Knives on planes, how times have changed

A sharp divide — Many have expressed concerns over new risks, questioning the motives behind the recent change in TSA policy to allow pocketknives on planes. Wikidemia Commons

What immediately comes to mind when the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is mentioned? Hostility, conflict in the security lines, and a roll of the eyes at the strict policies are some characteristics associated with a trip through the airport’s security system. TSA has become quite the household name, and not in a good way.

In a move to conform to the International Civil Aviation Organization’s laws, Director of TSA John Pistole allowed knives to accompany passengers on the airplane. Needless to say, it has been met with harsh criticism.

In a recent news conference held outside the Capitol, George Taylor, president for the federal air marshal service within the Federal Law Enforcement Office Association, spoke out against the new ruling, saying that terrorists could get past the reinforced cockpit door with tools similar to box cutters.

“It’s just absolutely insane,” Taylor said to members of the House of Representatives. “I don’t put my faith in that reinforced door. If it’s made by man, it can be broken by man.”

Taylor is not the only one voicing his concern. Flight attendants have been frank concerning the TSA’s bold, yet dangerous, move. Along with Taylor and Rep. Ed Markey, advocates from several flight attendant unions gathered at the news conference to denounce Pistole’s decision.

Pilots have been outspoken as well.

Liberty University alumnus and airplane pilot Josh Stadtlander was critical of the alterations to the list of banned items.

“Since Sept. 2001, (TSA) started banning all kinds of things like this, so it raises the question, ‘Why do we really need that?’” airplane pilot and Liberty University alumnus Josh Stadtlander said. “We’ve been fine without it for … 12 years, so why do they need to start bringing stuff like that back?”

Stadtlander flies an Embraer 145, a jet for the world’s largest regional airline, ExpressJet. Seating 50 people, only one flight attendant is needed for the cabin. Stadtlander expressed his understanding of the flight attendants’ disapproval.

“She saw a definite safety threat. I sided with her opinion — it’s stupid,” Stadtlander said. “Why do they need to have this?”

Granted, TSA has put regulations on the dimensions of the knives allowed. The official proportions measure 2.36 inches long and half an inch in width.

In my opinion, it is an attempt to move on. It is an effort to bring back the leisure that we enjoyed before the Twin Towers fell. I see a nation that is slowly getting back on its feet and feeling less paranoid when they hear a plane flying overhead.

I can only imagine the time it takes for TSA screening officials to whip out their rulers with magnifying glass in hand and measure if the blade fits within the 2.36-inch parameter. For those with 2.50-inch blades — sorry, nothing personal. It just does not quite make the cut.

Stadtlander also pointed out that other belongings TSA once banned — such as pool cues, golf clubs, hockey sticks and other sporting equipment — are now being given the green light.

Once a level of standard is lowered, people inevitably wonder how far it will go. Quentin Fottrell, a writer for MarketWatch, is not convinced that these recent changes are the only ones that will be made in the next few years. Fottrell believes a discussion about what liquids should be allowed on planes is on the horizon.

“While passengers can once again carry small blades on flights, bringing aboard more than 3 ounces of liquid is still a no-no. Experts say that that too may soon change,” Fottrell said. “So what’s next? The TSA’s restrictions on the sizes of bottles for drinks, shampoos, gels and lotions will likely be next for review.”

Knives will have a tough time bringing down an aircraft, whether a regional jet or a Boeing 747. However, they could certainly aid in the process. Box cutters and razor blades were used by terrorists to gain entry into the cockpit during the 9/11 attacks.

Some see it as a step in the right direction. Allowing these small knives to be carried on airplanes is a blessing, especially for frequent fliers. Though the shoes still have to come off, the pocketknife can pass through the line.

For others, it is a foolish move that not only can put the flight attendants at risk, but can bring back haunting memories of times past.

Whether it is reckless or rational, the move is an illustration that this is a nation trying to move on and reunite with the assurance we enjoyed before tragedy altered our lives. It is a step on a long ladder leading to a firm future.


  • Hi. Bob here from the TSA Blog. Please check out a couple of our blog posts for more information on the changes involving small knives and sporting goods items.


    Bob Burns
    TSA Blog

  • Thanks for sharing. This is indeed a very interesting argument and I’ve been following it for some time. I also read recently that the TSA has gone back on the decision due to the massive pressure from individuals and groups lobbying against it. In my opinion the need to use a pocket knife on a plane is never a matter of urgency so why take the risk?


  • With a lot of people, you`ll always have a lot of opinions. In case of emergency, I don`t think a pocket knife will make the difference, or maybe only if you are an action movie star. This isn`t a positive change from the TSA in my opinion.

  • I’m a pocket knife fanatic, I love ’em but I don’t really see the need to have one on a plane. I always just check mine to avoid any issues and I’ve never needed one while in flight.

    I say if it makes our flight attendants feel safer, then let’s keep them in our bags … I personally know how unlikely it is that a pocket knife will be used as a weapon, but like your article states … box cutters did play a role in the 9/11 attacks. Whatever side you take, this debate will go on!

    Great article, thanks!

  • As far as I know the TSA rescinded this policy and pocket knives are still illegal to be in ones carry on.
    and so the debate rages on…

  • There’s no real good reason to carry a pocket knife onto a plane. I’d feel much more comfortable flying if I knew no one was carrying a knife. I’m a massive bladed weapon fan, but I still can’t see any justification for carrying one on a plane.

  • I too am a fan of knives but I just don’t see the reason for allowing passengers to carry them on a plane. Should the need arise for protection mid air I wouldn’t want to engage in a knife fight. Better if no one has them.

  • I carry a pocket knife or a multitool almost everywhere I go, but I always have to remove the knife and store it in my checked luggage. As I know without any doubt that my local airport will not allow it in the cabin (also, a piece of advice – be aware if you are changing airline, whatever knife you choose will need to 100% legal at every place you land!). Yet still no worries.
    I know that lots of collectors are still arguing about this. But a nice question to ask yourself is – what do I need a pocket knife for at 37,000 feet in the first place? There’s nothing I need to cut. And why the other passenger might need this? So no knives onboard might be a better solution. Better be safe than sorry.

  • Nice tool and really seems great. But i believe there’s no real good reason to carry a pocket knife onto a plane. After all it’s against the law

  • I also carry a pocket knife almost everywhere I go, but I always have to remove the knife and store it in my checked luggage while going through the place. but i do not find any problem in that as it is related to all of our’safety and we must obey those rules.

  • Neelkanth Bhatt

    It is always good to carry a pocket knife. you Can carry a key chain which has foldable knifes that can be used where ever you go.

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