Aviation screening officers are the cornerstone of our aviation security system. However, that doesn’t mean their job is easy. On the contrary, it’s probably the most challenging and misunderstood of all occupations.
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in aviation security, take a few moments to consider the following requirements and see if you have what it takes to be a screening officer.
1. You need good visual interpretation skills.
Screening officers are required to review thousands of X-ray images a day to look for potential threats in baggage. These images can range from mildly complex to completely ridiculous as travelers try to cram as much as possible into their bags.
Having good X-ray analysis skills means you’ll able to distinguish the flare gun from the hair dryer in the mass of assorted lines and shapes on screen, which is key when your job is to prevent dangerous items from getting on an aircraft.
2. You must be nice to people, even when they’re not.
As a screening officer, you’ll deal with passengers all day, every day. Unfortunately, not everyone may be having a “zippedy-doo-dah” kind of day: Some passengers can be irritable, grouchy or just plain nasty.
Whether you’re faced with an irate traveller that refuses a physical search or a person who is simply bent on getting your goat, you need to stay in control of your emotions. Telling the Governor of Arkansas to shut up and take a flying leap is generally frowned upon and will likely cost you your job.
3. You have to touch people’s bodies.
Screening passengers and their belongings doesn’t end with the equipment. When a walkthrough metal detector or full body scanner alarms, that alarm needs to be resolved. This usually means that a partial or full body pat-down is needed before the person can be allowed into the sterile area.
Not everyone feels comfortable patting down a stranger’s body. If the idea of touching someone’s chest or back pocket area makes you squirm, you may want to think twice before applying.
4. You have to work shifts.
Airports generally operate over 20 hours a day, sometimes starting up as early as 3 a.m. With flights departing at all hours, screening checkpoints must be open and ready to screen passengers as they arrive.
If you’re a newly-hired screening officer, there’s a good chance you’ll be required to work the early morning or late night shift. If you’re an early bird or night owl, then this won’t be a problem for you.
5. You have to stay calm and carry on.
A screening officer’s job is to detect and intercept items that may pose a danger to the safety of an aircraft. While 99% of objects are innocuous, there is the possibility that one day, you’ll come across a potentially dangerous object or device and you will need to act.
So what do you do when you see something that looks like an improvised explosive device? As tempting as it may be to drop everything and yell “BOMB!”, you can’t. You must stay calm and manage the incident without causing a general panic that can send travellers storming like a herd of wildebeest towards the doors. This means following established procedures and supporting authorities as necessary when they arrive.
Although a career as a screening officer can be demanding, it can also be very rewarding. Knowing that you are actively protecting the safety of millions of people every day means that you can truly feel that you are making a difference.