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Sun, Apr 27, 2008

Pilot's Stolen Laptop Leads To Security Questions

Contained Ramp Codes For 17 Airports

A missing laptop, belonging to a Mesa Airlines pilot, caused a ripple effect to spread throughout numerous airports across the United States this month.

"On April 17, Mesa Airlines notified TSA that an employee reported a laptop, containing confidential information, had been misplaced, lost or stolen," a spokesperson with the Transportation Security Administration told WJLA-7.

The computer -- which may have been stolen from an overhead bin onboard a United Express flight from Birmingham, AL to Washington's Dulles International -- contained ramp access codes for as many as 17 airports... including Dulles, Atlanta, Phoenix, O'Hare, Akron-Dayton, and San Antonio.

With those codes, unauthorized personnel could gain access to an aircraft at the gate, or onto the ramp. Those codes have since been changed at the affected facilities.

When told of the incident, passengers were understandably upset. "That's just a major security breach for everyone that flies within the United States," one disgruntled flyer told the TV station.

A Mesa Airlines spokesperson -- perhaps accustomed to defending lapses in judgment on the part of a few of the carrier's pilots, including alleged cockpit naps, and stealing passengers' iPods -- noted "any breach of aviation security is of primary concern to Mesa Airlines and we are fully cooperating with the TSA."

Airline officials aren't sure if the pilot was specifically targeted for the theft, or if it was a crime of opportunity. Regardless, you'll be happy to know the TSA says it "may look at increasing the standards for anyone who stores this type of information on their computers."

Hey, we feel better now!

FMI: www.tsa.gov, www.mesa-air.com

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