Knives on a Plane

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I've been watching the debate over TSA's recent decision to allow knives with short blades—that's 2.36 inches or shorter—to pass through its security screening stations. You'd think that such a simple relaxation in the overbearing process of simply getting on an airliner would be universally applauded.

But no. The flight attendants are in an uproar. The CEO of Delta Air Lines is outraged. Several politicians, evidently courting the powerful anti-knife constituency, have decried the decision as a gross abdication of the TSA's duty to protect every citizen from every conceivable threat. Of such stuff is the police state made. Would they propose banning ballpoint pens and paper clips? That's a rhetorical question, but you know the answer is probably yes. There is one silly aspect to the rule change: Box cutters still aren't allowed, even though they have a blade shorter than 2.36 inches. We all know why. Nonetheless, I'm thinking of replacing that little Swiss army knife the TSA seized from me a decade ago.

Normally, I stand with the flight crews on such issues. But not this time. I don't agree with the flight attendants' claim that allowing short-bladed knives exposes them to unreasonable risk. I realize 911 is an emotional issue, but almost 12 years later, it's time to get over it and move on to a more sane security footing.

And that's the salient importance of allowing knives, not the welcome convenience of using one to open your reduced-size, low-fat pretzels or to clip the occasional annoying hang nail. TSA's decision represents an ever-so-slight course change back to common sense and reality. I have the faint hope that it will crack the edifice enough to allow us to get on an airplane without disrobing, having our shoes X-rayed or our suitcases and carry-ons rifled for that forbidden four-ounce tube of shampoo.

The larger issue is that this might represent a slow evolution toward an airline security system that isn't so focused on things, but on the people carrying those things. While the rest of the world, especially Israel, has constructed security methods that emphasize profiling and excluding likely hijackers or threats, we've tried to devise means—easily defeatable—to deny potentially hazardous things from the entire flying public. It's kind of the neutron bomb approach. Or maybe the play school approach. Few people believe that what the TSA does now is effective security, hence the popularity of security and theater as search terms.

TSA's argument is that in allowing short blades through the scanners, the agents can spend less time sorting through noise and more time looking for more dangerous stuff. In other words, they're triaging. Eventually, one hopes, the agency will realize the futility of object-based security in favor of threat-based security. When a government agency actually demonstrates that it can make decisions that make the public's life less onerous, shouldn't we encourage it?

Well, evidently not. We're our own worst enemy sometimes.

Comments (100)

We, as a society, shy away from holding people responsible, instead choosing to hold the tools they use responsible for the bad acts people commit with them. Some of us have been decrying the trend for years when applied to another tool some people love to demonize. We've fought a lot of battles over it, and mostly won - but that's because there's a provision in the Bill of Rights that guarantees the right to own them.

I, too, hope this is one small step toward a rational, sane security policy. I'm not holding my breath, though, certainly out of this administration.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 6:38 AM    Report this comment

These marshals and flight attendants need to wise up. The stewardesses - er, I mean flight attendants - were a great help on 9/11, weren't they? Now they flatter themselves that they are going to take care of any terrorists. Feh.

I of course don't have a knife, but I always carry a ball-point pen or two in my pocket when I'm on an airliner, as do a lot of other people. Why is that? Because, as a physician, I know exactly where to plant the point of that pen in order to incapacitate or kill a terrorist - no other reason.

Before 9/11, passengers were always instructed to be passive/docile in the event of an attack. That won't happen now. Almost certainly, passengers will kill anybody who tries to take over an airliner. I don't even need my pen - or a knife - Just my bare hands, and the assistance of a hundred other passengers.

I suggest the stewardesses stand to the side, lest they get themselves hurt. After it's over, they can get me and my fellow passengers a Coke.

Posted by: JAMES WILLS | March 11, 2013 7:23 AM    Report this comment

I am a commercial pilot. I own a knife. I leave it at home. There is not a reason in the world to carry one onboard an airliner especially if you weigh it against the life of a crewmember...pilot or flight attendant. Their lives and the passengers' are much more valuable then a convenience (?) of carrying a knife onboard. The less potential weapons on board...the better for all.

Posted by: Unknown | March 11, 2013 7:30 AM    Report this comment

If someone tries to take over an airplane with a 2" pocketknife, they're going to die. They will be pummeled into a gooey pool of red by their fellow passengers. Yeah, someone may need stitches, but the assailant will be dead.

And there *is* a legitimate reason to carry one on board an airplane, for the same reason(s) you have one at home: it's a useful hand tool. Can't imagine why one would think it's only useful at home...

Posted by: GREGORY AMY | March 11, 2013 7:37 AM    Report this comment

The anti-knife crowd is the same one as the anti-gun crowd. No common sense. No understanding that a weapon in the hands of a law abiding citizen facilitates security, not degrade it. Gun free zones are killing zones because the insane or terrorists know it will be an easy target. Same with airplanes. I wish CCW holders could carry on airplanes.

Posted by: Michael Turok | March 11, 2013 7:45 AM    Report this comment

Never bring a knife to a gunfight. Arm the cockpit and keep the reenforced door closed.

Posted by: Richard Clark | March 11, 2013 7:47 AM    Report this comment

For years I carried a mini "Leatherman" type utility tool in my pocket. It was very useful regardless if I was flying myself or as a passenger on an airline. The knife blade was the least used function of the tool. That said, after these many years of not carrying it, I don't really care whether such items are allowed back on airliners or not. In terms of "picking your battles", I'm not sure this battle is worth getting one's shorts in a knot.

Posted by: James Sanford | March 11, 2013 7:47 AM    Report this comment

I'm going to drop a real zinger. Or maybe its not so much of a zinger if you've heard it before.

Suppose that, on 9/11/2011, passengers willing to undergo a background check had been allowed to carry a concealed-carry autoloader pistol or revolver. As soon as any of those hijackers from the middle east spoke the word "hijack", any of a number of passengers could have unholstered their concealed-carry handguns and shouted:


And possibly, impact of massive Part 121 aircraft on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon might have been averted.

