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posted: 8/2/2014 5:45 AM

Idea to shorten TSA lines could be worth $15,000

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Did you hear the TSA needs your help?

Apparently, they can't figure out how to improve airport security lines, so they want you to do it. And if they choose your solution, you could collect as much as $15,000.

But there's a catch.

Getting your idea registered is a lot like waiting in one of those security lines.

First, you have to go to www.innocentive.com/ar/challenge/993343. Then you fill in the blanks. Several pages later, after practically willing your first born to the government (OK maybe not that far), you can send in your idea.

As far as I can tell, there's not much hope for kinder, gentler security lines. Short of eliminating all carry-ons and requiring travelers to board wearing only their birthday suits, we're still stuck with the same problems. Laptops need to be inspected. Shoes need to be removed. And everybody needs to be scanned. But the big problem is, none of it seems to work.

According to reports, there have been more than 25,000 security breaches since 2001. Last February, a woman boarded an American Airlines flight in Dallas with a handgun in her bag. A security agent caught it on his screen after the woman headed for her flight. Agents managed to track her down. But it caused delays and much anxiety.

At various times, agents -- carrying fake explosives -- have posed as passengers at large international airports and cleared security without detection.

And it's not just the security lines that are unsecured. Last week, two kayakers found themselves up a creek without the proverbial paddle. Apparently, they pulled themselves ashore, undetected, at the end of one of the runways at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The area is supposedly protected by multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art surveillance equipment. But it took two airport workers to discover them.

A similar thing happened less than two years ago when a jet skier ran out of gas and landed on the same runway undetected.

Last Christmas, a passenger at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix and another at Newark Liberty Airport in New Jersey went joy walking on the tarmacs. They both managed to scale the perimeter walls of the airports and cross runways without detection.

The truth is that the airport security lines are only a small part of the problem. Unfortunately, it's all too easy to enter secure areas. Alarms sound when a door to the tarmac opens without proper authority. But oftentimes, it's ignored.

While only personnel with proper identification are allowed on the tarmac, fake IDs and uniforms are easy enough to come by.

But still, if you want to try to solve the problem of long security lines, have at it. You have until Aug. 15 to submit your ideas online. Better get started. It may take you that long just to fill out the forms.

• Gail Todd, a freelance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years. She can be reached at gailtodd@aol.com

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