Travel Safety & Security Update July 2005.

 
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FAA supports controversial O'Hare expansion plan. The Federal Aviation Administration said it supports Chicago's $15 billion plan to expand O'Hare International Airport. Chicago officials expect the FAA to grant final approval in September and hope the expansion reduces flight delays. However, the plan faces opposition from some communities. It would require Chicago to raze 500 homes, displacing 2,600 people, and move 200 businesses and a cemetery. Jul 29, 2005

Airport directors say screener cuts would lengthen security lines. Airport directors say plans to cut the number of airport screeners by 13% could lengthen security lines. A Senate spending measure would cut 6,000 of the Transportation Security Administration's 45,000 screeners. The Department of Homeland Security also opposes the plan. The House of Representatives has voted to cut 2,000 screener positions, according to TSA officials. However, the chairman of the House subcommittee overseeing Homeland Security funding said lawmakers voted to cut unnecessary costs, not screener positions. Jul 29, 2005

Two airports ask to switch to private screeners. Just two airports have asked to switch to private security screeners from federal security screeners. Sioux Falls Regional Airport in South Dakota and Elko Regional Airport in Nevada have applied to change screeners. The House Homeland Security subcommittee will hold a hearing Thursday to learn why more airports have not applied to change to private screeners. Jul 28, 2005

TSA installs explosives-detection device at Newark Liberty. A new explosives-detection machine installed in Newark Liberty International Airport may reduce the need for pat-downs. The Transportation Security Administration installed the machine, which blows puffs of air at each person entering it. The air blows particles to the ground, where they are sucked into vents and analyzed. Officials say the machine will help prevent terrorist threats but will not reduce the need for screeners. Jul 27, 2005

FAA, controllers union state opening offers in contract talks. The Federal Aviation Administration has proposed a pay freeze for current air traffic controllers and lower pay for new hires. The union representing the 15,000 workers has proposed annual pay increases of 5.6% and a seven- hour workday. Controllers now work eight hours a day. The current contract expires in September. Jul 27, 2005

FAA, controllers' union start contract talks. Contract negotiations between a union representing 15,000 air traffic controllers and the Federal Aviation Administration began last week. Each side held a press conference before the talks began. The FAA indicated it would ask the union to give back pay increases received in a 1998 contract. The union said the FAA has inflated salary figures. The negotiations could influence the FAA's launch of new technology to reduce flight delays. Jul 26, 2005

Security funds should be allocated based on need. The Senate recently voted to give all states a relatively equal share of $2.9 billion in federal security grants. Instead, lawmakers should have distributed funds to cities and counties at the greatest risk of terrorist attacks, according to a San Francisco Chronicle editorial. Jul 26, 2005

TSA database violates Privacy Act, government report says. A Transportation Security Administration database that included biographical information on 43,000 passengers from private companies violated the federal Privacy Act, according to government auditors. Although the database broke the law, it did not cause the release of personal data or wrongly stop a passenger from boarding a commercial plane. The TSA used the database to test the Secure Flight Screening system, which is expected to launch next year. The government will also try to decide whether the TSA can use commercial data to locate terrorist sleeper cells. Jul 24, 2005

FAA to resume testing navigation system at D/FW. The Federal Aviation Administration will resume testing of a global satellite navigation system at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. The system was created to guide pilots along more direct routes. Testing was halted last fall after several incidents raised safety concerns. FAA officials said they have made changes to the system to prevent similar mistakes. The Air Transport Association said the system would boost the number of planes handled at D/FW by about 14%. Jul 24, 2005

The Federal Aviation Administration, air traffic controllers and pilots should work to eliminate near-collisions on airport runways, a New York Times editorial says. Although these incidents are rare, they are avoidable and should not happen, the editorial reads. Jul 24, 2005

Cell phone debate takes flight. Although the Federal Communications Commission seems ready to lift its ban on cell phone use on commercial aircraft, the Federal Aviation Administration is more reluctant. But even after the FAA signaled last month it would consider requests on a case-by-case basis, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice both expressed concerns that terrorists could use cell phones to coordinate attacks. Jul 22, 2005

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