Do you have any idea how many airport operations happen daily in the US without incident, injury of fatality? (These are the operations that don't make news. ) As noted by Dave Higdon, the numbers won't surprise anyone informed about aviation safety and secutity...
In answer to the above question, estimates covering Business, Commercial and General Aviation run into the tens of thousands, daily. That's an overwhelming endorsement of the efficacy of the numerous airport safety programs put in place since 9/11.
But, not surprisingly, a pair of recent crashes deliberately caused by the aircraft's operators inspired calls for new measures to ‘secure’ aircraft against unauthorized use.
Given the track record of our existing programs, this predictable knee-jerk reaction falls far short of warranted.
The theft of a Bombardier Q400 turboprop airliner from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, a facility already enforcing full screening for all employees working in the sterile area, should serve as an indication of the futility of trying to protect us from all conceivable threats all of the time.
Nonetheless, the calls started shortly after a second suicide-by-aircraft event involving the legally qualified pilot of a Cessna CitationJet – an aircraft for which the suicidal aviator had legal access as the jet's pilot for the company owning it.
That pilot apparently attempted to kill his wife and daughter, too. Thankfully they escaped alive and largely physically unscathed. The Sea-Tac event, meanwhile, involved a distraught airline employee whose intent was apparently his own demise.
Neither incident involved someone who had penetrated the security barriers. Nonetheless, a letter to Senate Commerce Committee leader, Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington), the ranking Democrat on the Senate aviation subcommittee, said the theft of the aircraft from Sea-Tac “...exposed an issue with our nation’s airport security protocols”.
What issue? That an employee who was cleared to access the secure area entered the cockpit of a parked airliner, successfully started the engines and took off without authorization?
Overtones of the Minority Report
There would certainly be a weakness in security protocols if you're expecting 24-7 guards on every parked aircraft, or some form of preemptive, predictive law-enforcement capability comparable to the 2002 movie ‘Minority Report’, in which a specialized police department known as PreCrime apprehends criminals based on the foreknowledge provided by three psychics called “precogs”.
Modern science offers some wondrous tools to today's society – provided today's society uses them properly. But to my knowledge we lack a tool to preemptively notify others when we're in a mood to inflict harm to others and/or ourselves.
And if such a tool existed, how would American society deem to balance it against that sacred document that underpins the US’ government, the Constitution?
The most we should do under these circumstances is examine our current state of security theater, make sure we're applying the useful safeguards appropriately, and go on with our lives.
Sadly, these two suicide-by-aircraft incidents weren't the first and they won't be the last.
Let's not make having a bad day a punishable offense lest our workplaces and offices be mostly empty, most Mondays...
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