Veteran pilot explains screening process for flight crews

TSA screening

For the second time this week, concerns are being raised over security at Hawaii’s airports.

The latest incident involves a former Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant who was caught possessing drugs at Honolulu International Airport.

According to a federal criminal complaint, William Sasaki was the last person to get off the plane when federal agents detained him at the airport. Agents found roughly 500 grams, or about a pound, of crystal methamphetamine in his luggage.

Hawaiian Airlines
Read: Former Hawaiian Airlines flight attendant busted for drugs

While Hawaiian Airlines would not confirm whether Sasaki was on duty as a flight attendant at the time, workers say flight attendants typically wait for all passengers to walk off the plane before they do.

The news has some airline passengers rattled. “I’m just shocked, surprised that it’s even possible to even smuggle that much stuff,” said passenger Nadine Kaufmann.

“They should be checking their bags, just like us,” said passenger Alan Otto.

Flight crew members still go through a screening process before getting on a plane.

“Most of us still go through the screening process, the X-ray process,” said Wayne Tomchick, an airline pilot of nearly 40 years. “(It’s) the same thing as passengers, except we go through the pre-check. It’s a slightly expedited process.”

Flight crews can register to become Known Crew Members, which is similar to passengers being on the TSA Pre-Check List. It’s an expedited process that allows the flight crew member to get through and bags are randomly screened.

Tomchick says if crew members are screened, TSA agents do it rigorously.

“They have to physically search you and physically search your baggage, so to bring anything illegal through the screening process for crew members is extremely risky,” he said.

Documents say Sasaki received money to buy the drugs on the mainland and bring them back to Hawaii.

“You’re pretty desperate or insane. You want to lose your career,” Tomchick said. “I don’t know anyone that I’ve known in my 37 years of flying that would even think of something like that.”

Hawaiian Airlines says Sasaki resigned from the company on April 17. Both he and his alleged accomplice Robert Silva are set to appear at a preliminary hearing in federal court next month.

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