Having my two cents worth

Giving an opinion on world events and news…

Category Archives: Air Safety

Guess who might be considering profiling at airports despite cries from the usual suspects.

Here is yet another informative article in Der Spiegel regarding airport security. This one is quite surprising, yet it shows that at least some Germans do get it: that lining up innocent people, making them remove shoes for no good reason, and to place their laptops in a separate container is nothing more than a waste of time which clogs up the security checks as people head towards their flights.

Der Spiegel writes:

German airports are considering assigning passengers to risk categories based on their age and ethnicity, and checking them accordingly, under a proposal by the designated head of the country’s airports federation. Critics say the move would foment racism, breach anti-discrimination laws and fail to boost security.

The article goes on to state that the system under consideration is profiling as implemented by the Israelis. It also points out the Britain looks like adopting the same procedure….. interesting… did you hear that Janet and TSA?  Looks like you are out of step with the rest of the world.

Here is the money quote from Blume as to why he is considering this move:

"Every new incident leads to further checks and security measures. This creates a security spiral in terms of new technical equipment which at some point will reach its technical and operational limits."

Do people really think that there will be another shoe bomber? Will a Catholic, or a Lutheran, or a Presbyterian decide to use a bit of PETN in his or her shoes in order to cause an explosion? Personally, I would expect such behaviour from an Anarchist, but I would not expect a Christian, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Sikh, or a Jew to be involved in a plot to blow up an aircraft.

Being realistic, the threats have come from one source, but different countries. Even when they talk of British nationals, or French and German nationals, one has to look a bit deeper to see that these are naturalized citizens who have migrated from countries that are dominated by the religion of Peas.

How many men and women who like to knit, crochet, tat or do embroidery, are likely to use their knitting needles, embroidery or wool needles, embroidery scissors, or crochet hooks, or heaven forbid a tatting shuttle for such nefarious purposes as the hijack of an aircraft. If such a crime ever eventuates then I will eat my words, but until then, I think that those restrictions are not necessary.

The German proposal is that the passengers be profiled according to their background and their travel habits. The intending passengers will be directed down three security entrances. Obviously, some passengers will end up being checked more thoroughly, and I would expect that any naturalized German with the obvious profile would be checked more thoroughly. Most will be innocent of any wrong-doing but if there are any with suspicious contacts then yes, they should get the full treatment. In that way those members of the religion of Peas who are not involved in Jihad activity will be free to travel without suspicion being cast upon them, and the rest of the travellers will not have to put up with the inconvenience of unnecessary and reactive measures.

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Airport and ship Security–my own experience

Over the past two weeks I have been on a cruise from Sydney Australia to various New Zealand ports and then home again. This gave me an opportunity to experience first hand security within an airport here in Australia, as well as security on board a ship.

 

I am a person who likes to remain busy when I am travelling (and not being seasick), and I was determined to take some knitting with me on our cruise to New Zealand. The rules on bringing knitting needles on board of an aircraft have now being relaxed… oh boy that means that we little old ladies who like to knit will now be able to use those blunt end needles again… but the rules relating to embroidery scissors have not been relaxed.

 

My saga begins at Canberra airport because I made the mistake of packing my little kits with crochet hooks and embroidery scissors in the wrong bag. As I walked through the security my bag that I was carrying as hand luggage failed the test when it went through x-ray.  They also queried a crochet hook that was not quite ordinary and some other items. In my view none of the items should have been considered as dangerous. Anyhow my argument is not with the Canberra Airport security people, but is with the silliness of the rules. I believe that these rules should be relaxed.

 

First of all, I have to praise the security staff at Canberra Airport. They were very polite and I was not stressed over the little incident. In fact they were quite helpful, and I am glad that they are not like the TSA. Our Australian security staff are the best when it comes to fairly applying these silly rules.

 

When my bag failed I had to go through the bag and extract the offending items. I actually had a bag within a bag and in the end I was allowed to take that bag with the offending items and request  that the bag be placed with our checked luggage. I think that this was a very fair outcome… but they also told me that they do confiscate the nail and embroidery scissors. I suspect that they would prefer to not have to confiscate them and that they do think the rules are quite silly.  All was well, and I finally got through security.

