TSA to allow pocketknives, some sports equipment

Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-03-06 01:12:19-05

By Caroline Connolly.

SALT LAKE CITY - Small pocketknives and a list of sporting goods will soon be allowed inside airplane cabins in the U.S. The Transportation Security Administration announced Tuesday they would be permitting items that had been banned following the September 11 attacks.

The move comes after a committee established by the TSA conducted a review of the prohibited items list based on risk-based security approach. Officials found that certain items were not a threat to travelers, and by allowing them, security personnel could allot more time to searching for more dangerous items, like explosives.

Passengers flying out of Salt Lake City International Airport had mixed reactions about the change.

Traveler Steve Celona said, "I like the way things are as is. I don't think knives belong on airplanes, and I feel safer without knives on airplanes."

Permitted knives can be no longer than 6 centimeters and wider than ½ inch. The blades cannot lock into place, and the knives are not allowed to have fixed handles. Officials said razor blades and box cutters are still banned.

After years of strict security regulations, some travelers feel it is the right move and believe it could make flying even safer.

"It's actually probably a good thing. I mean, if there's a bunch of people on a plane with small pocketknives, and someone stands up and says they're going to take over the plane, that person is going to have a harder time,” said passenger Nicole Vivian.

The list will also allow customers to bring aboard ski poles, small novelty and toy bats, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks, billiard cues and two golf clubs.

A union representing 90,000 flight attendants called the measure, “a poor and short-sighted decision by the TSA.”  The Coalition of Flight Attendants Union released a statement saying, “Continued prohibition of these items is an integral layer in making our aviation system secure and must remain in place.”

The changes will take effect April 25.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Small pocketknives and an array of sporting equipment -- banned from aircraft cabins in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks -- will once again be allowed in U.S. planes, the head of the Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday.

Knives with blades that are 2.36 inches (6 centimeters) or shorter and less than a 1/2 inch wide will be permitted on U.S. airline flights as long as the blade is not fixed or does not lock into place. Razor blades and box cutters are still not permitted.

Two golf clubs, toy bats or other sports sticks -- such as ski poles, hockey sticks, lacrosse sticks or pool cues -- will also be allowed in carry-on luggage.

Transportation Security Administration head John Pistole said the changes will take effect April 25 and will bring the United States into alignment with international rules.

Some security experts say security improvements since the attacks -- most notably reinforced cockpit doors, better intelligence and motivated passengers -- have made the strict prohibition of small pen-knives unnecessary.

Pistole said the changes are in keeping with his "risk-based security" initiative and will permit airport screeners to focus on looking for bomb components, which present a greater threat to aircraft, instead of lesser threats.

But a union representing 90,000 flight attendants called the measure "a poor and short-sighted decision by the TSA."

"Continued prohibition of these items is an integral layer in making our aviation system secure and must remain in place," according to a statement by the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions.

Although it was widely reported that the 9/11 hijackers used "boxcutters" in their attack, the weapons were not recovered, and investigators believe other types of knives were used.

At a January 2004 hearing of the 9/11 Commission, a commission staff member said, "Our best working hypothesis is that a number of the hijackers were carrying -- permissible under the regulations in place at the time -- permissible utility knives or pocketknives."

The commission displayed a Leatherman knife, saying, "We know that at least two knives like this were actually purchased by the hijackers and have not been found in the belongings the hijackers left behind."

Immediately after the attacks, the TSA prohibited a wide range of items from aircraft, but it has gradually been reintroducing some banned items such as cigarette lighters and matches. On occasion, such as a liquid bomb scare in August 2006, the TSA has expanded the list, banning large containers of liquids and gels.

Under the TSA's risk-based security, Pistole has sought to "reduce the haystack," giving modified screening to travelers under age 12 and over age 75. It has also expanded its TSA PreCheck initiative, which expedites checks of known passengers.

TSA spokesman David Castelveter said the changes announced Tuesday will not slow down the screening process by requiring screeners to measure knife blades and weigh plastic bats. Screeners will use "common sense" when applying the rule, he said.

A major pilot's union on Tuesday declined to comment on the specific changes announced by the TSA, saying it had not had time to study them. But it applauded the TSA's efforts to harmonize U.S. rules with those overseas, and its embrace of risk-based security.

"Unfortunately, the reality has been that we've had this patchwork of regulations and systems that in some part... have been carried on the shoulders of the airlines," said Capt. Sean Cassidy, first vice president of the Air Line Pilots Association International.

Cassidy said risk-based security benefits the industry, the airlines and travelers.

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN.
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