There’s no end to a TSA security checker’s stupidity. It is truly boundless. A few weeks ago, I read an article about how a plane was grounded and the flight canceled because an overzealous TSA security representative used the pitot tubes on the nose of the aircraft as if they were the rungs of a ladder. If you look closely at the nose of a commercial airliner, you’ll see several little steel tubes sticking out of the nose and bending forward at a 90 degree angle. I suppose they do look a bit like handles, but in fact they’re finely tuned precision instruments. They sense the pressure and wind speed differential as the plane moves through the air and they send important data to the pilot. Data like airspeed, pitch, yaw, angle of attack, etc. Fighter jets typically have one big pitot tube sticking right out of the nose of the aircraft. So finely tuned are these instruments that if you were to whack one with a wrench, you’d send it far enough out of whack to where it wouldn’t work properly. Even though commercial planes have several redundant ones, pilots don’t appreciate it when airport security goons use them to climb all over their airplanes.
You could argue that the TSA agent didn’t know what a pitot tube was, but I would counter by asking, “If their intent was to climb up to the top of the aircraft to inspect something, wouldn’t they know enough about the plane they were trying to look over to know what a pitot tube was?”
Using this logic, I can only assume that a TSA agent doesn’t know what a laptop is, either. The trouble with this is, they ask you to turn them on in order to “inspect them” from time to time. Here’s a tip to help you boot up your laptop faster and with less battery power, so you can show the TSA person the bright lights and shiny buttons and move on your way. The last time you shut down your laptop prior to a trip; don’t “shut it down.” Put it into standby or sleep mode instead. Standby mode uses almost zero of your battery. Mine uses less than 2% of the total battery when left in standby for three days. The standby button is the one with the sleepy little crescent moon on it. On a Mac, the “sleep” mode is what you’re looking for.
When you need to boot the machine back up, just press whatever key it is on your laptop to take it back out of standby. It’s usually just the Enter key, or Ctrl-Alt-Del will sometimes do it to. Your laptop may vary. It will boot back up MUCH faster, and use a LOT less battery power to do it. I always move through airports with my laptop in standby mode. Even if I don’t use it in the airport, it makes for a faster boot-up at the hotel or for when I get to the office.
Oh, the next time you’re looking out the window counting the pitot tubes (pronounced “PEE-toe”) on the nose of your jet, smile and appreciate that you’re one of the few who knows what they’re for. That includes the TSA too!
EXTRA: If you have questions for Ken regarding business travel, hotels, airplanes, etc, please call 1-877-49-EXPERT. Your questions will be recorded and Ken will answer the best ones in his Ask the Expert podcast show.