Skip to content

Mike Protack: We Need a Fly List

January 3, 2010

January 1, 2010, Wilmington News Journal, Del.

We need a fly list


To most Americans, air travel is a necessary part of life. To me, as an airline captain, it is how I earn a living. Last year I safely carried about 50,000 passengers to weddings, funerals, vacations and business meetings.

However, to terrorists around the world, air travel is a potential mode to getting their message of fear and extremism to the world, and we are failing to stop that threat from becoming a catastrophe.

In a world of asymmetrical warfare, the 24-hour news cycle and an ineffective air security network, there are bound to be plots on America via airline planes.

Certainly there are other modes of transportation that are terrorism targets, but the most “bang for your buck” comes from an airplane.

Unfortunately, too much of our airline security program is disjointed and is much more theater than substance.

The TSA — technically the Transportation Security Administration, but also called “Thousands Standing Around” — is terribly ineffective, as the screeners routinely miss almost one half of all fake bombs, knives and hand grenades.

Ramp personnel still do not go through the same level of security as passengers do, and “no-fly lists” and “watch lists” are not integrated into current threat scenarios for action by airport screeners. The average school field trip has more planning and integration.

Our margin of safety is at risk, and the potential for failure is very real. Yes, we have locked down cockpit doors, but we do not have enough Federal Air Marshals or appropriate screening of passengers or potential bombs.

It is time to stop applying equal screening, which assures unequal results and potential tragedy.

What to do? Understand the reality of the world and deepen the layers of defense without the niceties of political correctness. The president has made way too much of trying to make the world like us or attempt to understand why they want to attack us and kill us.

Political theory is great cocktail conversation, and his speeches make for great TV, but death is permanent.

We must utilize intelligent profiling — not silly and ineffective racial profiling, but criminal profiling. Essentially, we need to create a “fly list,” not a “no-fly list.”

Specifically, we should develop a detailed point system of passenger actions and backgrounds that will trigger appropriate levels of screening.

Some things to consider:

• Cash payment for a ticket.

• Recent travel to certain countries.

• One-way tickets.

• Credit report/activity.

• Men ages 20-40.

• No checked luggage.

• Political affiliation/membership.

• Visa activity.

The method of tallying and weighing the points is open to discussion, but the move should be to intelligently profile those who are a threat and then require extra screening or possibly deny boarding. To throw the net of screening equally across all passengers in the interest of political correctness serves no one. The trigger point must be in the screening process on the ground, not in the air.

Finally, if we do not screen more effectively, you can look for permanent policies and some further actions such as:

• Uniformed Air Marshals fully armed and publicly in view on airplanes.

• No use or access of any carry-on items within 30 minutes after take-off or within 30 minutes of landing.

• No use of any electronic items within 30 minutes of take-off and landing.

• No carry-on bags.

• Full-body imaging at airports.

• Full-body pat downs.

Air travel is too important to businesses, individuals and the country. We can debate about wars in foreign lands, but certainly we must act here at home first.

One Comment leave one →
  1. January 4, 2010 8:21 am

    I find it interesting that “political affiliation/membership” is listed as something to consider, but the column does not mention the importance of identifying radical Muslims. Political correctness on the part of Protack, or an unintentional omission?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: