Pilot points out known airport security flaws – big brother TSA pounces

It’s important to note the pilot who recorded this video was pointing out security flaws that were already well known. But by pointing them out in a public fashion – on YouTube – the Department of Homeland Security has elected to punish the pilot by suspending him from the Flight Deck Officer program.

The Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program is a voluntary training and certification that allows pilots to carry a handgun in the cockpit as an additional security measure. Not only did the TSA suspend the pilot from the program, the sheriff’s office in his area pulled his county issued state permit to carry a concealed weapon.

Homeland Security big brother antics and an abuse of power as far as I’m concerned, unless the pilot really did release confidential security information concerning San Francisco’s international airport. I already knew about what I saw in the video, it was common knowledge that ground crews did not have to go through the full security we experience as travelers.

The TSA may certainly have the authority to suspend the pilot from the FFDO program, but the sheriff’s office stepping in to the situation (what would they have to do with this?) seems totally unjustified. Sending four federal air marshals and two sheriff’s deputies to the pilots home – unannounced – is overkill and was done to send a threatening message to the pilot and the community.

From News 10 in Sacramento.

The 50-year-old pilot, who lives outside Sacramento, asked that neither he nor his airline be identified. He has worked for the airline for more than a decade and was deputized by the TSA to carry a gun in the cockpit.

He is also a helicopter test pilot in the Army Reserve and flew missions for the United Nations in Macedonia.

Three days after he posted a series of six video clips recorded with a cell phone camera at San Francisco International Airport, four federal air marshals and two sheriff’s deputies arrived at his house to confiscate his federally-issued firearm. The pilot recorded that event as well and provided all the video to News10.

At the same time as the federal marshals took the pilot’s gun, a deputy sheriff asked him to surrender his state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon.

A follow up story indicates the pilot informed the TSA he would voluntarily esign from FFDO, and the TSA stated they would drop the issue. To me, that indicates the pilot did nothing wrong and the government was just throwing their weight around. Again, no justification for pulling his state permit either. If they man really did violate security rules … let’s here it.

What say you?

Overnight update: Allahpundit at Hot Air and Powerline writing. Drudge Report seems to be taking the story over-the-top suggesting his home was searched, which is not indicated in the articles I’ve read. AP is wondering if there was really a security leak of information within one or more of six of the YouTube videos, but if there was, you would think the TSA would not just drop the issue as long as the pilot resigned from the FFDO program.

Doug Powers at Malkin’s site writing this morning.

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Steve McGough

Steve's a part-time conservative blogger. Steve grew up in Connecticut and has lived in Washington, D.C. and the Bahamas. He resides in Connecticut, where he’s comfortable six months of the year.


  1. GdavidH on December 23, 2010 at 6:04 pm

    This pilot's biggest mistake was thinking he lived in a country that afforded him freedom of speach, Kinda like the one where we respect Wikileaks right to publish anything online, regardless of how the information was gleaned. Silly fool, he should have given the video to Mr. Assange.

     Or, maybe he thought he lived in a country that followed the rule of law…

  2. Dimsdale on December 24, 2010 at 4:58 am

    Hmmm, speak out, and you have to fear the infamous "late night knock on the door".


    I agree: how come Julian Assange is supported by certain circles for doing far worse?  Mr. Moore?

  3. Edmondo on December 24, 2010 at 5:15 am

    The pilot showed poor judgement by posting the video on Youtube.  He has a right to his opinion, but posting images of specific weaknesses on a public website is over the line.  When he volunteered to to be a FFDO, he accepted extra training requirements and responsibilities.  He became a true first responder and a vital part of the security system. This video could have been shown to Airport or TSA managers only.  Posting the video online was a breach of trust and the TSA was within its rights to remove him from FFDO status.

    How they did that was a little heavy handed.  A letter would have sufficed.

    He does have freedom of speech.  He was not arrested for speaking out, just removed from a voluntary program.



  4. JollyRoger on December 24, 2010 at 5:26 am

    Confucius say- the nail that stands up must be hammered down!

  5. Plainvillian on December 24, 2010 at 6:03 am

    By tradition, practice and regulation a pilot in command of any airplane has the same prerogatives and responsibilities as the captain of a ship on the high seas.  As a pilot for over 30 years, I have on occasion violated regulations that could have cost me my license because to do otherwise would endanger the flight and my passengers' lives.  Pilots do this often because they must make timely decisions based on experience and situations only they can evaluate in the cockpit.


    By nature, pilots accept some risk with every flight.  As a pilot, I know this pilot clearly understands that the TSA and our 'security' apparatus is expensive theater and totally ineffective.  He was motivated to let others know.  Instead of addressing his concerns, TSA chose to silence and intimidate him without looking at the systemic flaws he exposes.


    We ignore his message and more importantly the TSA reaction to it at our peril, both as travelers and as a nation.

  6. pauldow on December 24, 2010 at 7:52 am

    It's still nuts that the TSA/DHS throws away its best proven defense against terrorists. The first victory against terrorists came, not from the huge government bureaucracy, but from the people. They still continue to treat everyone as a criminal, and then have that goofy "If you see something, say something" campaign.

    Archie Bunker had it right. If we listened to him, those towers would still be standing, thousands of lives would have been saved, and we would have saved billions of dollars. Of course, that wouldn't have expanded government spending and power.


  7. JollyRoger on December 24, 2010 at 10:50 am

    This reminds me of Ignaz Semmelweis; a doctor in the Vienna General Hospital in the mid 1800's, he identified and corrected an infection issue which was causing high infant mortality rates…  He was fired, rejected by the medical community, the hospital went back to their old procedures, and he died in a hospital of an infection.

  8. Gary J on December 24, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    And now you know why there is a program in most states for pistol permits or rifles inn some. You say something big brother doesn't like and here they come !

  9. Lynn on December 27, 2010 at 3:42 am

    I will always be in favor of a whistle blower. Period


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