Hope y'all don't mind!

Posted by: Alex Kovnat | March 11, 2013 7:49 AM    Report this comment

2.36 inches sounds plain silly. Why not call it 6cm? I really doubt any TSA agent can measure anything to an accuracy of 1/100 of an inch.

Posted by: JOHN KALLEND | March 11, 2013 7:51 AM    Report this comment

I don't mean to be too sarcastic but even when a bureaucracy tries to do something right... How the sam-hill did someone come up with 2.36 inches? I know, it's slightly less than 6 cm, but why metric measurement? What's wrong with 2-1/2 inches? How much more dangerous is a pocketknife .35 cm more?

Posted by: Alan Metcalfe | March 11, 2013 7:56 AM    Report this comment

Alan, that's because the TSA is following a European standard that's defined as 6 cm, just as they did with the 3-ounce bottles: it's actually 100 mL, or just over 3 ounces.

And I fully agree with the comments that point out that a hijacker today has a much different adversary than he did on 9/11/2001. Why is it that nobody notices that *every* subsequent terrorist attempt was foiled by passengers taking action? *THAT* is the lesson of United 93. We need to fully learn it, not cower in fear.

And, Michael, I was trying hard not to overtly draw that parallel for fear of the discussion getting drawn off-track...

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 8:08 AM    Report this comment

I carry a knife everywhere I go as a matter of convenience and with the knowledge that should the situation arise, I can defend myself at least to some degree. I can put it in checked baggage (and probably never see it again), or leave it at home if I am traveling only with carry-on luggage.

But the larger issue of security theater as a "feel good" approach has resulted in lines of lunacy at airports all over this country in which little children, senior citizens in wheelchairs or with colostomy bags, and anyone with a metal medical device of any kind in their body are subjected to invasive hands-on assaults or radiation devices that from the very beginning were known to be only as effective as the manufacturers said they were. Case in point, the backscatter machines now being removed. If they absolutely had to be installed in the first place, it seems more than a little suspect that they are not needed now.

And underneath all this showmanship is the hidden highway that passengers never see, where thousands of workers enter what should be the most secure area on an airport, and they do so without being subjected to the same degree of inspection going on above them in the concourses. Think baggage handler, bomb, and boom.

To carry a knife on board or not? The tip of the iceberg. Chaff in the wind. A grain of sand in a desert.

Posted by: Tosh McIntosh | March 11, 2013 8:08 AM    Report this comment

If you NEED a weapon BAG CHECK it, that's the solution!
We seem to be missing the point regarding the change in items allowed on an aircraft. We should never forget what happened on 911, hundreds of flying Americans lost their lives as a direct result of "The Box cutters" Those that travel by air have seen the changes in our fellow passengers mind sets on aircraft. Do you want a drunk, biligerant, passenger to have a mini baseball bat, hockey stick, knife, etc. that YOU or your children can be attacked with? We as a society tend to glossover incidents from the past, why change something that has worked. TSA lines will potentialy be longer as now proposed the Agent will have to examine every knife / corkscrew for size. A great new business would be manufacturing the templete for correct size.
By the way FA's are Flight Attendants who are highly trained individuals, just ask any passenger on the CAL flight in Denver that were evacuated with no loss of life and the FA's on US Air 1549 in the Hudson.

Posted by: Matthew Fazakas | March 11, 2013 8:11 AM    Report this comment

No one NEEDS to carry a knife. I like the idea of not allowing it.


Posted by: william pearson | March 11, 2013 8:20 AM    Report this comment

It is my understanding that this policy change is to align us with European security policy (ICAO). They, of course, use the metric system. We, of course, don't know a meter from our left arm, so the conversion is done. But, as Mr. Metcalfe says above, the conversion could have been rounded to a rational number like 2 1/2 for ease of understanding.

Posted by: Roger Parish | March 11, 2013 8:30 AM    Report this comment

Two Points: 1) MA and MI have laws on the books preventing the carrying of any knife through security! 2) The new TSA position only applies to knives with non-locking, non-retractable blades less than 2.36" long and 1/2" wide. The blade on my keychain pocket knife is only 1-5/8". Over the years I have lost two of them to the TSA (no big deal, I got them free). I am pleased to hear the over-reacting TSA has come to its senses. I have often pointed out that a tightly rolled in-flight magazine is more dangerous than my little pocket knife, not to mention BIC pens and laptop locking cables.

Posted by: Carl Willis | March 11, 2013 8:34 AM    Report this comment

I think the first issue we should deal with is where did 2.36 in come from. I suppose they rounded 6 cm to two decimals. But, why 6 cm and why two decimals? Come on. Inquiring minds want to know.

Vince Massimini
Kentmorr Airpark, MD (3W3)

Posted by: SV MASSIMINI | March 11, 2013 8:37 AM    Report this comment

The flight attendends should be thankful that their closest allies - the passengers - are allowed to "arm" themselves to a degree.
The logic of the TSA approach is illustrated by this: after somebody tried to explode a bomb in a shoe (disarmed by passengers) we all had to take off our shoes. After somebody tried to explode a bomb in his underware (also disarmed by passengers) did we have to take off our underware? Go figure.

Posted by: Simon Aegerter | March 11, 2013 8:43 AM    Report this comment

Matthew, thousands of Americans lost their lives not because of box cutters, but because of bad people that weren't fought by good people. The latter has changed. You're blaming the tool for the hand that holds it. That has never made any form of sense, and it does not now.

BP, what gives you the right to tell anyone else what they need or don't need?

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 8:53 AM    Report this comment

But of course, we must not carry on the dangerous little bottle of shampoo. Oh and profiling like the Israelis do is not allowed, politically incorrect!

Posted by: Charles Heathco | March 11, 2013 8:55 AM    Report this comment

My spouse was disarmed of two unopened soft drink cans at a TSA checkpoint. Fifty feet away we could buy two identical cans inside the “safe” zone. I’m guessing those cans already passed the pat-down inspection. Do you think the anti-sugar crowd would protest if we petitioned to have sealed cans allowed through the screeners?

