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Underwear Bombs & TSA

Up now in Patrick Smith's ASK THE PILOT: Another deadly terror plot taken down in the planning stages. This time officials were able to infiltrate a Yemen-based al-Qaeda plot to destroy a US-bound jetliner using a nearly undetectable underwear bomb. The moral of the story: Airport security works! Am I being facetious? Well, it depends on your definition of airport security... ( More...

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Patrick Smith 2

I don't know why the FlightAware system truncates URLs like that. Sorry.
Patrick Smith 1
Some excerpts from this article:

"...The key to keeping airplanes safe is, and always has been, stopping acts of sabotage while they are still in the planning stages. Here in the age of the TSA checkpoint, with its toothpaste confiscations and obsession with pointy-objects, we tend not to think this way, preoccupied instead with a kind of airport Kabuki -- the tedious, fanatical screening of passengers and their carry-ons. Real airport security takes place offstage, as it were...

...Getting a handle on this takes us all the way back to September 11th, 2001 -- the day that everything, and yet really nothing, changed. Conventional wisdom holds that the 19 hijackers exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling boxcutters onto four Boeing jetliners. But conventional wisdom is wrong. What the men actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset -- a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings and how they were expected to unfold. The presence of boxcutters on 9/11 was merely incidental. The men could have used almost anything. Success depended not on hardware but on the element of surprise. It wasn't a failure of airport security that allowed those men to hatch their takeover scheme. It was a failure of * national * security...

...And the stubborn truth is that airport screening alone, no matter how thorough, how expensive, and how technologically advanced, will never defeat a relentless enough, resourceful enough adversary intent on downing a plane. That isn't capitulation, it's reality. And acknowledging this reality would go a long way toward warding off panic and overreaction when the next successful attack occurs...

...Regrettably, too, we often forget that commercial air travel has long been a target of terrorist extremists. The 1970s and 1980s in particular were, as I like to describe them, a Golden Age of Air Crimes, comparatively rife with bombings, hijackings and other deadly assaults against airplanes and airports. Over one five-year span between 1985 and 1989 we can count at least six high-profile terrorist attacks, including the horrific bombings of Pan Am 103 and UTA 772; the bombing of an Air India 747 over the North Atlantic that killed 329 people; and the incredible saga of TWA flight 847. And let's not forget what might have been, such as the so-called “Project Bojinka,” the 1994 scheme masterminded by Ramzi Yousef (nephew of Kalid Sheikh Mohammad), in which impossible-to-detect liquid explosives were to be used to simultaneously destroy a dozen US airliners over the Pacific Ocean...

....If our luck is to hold, we need to better rationalize and streamline our entire approach to airport security. TSA's one-size-fits-all approach, in which every single person who flies is seen as a potential threat, is simply unsustainable in a country where close to two million people fly daily. Things like taking snow globes from children, haggling over tiny container sizes, or confiscating a dessert fork from a uniformed, on-duty airline pilot (it happened to me), serve no useful purpose whatsoever. On the contrary, they divert valuable time and resources away from the things that * could * make us safer. Let's scale back that concourse Kabuki and retrain guards in the finer points of a more sensible, risk-based assessment of passengers and their belongings..."

The FULL article can be read for free HERE:

It can also be read on the ATP home site HERE:

Note to readers:

ASK THE PILOT is no longer a regular feature on The article above is the first of what will be only sporadic posts. I will, however, be blogging regularly on the ATP home page. The site will be undergoing a major renovation in the next two weeks.

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Thanks and enjoy,

-- PS
Bill Winslow 1
...Could you post the actual link next time please? And besides that, the link in your comment doesn't work for me.


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