Airport Employee Access – Reliability = 0%
Both airport ground employees and flight crews routinely bypassed airport security screening as a matter of course, until an attack on a Pacific Southern Airways flight crew by an armed entry level ground employee resulted in the crash of the aircraft and the deaths of all aboard. The FAA responded by requiring all persons to submit for security inspection prior to entering an airport concourse.
In the years since, however, airport ground employees have been issued swipe cards that allow them to bypass screening by using private doors, even carrying backpacks, thermoses, etc., after passing a background check that verifies they do not have a criminal history. Every day, thousands of entry level, minimum wage airport ramp agents, baggage handlers, and ticket agents – even maintenance contract workers – pass in and out of secure airport areas without any inspection whatsoever. The flight crews, though, continue to be inspected to make sure they cannot take over an airliner…five minutes before they are given control of one.
Several years ago, a coordinated drug ring of airport employees was arrested in New York, using airliners as conduits for illicit narcotics. These employees were not subject to security screening.
In the summer of 2004, a group of airport ground employees at an international airport in Florida were arrested on charges of gun smuggling, successfully using employee entrances to bypass screening to put guns onto airliners for months, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. The only reason the result was not another 9/11, was that they were allegedly gun smugglers, not terrorists.
In April 2005 an organized airport employee theft ring was arrested in California, after reportedly stealing items being mailed to U.S. soldiers in Japan. None of these employees were subject to any screening at all going to and from work.
The failure to properly screen unskilled airport employees is one of the greatest weaknesses in airline security.
For these reasons the reliability of airport employee screening in preventing terrorists from accessing airliners with weapons is virtually zero.
Recommendation: Submit all airport ground employees to screening before they enter secure airport areas.