A mechanic from an “unknown” airline stole an Alaska Airlines jet from Seattle Tacoma International Airport about noon yesterday, Friday August 10th. Details are sketchy at this point, but one detail isn’t. The plane crashed on an island in the South Puget Sound area shortly after takeoff, while being followed by fighter jets. Vox has many of the details right here.
With so little really known, I find it amazing what the government does know. They “know” it was not an act of terrorism, but rather an act of suicide. I suppose it is possible that the man radioed into the tower that he was on a suicide mission, but so were the men who piloted the planes on 9-11. Perhaps the government knows because he didn’t immediately fly toward a populated area, which – if you’ve ever flown into Sea-Tac more than a half dozen times, and I’ve done it perhaps 10 dozen times, it sure wouldn’t be hard to take off and be aimed at downtown Seattle or Tacoma within five minutes. That is disconcerting, so if he took off and went toward the water – which one could be over in 30 seconds, I suppose that indicates a lack of terrorist-type behavior.
I wonder how much of the announcement had to do with the man’s name – which has not been released, only that he had been a mechanic at one of the airlines. But, I don’t suppose you have much trouble believing that if his name was Joe Smith who flew out over the water, the government would be less likely to get much deeper than “suicide” than if the man’s name was Abdullah Hussein flying over houses toward a populated area.
The FAA or the tower or whoever tracks this stuff said that the man did some “stunt flying” or simply couldn’t control the plane, and may I point out that neither is mutually exclusive. Though, if you can get a plane off the ground semi-normally, that would seem to indicate an ability to keep it in the air.
There is no question that two military fighter jets were on his tail – fast, which isn’t hard to believe since there is a giant joint base just south of Tacoma, and likely Air Force reserve planes at several airports. The government has not said whether the planes shot down the stolen aircraft. I understand. The government has good reason to not want their doctrine or orders out there, and it would be disquieting to know that had the guy been flying toward one of the more densely urban areas, he would have been shot down over the solid suburban towns that fill all the space between the two cities.
My biggest issue is this. What the hell?
I get that mechanics have to go through some sort of screening process – better go through one, anyway. And, obviously they have to have access to the planes. Right there, that makes it far easier to carry out something crazy like this. Yet, still …
I am still taking my shoes off. My 11 year old daughter goes through screening as intensely as any single male. My wife who, ummm, has a very large chest, always seems to end up in those round plastic things that scan beneath clothing – and yes, that bothers me greatly, since I haveen’t once been chosen, but she can’t seem to avoid it. I do NOT like the thought of some TSA guy checking her out while we’re trying to go see grandma and grandpa. My daughter and I have to have our laptops out …but if a guy with the right airline pass (can they be stolen?) and the right uniform (ditto) can just hop on an empty one and be in the air in minutes, it seems to defeat many of the intensive safety checks.
I get it.
I do. It is truly a blessing that commercial air travel deaths have essentially been eliminated in the United States. It means that some people have put a lot of thought into doing their jobs and they do them well. So, I’m not going to complain about taking my shoes off – I DO have a complaint about my wife alwayssss being chosen to see through her clothes, but that’s another matter, – or any of the other inconveniences. My only complaint would be the assumption that “bad things” come from travelers that could be “bad guys” and that the “normal people” who work for the airlines have so much freedom that apparently they can just steal a plane.
Please please please, don’t even get me started on the fact that, while commercial air travel deaths have all but been eliminated in the United States, I have to worry more than ever about my daughter being shot at school for godsake, because we need our 2nd Amendment freedoms to keep us “safe.”
We can install systems whereby they rub cloth against your computer and it tells them whether it’s a bomb, but we can’t figure out a way to control guns in a sane manner in this nation. Well, we can. We simply won’t, mostly because our Supreme Court has unleashed anonymous cash donations from PACs to pols, and the NRA is made of rubles, or dollars, or at least it was until the kids at Parkland got a hold of them.
Odds that the plane crashed on its own, that the fighters didn’t shoot that plane down? Probably less than 10% in my mind. Odds that many people will be fired over this, 100%. Odds of my daughter dying in either an accident or terrorist act in an airplane? About the same as her hitting the Powerball. Odds of her being shot at school? Much much much higher, and even higher in some states than others, like the one in which we live. Odds that the NRA cares? 0%. Odds that you’re more dead if you are killed during a terrorist attack aboard a plane, or a run of the mill regular old red, white and blue, apple pie, baseball, hot dog American school shooting? 0%.
Weekend Twitter is more fun: @MiciakZoom