The highlights of the year included several ADIZ-incursion
stories, some bozos shining lasers at aircraft for fun, the DHS
shining lasers at aircraft to warn them out of the ADIZ, and more
TSA shenanigans than you could shake a stick at. These are only the
After the 2004-05 holiday season featured a number of laser
illumination events, the first issue of the year was to combat
them. Secretary Mineta went into a simulator to experience a laser
attack himself, as the law closed in on the perpetrator of one
laser "attack" in New Jersey -- who found himself in Federal
missile launchers are a serious threat to U.S. commercial
airliners, according to a recent RAND Corporation study. The
Department of Homeland Security should pursue defense systems that
are available on the market, the Coalition of Airline Pilots
Associations said today. (They kept beating on this all year). The
RAND study also said that countermeasures are
cost-prohibitive; the pilots' unions said less about
At the very end of the month, in one of the weird crime stories
of 2005, a kidnapper and her two victims were
removed from an American Airlines flight by police in San
Juan, Puerto Rico. The female kidnapper was intent on
taking her victims to Miami for reasons unknown.
Finally, one of the more abominable TFRs in the
history of the whole corrupt concept was set up at
month's end to protect junketeering Congressmen from the annoyance
of airplane noise, which is as complete an explanation of the
security bureaucracy as you are going to find.
A new budget projected
a rise in security fees -- as
much as 220% -- on airline tickets. Aviation groups predictably
opposed the proposal.
An Arizona pilot dropped bags of flour on some
paintball-playing buddies as a joke -- causing the
park rangers, who weren't in on the joke, to panic, thinking it was
some kind of terrorist attack.
The TSA demanded that all flight instructors and flight school
employees complete security awareness training.
In one of the year's first ADIZ overreactions, FAA (its strings
being pulled by nameless secret police) closed the Washington ADIZ to VFR traffic
for the State of the Union Address on February 2nd.
Airliners were still OK; after all, terrorists have hardly ever had
any interest in airliners.
A Buyback program in
Afghanistan collected numbers of former US Stinger
We actually praised a TSA screening
operation (in Manchester, NH) for courtesy and
The TSA opened the DC-3 airports to
And in San Diego, blew up a lady's bag for
mouthing off to the screeners.
TSA Adds lighters to
list of prohibited items. The addition was mandated by Congress --
apparently afraid that MacGyver had gone over to Zarqawi.
Briton Christopher Zeyad Hajaig is charged with weapons charges,
amid a publicity campaign claiming he's a terrorist. A shocked
Hajaig surfaces in Britain, where he defends himself. The weapons
charges stem from his decision, after a hostile interrogation by
the FBI, to toss guns that he owned in a river. While Hajaig had
been seeking flight training, we correspond with him and he's
pretty convincing as a young guy who just wants to fly for a living
-- something that's too expensive to train for in England. At
year's end, Hajaig is still indicted in the US, and the British
police have checked him out and have no interest in picking him up
for the US authorities.
Aero-News prints a major Aero-Views on the badly-off track
Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.
Two men flying from Pennsylvania to North Carolina inadvertently
bust the ADIZ (above) on May 11. (One is a licensed pilot, one a
student. The licensed pilot believes the ADIZ only includes the
Class B area, and it's OK to fly under the Class B airspace -- it
isn't). Intercepted by a Customs Black Hawk, they are herded deeper
into the ADIZ (the Customs helicopter launched without working VHF
radios) and ultimately fly within three miles of the White House
before being turned away. They land at Frederick, Maryland and are
handcuffed by Federal Agents. Ultimately, the licensed pilot's
license is revoked (the student escapes). There are no consequences
for the ill-prepared Customs crew.
The Administration had been close to re-opening DCA to general
aviation, under the same kind of tight security used at the DC-3.
After the May 11th incident, they scrap those plans and propose
making the ADIZ and FRZ permanent.
The grounded pilot calls AOPA President Phil Boyer to apologize,
but it's too late.
The FAA proposes making the Washington ADIZ, a forty-mile,
18,000 foot block of airspace created on a heightened security
alert in 2003, permanent.
Three young men who worked for Signature Flight Support at
Baltimore-Washington International Airport are charged with stealing valuables from
checked baggage on international military charter
Phillippe Patricio is arrested and
charged with stealing a Cessna 172 in Connecticut for
a drunken joyride (with two pax!) that ended on a closed taxiway in
Federal Air Marshals file a lawsuit, saying that DHS rules are
written to prevent them from disclosing wrongdoing by superiors.
The rules also forbid "criticizing or ridiculing" other
TSA begins test deployment of a backscatter-radar system that
allows TSA screeners to see through passengers' clothes. ACLU
condemns it as a "virtual strip-search." The machines are made by
American Science and Engineering and Rapiscan Systems.
Al-Qaeda mounts a series of bus and train bombings in London,
causing security to be increased worldwide.
Transportation Safety Administration makes new recommendations
to loosen airline passenger screening procedures. The goal is to
deal with a lower number of screeners by having the screeners focus
primarily on the greatest risks, such as bombs, and less on trivial
risks, such as eyeglass repair kits containing tiny
Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta (below) announces at
AOPA Expo that the FAA and DOT, together with security officials,
will hold public meetings on the ADIZ.
The TSA slams Potomac Airfield, one of the DC-3 which has been
operating under a special security regime, closed. A snitch based
at one of the other DC-3 airports has evidently been playing junior
G-man and reporting "wrongdoing." The matter is cleared up, but it
takes a month, during which TSA threatens to close the field for
The TSA changes screening rules, allowing small knives and
scissors again for the first time since shortly after 9/11. (Called
before congress to explain in December, TSA head Kip Hawley will
say that the primary terrorist threat is the bomb, and looking for
scissors wastes screeners' time).
The FAA announced that it will listen to pilot complaints about
the ADIZ, in two hotel meetings in Maryland and Virginia in
January. Pilots must present a written request in advance to attend
the meetings (deadline Jan. 5).
Potomac Airfield (above) reopened on December 16th,
after clearing up its "security" problem, which turned out to be
some pilots not signing in and out in a book as they were supposed
to be doing. One of the other DC-3 fields, Hyde, was shut down for
five months in 2002 under a similar "security" complaint.
Air Marshals shoot Rigoberto Alpizar, a mentally ill man who had
gone off his medication and appeared threatening. The names of the
shooters, the DHS says, must not be released or it would undermine
their utility as secret police.
At mid-month, an attempt to deploy air marshals on land
(including bus and rail) and sea transport sites in certain areas
as a test fails when TSA, DHS or FMS failed to notify local
authorities and ran into considerable hostility in
The program envisioned "Visible Intermodal Protection and
Response" teams -- given the poisonous nickname "Viper" teams -- of
a small army of TSA personnel, including two air marshals, with a
token local law enforcement officer.
"In one word, this is
absurd," Doug Laird, former head of security for Northwest
Airlines, told United Press International. "They don't have enough
air marshals to carry out the mission they are supposed to do."
The test program was aborted after two days.
And as the year closed, the Christian Science Monitor ran an
in-depth report on sagging morale -- and sagging numbers -- in the
FAMS. To which the TSA's answer appears to be: "we have different
numbers, but we can't tell you because it's secret," and "we'll
just arm more screeners." The Monitor attributed FAMS
disillusionment to arbitrary rules, top-heavy management, and poor
training (in 2002, training was cut from 15 to 5 weeks and the
advanced marksmanship test was eliminated as the new marshals
weren't passing it).
The Air Marshals Service is almost 2,000 agents short, with
hundreds more trying to transfer to other Federal law enforcement
jobs, according to the Washington Times.