Patrick Smith is a commercial airline pilot and writes a section for the New York Times Blog called Jet Lagged: Navigating the Unfriendly Skies.
Here’s an excerpt from his latest article, The Airport Security Follies.
Conventional wisdom says the [9/11] terrorists exploited a weakness in airport security by smuggling aboard box-cutters. What they actually exploited was a weakness in our mindset – a set of presumptions based on the decades-long track record of hijackings.
In years past, a takeover meant hostage negotiations and standoffs; crews were trained in the concept of “passive resistance.” All of that changed forever the instant American Airlines Flight 11 collided with the north tower. What weapons the 19 men possessed mattered little; the success of their plan relied fundamentally on the element of surprise. And in this respect, their scheme was all but guaranteed not to fail.
For several reasons – particularly the awareness of passengers and crew – just the opposite is true today. Any hijacker would face a planeload of angry and frightened people ready to fight back. Say what you want of terrorists, they cannot afford to waste time and resources on schemes with a high probability of failure. And thus the September 11th template is all but useless to potential hijackers.
The entire article is a great read. The TSA is easily one of the greatest failures of America in the 21st Century, perhaps even greater than the war in Iraq. I suppose it’s fitting then that the TSA is now tied with the IRS for least popular government agency in America.