Fly the Unfriendly Skies

Does Jernnard look like a pilot to you? (courtesy of WSMV)

Earlier this month, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that it would now allow passengers to board aircraft with small knives or pocketknives in their carry-on luggage. Larger knives and things like box cutters will still be prohibited.

In light of the September 11th attacks and Homeland Security issues, this announcement struck me as odd and rather contradictory. I remember taking a flight right after the attacks and having my cigarette lighter confiscated, the logic being that I could set some kind of fire, disable the aircraft and perhaps even bring it down as a result.

It seemed far-fetched to me at the time, but I was willing to accept it. After all, sacrifices had to be made in order to ensure greater passenger security. And I was willing to do my part.

This new TSA announcement gives me pause, though. Apparently, they feel small knives couldn’t hurt since things like locked cockpits will prevent someone with a pocketknife from doing any real damage. And since the passengers aboard United Airlines Flight 93 tried to overcome their attackers on 9-11, the TSA is confident that other passengers would step in if someone with a knife tried to start trouble on a domestic flight.

Can you say “wishful thinking”?

All of this is well-and-good until you consider what happened recently aboard a US Airways flight at Philadelphia International Airport.

Last Wednesday, 61-year-old Frenchman Philippe Jernnard put on an Air France shirt and a jacket that looks similar to the ones worn by pilots; boarded the aforementioned US Air flight; walked right into the cockpit; and sat there until several airline employees discovered him and started asking questions. They quickly determined that he was not a pilot and contacted security, who immediately apprehended Jernnard.

Police have not yet determined what Jernnard’s motive might be, but Air France was quick to point out that he was not one of their employees. As such, he is being charged with trespassing, lying to police and impersonating a public servant.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and TSA referred all related calls to the FBI, but have yet to make any official statement.

Given this situation, it seems as if the logic behind the TSA’s “small knives on planes” announcement was quite flawed. Yes, some people stepped in to get Jernnard off the plane, but they were employees, not passengers. And what would have happened if Jernnard sabotaged something in the cockpit before being arrested? I shudder to think of the disaster he could have caused had flight attendants not acted so quickly.

Baggage? Check. Toiletries? Check. Small, sharp knives? Check (courtesy of CNN)

And think about this: Jernnard isn’t even an American citizen. Imagine if someone more familiar with our airport system pulled a similar stunt. They might stand an even better chance of wreaking havoc. And if they also have a small knife on them, who knows what kind of injuries they could cause to suspicious airline employees.

I guess what it all boils down to is this: ALL weapons regardless of size should be prohibited from aircraft. It seems very clear to me that our focus needs to shift back to overall airport security.

Otherwise who knows who will be sitting in the cockpit when you take your next flight. Better yet, is this a risk you’re willing to take?

I’m certainly not.

Posted on March 23, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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