An expedited screening process for airline pilots will be tested at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport and Miami International Airport this summer, the Chicago Tribune reports.
Members of the KnownCrew testing program will undergo a less intensive identity verification process, involving photos and airline employment data, but not biometric matches such as fingerprinting and iris scanning, which have previously been used. According to the news source, pilots involved in the testing program will enter security checkpoint lanes that are reserved for flight crews, and officials will compare their photo ID badges and driver's licenses to the information in the database. As an added layer of identity authentication
, they will enter their ID numbers. Unless the ID check shows any inconsistencies, the pilot and his or her luggage will not be scanned for weapons. The KnownCrew program - which, if successful, would eventually affect the nation's 75,000-plus pilots - will streamline the security checkpoint experience for both pilots and passengers, as the decreased amount of time scanning pilots will allow for the facilitation of passenger checks. However, concerns have been raised about potential weaknesses associated with the expedited procedure. "It is imperative that this program include a biometric component to verify crew identities, thus implementing a higher standard of security and access control,'' said United States Representative Bennie Thompson, a Missouri Democrat and ranking member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, quoted by the news source. The Air Transport Association, which collects pilot data from airlines and passes it on to the Transportation Security Administration, argues that a photograph is a form of biometric ID verification
. "It's certainly not to the degree of an iris scan or a fingerprint, but we would say a photo can serve as a clear identifier of a person in combination with the information in the database," Steve Lott, spokesman for the ATA, told the news source. According to results from a similar initiative tested in 2008 by Southwest Airlines, biometric ID authentication
technology can be implemented for approximately the same cost as the proposed - and less secure - measures. Last month, USA Today reported on the testing of a Trusted Traveler initiative, by which passengers who submitted to extensive background screening
ahead of time would be exempted from the more laborious security procedures, such as taking off their shoes and unpacking their laptops. The program is expected to enter the testing phase later this year.