Posted by: Robert Mahoney | March 11, 2013 9:08 AM    Report this comment

Several points;
1) Paul, it's "Delta Air Lines." Those folks can be sensitive about their name. 2) I carry my knife all the time, in my checked bags with my gun. If I WERE able to carry on the gun, "Conceal Carry" would be no more after TSA did their thing at the security checkpoint. Observant trouble makers would target such a person first. 3) The knife thing is irrelevant. I occasionally wear a brace for Carpal Tunnell... inside that brace is a 6 inch long piece of metal that could easiy be sharpened and reinserted in the brace. I mentioned that to a TSA supervisor once, she shrugged it off saying the threat existed elsewhere.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | March 11, 2013 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Phillip: Yeah. The Theatrical Security Agency strikes again.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 9:18 AM    Report this comment

OK, since 911, my departure checklist includes "tools in checked luggage". If I am not checking then I can't take tools and, over the years have just stopped carrying them. I have had to throw away scissors and some other tools I had neglected to put in my checked luggage.

I disagree with BP's claim that no one needs such and such. This is the same argument lots of people use to try to impose their personal beliefs on others.

I agree that no plane full of passengers would/has allowed a potential hijacking or bombing to occur since then.

Yes there are unruly passengers (and some of them have been pummeled by the rest of the passengers) but there were before 9/11 when people were still allowed to carry pocket knives and no one thought to ban pocket knives then.

Posted by: TIM MORRISON | March 11, 2013 9:21 AM    Report this comment

A plane full of John Waynes carrying their cannons on board and punching holes at a high rate thru a pressurized cabin? I have a CCP and don't feel any compulsion to carry Mr. Makarov or similar on a flight. Also I most likely won't be opening sealed boxes or envelopes on a fligt, so won't need the little Swiss shorty blade. If flight attendants and fellow passengers feel less anxiety because blades are not present, I'm o.k. with that. The attendants have enough problems with squirrely drunken passengers without added concerns. The govt has other privacy invasive policies that bother me more than being asked to either check the shorty blade or leave it home.

Posted by: Stuart Kollas | March 11, 2013 9:28 AM    Report this comment

In response to the person above who says "No one need carry a knife" (thanks for speaking for me, by the way), I DO ! My old arthritic hands can not open those darn blister packs that everything comes in. I can't even open a package of cookie or chips. A small knife makes all the difference in the world. When I'm away on business, I am constantly frustrated by not having this small devise. So yes, some people do need one ! BTW: Since it was NEVER a problem before 9/11, why are flight attendants so sure it will be now?

Posted by: WILLIAM C. JONES | March 11, 2013 9:30 AM    Report this comment

Stuart, you must have missed the Mythbusters where they busted the myth of bullets causing decompression of an airliner. They wound up needing a quarter pound of C4 to cause any major damage.

And it's not just needing the the knife onboard...but also needing it at the destination when you don't check a bag.

And what gives you the right to say what I need or don't need?

Nobody has the right to feel unafraid.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Jay has the short of it: 1) It's the international standard that the TSA is conforming to. 2) The greatest defense we have now in the air transport environment is that people won't sit down quietly anymore.

Posted by: Michael Mullins | March 11, 2013 9:33 AM    Report this comment

Much ado about nothing--on both sides.


Posted by: Cary Alburn | March 11, 2013 9:38 AM    Report this comment

If they are going to allow pocketknives, then why do they still prohibit baseball bats and hiking poles? You might could repeat the 9/11 incident with small blades, but you wouldn't even get started with a bat. But we all know bats are more dangerous than sharp blades, right? It's all lunacy. But I agree with Paul, maybe this is an ever-so-tiny course correction towards the freedom we once enjoyed.

Posted by: A Richie | March 11, 2013 9:47 AM    Report this comment

I don't like having to remember to put my small pocket knife in my checked bag but I do it because I understand. I like it even less when I find it gone after my bag has been "inspected"!

Posted by: Bob Ferguson | March 11, 2013 10:05 AM    Report this comment

As I got older I realised that the world is divided between people, mainly from rural areas or backgrounds, who usually have a pocket knife on them, and those from urban backgrounds who do not.
I (rural background) have lost a favorite pocket knife, a present from my Dad, at an airport security checkpoint, and have avoided flying when possible since.
It was not only the loss of the object, (re placable for $20 but without the same sentimental attachment) but being made to feel a criminal for having it which really got to me.
The world is changing though -- I have been in houses where there are no decent knives at all, only scissors as no food is prepared at home and scissors cut ready-meal packets open easier. It is probably like that in the flight attendants houses, hence the hysterical reaction.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | March 11, 2013 10:21 AM    Report this comment

I'm a field service tech, and travel with my toolkit in my carry on all the time. Screwdrivers/pliers/wire cutters under 7" were all allowed under the previous rules. The only thing I can't take on is anything that looks like a knife.

This rule change doesn't change the threat matrix at all. There are enough items on the allowed list that could be used in place of a knife that there is no reason not to allow small knives.

Posted by: John Clear | March 11, 2013 10:36 AM    Report this comment

I come from a culture where the answer to "got a knife handy?" is "I've got my pants on, don't I?"
I carried a pocketknife on every flight I boarded up until 9/11/01. I don't recall ever harming anyone with it. For that matter I've never harmed anyone (myself excepted) with a pocketknife ever, and that's a lot of knife-hours.
Agreed, it's not the tool but the hand that holds it that is the risk. In my hands a 6cm pocketknife poses no threat to anyone. (Unless a tool is needed to help subdue a hijacker, then you can bet I'll use whatever I've got.)

