SFO pilot exposes airport security flaws

December 22, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
An airline pilot's behind-the-scenes video tour of the San Francisco International Airport has landed him in trouble. At issue is airport security; specifically, the lack of security screening for airport employees. The pilot captured it all on cell phone video, then posted it on YouTube.

While tens of thousands of people go through security check points everyday at SFO, thousands of airport employees are allowed to skip it. It's an issue that bothers an airline pilot so much, he took his cell phone camera and videoed an airport worker.

"Well, folks, I just wanted to give you an idea of what type of security for the ground personnel there is. This is their screening. As you can see, there's only a card slide and one door," says the pilot on the video. "So when you see a cart, those carts aren't screened at all."

The pilot doesn't want his name released or airline identified, but he does want this information to go public. So he posted the video on YouTube.

"And right here's a sign, 'Think security.' Well, I don't think there's much security here," says the pilot on the video.

"I have to admit what he says is true," says ABC7 aviation consultant Ron Wilson.

Wilson worked at SFO for 47 years. He says this hole in security has bothered him ever since the 9/11 attacks.

"All they have to do is take their ID, I still have mine, and scan it through a scanner and the door automatically opens and they're on the airfield," says Wilson.

Three days after the pilot posted his airport security tour on YouTube, four federal air marshals and two sheriff's deputies arrived at the pilot's house, which he also recorded.

They were there to confiscate his federally-issued handgun. A letter later arrived saying, "An FFDO [Federal Flight Deck Officer] must not engage in... conduct that impairs the efficiency of TSA... or causes the loss of public confidence in TSA..."

The pilot's attorney believes the feds sent six people to the pilot's house to send a message.

"And the message was you've angered us by telling the truth and by showing America that there are major security problems despite the fact that we've spent billions of dollars allegedly to improve airline safety," says Don Werno, the airline pilot's attorney.

A TSA spokesman told ABC7 he's unaware of the incident, but did say airport employees go through thorough background checks and are subject to random screenings. He says it isn't feasible to screen all the employees and all the passengers every day. He also wishes the pilot would have brought his concerns to the TSA and not broadcast them to the public.

ABC7 would like to mention that reporter George Warren, of our affiliate KXTV in Sacramento, broke this story when the pilot contacted him.


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