TSA Admits Fault After Passenger Arrested With Boxcutters


The TSA says it is reviewing and re-enforcing procedures after an agent found, seized and then returned the “visible blades” from a boxcutter to a passenger boarding a Frontier flight from Cincinnati to Tampa on Friday. They also missed a second boxcutter in the passenger’s backpack. The man was arrested in Atlanta a few hours later after he was seen with a boxcutter and was alleged to be threatening other passengers and the crew diverted the flight. The passenger was reportedly subdued by two military veterans on the flight. There were no injuries.

The TSA says there were multiple failures leading to the incident and it’s being investigated at the highest levels. In addition to returning the razor blades to the passenger, the screening agents neglected to use the full capabilities of the CT baggage screener in missing the knife in the carry-on. The TSA employees have been sent for more training for “remediation on CT image review and physical search procedures,” the agency told CNN. All screeners will get a briefing reminding them that they shouldn’t allow passengers to keep razor knives. The passenger, who has not been identified, was not on any watch lists.

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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    • Incompetent yes. As for unconstitutional, please be sure to bring your copy of the Constitution to the airport so you can show the Right to Bear Boxcutters clause to TSA.

      • “ARMS. Any thing that a man wears for his defence, or takes in his hands, or uses in his anger, to cast at, or strike at another. Co. Litt. 161 b, 162 a; Crompt. Just. P. 65; Cunn. Dict. h.t.”
        Inasmuch as the Court has stated the above, the boxcutter IS covered by the 2nd Amendment, not just firearms alone.

        • The US Supreme Court – as recently as this year in a ruling against New York state which expanded gun rights – upheld restrictions against bearing arms in “sensitive locations”, locations which were not enumerated in the ruling. If y’all really believe airports should not be considered “sensitive locations” then you’re welcome to establish standing and argue for your interpretation in the courts. Perhaps one of the gun rights orgs of which you are a member would assist?

    • They have a lot of company.

      Bottom line: If the object is to maximize inefficiency and cost, let government do it.

    • Most airline passengers experience the same security measures implemented to process prisoners into Super Max facilities (Pretty soon, they’ll be commanded to squat and cough..) When our passenger lounge was closed, we had to process Space Available passengers to fly aboard military planes. You’d be surprised to learn what those folks had packed away in their suitcases.

    • I agree with Bob W. I’m going to guess the constitutional argument is not 2nd amendment based. Airlines in the US are private companies so if they don’t want pax to board with weapons that is their right. I think the constitutional argument is based on the questionable existence of TSA itself, including enforcement of “no fly” lists. Those “no fly” lists have already been held unconstitutional by the Supreme Court yet they still exist. No passenger who has been flagged by those lists have ever been arrested. So why have them? Since when is it illegal for someone to board an airplane? Granted there is no constitutional right to fly, there is a constitutional amendment that prohibits government from tracking a persons movements without a court issued warrant.

      • I couldn’t find a US Supreme Court case ruling that the no fly lists were unconstitutional. I did find a ruling in 2014 cited by the ACLU that found the government’s procedures for challenging a person’s presence on the no fly list to be unconstitutional. Perhaps this distinction is why no fly lists are still enforced.

        • Also, no fly lists don’t require the government track a person’s movements… as the name implies the person on the list is prevented from entering the sterile area.

    • They are exactly what Bob W. said. Why jump to arms? They harass people and steal. In an effort not to profile they profile. I am sick and tired of being singled out. I don’t wear metal or any embroidery or decoration on my shirts (they said that was the reason they needed to touch my breasts.) I am a woman over 60 years old. Also working for over 30 years dealing with security they can trigger the scanners randomly. This last time I traveled they had to feel me on both my flights. Sorry but if the TSA is really for homeland security the jobs should be filled by American citizens who hold a security clearance. Oh the stealing part comes from iteams being stolen out of my checked bags. Along with a note saying they needed to inspect my bag. I had went on a cruise and bought spa products that for some reason they needed to take half of out of unopened sealed boxes. They didn’t put the lids back on and ruined all of the clothes I had bought to wear on my vacation.