 

What is really hysterical about such a saga is that we can go through security and not be allowed to have such items as cigarette lighters etc. yet just around the corner, and on the way to the gate is a shop that sells cigarette lighters. In other words a smoker might have his lighter confiscated at the security gate, but as soon as he is through the gate he can purchase a new one. I was not able to check to see if the shop also sold small scissors, yet I was amused over the irony of the situation.

 

After we arrived in Sydney and picked up our checked baggage we boarded a bus that took us to the terminal for our P&O cruise on the Pacific Jewel. Boarding commenced near midday and was uneventful, but we had to go through another security check. We got through that one with flying colours. I had checked all of my baggage and so I did not bring any bags on board with me. What I noticed is that a few passengers failed when they went through the metal detector.

 

The security for P&O is handled by their own security employees. These employees were not necessarily Australian, and many of them appeared to be Indian. They were thoroughly professional in their approach with passengers. Not once did I see a passenger who had failed the metal detector test being hand searched. Instead they always used the wand and it was usually a thorough yet quick check of the person. 

 

Whilst we were on the cruise we had to wear a passenger tag. The tag was scanned each time we left the ship at a port in New Zealand and it was tagged again when we embarked again. The bar code was accompanied by a picture of the passenger, thus it would have been difficult for a non-paying person to board the ship pretending to be another passenger.  Also, every time we embarked at each port at the end of our sightseeing day, our packages were sent through the x-ray machine.

 

My only comment on this process is the silliness of one individual security officer who got a bit high-handed because I took my embroidery scissors off the ship and had them in my bag that I took with me. Since we were not boarding an aircraft, and as far as I knew there is no such restriction relating to being on a ship, I found his attitude to be stupid. However, he is just one person out of a number of staff who had always been quite professional in their handling of the passengers. When this incident happened I just shrugged my shoulders, and since we were travelling in a bus most days (except for the two train trips) I was not too concerned over the situation because I was not going to need those scissors to cut yarn!!

 

Closing the stable door after the horse has bolted

There is no doubt in my mind that the issue of airport security is very contentious. There are many reasons for having proper security in place. However, there is also a need for a common sense approach to the whole matter.

I am not in the security business, and I have never been in the security business. My views are my own but they are also based upon experience. I have no problem with the implementation of security measures that are necessary. However, I do have a problem with keeping unnecessarily restrictive measures in place when these measures do nothing to enhance the traveling experience of the public.

Let me focus for a minute on why these measures were necessary in the first place. Islamic terrorism. Over the whole of my lifetime, the majority of the terrorist actions throughout the world have been performed by Islamic terrorists. Yes, I know about the IRA and I condemn them as well, but the traveling public did not have to fear the IRA plotting to blow up aircraft or to take hostages, or to push disabled passengers off the deck of a ship. Yes, there have been a few other exceptions over that period of more than 50 years. However, the overwhelming majority of these actions have been performed by Muslims – not Hindu, not Christians, not Jews, and definitely no Buddhists or even Atheists.

A turning point in how the world responds to these acts of terror took place when 19 Muslims hijacked several aircraft in USA air space, and then two of those aircraft were slammed into the World Trade Centre, plus another slammed into the Pentagon, and yet another was diverted and plunged into a field in Pennsylvania, thanks to the bravery of the men on board that flight. These 19 men had been living within the USA and were secretly preparing for their actions that day. Several of them took flying lessons from a school in Florida. On the day of September 11, 2001 they boarded their flights in readiness for their dastardly deed, which was the most horrific in living memory. These men were fanatic Muslims associated with Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden.

To my mind, the events of September 11 were inevitable, not because of the reasons cited by those who are into blaming America, but because it had been obvious after the first attempt on the World Trade Centre that Muslims had declared war on the United States of America. Even if one wants to buy into the reasoning of : “they were angry because of the missionaries”, I think that there are good reasons to come to the conclusion that the actions were inevitable. A point to consider here is the weakness or strength of the sitting POTUS as perceived by other world leaders. Bill Clinton had acted with weakness in dealing with two events: (1) the OKC bombing on the Murrah building. The fact that the FBI failed to investigate John Doe #3 is reason enough to consider the USA as having a weak belly for “going there”.  (2) the failed bombing of the WTC was an invitation to try again.