Posted by: Glenn Killinger | March 11, 2013 10:37 AM    Report this comment

"No one needs a knife." Well, no, I suppose not. Over a decade of flying without and we've learned to cope. But the compulsion to take away everything that is not "necessary" as a method of risk mitigation has never been convincing to me. If they turn up the heat a few degrees, none of us *need* to wear clothes. Wouldn't we all be safer and more efficient going through TSA screening without them? For that matter, we could eliminate hijackings entirely by banning commercial air travel. If just one life is spared on the ground by not having any more jet crashes...

Let's manage the real risks and get on with our travels. True improvements have been made by reinforced cockpit doors, armed pilots, and less passive passenger mindsets. The combination of these three make a September 11th repeat highly unlikely.

Posted by: KRISTOPHER MURPHY | March 11, 2013 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Once on a flight before 9/11, a flight attendant asked me to hand over my pocket knife while onboard for the flight and then the knife was returned as I stepped off.
At small commercial airports, I carried my checked bags right out to the airplane and placed them onto a cart next to the baggage door as the pilot watches, then the pilot loads them.
After landing I pick up the bags next to the plane, no lost bags, no pilfering, instant service.
Perhaps too simple and convenient?

Posted by: Bill Berson | March 11, 2013 10:47 AM    Report this comment

Too bad Victorinox is privately held...

Posted by: BRADLEY SPATZ | March 11, 2013 10:56 AM    Report this comment

And then, of course, there's the story about the little old lady who got removed from an airliner because she brought out her knitting during the boarding process. And no, they weren't worried that she might attack someone with the needles. Their concern? That she might knit another Afghan.

Posted by: Tosh McIntosh | March 11, 2013 11:12 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 11:30 AM    Report this comment

Is it just me getting older and more cynical, or have the subjects of public debate really sunk to the point where the most appropriate descriptive phrase now is “you couldn’t make up this stuff”?

Posted by: John Wilson | March 11, 2013 11:36 AM    Report this comment

For all of those who comment about what is "needed" and what isn't. Have you given any thought to the logical progression of justifying gov't actions on the basis of what we/you "need" and don't. Do you seriously want to go there?

Posted by: Barton Robinett | March 11, 2013 11:45 AM    Report this comment

To J Wilson; not only the subjects but the lack of civility in our discourse?

Posted by: William Grant | March 11, 2013 11:49 AM    Report this comment

I noticed no one mentioned the real knives that are in most airlines first class section's silverware. At least our favorite government agency (TSA) has finally done something that makes sense.

Posted by: matthew wagner | March 11, 2013 11:52 AM    Report this comment

There is strong evidence that the TSA made this change not for reasons of common sense, but because they were missing so many small pocket knives. A friend of mine carried her Swiss Army knife on board three times before it was confiscated, and I've accidentally carried on objects I think weren't on the allowed list. No doubt they get graded on performance. The "international norm" excuse was just that, rationalization to allow them to do what they wanted already. I very much doubt we're seeing the emergence of intelligent airline security here. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day--this is the TSA's first time being right.

Posted by: DAVID CHULJIAN | March 11, 2013 11:53 AM    Report this comment

You're probably right, David. But for whatever the reason, I say let's take it and not adopt the attitude of no, we want you to keep subjecting us to time-wasting, pointless seizing of anything with a point on it.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 11, 2013 12:08 PM    Report this comment

I've noted exactly the same thing as Brian McCulloch--there are rural people and there are urban people, and they have very different expectations and needs. Pocket knifes are an everyday necessary tool for the rural folks, but a 'Mugger's Weapon' in the eyes of the urban dwellers. That lack of mutual understanding pervades our entire political process. The reality is, small knives are much ado about nothing. Like David Chuljian said, they slip through anyway. The only true security is in profiling, and 100 angry passengers. Since we are too politically correct for the former, I count on the latter to provide real security on those rare occasions I'm forced to fly commercial.

Posted by: ROBERT JOHNSON | March 11, 2013 12:43 PM    Report this comment

Profiling: my elderly father was singled out for the extensive searching three times in the last three years o his life. Clearly not a threat, he was, however, very pleasant and co-operative, which is what a TSA official faced with filling his/her quota of searches is looking for--as opposed to a passenger in a hurry, or someone fitting the stereotype of likely terrorist. Better to search the pleasant older gentleman, he makes no fuss.

Posted by: DAVID CHULJIAN | March 11, 2013 1:08 PM    Report this comment

When I saw the new rule last week, the first thing I did was use a digital caliper to measure the largest blade of my Swiss Army Knife. 2.360 inches. Damn!

While not quite "rural," I've been "packing" a SAK since I was 9 years old. I use mine at least 10 times a day. In fact, I wear the things out, to the point that I replace them every 2 years or so.

Do I "need" a pocket knife? Is usage ample evidence of need? What I don't need is somebody else telling me what I don't need. Thank you.

Since I currently have no need for coast-to-coast transportation, I take my own plane or drive to wherever I need to be. I don't miss the airlines or the TSA one bit.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | March 11, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

As a very early member of “Freedom to Travel USA” (fttusa dot org but without the www) I reiterate that every time another passenger submits to humiliating mistreatment by TSA, he or she emboldens and encourages a government which is tyrannical and/or fascist in nature. I believe that the only way we will ever persuade our government that TSA has not only violated (trashed) the constitution but also long outlived its usefulness is for millions of Americans to adopt the same attitude I have, which is to boycott all commercial aviation until the TSA is reformed or eliminated. There is no such thing as safe. Responsible persons manage risk. TSA merely promotes fear to enforce tyranny. Unfortunately, the anti-gun anti-rational-thought crowd is big enough to ensure that TSA will continue to annoy us for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile I’m still driving.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | March 11, 2013 1:39 PM    Report this comment

As a veteran airline pilot, I am appalled by a few things. First that the TSA would go through with something like this without ANY discussion whatsoever with the folks most directly affected by such a change! Airline CEOs, Flight Attendants, and yes, Pilots too, are still very sensitive to security issues on our planes. Yes, things have changed for the better in as far as handling security issues are concerned. Everyone onboard our airliners now knows that they can (and probably would) contribute to a successful outcome in a security situation. This has been a great and costly learning experience since 9/11, and we've made great strides in preventing a repeat attack, but let's let our guard down now....or ever! The terrorists are STILL poking at our security awareness, always looking for a weak spot. I miss my Leatherman too, but I lost some co-workers on that sad day in 2001, and I still feel there's place on airliners for any kind of knives! As for the good doctor who feels so little respect for my Flight Attendants so as to call them Stewardesses, and to tell them to stand aside and go get him a Coke.... REALLY? Wow!

