A leading association of airline pilots has called for a rethink of passenger screening, claiming that "passenger trustworthiness" should be prioritized ahead of intensive physical screening measures.

The call came on January 28, three days ahead of new restrictions in Britain that force passengers to submit to controversial "body scanner" screening in order to fly. From February 1, any passengers flying from London Heathrow, the world's busiest airport, who decline scanning will not be permitted on board an aircraft. Similar restrictions are soon to be implemented at Amstedam's Schiphol airport and are currently under review in the US.

Despite the new rules, US and Canadian pilots' association ALPA has branded changes to the security system an "inadequate response." The group believes that today's screening systems have been reactively modified since the 1970s to respond to a changing threat, leaving the current system effectively a "patchwork of band-aids."

"Our layered aviation security system is in dire need of major reform," said Capt. Robb Powers, ALPA's National Security Committee Chairman. "Our proposal focuses on identifying people who pose no threat to aviation and quickly moving them through a screening process that is commensurate with the level of trust they have earned. This approach to aviation security is more sophisticated, more efficient, and significantly more effective than the current methodology."

ALPA believes that a new, data-rich screening system, akin to the modern "credit check" used by banks, should be introduced. Each passengers identity would be verified and then scored, allowing them to be marked as "no or negligible threat," "unknown threat" or "known threat". Security officers would then adapt their actions according to each passenger's threat level, from a quick x-ray/metal detector scan to an in-person threat-assessment or flight ban. Much of the work would be done before the passenger even arrives at the airport.

According to ALPA, the new screening methods would allay privacy concerns surrounding the introduction of body scanners, speed up the boarding process and increase public confidence in aviation. However, the proposal may meet with opposition from civil rights groups such as the ACLU, which has already voiced concerns over the privacy implications of techniques such as terrorist watch lists and the use of racial profiling.

http: //www.alpa.org/