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Sat, Dec 31, 2005

2005 -- Year-In-Review: Security

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 high points.


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 court.

Shoulder-mounted 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 that.

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 missiles (below).

We actually praised a TSA screening operation (in Manchester, NH) for courtesy and professionalism.

The TSA opened the DC-3 airports to transient operations.

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 flights.

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 New York.

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 personnel.

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 screwdrivers.


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 good.

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 Philadelphia.

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.

FMI: www.tsa.gov, www.dhs.gov, www.faa.gov2005 Year-in-Review Comments?


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