Transportation Security Agency locks down technology; in-flight over U.S.

Travel by air just got a lot more boring and stressful. You won't be able to use your electronic book reader, laptop or iPod while the aircraft is airborne.
Written by Doug Hanchard, Contributor

According to Boardingarea.com - the Transportation Security Administration has locked down information, communications and technology designed for passenger use during any phase of a commercial flight while in U.S. airspace. Travel by air just got a lot more boring and stressful. You won't be able to use your electronic book reader, laptop or iPod while the aircraft is airborne.

Boardingarea.com's copy of the Security Directive (SD) reads as follows:

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY Transportation Security Administration

Aviation Security Directive

Subject: Security Directive Number: SD 1544-09-06 Date: December 25, 2009

EXPIRATION: 0200Z on December 30, 2009

This Security Directive (SD) must be implemented immediately. The measures contained in this SD are in addition to all other SDs currently in effect for your operations.

INFORMATION: On December 25, 2009, a terrorist attack was attempted against a flight traveling to the United States. TSA has identified security measures to be implemented by airports, aircraft operators, and foreign air carriers to mitigate potential threats to flights.


ACTIONS REQUIRED: If you conduct scheduled and/or public charter flight operations under a Full Program under 49 CFR 1544.101(a) departing from any foreign location to the United States (including its territories and possessions), you must immediately implement all measures in this SD for each such flight.


1. The aircraft operator or authorized air carrier representative must ensure all passengers are screened at the boarding gate during the boarding process using the following procedures. These procedures are in addition to the screening of all passengers at the screening checkpoint.

1. Perform thorough pat-down of all passengers at boarding gate prior to boarding, concentrating on upper legs and torso. 2. Physically inspect 100 percent of all passenger accessible property at the boarding gate prior to boarding, with focus on syringes being transported along with powders and/or liquids. 3. Ensure the liquids, aerosols, and gels restrictions are strictly adhered to in accordance with SD 1544-06-02E.

2. During the boarding process, the air carrier may exempt passengers who are Heads of State or Heads of Government from the measures outlined in Section I.A. of this SD, including the following who are traveling with the Head of State or Head of Government:

1. Spouse and children, or 2. One other individual (chosen by the Head of State or Head of Government)

3. For the purposes of Section I.B., the following definitions apply:

1. Head of State: An individual serving as the chief public representative of a monarchic or republican nation-state, federation, commonwealth, or any other political state (for example, King, Queen, and President).

2. Head of Government: The chief officer of the executive branch of a government presiding over a cabinet (for example, Prime Minister, Premier, President, and Monarch).


1. During flight, the aircraft operator must ensure that the following procedures are followed:

1. Passengers must remain in seats beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination. 2. Passenger access to carry-on baggage is prohibited beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination. 3. Disable aircraft-integrated passenger communications systems and services (phone, internet access services, live television programming, global positioning systems) prior to boarding and during all phases of flight. 4. While over U.S. airspace, flight crew may not make any announcement to passengers concerning flight path or position over cities or landmarks. 5. Passengers may not have any blankets, pillows, or personal belongings on the lap beginning 1 hour prior to arrival at destination.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR ACKNOWLEDGMENT: The aircraft operator must immediately provide written confirmation to its assigned PSI indicating receipt of this SD.

AIRCRAFT OPERATOR dissemination required: The aircraft operator must immediately pass the information and directives set forth in this SD to all stations affected, and provide written confirmation to its PSI, indicating that all stations affected have acknowledged receipt of the information and directives set forth in this SD. The aircraft operator must disseminate this information to its senior management personnel, ground security coordinators, and supervisory security personnel at all affected locations. All aircraft operator personnel implementing this SD must be briefed by the aircraft operator on its content and the restrictions governing dissemination. No other dissemination may be made without prior approval of the Assistant Secretary for the Transportation Security Administration. Unauthorized dissemination of this document or information contained herein is prohibited by 49 CFR Part 1520 (see 69 Fed. Reg. 28066 (May 18, 2004).

APPROVAL OF ALTERNATIVE MEASURES: With respect to the provisions of this SD, as stated in 49 CFR 1544.305(d), the aircraft operator may submit in writing to its PSI proposed alternative measures and the basis for submitting the alternative measures for approval by the Assistant Administrator for Transportation Sector Network Management. The aircraft operator must immediately notify its PSI whenever any procedure in this SD cannot be carried out by a government authority charged with performing security procedures.

FOR TSA ACTION ONLY: The TSA must issue this SD immediately to the corporate security element of all affected U.S. aircraft operators.

FOR STATE DEPARTMENT: Retransmittal to appropriate foreign posts is authorized. Post must refer to STATE 162917, 201826Z Sep 01, Subject: FAA Security Directives and Information Circulars: Definitions and Handling, for specific guidance and dissemination.

Gale Rossides Acting Administrator

This Security Directive (SD) has not been confirmed by Dept of Homeland Security Agency. Telephone calls to DHS and TSA requesting an interview or comment were requested with no response. It does have an expiry date - December 30th. But it would not surprise me if this directive stays in force permanently. Some devices maybe allowed in the future, but that will take time to determine.

If this directive is true, airlines that have invested in Wi-Fi and in-flight telecommunications services have effectively been put out of business for the foreseeable future. Happy landings...

Updated: December 29, 2009

Flights departing from Canada to the United States are creating havoc at some airports, namely Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario. Travel restrictions have not been lifted as some have claimed and therefor the SD issued by the TSA remain in affect. This has created significant challenges, embarrasing the Canada Airport Security Transport Agency (CATSA) since it doesn't have the personnel to keep pace with the volume of flights. The Globe and Mail reported today:

The emergency screening procedures put in place over the weekend by the Transportation Security Administration, the federal U.S. air-transport authority, require secondary screening of all carry-on items and extra thorough pat-downs at security checks that are taking about five extra minutes a person. The personnel demands caused Tuesday by the extra checking requirements forced Canadian security officials to bar passengers from bringing any carry-on luggage aboard U.S.-bound flights with only a few exceptions.

Update: December 30, 2009 - Norway announces body scanner technology to be used for all flights destined for the United States.

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