YEARS AGO, following 9-11-01, the airlines, FAA, and TSA were touting that their collective security would prevent anymore bombs or weapons from being brought onboard an aircraft.
At the time I wrote an article that essentially said those claims were nonsense.
I submitted the article to a magazine; the editors sent the article to an airline's Chief of Security to vet. He returned the article to the publisher claiming my article was not valid.
The other day a couple of current and former Delta Airlines employees proved that I was correct and the Chief of Security either was wrong or simply wanted to suppress my article.
GRANTED, the two arrested for smuggling guns aboard a Delta flight did not attempt to place a bomb on board, nor were the smuggled weapons to be used by anyone on board the aircraft.
But they WERE on board and they COULD have been used to commandeer the aircraft.
I used to fly quite a bit, both domestically and internationally. I've bought seats on a number of difference air carriers, including Delta - which remains one of my preferred carriers - El Al, and KLM. (I also used to fly Eastern, Pan Am, and TWA, "back in the day.")
The premise of my article was that with a little inside help it would be easy to smuggle a bomb or weapon on board almost any carrier except El Al.
True story. On an El Al flight from Lod (TLV) to Miami (MIA) we made a stop in New York (JFK). During the stop, the passengers were herded into a holding area (quarantine) for international passengers continuing on to MIA.
Meanwhile, El Al personnel informed us, the plane was being cleaned and refueled.
When we re-boarded the aircraft a flight attendant - then they were called stewards and stewardesses - asked me "Did you leave a camera under your seat?"
Oops. Indeed I did; a Canon F-1 with a 20 mm lens. Normally I keep the camera strap around my leg when it is on the floor and I was in my seat. Somehow my "anti-theft/don't forget" process failed me.
Bottom line: The cleaning crew found the camera and the "steward" relieved the cleaners of the camera before it could disappear to the streets of New York. (New York's finest can't be bothered with petty theft from a non -resident who lacks political pull. This based on first hand experience.)
As I was heading to my seat, the "steward" shook his finger at me and admonished me not to be so forgetful in the future.
Who has access to the plane?
Consider who has unfettered access to most aircraft.
- Cleaning crews
- Baggage handlers
- Air crew
- Some station (airport) personnel
- Aircraft maintenance crews
Now consider how much any of those people make in a year - figure in local cost of living that can make a $100,000 salary actually worth maybe half that. (I have no idea what catering and cleaning crews, baggage handlers, mechanics, and airport workers make, but I seriously doubt they are top earners in their metro areas.)
Money is a great motivator for people who feel unappreciated and under paid.
Add to my short list disgruntled employees. These people may not need to be recruited with promises of Big Bucks; they might be willing to work against the airline just to "get even" over some real or perceived wrong.
If I want to get something prohibited on board an airplane, I can pay to have someone secrete contraband on board in a place that, if I am a passenger, I - or a confederate - will know where to find the device.
My advice to airlines in the article that was declined by the magazine was to follow El Al's example and keep trusted crew where ever and whenever non-flying personnel are in (caterers, cleaning crews, station personnel) or near (mechanics, baggage handlers) the aircraft.
This is not an absolute, 100 percent foolproof procedure, but it certainly is better than what most airlines have in place today.
Just in case anyone is interested, the Delta is a Douglas Commercial 3 (DC-3) tail-dragger. It would not surprise me to learn some os these planes still may be flying. The El Al craft is a Lockheed Constellation, one o the last, great comfortable airplanes. Lockheed unfortunately got oout of the passenger plane business after the L-1011, another great bird.