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | March 11, 2013 1:40 PM    Report this comment

OT, but speaking of United 93, I just saw it for the first time last week. If you haven't seen it, you need to do so.

Posted by: Patrick Underwood | March 11, 2013 1:47 PM    Report this comment

...correction to my above post: I still feel there's NO place on airliners for any kind of knives!

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | March 11, 2013 2:00 PM    Report this comment

Not even the ones your flight attendants hand the folks in first class with dinner?

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 2:03 PM    Report this comment

So, let me get this straight. I can now take a razor-sharp blade onto an airborne, closed and confined tube with alcohol and drunks, with more than a few claustrophobic and impatient people awaiting their trigger moment for personal release from their torment, but I cannot carry that same knife into an airshow - and I've not ever heard a single flag-wavin' 'rural' or 'city' fist-pumpin' patriot complain one whit about that.

This is just another subject for the blind haters of government and anything they don't agree with to vent. I'm with the pilots and flight attendants, and feel their apprehension now when a baby cries or some impatient drunk needs his moment in the sun.

And I agree with Jeffrey, some, like the 'doctor' need arrogance to comfirm their ignorance, and carrying knives on airliners is just another example to me of this. And some think this is a step forward? Can we start carrying them into air shows, courtrooms, etc. now?

Posted by: David Miller | March 11, 2013 2:10 PM    Report this comment

J. Munzell; welcome to the real receiving end of governmental control. You only think you're on the same side as "big brother" because the airlines swoon with FAR’s and increasingly share a contemptuous, adversarial relationship with the public. Recent AA labor disputes used the public like a deck of cards. Like any public trust business that prohibits the public from providing for their own defense yet makes little or no effective effort to provide for their security, you are easily considered moot. As several have pointed out, the post 9/11 attacks were thwarted by empowered citizens who saw what needed to be done and probably didn’t care to be shot down by an F-16; citizens who are slowly waking up to the loss of liberties and a government that sees us as the enemy of the state.

Posted by: William Grant | March 11, 2013 2:17 PM    Report this comment

A knife or other tool could be essential after a crash. I used my Leatherman multi tool after an airplane crash to bend and seal a leaking aluminum fuel line.
I take my Leatherman everywhere for emergency use.
It should be required by the FAA.
In Alaska, a gun IS required on private airplanes.

Posted by: Bill Berson | March 11, 2013 2:25 PM    Report this comment

Damn, how can I explain pating down my female pax for a potential carry violation in my Aeronca if the TSA is now looking the other way? They just continue to make my life miserable.

Posted by: jay Manor | March 11, 2013 6:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul said: "I guess I'm just a wild-eyed lunatic with regard to small risks. Maybe someone should take my nail clipper lest I slit my wrists."

Thanks for that. Me too. Painting with a broad brush here, but it seems there are people who go thru life obediently letting others tell them how to think and what to do (nine airbags save lives! Buy more!!), and skeptics who challenge such thinking (Compared to what? Show me the data). Obedience is a useful behavior, but it's rarely data driven.

The FAA and government at large is loaded with stupid rules the anointed 'crafted.' Who benefits is often up for debate. Likewise, 'compliance' is a term that rubs me the wrong way most of time because it kowtows to the anointed who probably didn't have us in mind while 'crafting.'

Paul, you have a knack of looking for the data and evaluating it in terms that break thru the caterwauling and fuzzy logic. I like that. Thank you!

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 11, 2013 6:51 PM    Report this comment

ALL weapons should be prohibited on all airliners. Knives, like guns, can be used to kill. I agree it's the person, not the weapon, that's at fault, and as long as there are crazy passengers flying, all potential weapons should be banned. Forever.

Posted by: Manuel Erickson | March 11, 2013 6:57 PM    Report this comment

Manuel: Define "weapons".

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 11, 2013 7:12 PM    Report this comment

Manuel: While at it, define 'crazy' too.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 11, 2013 7:13 PM    Report this comment

Manuel: When you prohibit *all* weapons, you're left with very, very little you *can* carry on...

and, Thomas, getting real definitions out of someone who believes as Manuel does is usually an exercise in futility.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 11, 2013 7:20 PM    Report this comment

Jay: Just encouraging some critical thinking.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 11, 2013 7:22 PM    Report this comment

'...but it seems there are people who go thru life obediently letting others tell them how to think and what to do'

Well of course there are. There's nothing wrong or right about that. Many are just not strong enough, aware enough, too dependent, or motivated enough to put out the effort. Just look at the popularity of R. Limbaugh, H. Stern, Fox News, MSNBC, and Honey BooBoo, and you can see the effect. This isn't anything new.

Problems are created when those who have broken out of that state of dependence forget to enlighten others about self-determination who may not quite be there yet. And so develops our present divided society on nearly every level. But fighting always has been easier than reconciliation and promoting peace, and seems to be gaining even more popularity nowadays, hence the creation of a sequester, or a terrorist.

Posted by: David Miller | March 11, 2013 7:40 PM    Report this comment

We need to know what TSA considers the "blade". If it's just the cutting edge of the longest blade, then my Swiss Army knife also measures 2.36", which is why I suspect they came up with that number, since these knives are quite common and were depicted in TSA's announcement. If however they count the entire length of the exposed piece of metal that constitutes the main blade, including the non-cutting hilt that then becomes part of the hinge, then that piece of metal is closer to 2.625". Some clarification is needed here.

