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Pistole unwilling to back off from TSA’s policy to allow small knives in aircraft cabins

John Pistole

Despite mounting criticism from several parts of the aviation industry, and a petition that now has more than 400,000 signatures on it, TSA Administrator John Pistole is still not willing to abandon his previously-announced plan to allow small knives back into aircraft cabins. 

In an address delivered on May 27 at an airport security conference in Saudi Arabia, the TSA administrator acknowledged that he was currently pondering the controversial question, but was not yet ready to throw in the towel. 

“While our original intention was to make these changes effective at the end of April, we are still gathering input from key stakeholders and have delayed implementation until that process is complete,” Pistole told his audience.

He noted that the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) changed aviation security standards in August 2010 to permit knives with a blade length of 6 centimeters or less to be carried in the cabin of aircraft. “Since that global change, and excluding U.S. originating passengers, there have been more than 5 billion commercial airline passengers worldwide allowed to carry these knives,” reported Pistole. “We are unaware of any report of a security incident aboard any commercial aircraft worldwide involving these items.”

While still entertaining the possibility of a policy shift, Pistole summarized the argument for placing more focus on IEDs and less on small knives.

“With hardened cockpit doors, better identification of individual passengers against terrorist watch lists, and the demonstrated willingness of passengers to intervene to assist flight crew during a security incident, it is the judgment of many security experts worldwide, a judgment with which I agree, that a small pocket knife is simply not going to result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft,” said the administrator of TSA. “An undetected and successfully detonated improvised explosive device will.”