For a long time there has been massive inconsistency in the way aircraft crews are treated by airport security organisations. This is widely acknowledged.

The same is true in many countries, but here we are taking the UK as an example because Chirp, the independent national confidential reporting system, has been deluged by crews with reports of unprofessional and offensive behaviour by security staff. In the latest issue of its magazine Feedback, in which it releases de-identified examples of reports and editorialises about issues that are currently pertinent, crew treatment by security staff was on the front page again. But this time Feedback's customary sang froid was missing, replaced by barely concealed frustration. Its concern continues to be that flightcrew, treated as they have been according to many of these reports, would reach their aircraft so frustrated, angry and generally stressed out that it could have an adverse impact on their ability to do their job safely. This concern extends to others with safety-critical jobs, like cabin crew, aircraft engineers and airport air traffic controllers.

The fact that security staff are not always well managed, trained or motivated is in the hands of those who employ them. But airport security rules and standards are the responsibility of the Department for Transport (DfT). For years there have been pleas from the industry that crews, following a suitable vetting process, should be issued with crew biometric identity passes that are accepted at all UK - and preferably international - airports. That makes sense from every point of view, because it improves security and removes inconsistency. It should not be beyond the wit of the DfT to make such an arrangement, but the status quo suggests it is. It is also the DfT's job to take all the other inconsistencies seriously - like different security practices, seemingly discretionary, operating at different airports in the UK.

Every duty day - sometimes several times a day -crews face the dilemma of planning sufficient time to get to their aeroplane taking into account variables like security. Actually, crew security shouldn't be a variable. This situation is unneccessarily stressful and extends crew duty time, so the fatigue issue enters the equation. If the crew encounters unpredictable delay, or offensiveness, or both, it will not only put them in an unsuitable frame of mind to concentrate on their tasks, but also put pressure on them to rush procedures. This is a case of bad security management directly threatening flight safety. The ball is in the DfT's court.

Source: Flight International