Fear of Terrorism is Making Us Crazy, Especially in the US
When I lived in China back in the early 1990s, there was a story going around about a China Airlines flight in which both the pilot and the co-pilot had left the cockpit and then, on their return, found the door locked. They reportedly got a fire ax, and with the whole planeload of freaked out passengers watching in horror, started wailing on the metal door. The co-pilot then turned, and seeing the panic developing, calmly drew the curtain across the aisle, hiding their work from view. The axe's bashing continued until they broke the latch and got back to the controls.
Lucky this was before the 9-11 attacks! Now, because some terrorists forced their way into crew cabins and took over a few planes, virtually all aircraft have reinforced cabin doors that cannot be broken into. Predictably, this panicky response has led to a new kind of risk: mass passenger deaths by pilot suicide. A young Lufthansa pilot, apparently with a death wish but wanting to have his demise make a murderous impact, waited until the pilot had left for the loo, then locked him out and sent the plane into the side of a French Alp.
So what do we do now? Put a toilet in the cabin of every plane so that neither pilot or co-pilot ever has to leave her or his colleague alone in the cabin during a flight?
Of course, we’ve already got a problem since another solution that the FAA came up with to terrorists on planes commandeering a flight was to allow pilots, most of whom are retired military pilots, to bring a gun on board. Of course that is only a good idea if the pilot is mentally stable and a good shot. What if the pilot is the whack job? The gun just makes the job of destroying the plane that much easier.
It is certainly a tragedy that 149 innocent people including a class of 16-year-olds and a couple of babies, went to their doom along with the deranged Lufthansa co-pilot, but the disaster shows how nuts our societies have become because of overblown fears of terrorism.
Just think about the insane delays, the fraught confrontations, the needless X-rays, the missed flights and the sheer nuttiness of the post-9-11 security screenings -- especially in the US. We have to remove our shoes because one guy tried to light up a “shoe bomb” that probably wouldn’t have done anything to the plane anyhow. I remember waiting in line once as a TSA inspector removed the booties from a three-month-old baby in a carrier at Chicago O’Hare because the rules said shoes had to come off and go through the X-ray machine. Never mind that a dedicated bomber could down a plane by bringing in six 3 oz bottles of nitro in a sealed plastic bag without any problem -- enough to blow out the side of the plane from his seat. (Thankfully, fears touted by the government two years back of alleged terrorist plans to stuff explosives up their colons for detonation in flight never materialized, or we’d all be getting proctological exams now before boarding!)
There are so many ways someone with determination could get through any kind of screening and onto a plane with either a weapon or a bomb it’s ridiculous.