Flight crews and other aviation employees began submitting to the same security checks as passengers at air terminals across the nation Monday, but few delays were reported and pre-holiday traffic continued to move smoothly at California airports.
For the most part, passengers, aviators and airport employees said the change in Federal Aviation Administration rules--which added thousands to the throngs already passing through airport security checkpoints--was a slight inconvenience, but well worth the bother.
"I think it's a pain, but I guess it's a good idea." said Michael Richardson, an American Airlines pilot who was passing through Los Angeles International Airport.
However, other fliers, backed by the Air Line Pilots Assn., predicted congestion and delays as the Christmas traffic builds up later this week.
Veteran airline pilot Barry Schiff said requiring flight crews to undergo inspection is "totally absurd."
"If I want to hijack my plane, or crash it, I can do it without a gun," he said. "I think it was like other FAA actions. They react to public pressure, even if it's wrong."
The rules change was ordered last week in response to the Dec. 7 crash of a Pacific Southwest Airlines jetliner near San Luis Obispo.
Authorities believe passenger David A. Burke, a disgruntled former airline employee, smuggled a pistol aboard the flight from Los Angeles to San Francisco, bypassing a metal detector at LAX by displaying an airline badge he kept after he was fired. Under the old FAA rules, employees showing identification were exempt from security checks.
Investigators say Burke, 35, apparently shot his supervisor, also a passenger on the plane, and then disabled the cockpit crew. The plane crashed in the coastal back country of San Luis Obispo County, killing all 43 aboard.
At Los Angeles, Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport and O'Hare International Airport in Chicago--three of the nation's busiest airfields--officials reported no problems Monday despite the beginning of one of the busiest travel weeks in the year.
In San Francisco, airport director Lou Turpen said the new security procedure had not caused a "big difference" in the flow of traffic. "Everyone's going through and there's no problem," Turpen said of the checkpoints that already were used to screen 60,000 to 70,000 people a day.
At John Wayne Airport in Orange County, where measures like those that went into effect nationwide Monday have been in place for more than a week, officials reported that lines were no longer than usual. Officials at airports in Burbank, Ontario and San Diego also reported that the new rules did not noticeably slow traffic.
Under the new rules, everyone boarding a plane--or working in a secure part of the airport, beyond the checkpoint--is required to walk through a magnetic "doorway" that checks for metallic objects on the person.
In addition, everyone must now submit all handbags, cameras and other carry-on luggage for X-ray inspection, which may be followed by individual hand inspection, if the security guard's suspicion is raised by the image on the X-ray machine's screen.
Few long lines developed at the Los Angeles checkpoints on Monday, and there were few complaints about delays.
"The new rules are great," said Mavis Uhler of San Gabriel, who was on her way to San Jose. "I don't want to be in a plane where they shoot a pilot in the back."
"It means we have to get here a little earlier, but I think it's fine," said Nicole Nance, a flight attendant with Trans World Airlines. "After what happened with that plane, I figured they'd do something like this."
Not a New Thing
Joan Miley and Kelly Shiels, flight attendants for American, both said the rules change was a "good idea," but both pointed out that going through passenger security checkpoints is nothing new for them.
Mary O'Neill, a spokeswoman for American in Dallas, said the airline has been having its flight crews pass through the checkpoints at several cities, including Los Angeles, "for a long time, since before the Olympics in 1984.