  1. I am sick and tired of this legacy of 9/11. Bin Laden is long dead, yet he still exerts an extraordinary burden on our freedom, our time, and our finances.

    Years ago, on many flights, I used to take carry on bags only (and I MEAN carry on. A briefcase. Not those big ones with wheels so popular these days). This saved me considerable time, and ensured I could catch tight connecting flights, not to mention having to wait for checked bags on the conveyor at destination. One item changed all that.

    As part of my daily life I carry a simple Swiss Army knife. Not allowed! So from that point on, I have had to check a bag just to fly, even a short hop. And on many occasions have had my bag lost, which has entailed endless paperwork, distraction from my primary purpose, and sometimes financial loss.

    When is this craziness going to end? There ARE simple solutions.

    The best and easiest to implement is handing over any item such as this to the cabin crew checking your boarding pass on entering the aircraft. And being handed it back when disembarking at your destination. Simple.

    It would also simplify the airlines logistics with less checked bags and fewer lost luggage claims.

    Time for this nonsense to end. Or are we going to allow ourselves to be held hostage forever BY A GHOST?


    • Your idea of simply handing the pocket knife or other personal “potential-use-as-a-weapon” to the flight crew prior to departure seems like a good idea. As I write this it reminds me of a leadership course I took with my city a few years back where a police commander demonstrated how even a simple ball point pen could be used to kill someone! Wow!

      At some point we as a society are going to have to get our citizens to practice more self control and respect for others, what used to be called ‘manners’. The advent of social media seems to have only exacerbated people’s mindlessness and sense of entitlement coupled to a loss of personal decorum. Personal freedom is earned, not entitled.

      For starters, I think that airlines should require minimum dress codes. Think about it. Fine restaurants and other places have dress codes because it encourages people to behave with a higher level of self awareness. The social influence (pressure?) to behave, to be part of the “herd”, and to gain approval is a behavioral trait inherent to the human species. Using it to the benefit of everyone seems like a good idea to me.

      • Good luck with “getting citizens to practice more self control and respect for others”.

        Thank “social media” for fostering and encouraging the “it’s all about me” culture pervasive throughout society now. People have absolutely zero respect for anyone else, and they DEMAND to have it all their way – and to hell with any poor soul who questions it.

      • This is called becoming a SHEEP. Which is exactly what Big Gov and billionaires would like us peons to become. They also wouldnt mind if gas went to $10. a gallon. It would keep the riff raft off the road.

    • Looks like you didn’t bother to read the full article – the guy actually tried to use the box cutters to pose a threat. (But even if he didn’t: your proposal makes for good comedy material!)

    • Double agreed. If one reads the whole article, the passenger was caught the second time because he drew the box cutter and was “allegedly” threatening other passengers. The crew made the decision to divert, with a couple of veterans who subdued him.

      Bin Laden may be dead, but the desire to harm is alive and well, and not just limited to Islamic extremism. It may even be a one in a million odds being on a flighta terrorist of any sort on board, but if you’re one, the odds won’t matter to you.

  2. Bin Laden got more than he ever imagined. Yes, he took down two buildings and did other damage. But he also changed the psyche of the American public for all time. He indirectly resulted in ourselves taking freedom away from ourselves, apparently for all time.

  3. TSA: “Mistakes were made…”
    Airlines, aircrews, passengers, people on the ground: “You had ONE JOB”
    No excuse for this ineptness.

  4. I’d make the argument that arms allowed onboard is A) Constitutional, B) Problematic, C) would have resulted in far fewer deaths than 9/11 did in total. The prohibition of arms creates opportunity devoid of risk.

    Consider what might have happened over the years. A few shootings, a hijacking or three. But no chance for islamic terrorists to take control. And no chance to kill thousands of Americans, destroy multiple buildings and start a decades long conflict with nearly 300K Iraq dead and 150K Afghan dead. Not to mention the 7057 American servicemen dead in combat and 30,000+ American servicemen suicides.

