Saturday, May 17, 2008

Security Wasn't The Problem

Compass AirlinesIn the post about asshat Eder Rojas, the child flight attendant (he's 19) who lit a fire in the bathroom of a plane that was IN FLIGHT because he was mad about having to work the North Dakota shift, I alluded to there possibly being an issue with security not confiscating the lighter that he used to start the fire when he went through security. I should have known better than to think something like that. There was no problem with those working security over there in Minneapolis. No problem at all.

See, here's the thing, the TSA, the Transportation Security Administration, has this HUGE list of things that are not allowed to be carried onto the airplanes by The TSApassengers. The list is massive. Or, should I say, the list WAS massive. The list is now a list of things that were once banned from being carried onto a plane but are now allowed. It feels a little bit like when you got really busted for something when you were a kid and your parents grounded you until you graduated from high school. Then they realized that you seemed kind of remorseful and maybe they were a little hard on you, so they let you come out of your room right around your junior year (but you were still banned from going to the prom). The TSA has gone that route with their list.

Oh, don't get me wrong, there are still many, many things that you cannot carry-on with you when boarding an airplane. But there are not as many as there were when there were recent and blatant reminders that a) there are people out there who want to kill us, and b) the plane is the preferred method for a spectacular disaster by those who want to kill us. Oh, and by "recent and blatant reminders" I'm referring to when plans to create mayhem at 30,000 feet are discovered and the public hears about it in the form of a news report that all but includes the words, "Everybody panic."

But it seems like 5 minutes after we're told about all of the things that we cannot carry onto the plane with us, people start to whine and complain and then it's as if the TSA suddenly says, "What was that? You don't like the inconveniences that we have implemented that, in the long run, will help prevent you from getting killed in a spectacularly horrific fashion? Oh, OK then. Never mind. Carry on." I don't get it. (Oh, and in case you haven't quite caught on to what I'm alluding to, it's perfectly OK to carry a lighter aboard a plane with you. Hence the term "carry on"!)

With a flick of your Bic, you can set the airplane restroom on fireSo, for some reason, the TSA has decided that a regular lighter is fine. Actually, one regular lighter is fine and TWO are even better, and they now allow you to take TWO on the plane with you. Perhaps someone should inform those over yonder at the TSA that fire, while able to exist in different forms, is still FIRE. AND when FIRE is still FIRE it still BURNS things. It doesn't matter WHERE the fire comes from, whether it be one allowed lighter or one disallowed lighter, it still burns things. When things that are not supposed to be set on fire or burned are, in fact, set on fire and/or burned, the end result is not usually one that was desired before the burning began. Like that plane. In fact, a burning plane that is in flight is probably one of the things that is the least wanted to be on fire. And that is probably more true if you are one of those who is actually ON the burning plane. Then it is definitely the last thing you want thing to be on fire.

So what else is now allowed to be carried on a plane with you in the cabin? Lotsa stuff. Stuff that I really don't see what the problem would be in checking these items. You can carry on:
  • Corkscrews and cigar cutters (in case you're flying a cargo load of wine to Cuba.)

  • Metal scissors less than 4" long w/pointed tips or plastic or metal blunt tipped scissors (in case you're attending a first grade art class aboard the plane.)

  • Umbrellas (Mary Poppins never leaves home without it and now you won't have to either!)

  • Tools less than 7" and screwdrivers less than 7" (presumably screwdrivers that are NOT tools) and wrenches & pliers less than 7" (again, wrenches and pliers that are NOT tools.)
I was expecting the DOT logo to be a dotAnd then we get to the part about the lighters. Pay attention, it gets tricky. According to the TSA website, you CANNOT "check a lighter with fuel unless they adhere to the Department of Transportation (DOT) exemption, which allows up to two fueled lighters if properly enclosed in a DOT approved case." But if the lighter HAS fuel, you can carry it on the plane with you, no case required. Wait. What?

DOT approved lighter caseOK, I'm thinking that on some level, this kind of makes some sense, but only the part about putting the lighters in a case and checking them. THAT seems logical (I think. It certainly can't hurt.) I did have to check around and see what one of these DOT approved cases looked like. (They seem to resemble either an oxygen tank for scuba diving or something that a Secret Service guy would be carrying around.) The part about being allowed to carry on not one, but two fueled lighters? That doesn't seem quite as logical as the other. I'm so confused. So very, very confused.

Eleven MILLION confiscated lighters can't be wrongIt wasn't always like this. No, it used to be that lighters were banned from all flights, whether they were carried on or checked. No lighters allowed, that was the policy. And they confiscated over 11 million lighters while this seemingly necessary rule was in effect. (Eleven million, that is correct.) But then in August, 2007, the rules changed and lighters were once again welcomed aboard US aircraft! So, to recap: Before August, 2007, lighters = BAD. After August, 2007, lighters = FINE and DANDY!

So, it turns out that the good people over there doing security (for whatever airport they have in Minnesota) did their jobs just like they were supposed to. Even though some asshat took a lighter on the plane with him, they couldn't do anything about it. They didn't have to do anything about it. They don't make the rules, they just follow them (and for that, we really appreciate the job they do. Can you imagine standing there all day having to deal with people like you and me? Ugh. Makes me nauseous just thinking about it.) Yet the child aviation arsonist was basically enabled and allowed to take the key ingredient in making fire (ie, the fire itself) onto a long metal tube that hurtles through the air at a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet whilst filled with passengers. And all but one of those passengers (ie, Rojas) do not want the plane aflame. And in cases like this, one is just one too many.

So if I came across as implying that someone in security over there didn't follow a procedure, I apologize. And if I came across as implying that I think it's an asinine decision to allow people to carry fueled lighters onto aircraft, well, good, that's what I meant to say. Perhaps this little incident of Lavatory Flambe will encourage those who make these rules to take a moment to reconsider. Oh, if only they could rethink that decision while aboard a plane whose bathroom is on fire. That might speed things up a bit.)

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