- "My name is Andy Hays and I am a pilot with American Airlines," writes the Virginia-based aviator. "We recently had a female pilot - in uniform - passing through airport security where she was slated to fly the airplane on her regular three-day trip.
"As she was having her carry-on bag searched, she inquired, 'What are you looking for?' The response she received from the security (person): 'Anything that you could use to break into the cockpit.' Not only was she working the flight but in her pocket, as is the case with all of us, was a cockpit key."
- Like several other pilots who wrote to us, airline transport pilot Jerry Johnson observes: "The government is letting guns back in the cockpit, but only in lockboxes. How very useful. I always practice drawing a firearm from a lockbox. Don't the police and marshals and other law enforcement people? Surely they do.
"One can only sigh," he says, "at the incorrigible dimwits who instituted this move. In light of the fact that terrorists took over four airliners on Sept. 11, 2001, and killed almost 3,000 people with box cutters, we sheep in the general public sit aghast at the brilliance emanating from our own government officials to prevent a similar occurrence."
- Lee Allen, of Provo, Utah, rejects the idea "that pilots must take a psychological test and a 48-hour course in firearms safety before being allowed to take a pistol on board planes that they are flying. How can these guys be trusted to fly planes full of hundreds of people if they need this kind of vetting to carry a gun?"
- From Georgia, writing on the condition of anonymity: "I am a major airline captain, and I recently had my small 1-inch blade pocket-knife confiscated at LGA (New York´s LaGuardia Airport). I was about to command a Boeing 757, loaded with 47,000 pounds of fuel, on a flight to Florida. Keep in mind, the flight time from LGA to the Empire State Building is less than 2 minutes.
"When I asked why I couldn't keep my knife, I was told that if I were allowed to keep it, I might use it to gain control of an airplane. Such is the absurdity that flight crew members are exposed to on a daily basis."
- Buck Evinger, of Omaha, Ark., writes: "While going through St. Louis airport security, I was pulled out for the 'full search' procedure. As I sat down to remove my shoes, I noticed that the man sitting next to me was about 90 years old, had two hearing aids, an oxygen bottle and mask, and a walker. Since he was to frail to remove his own shoes, the security guard had to help him.
"The old man looked at me and said, 'Maybe I should have stayed home today.'"
- US Airways Capt. Thomas Heidenberger, who has lobbied Congress to authorize airline pilots to carry pistols in the cockpits, writes: "I am a 20-plus-year captain for US Airways. I have been in aviation for 30-plus years. I am also the surviving spouse of Michele Heidenberger, who, as a working flight attendant aboard American Airlines Flight 77, was killed on Sept. 11, 2001 at the Pentagon.
"I went back to work in mid-October 2001 as a tribute to my wife, the 33 other crew members, and the 3,200 other innocent victims of that day so that their deaths would not be in vain. Every day, I pass through security (but) watch fellow airline employees bypass security screening. These same employees now have unrestricted access to the ramp and to aircraft. How secure is this? What might they be carrying? I am not opposed to security screening in any fashion. But it must be 100 percent. If not, we will relive Sept. 11 again. I, for one, do not want anyone going through what my family has."
- Greg Zorbach, a captain for Southwest Airlines, recalls the heavily armed National Guardsmen who were posted at airport security checkpoints after Sept. 11. "I was reporting for a trip one morning at the same time a Guard member was attempting to get through security to take up his post just inside the concourse. The screener made him put his weapon through the X-ray machine. I still can't figure out what they were looking for inside that gun ... another gun?"
- A Marine lieutenant colonel, who asks that we not reveal his name, writes from the war front: "Last May, I was ordered to support CJTF-180 and was on my way to Afghanistan from my parent command, Marine Forces, Pacific. The first leg of my trip had me leave from Honolulu International Airport. I had in my possession, and presented to the agent, an official U.S. passport - maroon as opposed to the blue issued to private citizens - my military orders and government-issued tickets. I was also in uniform.
"When I passed through the first screening, I was told to take off my shoes so that they might be inspected. As you can imagine, I attracted a great deal of attention. Here I am, a lieutenant colonel of Marines, in uniform, being subjected to having my shoes off so that they could be examined. I was incredulous."
- J. Duke of Texas points out that while "some of these airlines are chiming in about how ludicrous the government screeners are, I laugh at their own stupidity."
He cites the custom of some airlines to escort air marshals "down the jetway in front of all of the passengers, blowing their cover. It is imperative that these marshals remain unknown to the passengers in order to protect the cockpit."
- Holly Anderson, of Corpus Christi, Texas, works on the Boeing-Logistics Apache Program. "While going through security at Baltimore-Washington International Airport this past August, my husband and I were asked to take both of our cats out of their cages," she writes. "Not a fun thing to do to two cats that are scared to death and still have their claws. The security guy noticed me rolling my eyes and told me that if I wanted to I could leave them in the cages and send them both through the X-ray machine. He was serious."
- And here's a baby story from Denver International Airport.
"I was traveling back East for Thanksgiving with my 18-month-old son and my wife," writes James Powers of Denver. "I was wearing steel-toed boots that set off the alarms and was instructed to go into a clear 'booth' and await security personnel.
"My son, not really understanding what was going on (was carried in) after me in the booth. When security came to 'wand' me, they decided that they had to check out my son, too, just in case I had slipped some explosives and guns into his diaper, I suppose."