    • Is bearing arms on an airplane constitutional? As recently as this year the Supreme Court of the US has upheld restrictions against bearing arms in “sensitive places”. The question of constitutionality becomes a question of the status of airports and airplanes as “sensitive places”. To obtain a “no” determination you’d either need to convince government to relax restrictions (political appeal) or a court ruling that government improperly assessed airports and airplanes as sensitive places (legal appeal). Anyone aware of any politician or political party advocating for relaxing these restrictions? Anyone aware of any advocacy group working to challenge the treatment of airports and airplanes as “sensitive places” in court?

      • Americans have the Right to Keep and Bear Arms to maintain a “Free State”. That state is defined as our Constitutional Republic. Once bureaucrats and elected officials commence dismantling our Bill of Rights, we’re authorized to remove them from office–by force, if necessary.

        • Without making any argument for or against your interpretation of the constitution, how exactly does prohibiting the bearing of arms in airports and airplanes significantly impair the removal of elected officials from office? Somehow I doubt any effective uprising against the state is going to be reliant upon what you can or can’t put in your carry on baggage.

    • Yeah, because all the idiots these last 3-4 years who have attacked flight crew and other passengers would have been totally rational and reasonable were they armed with guns. And were they not, what then? A shootout at 30,000′ feet?

      Weapons have no place in a whole variety of controlled areas. Airplanes, courtrooms, police stations…

      The larger point is that this is all extraordinarily expensive security theater. It’s created to look and make us feel good, but solves essentially no problem.

  5. I was returning from a trip to Germany with my 16yo son when Tegel airport security found a medium-sized jackknife in the bottom of his backpack. He said, “Wow, I thought I had lost that!”. They said, “Well now you have”, as they took it away. They were really nice about it.
    Afterward he told me, quietly, “Dad, I must have flown back and forth between London and New York six times with that in my backpack” ! (he was going to school in the UK at the time).

  6. I would offer the observation that while the whole TSA thing was driven by 9/11, as far as I am aware they have caught few if any 9/11 types over the years. I speak of the organized and entirely sane plotters who started it all.
    Outside of innocents who simply were unaware their eyelash tweezers were deadly implements, what they do catch are mentally unstable individuals whose stated motivations, if you can call them such, are simply something that clicked in their mind and became an obsession. These are not what we usually term terrorists, but – in politically incorrect terminology – crazy people, who may offer up political rhetoric, UFO theories, or anything else.
    These are solo individuals, and with armored cockpits, “don’t turn the plane over to them” rules & more acceptance of allowing firm on-board suppression of deviant behavior we have limited the damage an individual passenger can do. I don’t think it’s illogical to consider whether or not it is really necessary to maintain the level of security currently being implemented.

    • The current level was not necessary. Deployed in 2011 under Janet Napolitano, the enhanced procedures of extreme physical harassment of frisking the privates of old ladies and babies, was not needed by any publicly known attempts to hide “boxcutters.” The procedures in place before that had been enough.

  7. I remember when we were sent in to test screening… we had a newbie call the office saying he was at the gate with the gun and simulated bomb, what do I do now? 😝

  8. Interesting… More than twenty years now, the TSA is still more worried about boxcutters then Suicidal Mass-Murderers getting on planes. 🤔

    • Screening for box cutters is much more tractable than screening for suicidal mass-murder tendency. Should we interpret your statement as a desire for the government to evaluate you for suicidal mass murdering tendencies and deciding if you can board a commercial airplane based on such evaluation? Be careful what you wish for…

      • Not what I ‘wish for’ but, what already is…
        I’ve had countless background checks done for dozen of contract jobs, airport ramp badges, financial institutions, IRS, insurance companies, multiple licenses and yes even been to speaking events where everyone in the theater had a background check done to attend.

        I did not “wish for” or “vote for” these intrusions into my privacy but, it’s 2022 and criminals have privacy and the common working tax payers are suspect. Just look at the countless unchecked boarder crossings.