Looking at those events though, I think that the system had failed because of the inability to detect the activities of the extremists who murdered close to 3000 people that day. There seems to have been a lack of surveillance of these foreign nationals, and in particular a lack of surveillance of the activities of the mosque that was headed by the Yemeni-American Anwar al Awlaki. Is it so surprising that several of these terrorists actually attended Awlaki’s mosque in Virginia? Is it a shock to learn that Nidal Hassan the Fort Hood mass murderer attended the same mosque under Anwar al Awlaki?

The response to the attack on September 11, 2001 was both appropriate and inappropriate. It was appropriate to ensure that people passed through a security checkpoint before boarding a flight. It is quite appropriate to check for things like guns and knives. However, the banning of knitting needles, nail clippers and a number of other items was quite inappropriate. Women who knit on their flights are not going to attack the pilots and force them to fly into buildings. Neither are they going to attack other passengers. Most people would not drag out their nail clippers on a flight anyway. Confiscating nail clippers and knitting needles is in my view totally absurd, and it will not stop any terrorist.

After the events of September 11, we have in fact seen an incredible rise in the number of terrorist acts around the world. All of them have been perpetrated by Muslims. Why is that? Well the answer actually lies within the mosque. On the Friday prayer day the imams stir up the people, sometimes whipping them up into a frenzied anger… and then they go on the rampage. Trying to keep these actions in perspective is of course very difficult, but let’s turn for a moment to the various events around the world that have caused a stunning loss of life:

  • the railway bombings in Spain: death toll more than 100 people died. As a result of those bombings the Spanish government was defeated. The Spanish then pulled out of Afghanistan or was it Iraq. In other words Spain succumbed to the bully tactics of Islamic terrorists.
  • Bali bombings: more than 200 people – indigenous Balinese (Hindu) and mostly Australian visitors were killed in these bombings (there were two separate bombings).
  • London subway bombings, and one bombing on a bus. It was a co-ordinated attack. More than 100 died and were injured. Some folk were left with horrific injuries that day.

As you can see, there is a trend here: railways are very vulnerable to attack by the Muslims. 

At the same time there had been several plots that were thwarted or they outright failed including that of Richard Reid the shoe bomber, the Christmas Day underwear bomber, and the liquids plot. Now in the USA, security was beefed up after these failed plots were discovered. It is this response to the situation that I find to be ridiculous. My reason is that all of these plots were by people living in Europe or elsewhere at the time. Richard Reid boarded his flight in London. The Nigerian boarded his flight in Amsterdam. In fact there was a critical breakdown in security when it comes to how this man even got onto a flight to the USA.

The shoe bomber was caught and he is in prison, so why do innocent people have to take off their shoes to go through airport security in the USA? It is highly unlikely that there would be a repeat attempt because the shoe bomb was a failure anyway. In Australia we do not have to take off our shoes to go through security. To require people to take off their shoes is farcical. No lives have been saved by this measure. The horse had already bolted.

The liquid plot was one hatched by Pakistani Muslims living in the U.K. They were under surveillance and he plot was thwarted. We have gone through several years now of putting up with yet another silly restriction. No PETA has turned up in any liquid item taken on board a flight since then. None has been detected through security screening. The restriction should be lifted.

The latest outrage is that of the scanning machines. In Europe there are scanners that do the same job as the Rapiscan but without the invasiveness of showing the nude frame. The UK however has been using the same scanners, and I might add that airport security personnel have been irresponsible in their actions by printing out the nude image of an Indian actor. However, there is something that is more of an outrage than just the scanners. It is alleged that these scanners use a small dose of radiation that is not harmful, but this is debatable and many people do not believe that information. They are given a choice, either go through the scanner or have a very invasive pat-down.

The invasive pat-down procedure is truly outrageous. It involves a member of the TSA touching very intimate parts of a person’s body. If anyone refuses they are threatened with fines, and with being arrested. The TSA have deliberately ensured that people have missed their flights because they have refused to do as the TSA has requested. In truth most of these TSA procedures are simply not needed.