As for who needs a knife, as others have said, this kind of knife is simply a tool, not a weapon, and I've carried one in my pocket since high school (no one went apoplectic over a pocket knife back in the day), and I'd feel partially undressed without one. Yes, I used to fly commercially with one in my pocket as well, back when one could still do that. Once my knife was no longer allowed on board with me, I quit flying commercial. My airplane doesn't mind that I have a knife in my pocket.

Posted by: JOHN HUGHES | March 11, 2013 8:07 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Munzell - re: "stewardesses." Why is that a term of disregard now and of respect years ago? I'll give you an item to add to your emergency checklist: You just keep your armoured door locked and worry about flying your airplane. We, the passengers, will keep you safe, since neither the unarmed pilots nor the unarmed "stewardesses" have so far proven capable of doing it.

You just keep the airplane upright; a hundred angry passengers will do the rest. And a short pocketknife might just be what is needed, should a little emergency surgery on the terrorists be necessary.

Posted by: JAMES WILLS | March 11, 2013 8:12 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Wills, I'll bet you're a load of laughs at a party. For a whole lot of reasons, I am not at liberty to discuss security specifics with you or anyone else. But you can rest assured that these are NOT the same crewmembers since 9/11. Your arrogance and disregard for pilots and flight attendants is almost unbelievable to me! You are exactly the type of passenger that we sometimes have to "invite" to leave our aircraft before departure. You pull that kind of rant on my airplane, I will personally (or I will direct my very capable Flight Attendants to) boot your rear end right off the airplane.

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | March 11, 2013 10:07 PM    Report this comment

Ease up there, Jeff. Your job is to keep the door locked and fly the airplane; we can handle the nut job with the 2.37241" blade for you.

The point, and it is an eminently valid one, is that the cause of 9/11 was we operated under the rule that if someone asked for the airplane, you were supposed to give it to him. That rule is long gone; we have a new dynamic now. The next big terrorist thing will not involve taking control of airliners, so it's time to ease off on the security theater shtick.

Posted by: John Wilson | March 11, 2013 11:26 PM    Report this comment

I'll add to John's comments this point: What I'm hearing from the flight attendants is that they don't want to run the risk of getting attacked with a knife. Insofar as that's a legitimate fear, it's not just their problem, but every passenger's problem. 9/11 proved that beyond any shadow of a doubt. That's more than counterbalanced by the proven willingness of passengers to be active partners in managing those risks. You complain that we discount flight attendants. (I don't, myself.) You, in turn, discount us. They're not the same crewmembers as before 9/11, but we're not the same passengers, either.

Nobody's asking you to discuss security specifics. What we are asking is that you consider *all* the elements of the security situation, including the basic fact that passengers aren't going to go meekly to their deaths just because someone waves a knife at us.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | March 12, 2013 2:08 AM    Report this comment

All this talk about pocket knives reminds me how people, who would accept a pocket knife of any size, would be horrified by the thought of someone carrying a "switchblade". Does the new reg allow them?

Posted by: Edd Weninger | March 12, 2013 2:29 AM    Report this comment

No, switchblades having locking blades which, for some bizarre reason, are disallowed. Switchblades have always provoked fear and revulsion. Not sure why, because some of them are shortbladed.

To Jeffrey Munzell, you are most welcome to comment here. Put please turn the temperature down. Nothing in any of these messages deserves a personal rebuke to the sender. You can disagree without the personal threats.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 12, 2013 6:21 AM    Report this comment

There are a couple of different issues emerging here. The TSA is making a rule change (for the better) as regards terrorism; the flight attendants and pilots are concerned with personal safety regarding unruly passengers. If the TSA doesn't feel that a 6mm blade is a terrorist threat, then they should drop the ban. If however Flight attendants and pilots feel that the same knife is a threat to their personal safety, that is an airline matter and the airline should be free to say no knives. But once again this seems to be knee-jerk reaction unsupported by data. Prior to 2001 how many flight attendants and pilots were attacked by unruly knife-wielding passengers?

Paul B. if you ever had a small switchblade pop open in your front pants pocket, you would understand the fear and revulsion.

Posted by: Richard Montague | March 12, 2013 8:26 AM    Report this comment

The damage that can be caused by the sharpened edge of a credit card puts an SAK or a box cutter to shame. A 29-cent BIC ballpoint pin is a deadly weapon. An un-balled string-of-pearls makes a fine garotte. Don't get me started on what a nice set of teeth can do. We live in a world of weapons of convenience.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | March 12, 2013 8:55 AM    Report this comment

When did our society forget that humans live up or down to expectations? If we treat each other like enemies we behave like enemies. If we control the many out of fear of the few, the many become angry, resentful and ultimately, uncontrollable. How about expecting that most on the plane will do the right thing when someone acts out? This has definetely been the case since 9/11.

Posted by: William Grant | March 12, 2013 9:30 AM    Report this comment

The switchblade or locking blade allows the knife to be held and used as a multiple stabbing weapon without the blade folding back on your fingers.
A simple folding blade ( like my Leatherman has) isn't good for stabbing.
Even the screwdriver part of the tool is difficult to use because pressing hard on it to loosen a tight screw causes the screwdriver to fold and pinch my fingers.
I think the locking blade ban makes sense. A Leatherman is a tool, a switchblade is more of a weapon.

Posted by: Bill Berson | March 12, 2013 10:15 AM    Report this comment

The vast majority of people have no idea about evaluating the hazards that they experience. Drivers will pull in front of a 30 ton truck and stomp on their brakes and yet they fly in an airplane with white knuckles. Over the years, TSA has confiscated many really dangerous items. I watched as a TSA kid confiscated mascara from a woman. The tube probably contained less than a cc of wet stuff. The kid was really enjoying himself. Maybe taking away my cuticle scissors could be justified, considering how painful it is when you miss the nose hairs and clip flesh. For many years I carried a 2 inch Crescent wrench in my toiletries bag. TSA took it away because, “It could be used to disassemble the airplane in flight.” No doubt the medical staff would have had a few chuckles at the story had I attempted to use it.