        • Thanks for being more specific… as to background checks I don’t know to what extent the information collected by an airline at time of booking is used towards that end. Perhaps someone else here does? There are the TSA Precheck / Global Entry programs through which one can eliminate some of the security process through a background check and pre-screening. For frequent fliers it is probably in everyone’s interest (meaning that for both the flier and the government it saves time and money), but for the person who flies commercial maybe once or twice a year does the additional overhead of these programs make sense? Not sure if credit checks or other financial aspects of one’s life are indicative of a risk one poses to the safety of a commercial flight; would it make sense for example to deny you entry to an airport if you missed your last credit card payment? It kinda feels like you’re throwing out a bunch of stuff you go through in your own life that you don’t like, and I don’t really see how all those situations very specific to you generalize to the population as a whole going through airport security. Also, like traveling on commercial airplanes, no one forced you to apply for jobs with background checks, operate aircraft at airports in the SIDA program, etc, so while you may not wish for or vote for what goes along with these activities you voluntarily chose to engage in them. You can always choose to increase your privacy by opting out of most of the things you object to (well, except the IRS but I suppose even there one could minimize that by limiting ones financial and employment activities to those that minimize reporting to the IRS).

  9. TSA has seized over 3,000 firearms at checkpoints so far this year. Google “Firearms seized by TSA”. A major outcome is “deterrence”, convincing terrorists not to try it. Seems to work. I remember the rash of highjackings from the late sixties and early seventies. Its been a long time since a successful attempt.

    • The armored cockpit & “don’t give them the plane” rule (assuming continuing possession of the cojones to stick to it) serve to deter hijacking as well as directed-crash suicide plotters. The current TSA-level effort is a HUGE imposition on all sorts of levels, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest maybe it’s time to back up & and honestly evaluate the overall cost-benefit ratio & what might be trimmed.

  10. TSA is basically in an impossible situation; charged with the responsibility of stopping any and all dangerous individuals in an increasingly crazy society. Armed with quirky and marginally reliable equipment operated by a workforce that is chronically understaffed, scanning a gazillion bags a day packed by people who can’t remember what they put in their carry-on luggage. One of their problems is that they never get credit for the good catches they might make due to DHS secrecy, but we always hear about the mistakes. I dislike going through security as much as anyone, but the idea of allowing firearms or serious cutlery on a plane packed with people is just not a good idea. As several posters have said, our problem stems from the fact that we live in an angry and confrontational society that thinks it is their right to carry a weapon anywhere they see fit. The last thing we need is a shootout at 30,000 feet. If it takes TSA to prevent that, then I guess we put up with it or come up with a more workable solution. I’m open to ideas….

  11. In addition to my above comment –

    I suggest all those supporters of submitting hundreds of thousands of normal innocent people to this impractical and frankly ludicrous charade every time they want to fly anywhere look up how the Israeli airline El Al deals with it.

    In summary, they had/have a plainclothes “passenger” who is armed with a special firearm. The bullets do not have a conventional slug, but a mass of tiny lead balls enclosed in a bag that will knock down a person instantly – and will not rupture the aircrafts pressure skin and cause depressurisation.

    Surely the least intrusive and passenger friendly solution.

    Can’t America come up with something like this? Seems like elegant solutions and innovations the USA was once known for have deserted and relocated elsewhere.

    • There is a lot more the Israeli’s do for security on airliners. Americans would never tolerate that level of security and would probably end airline service as we now know it. It would just increase even further the amount of business 91K and pt135 operators are doing now!

      • I don’t think so. The only beanbag rounds that I’ve seen have been for 12 gauge shotguns – and even those cannot be relied upon to “knock down a person instantly.”

        Frangible rounds ARE common in handgun sizes, and can be composed of tiny pellets – however, they are mixed with a filler before being molded into bullets. The filler shatters on impact, greatly reducing either over-penetration or ricochets.

        A bit of Googling indicates that US air marshals use off-the-shelf 9mm jacketed hollow points, which will generally stay in the torso of an adversary.

        And a miss might put a noisy hole in the skin, but almost certainly no decompression – the bird’s pressurization will adjust the air outflow vent in order to maintain proper pressurization.

        [Bear in mind that airliners are leaky by design (via vents). Bleed air from the engines constantly replenishes ]