If the USA was carrying out proper surveillance procedures, concentrating on the group that is the most likely to hijack aircraft or blow up aircraft then most passengers could be left alone to go about their daily business. However, the current Regime has endorsed a politically correct attitude. This has meant that they have adopted the stance of “we don’t do profiling in the USA”.  Thus, ordinary citizens are singled out and humiliated in public by the TSA whilst the ones most likely – think the flying Imams – are allowed to sail through security without further checks. What is even more ridiculous is that the Administration wants to capitulate and waive the burqa wearing crowd having to go through a pat down – hello those burqas are capable of hiding a bomb belt!!!!!

The measures that have been implemented since September 11 are largely a waste of time and money. The TSA has not caught one potential terrorist. They have introduced regulations that causes massive inconvenience and hold-ups for travellers. They fail to assess the efficiency of such measures, with the intent of removing those that are no longer required. Instead they are being allowed to become more officious.

If there really was a known threat to the travelling public then the way to deal with it is to have a warning system, placing people on high alert and then beefing up security. Otherwise, people should be left alone and there should be an end to the random checks. It should be either check everyone or none at all, but the Muslims should not be granted immunity from such checks.

 

Proof that TSA is useless and ineffective

Time to sue the TSA every time they treat people this way

I was just guided to this particular video. There is something wrong about the way in which the woman traveller was treated.  It also shows that having the TSA at airports is a waste of time and of money.

The TSA has not stopped one single terrorist. On the other hand they have taken delight in harassing innocent people.

As I watched this video I found myself turning the air blue in my anger about how this woman was treated.

Nobody succeeded in getting bombs on board an aircraft using baby formula. Also, it is highly unlikely that a Caucasian woman who is pregnant and who has a one year old child is likely to want to blow up an aircraft on a domestic flight. If profiling was in place then there would be no need to even question her motives.

To have placed the woman in isolation, then leave her standing there when she is pregnant (and she could have fainted from being on her feet like that) was truly shocking. To disregard TSA’s own rules about breast milk being medical liquid was disgusting. Sending the police officer to harass her was even worse.  On top of that these creeps made her miss her flight.

It is time that the TSA were put back in the bottle. Their power and authority needs to be curbed – the sooner, the better.

What is the best way to respond to threats of terrorism? Reactive vs.. Proactive part 1

The threat of terrorism has been around for a very long time. In the 1960s we had a spate of hijackings and aircraft being blown up, and in the end this activity was the death-knell of Pan Am. In the 1970s this activity continued and it included the terrorist attack upon the Israeli Olympic team at Munich – oh how I cried that day when I read about what had been done in the name of terror. There have been many other incidents including the first attempted bombing of the World Trade Centre, the bombing of the Murrah building (why is it that the FBI stopped looking for that Middle Eastern person who was with McVeigh?) and eventually we had the most despicable of terrorist attacks when the Islamists successfully declared war by flying aircraft into the World Trade Centre killing thousands of people at the same time. Then there was the train bombings in Spain that killed hundreds, the Bali bombings that killed hundreds, the London bombings and so on it goes. All of these acts of terror have one thing in common – Islam.  (Yes, there is an Islamic link to the Oklahoma City bombing but the FBI simply did not go far enough with the investigation).

Most of the reactions to these acts of terror have been reactive. Now I do agree with going through the metal detectors. These do make me feel a lot safer when I fly. I do not however, think that stopping people from having nail clippers and knitting needles is a reasonable response.  People who knit are not going to hijack an aircraft and you cannot hide a ticking bomb in a knitting bag (it is usually stuffed with too much yarn and other bits and bobs!!). What is unreasonable in my view are the methods that are being recommended and put into use in the USA and elsewhere that involve the use of body scanners, and now with extraordinarily offensive and pat downs that are truly sexual molestation.

These new measures in the USA that are now being abused by the TSA are measures that are reactive. The introduction of what is now known as the porno scanners (they have been around for a few years) and the pat down measures are a reaction to the Christmas Day underwear bomber who failed, just like Richard Reid the failed shoe bomber, to ignite his bomb. In both of these cases the TSA and authorities elsewhere implemented new procedures. As a result of the attempt with the shoe bomb everyone has to remove their shoes to go through scanning. This is ridiculous because there has not been further attempts, no copycat shoe bombers, nothing, nada. It is a waste of time and it is inconvenient as well as being difficult for some people with balance problems. Yet, in the USA we have to take off our shoes to go through security. Time to put an end to the nonsense and reassess if this is indeed necessary.

