Security

That ‘unauthorized’ Horizon Air flight: now what?

That “unauthorized” Horizon Air flight at Seattle Tacoma International Airport: now what?

Courtesy Alaska AIrlines

You’ve no doubt heard about the Horizon Air grounds crew employee who took a turboprop airplane – a Q400 – for an unauthorized flight out of Seattle Tacoma International Airport on Friday night. The man, identified later as Richard Russell, flew the plane around the region for about an hour before crashing into a small island.

With military jets trailing, and local media and eyewitnesses reporting what was in process, Russell did some acrobatic stunts with the plane and talked with an incredibly calm-sounding air traffic controller at SEA  airport:

Horizon Air is a subsidiary of Seattle-based Alaska Airlines and on Saturday officials from the airlines along with officials from agencies involved in the investigation held a press conference to discuss what they knew at that point -and what would happen next:

Human remains – presumably Russell’s – and the aircraft’s black box have been  located in the wreckage of the plane and now the discussions will focus on how this happened – and how to keep it from happening again.

On his site, security aviation expert Jeff Price writes that this incident – which he says will be filed as an ‘insider threat’ –  “Is not a failure of the airport security system. Airports are responsible for access to the ramp; airlines are responsible for access to the airplane.” He goes on to explore some of the solutions that will explored.

James Fallows has a good recap in The Atlantic – linking to many of the initial reporting that helped us figure out what was happening as the event unfolded.

On his “Ask the Pilot” blog, Patrick Smith, discusses the incident, saying that while an insider threat does exist, “This particular kind of threat, however — the idea of random employees getting hold of planes — shouldn’t be overplayed.” Some other “Now what?” thoughts can be found here. 

But the incident does raise serious question about airport and airline security and, as this story in the Seattle Times notes, “The answers to these questions could eventually alter security procedures not only at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport but at other airports around the country.”

What do you think might – and should – change at airports as a result of this incident?

Airport police host National Night Out events

Police departments – including airport police departments – join with their neighborhoods each August 7  to hold National Night Out events to encourage neighbors to get to know each other and to create safer places to live.

The street I used to live on held a picnic each year during Natoinal Night Out and one neighbor rented a bouncy house for the kids. Each year we shared phone numbers and emails. We introduced ourselves around and chose a street captain.

And when there was a serious issue on our block – or if someone just noticed that someone else had left their car lights on – we knew how to get in touch with our neighbors.

So if your street is hosting an event, I strongly encourage you to out there and say hi.

If you’re flying somewhere, stop and chat with airport police and others looking out for your safety.  National Night Out events planned for Washington Dulles International AirportWashington’s Reagan National Airport  and Los Angeles International Airport.

And don’t be shy about approaching those airport officers. As we’re learning from their entertaining entries in the viral police lip sync challenge, many airport police teams have a great sense of humor.

Know of another airport hosting a National Night Out event? Let me know and I’ll add it to the list.

 

Wild animals at airports

I’m having a great time learning about the wide variety of wild animals that airports around the country have encountered and the creative ways they have come up with to keep them away from airplanes.

My research and all the photos airports have been sending along will end up in my At the Airport column on USA Today  later this month but sharing a few snaps with you today.

Above – a Great Horned Owl that was caught in a trap meant for smaller birds at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and below, a nine-foot alligator wrangled by the USDA at a military base in Georgia.

TSA’s travel tips for getting souvenirs home from Comic-Con

TSA’s blog has some helpful information for anyone heading home through San Diego International Airport after attending Comic-Con International this week – and for those traveling with collectibles and souvenirs from this or any other special event.

TSA suggests that if you’re traveling with a collectible item that has an original seal on it that you don’t want broken, that you ship it home instead of taking the chance that the seal will broken during a TSA search.

Getting dressed up in a costume to attend an event? TSA reminds travelers that neither replica weapons nor real weapons should be placed in carry-on bags and that while both replica weapons and real weapons can be packed in checked bags, actual firearms must meet packing guidelines and be declared.

And, TSA s suggests that if you’re traveling with a lot of brochures, comic books or other books that you put them in your carry-on bag and then place them in a bin prior before sending them through the x-ray machines.

Those items can show up as dense blocks and “Packing these items in checked bags may cause alarms leading to bag searches that can cause a significant slowdown in the screening process leading to delays and bags possibly missing their flights,” says TSA.

TSA’s Week in Review is dynamite

Each week the Transporation Security Administration shares a tally of the firearms its officers find at airport checkpoints.

I find that list both fasciniating and frightening.

From June 4 through 10, for example, 78 firearms were found in carry-on bags at airport checkpoints around the country.

Of those 78 firearms, 61 were loaded and 25 had a round chambered.

Alarming? Yes. A record? Not at all.

The guns are scary, but so too are the other prohibited items that TSA tells us travelers try to take on board with them.

For example, last week’s ‘catch’ included the replica Improvised Explosive Device (IED) pictured above that was found in a traveler’s carry-on bag at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport.

It looks like it could be real and TSA reports that after finding this item, the checkpoint was closed down for almost 20 minutes before the Chicago Police Bomb Squad was able to respond and clear the item.

Most people found with firearms in their carryon bags tells the authorities that they just ‘forgot’ they had their guns in the bags they grabbed on the way to the airport. But that replica IED? What were they thinking???