Finally, after a string of tentative aviation but not work posts, I'm ready to finish up posts on my last shift at work. This might be a little confusing because I tried hard to get these done before I left for Cambodia, but they really take place before then. So we rejoin me during the final week of my last shift before I left Cambodia.
I'm lazing about in an anonymous hotel. 'Tis not the season for working very hard in Canada, so here is a story from someone else who was working hard at a US airline which I won't name. I have his permission to post it, properly anonymized, so if you're close enough to the story to recognize the players, please don't say anything to give it away.
We had a serious situation on our flight yesterday that resulted in a diversion to an airport where we have no base, and a full evacuation. A few passengers received minor injuries during the evacuation, but otherwise everything was fine. We had no staff based there, but another airline came to the rescue in helping us with locating buses and assisting our passengers. They even had some of their staff mobilize to get bags off the aircraft. As a result of the landing, the airport was forced to close for most of the day yesterday and into this morning because the brakes had locked and we could not move the aircraft. This airport doesn't even have a towbar appropriate for the aircraft, so we trucked one in from another city along with other ground support equipment to help with moving the aircraft.
Once our airplane was no longer impeding airport operations, the next priority was to return it to serviceability. We brought our own employees, all appropriately badged for airside access at two of our other bases, but the TSA would not permit them onto the field here, to work in a maintenance hangar. The airport authority and the airline are in agreement that this incident is an emergency situation which requires mitigative response in allowing our personnel to fix the aircraft immediately without having to go through SIDA training for the new airport. TSA maintains stoically that any staff working to get this plane operating need to go through SIDA training.
SIDA stands for Security Identification Display Area. Every airport has its own application procedure including a short training course. Presumably the training consists mainly of being told not to let anyone into a secure area, not to enter one without your badge, and not to lose your badge, plus lots of threats and scary information about what happens if you disobey. Perhaps the airport-specific part includes a map showing all the secure areas on the airport in question, and an introduction to the head of security who will kick your ass if you don't comply. That takes about 45 minutes (the training, not the ass-kicking) so the lengthy part of the application procedure is the ten day wait for a background check. You can't use the fact that you got a background check at three other airports to waive this requirement, as the airport badge must be issued right after the passed background check.
The eye-rolling frustration of this policy is evident from the quoted diversion incident and the details of the SIDA application process itself. Plus the first google hit for SIDA training TSA is a plea to standardize the training for all airports. While I'd agree that a trainee aircraft groomer at SeaTac shouldn't automatically have an all-access pass at DCA, I can't conceive of a reason why an aircraft mechanic with 20 years experience at JFK can't be issued a temporary pass to work on a company aircraft at LAX, after the validity of her JFK pass has been confirmed. Can you? It's not like it's hard to identify the secure areas at an unfamiliar airport. They have a stop sign sticker with the SIDA acronym, and they're usually locked, anyway.
I always flinch slightly when I see the SIDA sticker on airport doors, not because I've ever been badged at a US airport, but because they happen to have chosen the same acronym as the French term for AIDS, as in the HIV+ disease. Not that that's something one contracts by turning the wrong doorknob, but it is an extra deterrent to keep me out of secured areas.
It's pasta Tuesday, the highlight of the week in northern wherever we are. We all go to Boston Pizza.
Update: The missing paragraph of the post is now visible. I accidentally hid it through an html error.