the realization that if someone wants to take over an airplane with a little pocket knife, or a golf club, the passengers will put an end to it real quick. The same can't be said for bombs. TSA has all but said that it will spend more time screening for explosives.
Let's move on to the Big Budget Battle in Washington: sequestration.
If the sequestration fight continues for long it will likely impact our airport’s control tower.
Earlier this week the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told us that it would drop the overnight shift at the Springfield tower beginning October 1. That means the tower won’t be staffed between midnight and 5:00 am. That five hour period is the slowest part of the 24-hour day at our airport; on average there might be six takeoffs and landings. Those flights will still be able to fly but the pilots will have to coordinate all movement amongst themselves using a common radio frequency.
While we don’t like the reduction in service we’re thankful that budget cuts apparently won’t affect tower staffing during the hours when the commercial airlines land and take-off. Other Missouri airports aren’t so lucky…
The FAA says the control towers will close at the airports in Columbia, Jefferson City, Joplin, Branson, and St. Joseph. We’re hearing through backchannels that the closures will happen sooner, rather than later.
Three of those airports have commercial airservice. The closing of their control towers begs the question: will the airlines fly to an airport that doesn't have air traffic control?
Hopefully, no one will have to find out...