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Fri, Jan 02, 2009

ANN's 'Heroes 'n Heartbreakers' '08--Heartbreaker #3: TSA's Rank Amateurism

...And Here, Darn it, Are The Heartbreakers

Final Compilations by ANN Editor-In-Chief/Blame-Taker, Jim Campbell

It is both the most "fun," and most difficult task, facing the ANN staff at the end of every year -- determining who, or what, did the most to promote the cause of aviation in the past 365 days... while also chastising those people or entities that did all they could to undermine the many successes the aerospace community has managed to accomplish.

Alas, 2008 saw more than its fair share of downers, aviation-wise. Sure, "stuff" happens... but a few folks, issues, or entities seemed to go out of their way to create problems for the world of aviation.

So... it is ANN's annual obligation to recognize Ten of our Aero-Heartbreakers for 2008... in something of an informal order, starting from the 1st to the 10th.

Let us know what you think of our selections... whom YOU would have liked be included, or omitted, from such a list. In the meantime, we hope those who had something to do with this year's selections think a little more positively about the welfare of this industry, so that future lists become harder and harder to catalog.

Be it ignorance, arrogance or just plain incompetence, these were the folks or topics that made our lot a whole lot more difficult and immeasurably injured the aviation world in the past year.

Shame on those issues, folks, or groups that made our lot so much tougher in 2008...

The Rankest of Amateurs: TSA

Dear God…. The TSA -- Where do we start?

In the "good ol' days' we enjoyed using/abusing the almighty FAA as the whipping boy for all things that were wrong or negative in the world of aviation… but today's troubling dilemma is that something worse ultimately came to be. Yes, Virginia, there is something worse than the FAA and it took Osama Bin Laden to bring it into being…

The stories are rampant… TSA bumbling, TSA thefts, TSA rudeness, TSA frauds, TSA over-stepping authority, TSA decisions without oversight, TSA's own security mis-steps, TSA decisions without explanation, TSA discrimination against GA, TSA idiocy, TSA mis-management, TSA staffers with "questionable" skill sets, TSA complaints from all quarters, TSA over-reaction… and DO NOT get me started on the so-called "No-Fly" List which appears to be this millennium's version of a McCarthy-style witch-hunt.

TSA has been attacking the American public with ridiculous band-aids that (they think) look good, when instead, they do little to foster true security… and instead of working with the public to make this nation safer, they sit in their isolated cubicles in yet another Washington Puzzle Palace, and dictate to us how they DEMAND we respond to their will. The only thing missing, (metaphorically), is the attendant goose-steeping that comes from such unquestioned, unsupervised authority.

In the case of general aviation, TSA is targeting GA when the evidence PROVES that this industry is, at best, a minor threat -- and at a time when the industry has proven, through such sterling efforts as AOPA's Airport Watch (and others), that we are more than capable of being a part of the solution instead of being victimized as part of the problem. It is actions like this that suggest to us that TSA is not so much about making this nation secure as making the public THINK they're making us more secure.

Mind you, this happens at a time when our seaports are not getting the surveillance they need (if you think that a hijacked 767 can do some damage, just imagine what the average container ship or super-tanker might do), the nation's highways are filled with semi's with extraordinary load-carrying capability and the access to virtually any building or "target" anywhere on the planet - and the ability to get close enough to any of them to do some serious damage. And if you want to target a proven weapon, just look up "Ryder Truck" in the yellow pages.

I could go on… but it's all pointless… at least, until we have good solid evidence to understand our true vulnerabilities and the 'human intelligence' (a term which has no meaning at TSA) to develop a proper estimation of what we need to protect ourselves... really. There are security threats everywhere, but let's use some logic in developing a security plan that does not revolve around the TSA's hysterical fear of attack from a wayward Cessna 150 (I have a Continental O-200 up front and I'm not afraid to throttle up… FEAR ME!).

The Washington ADIZ?

Please… what a waste of time, money and our government resources. If someone wants to penetrate the ADIZ with a truly airborne threat, the ADIZ will NOT stop them. That's a fact.

One of the things that truly bothers me is the absolute amateurism/lack of professionalism we see in so many elements of the TSA… from the faux kiddy-cops that somehow feel entitled now to wear a badge (an insult to TRUE LEOs the world over), to the rude, often uneducated, intolerant attitudes held by many of the TSA personnel who work the airport checkpoints (including the idiot who tried to recite the "American Air Laws" to me the other day and looked at me like I was from Mars when I told him that there was no such thing… unless he was mistakenly referring to the FARs), to the MORON who damaged those American Eagle TAT probes, to the fellow who got caught selling stolen traveler's merchandise on eBay… and SO MANY others, I can't simply find any confidence that this is a cohesively effective organization. I realize that you can not judge any organization by the actions of a few… but the problem is this… these are not isolated actions… every day we see a goof, an abuse, a danger, or an embarrassment with the name TSA closely associated. This organization simply needs to be disbanded and TRUE security professionals put in charge of a simple, qualified program that is designed to be secure in truth and not just put on a flashy show with shiny badges. Folks, if you want a show, go to Broadway... but this act has run its course.

Finally; there's one thing that really bothers me in all this… this is a vindictive organization. TSA went after American Eagle after they let the press know of the actions of the errant Inspector that damaged their planes -- and the stories of people who have tried to correct or even challenge TSA, only to be victimized for it, are legion. This is something we know for a fact. I, and a number of other ANN staffers have been on and off various lists for years, as a result of of our editorial coverage of TSA… and I, personally, have had to deal with increased problems ever since we broke the story (along with ABC, I believe) of the aforementioned TSA Inspector who endangered those aircraft.

Recently; after dealing with yet another inane bit of additional screening (and the atrocious manner in which they handled some VERY expensive media gear… even dropping stuff) and being lied to by the TSA persons in charge at the time (who tried to tell me that he had nothing to do with increased screening, that only the airlines could do that), over the course of a solid 20 minutes at a dinky little commuter airline checkpoint, I had had enough. I looked this so-called Supervisor in the eye and told him that I was in the process of buying a high-performance General Aviation airplane, to the tune of nearly a half-million dollars, in part to avoid the harassment, delays, damage and lack of professionalism that I encountered in all my dealings with TSA -- and then told him in no uncertain terms… "A half million is a lot of money… but after dealing with the amateurism and lack of professionalism I've seen from TSA over the years, I'm beginning to wonder if I paid enough."

TSA… is not this country's answer to an increased need for security… it is a dangerous impediment to our need for greater security. Period.

FMI:, ANN's Infamous TSA Archives!


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