Pilot posted video as 'a security issue'

Pilot Chris Liu, flanked by wife Sandra Liu and attorney Don Werno.
Pilot Chris Liu, flanked by wife Sandra Liu and attorney Don Werno. (Randall Benton)

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By Kim Minugh
Wednesday, December 29, 2010

SACRAMENTO - An airline pilot who found himself facing scrutiny after he posted a video on the Internet that blasted airport security measures said Tuesday that his critics are "naive" and ignoring a severe threat to the flying public.

In a news conference at Sacramento International Airport, Chris Liu said he never posted the video to get fame or notoriety for himself. Flanked by his wife and attorney, Liu said he had hoped to prompt a national discussion by posting the video.

"This was never about being famous for me. This was about aviation security," said Liu, 50, of Colfax, Calif. "It's a security issue at the airport, and I just wanted to address it."

Responding to critics who say his video could further expose the country to attack, Liu and his attorney, Don Werno, said the problem can't be addressed without it being brought to light.

"There is a major security problem," Werno said. "And we need to fix it before a number of airlines are brought down in terrorist attacks."

Late last month, Liu, a pilot for American Airlines, posted a cellphone video on YouTube depicting what he perceives as a major security flaw involving ground crews and their easy access to tarmacs and parked planes.

The video footage was shot at San Francisco International Airport, and Liu said the problem exists at other airports as well.

He says that ground crews are not screened by metal detectors or Transportation Security Administration personnel the way travelers or even airline employees are. Instead, the ground crew members have only to swipe a card to access a tarmac.

Liu said he took the video off YouTube at his employer's request. Werno said American Airlines had been contacted by angry TSA officials the day the video was posted.

Several days later, TSA officials arrived at Liu's house and confiscated the handgun that he carried while flying as part of the "federal flight deck officers" program. That program started after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and allows some pilots to carry firearms to help prevent hijacking attempts.

Liu said he resigned from the program after officials confiscated his handgun. He said a TSA investigator then told him the agency would not pursue further sanctions against him.

Werno said he is concerned, however, that no such promise has been made in writing.

TSA officials previously have stood by their actions, saying that pilots in the federal flight deck officers program "must be able to maintain sensitive security information."

Officials with San Francisco International Airport also have responded to Liu's video, saying in a statement that the video "presents false and misleading information on SFO's security program."

- Sacramento Bee


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