Posted by: peter koza | March 12, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Not too long after 9/11, I was traveling overseas for business. I was amused that dinner was served with a metal fork and a plastic knife. But maybe the fork qualified because the tines were less than 2.36000".

Posted by: STEVE BOWLING | March 12, 2013 2:50 PM    Report this comment

Evidently, now, duct-taping passengers to seats will fall out of fashion. Look for a Bond wannabee to slip his knife out of his secret pocket, slice his way free and stand up and declare 'is that all you got?!'

Enter strait jackets and tasers. And will turbulence put a halt to Five Finger Fillet on the tray tables? Hey, stop carving 'i love jen' in that plastic window! And, can we whittle while we wait for drinks?

Wonder how many women......nah. Yet, why would anyone need a pocketknife on board a commercial flight (unless whittling) and not stowed while one sleeps, reads or types? Can't be to rail agin' the gubment, too obtuse. Then it hit me. Ahem. 'Hey there darlin, have you seen just what this baby can do when opened all... the... way...?'

Only reason I can think of...;)

Posted by: David Miller | March 13, 2013 1:37 AM    Report this comment

I'll echo William Grant's comments. Because we now have chosen to "control the many out of fear of the few", the freedoms of the many have become restricted. This is why I chose years ago to no longer fly commercial. This used to a free country, and I will not submit to the whims of TSA. Who or what have we become? Very disturbing to say the least. Refer to Ben Franklin.

Posted by: JOHN HUGHES | March 13, 2013 1:45 AM    Report this comment

Jeffrey Munzell you left out the riding public as a party with a stake in the decision to allow knives.

Posted by: Robert Mahoney | March 14, 2013 12:21 PM    Report this comment

I'm with Thomas Connor. I may not be able to define "crazy", but do doubt anyone who allows themselves to be sexually molested and burglerized for the priviledge of riding in an aluminum tube with a condescending pilot like Jeffrey Munzell is certifiably "crazy". I'd take 12 level-headed passengers (with or without concealed carry) over 50,000 moronic Transporation Security Officers anyday.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | March 14, 2013 4:08 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, not "do doubt" but rather make that "no doubt".

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | March 14, 2013 4:10 PM    Report this comment

Sorry, not "do doubt" but rather make that "no doubt".

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | March 14, 2013 4:29 PM    Report this comment

Bruce, chill a bit. No need to cast aspersions on the pilots in the crowd.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 14, 2013 4:49 PM    Report this comment

Ex TSA director Kip Hauley ( I think) was on NPR Radio "On Point" last night.
He said all knives are a nonissue now. Terrorists have moved to other means. They mostly focus on explosives. I think the program can replayed if you search for it.

Posted by: Bill Berson | March 14, 2013 5:14 PM    Report this comment

Bill B: If hauley said that about knives, it reflects an awareness of Sun Tzu's Art of war that bureaucrats and military planners often miss: Successful commanders never attack the same target the same way twice. Except for imitators, the threat from box cutters went to about zero on 9/11.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 14, 2013 5:25 PM    Report this comment

Box cutters vs switchblades: I assume there are people trained in hand-to-hand combat who can answer this: For close in work, which is the greater threat: A long blade or a slashing blade? There has to be a reason Marines like their Kabar and gangsters their ice picks.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 14, 2013 5:52 PM    Report this comment

Gentlemen, First of all my apologies for my rather "heated" response in my last post. There is no room for that here. Second, I would like to clarify my views. I am most certainly NOT a condescending pilot. I appreciate each and every passenger I have on my aircraft, and I particularly acknowledge the capabilities of the traveling public. We were ALL attacked on 9/11, and we (read...ALL OF US)have our own feelings and thoughts about how to react to terrorist threats. Believe me when I say this, successful outcomes to onboard security threats these days most definitely involve "assistants"! Flight Crewmembers know that and even count on it! Most certainly EVERYTHING has changed since 9/11 with regard to security policies, and especially with the traveling public. Let's hope the Stockholm syndrome is gone for good. ( continued )

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | March 14, 2013 8:36 PM    Report this comment

I would also like to address something else here. Some have suggested that my job is to just sit up front there behind my armored door and keep the wings level, while 100 angry passengers take care of business in the back. I understand and appreciate everyone's willingness to not just blindly ride that jet right into another building. This forum, above most I think, is almost exclusively made up of pilots. There has to be a pilot in command on any airplane regardless of size, from small private aircraft ( my roots and present passion btw...) all the way up to the largest of the large. It is my responsibility and obligation to see to a safe operation from point A to point B, not only forward of the cockpit door but also aft of it as well. That is all of our jobs when we fly airplanes. These days on airliners, it has obviously added a lot more to my plate. Please don't assume that we as flight crewmembers are the same bunch as before 9/11, as nothing could be further from the truth. (continued)

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | March 14, 2013 8:58 PM    Report this comment

To get back on point now.. Yes, I know we're talking about little knives here, and yes dinner knives are now returning to galleys, and yes we can't bring our big shampoo bottles, or even unopened sodas through security. It's all one big pain in the you know where! Perhaps it is time to revisit some of these rules, but I certainly don't have the answers here. All I know is that these terrorists are hell bent on hurting us any way they can, and are constantly trying to find weak spots in our security net. I am simply hesitant to go start changing things just like that! If I sounded a bit hard lined about my position, I suppose it was because I felt the need to take a defensive position on it pronto. My co-workers are upset about all this I think primarily because no one inside the cabin door was consulted about it. I don't know why the TSA did this, but can't we at least talk about it with flight crews first?? Okay, I hope I've settled some ruffled feathers here while trying to calmly state my views and concerns, so I'll shut up about it now! Thanks for listening!

Posted by: Jeffrey Munzell | March 14, 2013 9:19 PM    Report this comment

I think TSA is now realizing it blew it in not consulting everyone before rolling out this policy. They certainly could have done better.

