Airline safety is being compromised by airport security procedures, according to the UK's highly respected independent confidential incident reporting system Chirp. The organisation is also concerned that the government department responsible for aviation security, the Department for Transport (DfT), denies this information has been presented to it.

The issue, according to the latest edition of Chirp's magazine Feedback, is that pilots, air traffic controllers, aircraft engineers and fire and rescue service workers, who have to go through security searches daily to get to work, are regularly suffering harassment and humiliation, causing frustration and anger at a level that could degrade their ability to carry out their safety-critical jobs. Meanwhile, the UK Civil Aviation Authority, as part of its continuing programme to assess fatigue risk in flightcrew, has been examining the stresses and frustrations pilots suffer between leaving their homes and arriving on the flightdeck. The security process is one of the factors the CAA has been examining in this context.

Feedback reports a denial by the permanent secretary at the DfT that this is a safety issue, claiming no information to this effect has been presented to the Department in committee. Feedback describes as "perplexing" the "perception of senior DfT officials that the British Air Line Pilots Association has expressed no concerns about the current situation, as this contrasts with recent assertions by representatives of the BALPA security committee that the issue has been raised with the DfT on more than one occasion."

Feedback continues: "There is an urgent need for a consistent [security procedures] standard to be applied to those personnel employed in safety-critical roles to provide the appropriate balance between security and flight safety."

The magazine calls, as BALPA has done, for the issue of standardised security passes valid at all UK airports, particularly for flightcrew, cabin crew and aircraft engineers. Chirp comments: "Over many years the professional groups involved in air transport operations have been identified as being a vital part of the solution to improving the safety of the system. Many of these same individuals have a direct interest in successfully countering the security threat therefore, it defies logic that they would appear to be now perceived by some to be part of the problem."

Feedback says it also "perplexed" about why pilots are shunning the CAA's mandatory occurrence reporting system and their employers' internal systems to highlight this issue, turning instead to Chirp in large numbers - it has received more than 70 individual reports.

Source: Flight International