Video: Pilots want ban on sharp objects lifted

By Pete Williams Justice correspondent
NBC News
updated 8/17/2005 7:49:24 PM ET 2005-08-17T23:49:24

Wednesday, the nation’s largest union of airline flight attendants urged the federal government not to relax its rules that ban passengers from carrying on items that could be used as weapons. But airline pilots say it would be a good move, allowing a better focus on actual threats.

With the federal government looking for ways to improve passenger screening, staffers at the Transportation Security Administration have made a suggestion to their bosses — to lift the ban on carrying sharp objects, like scissors, knives, or screwdrivers, which was imposed just a few days after the 9/11 hijackings.

With cockpit doors now reinforced, TSA staffers argue that those objects can no longer be used to bring a plane down. But flight attendants strongly objected, saying the items still pose a threat to people onboard.

“If you think there’s some means of self-defense in that cabin, you are sadly mistaken,” says Patricia Friend of the Association of Flight Attendants, adding, “It’s not there, and if the TSA has their way, the person sitting next to you could have a knife or a boxcutter.”

While checking roughly 2 million people a day, government figures show, screeners find 14,000 potential weapons ranging from nail scissors to pocket knives and ice picks — even big rocks.  A rules change would allow those back on, even allowing hunters to carry on bows and arrows.

And passengers would be required to remove their shoes only if they set off the metal detectors or are selected for extra screening.

Some airline security experts support the idea, saying screeners should spend more time looking for greater hazards, like explosives.

Members of the Air Line Pilots Association, meeting Wednesday in Washington, say they’d support loosening the restrictions.

They say screeners spend too much time now staring at X-ray machine monitors, looking for nail scissors, when they should be paying more attention to the passengers, watching for suspicious behavior.

For now, the government says while there may be changes in screening, no final decisions have been made about how to speed the process up while focusing on the most serious threats.

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