It is the same with the underwear bomber and his failed attempt to light a bomb that was placed in his underwear. The only thing that got burned was his crotch. Now if we look at the facts that emerged in that case we find that he boarded the flight in Amsterdam. Not only that, but a person or persons unknown helped him to get onto the flight ergo the threat exists in Holland, in Amsterdam, not in small airports in the USA. There has not been any American, Australian or any other foreign tourist who has tried to duplicate the underwear bomb.

Whilst some new threats have emerged – an Islamist from Yemen blew himself up when detonating a bomb planted in his anus and it has been rumoured that some Islamic women are being fitted with bombs in breast implants – it is unreasonable to put ordinary travellers with the USA through the intrusive pat downs that are now being mandated.

Banning liquids because an Islamist terrorist cell in the UK was planning to bomb aircraft via the use of a baby bottle is reactive. Again, the normal American travelling public are not into duplicating the murderous deeds of the Islamists who hatch these plots. Forcing people to take off their shoes before going through security is also reactive. Why not let people walk through the metal detector and if the alarm is set off, then they can take off their shoes. All of these searches are reactive, not proactive. They are useless when they come after the fact. It is not likely that someone trying to board a flight in Florida to return home to New Hampshire is going to blow up the aircraft and this applies to the thousands who fly every day. 

New York hails pilot who landed jetliner in Hudson River

The Hudson River New York has been the scene of a dramatic landing for a stricken aircraft. The pilot, Chesley B. Sullenberg III, an ex-USAF fighter pilot and a professional pilot for 40 years, made what has been described as a text-book landing, thus saving the life of all 155 on board the A320 Airbus.

The plane had just taken off from La Guardia airport, when it crossed the path of a flock of geese. There was a thud and both engines lost power. The geese also hit the windshield of the aircraft. The captain of the plane took the controls from the co-pilot so that the co-pilot could concentrate on trying to restart the engines. Sullenberg notified the control tower that there had been an incident and that both engines had lost power. They briefly discussed action to be taken for a landing. Sullenberg ruled out returning to La Guardia and then ruled out Teterborough airfield in New Jersey. There was a high risk of a greater tragedy by attempting either landing. The only avenue left was to attempt the landing on the water.

Sullenberg knew that he had to get this landing right, and he narrowly missed a bridge as he approached a point an area of the river that would mean the best chance of a rescue. He managed to do everything necessary to execute the perfect landing on water such that the airplane did not break up on landing. The passengers were ordered to brace for a hard landing, and they did. The cabin-crew gave quick instructions before sitting and bracing for the landing on the water. Unfortunately one member of the crew has been injured. As soon as the plane landed the cabin crew and passengers went into action. Women and children were the first to exit, followed by the other passengers, and finally the captain of the aircraft. He paced the length of the aircraft twice before leaving, making sure that no one was left on board the sinking plane.

The crash is now the subject of an investigation. The investigation will include what went wrong – why did the engines lose power? In other words verifying that there was a double bird-strike. It will also investigate what went right during the flight and subsequent landing and rescue of the passengers.

There are lessons to be learned from every aircraft accident. This one is different because a tragedy was prevented. No doubt pilots will now practise in their flight simulators the steps taken by Sullenberg to safely land his bird on the water. In the past few days comparisons have been made between this landing and that of the plane that crashed off Ethiopia. The footage of the Ethiopian crash shows that the plane had banked before it hit the water – in other words it was not absolutely straight. However, in that incident the cabin crew were most likely fighting with the hijackers who were on board, and therefore the pilot did not have the ability to be able to straighten the plane prior to the crash into the sea. It is in fact not a very good comparison because of the extraordinary circumstances.

It is a miracle that no one died as a result of this incident and calling it a miracle does not in any way discount the actions of the aircrew as well as that of the passengers, and the rescue workers. What we saw was a well coordinated effort that saved 155 lives. The man who made that happen is Chesley B. Sullenberg.