Security at airports worldwide has been beefed up since September 11th, 2001. Billions of dollars have been spent, thousands of new security guards have been trained, and our collective awareness has been greatly heightened.But none of that means we’ve become safer. In the last 10 years, the number one killer of airport security — basic lapses in individual human judgment — has meant more than a few close calls for flights around the world. In fact, a report from the Transportation Security Administration stated that over 25,000 people had been involved in security breaches since 2001.
On December 22nd, 2001, a British-born Al-Qaeda operative named Richard Reid attempted to detonate plastic explosives that had been fitted to his shoes. His repeated attempts to light the fuse on his shoes were unsuccessful, and he was subdued and handcuffed by fellow passengers and airline personnel.
Reid had actually planned to fly out the day before, but was turned away from the flight for his disheveled appearance and refusal to answer all questions. He was later given a ticket to fly out the next day. In a surprising twist, it's thought that the extra day walking around in rainy weather rendered the bomb fuse useless.
In response, security checks added 'shoe removal' to the security checklist.
Gregory Scott Hinkle made it through security at Ronald Reagan National without a hitch. It was only after he remembered he was carrying a loaded gun that problems began.
Hinkle had apparently forgotten about the gun, but returned to the security checkpoint to disclose the item. He was promptly arrested and charged with misdemeanour gun possession.
Even after the incident, a TSA spokesman reaffirmed the capability of security screeners nationwide.
On December 25th, 2009, a man named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab -- now known un-affectionately as the 'underwear bomber' -- was able to board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with an explosive device sewn into his underwear. Farouk was able to set his pants on fire, but could not detonate the bomb before passengers and crew subdued him.
Farouk was born in Nigeria, and had received training for his mission in Yemen. He had been placed on the U.S. Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, which lists known and suspected terrorists, but not the No-Fly list.
Farouk was allegedly able to board the flight without a passport. After the flight, Farouk was treated for burns and entered custody, where he awaits trial to this day.
Houston businessman Farid Seif accidentally brought his gun onboard a flight during the height of Christmas season, and didn't realise it until he got to his destination.
The gun the only item in his computer bag, but it was somehow still missed by screeners at Bush Airport in Houston.
A KTRK Aviation Security Expert called it 'simply human error.'
No U.K. Border Agency guards were on hand to meet the arrival of a Ryanair plane from Spain in September 2010 -- so all 180 passengers walked off into Bournemouth Airport without a passport inspection.
A communication breakdown between the airport and the airline led to the lack of security and passport control.
Eventually, 135 out of the 180 passengers were examined at the airport.
16-year-old teenager Delvonte Tisdale was able to elude guards and sneak through a hole in the fence at Charlotte-Douglas International last November. Tisdale apparently eluded more security on the tarmac and climbed aboard a plane bound for Boston by climbing into the wheel well.
Tisdale fell from the plane when the landing gear opened upon arrival, and his body was found in Milton, Massachusetts.
Though a heartbreaking tragedy for the family, most authorities were outraged that a teen was so easily able to get past security and onto the plane.
Newark International in New Jersey was averaging one security breach a month until a fairly horrible string of incidents over a 30 day period.
TSA confirmed a report of five separate security incidents within a month at Newark, including a knife in a carry-on, two passengers who were able to board their flight despite problems with their full-body scans, and a dead dog that was loaded onto a Continental flight without being screened.
The report eventually caused the Newark federal security director to resign.
A JetBlue flight had to be evacuated in March when passenger Eusebio Peraltalajara accidentally dropped a set of box cutters out of his carry-on bag.
Peraltalajara had forgotten he was carrying the box cutters, which are of particular significance after the 9/11 attacks. A statement from TSA said that other passengers were in no real danger, but offered no explanation for how security had missed the banned item.
The official name of the man who flew to Los Angeles from New York on June 24th is Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, a Nigerian-American. But that name was not on any of the 10 passports he had in his bags when he tried to fly to Atlanta a week later.
Noibi, a modern-day Frank Abagnale Jr., flew on the NYC-LA flight with an expired boarding pass in another person's name. His name was not on the flight manifest, and he was sitting in the seat of a man whose boarding pass had been stolen on the way to the airport. However, he wasn't detained until he tried to board the Atlanta flight, having already gone through security again.
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