But as I said in the first place, it's not the knives themselves, but the dawning awareness to evolve away from object-oriented security. This is a very big deal.

Here's John Pistole saying as much in an interview yesterday:

Janet Napalitano promised some months ago that we would stop x-raying shoes "real soon." Hasn't happened yet, but that move alone will save lots of time, congestion and frustration in security lines.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 15, 2013 5:53 AM    Report this comment

Jeff makes a good point: It appears nobody asked the crews or airlines about this. The 'decision' seems like a good example of the anointed operating in a vacuum. The feds are supposed to have a comment season before rule making. If they did not, and there is no emergency, it seems easy to challenge if so inclined. Not that it will change the outcome. OI have an example:

I have a long and unhappy relationship with the Forest Service and their travel plans that are by law supposed to encourage 'multiple use.' These plans become law as to how, when and where lowly taxpayers can go on federal land. The trend has been the opposite, locking out all motorized, mining, logging and grazing use.

They play the game of issuing proposed plan changes, take our comments and not only ignore them but add new restrictions that were not in the proposal, clearly a violation of the federal book of rules on rule making. We sue & win on procedure. Then wilderness side counter-sues and wins, successfully arguing that the rules don't apply. The real winners are the lawyers.

So the only alternative is congress.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 15, 2013 1:22 PM    Report this comment

Those who look at knives as the threat and ignore the knifer are using the same flawed argument as the gun ban crowd: It's the tool that causes the crime. A pundit recently made a point with the following story:

A cop spotted a drunk wandering around under a street light. He asked what's going on and the drunk replied that he lost his keys. After searching for a while the cop asks "Is this where you lost the keys?" The drunk replied "no." Dumbfounded, the cop asks why he is searching there and the drunk replied: "Because the light is better here."

Another example: Years ago, military installations made 'authorized personnel' register their vehicles, and the gate guard waved the vehicle in based on the sticker, not the cargo and occupants. To add insult to injury, commercial operators with a sigh on the vehicle got waved thru with little or no hassle, so observers concluded the military used vehicle registration to harass their own, not to actually protect anything.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 15, 2013 1:57 PM    Report this comment


About 1980 an unhappy bunch set off a bomb in front of the Ramstein AFB GE HQ. Investigators noted the vehicle was properly stickered. The vehicle was registered to a GI who sold the car and forgot to remove the sticker. After much deliberation, the base commander decided the obvious: The vehicle was not who committed the act, and decreed that anyone coming on base will show ID, regardless of the hassle it caused.

It took another 20 years, but stateside bases also started checking the person and cargo instead of the vehicle, and the stickers have gone away on the realization that they facilitated bad things but cannot prevent them. What a concept!

Therein is the issue with knives on a plane. It's like peeing in your pants while wearing a dark suit. It gives you a warm feeling, but no one notices.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 15, 2013 1:57 PM    Report this comment

Another party not asked, Thomas, was the flying public. I haven't seen any poll data on it yet. I suspect the freckle-necked masses will oppose it because they are missing the important underlying point: TSA wants to move to threat-based screening, not object-based screening.

I suppose some tiny percentage of the flying public who favor this rule change may want to carry knives as a means of self-defense, despite TSA's correct claim that knives of this size aren't useful weapons and if they don't threaten the airplane at large, they likely won't be effective for defense, either.

What I find especially maddening is the flight attendant's self-centered claim that this affects *me* and you, as passengers, are secondary to the discussion. The airlines were both victims and involved parties in 911, the public only victims.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 15, 2013 6:51 PM    Report this comment

The government and airlines had a duty of care to deliver passengers safely and they failed in this. In the aftermath, the flying public has made it so abundantly clear that in the event of an attempted hijacking, they will secure the cabin. This is almost accepted as an article of faith and has been tested several times. Yet even though they were supposed to have our backs and failed miserably, the flight attendants would continue to prefer that we're disarmed infants.

The argument is pure emotionalism based on what I'm not sure. There has never been a history or pattern of knife assaults on airplanes going back to, oh, maybe 1903. As some have pointed out, it's the punishment of the many in fear of the few.

What's especially galling is that here, the government is finally actually making sense with a lucid argument, however ham handedly it was advanced. And in some weird Stockholm syndrome reversal of logic, the public and certain interests are resisting it.

What next, the Association of People Who Really Want Their Shoes X-rayed? It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 15, 2013 7:00 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the reply Paul. A flight attendant union rep recently made the statement on network TV (regarding the knife decision) that the crew is responsible for safely delivering the plane, the feds are responsible for passenger security. It was a point of view I hadn't considered, and one wonders how pervasive it is.

I was a USAF AWACS crewdawg. The lucky ones took the 'work jet' on deployments. The rest rode on a trash hauler along with engines, tires, cots and test gear. We often manifested and loaded the pallets too, so the C-141/130/C5 loadmasters called us 'SLUFS.' Self loading ugly freight. We even had a shoulder patch . . .

I wonder if some commercial aircrew see pax the same way.

Posted by: Thomas Connor | March 15, 2013 8:29 PM    Report this comment

In my experience in flying commercial, I couldn't fault the crews for having a certain...ummm...distaste for passenger behavior, if not the passengers themselves. I think it can be a sometimes tough and tiring job.

On the other hand, if someone professes to have my back and then fails at that, I'm not inclined to give them a second chance.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | March 16, 2013 5:55 AM    Report this comment

TSA - you still owe for my favorite Victorinox knife, which was stolen out of my checked baggage! If you won't let me take it in my carry-on, at least refrain from stealing it from my checked bags...

Posted by: PETER THOMAS | March 17, 2013 7:02 PM    Report this comment

To use a phrase from a a Crocodile Dundee movie.... You call that (2.36 inches) a knife?

I am amazed at the hypersensitivity of some people.

Posted by: RAY DAMIJONAITIS | March 19, 2013 10:19 PM    Report this comment

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