Heightened insecurity: anecdotes from the pre-9/11 era


In Martin Amis’s 1984 novel ‘Money’ the main character has a
nifty trick when running late for a flight. Before leaving home he would call
JFK with a bomb threat, specifying his flight number. By the time the bomb
squad worked out that the threat was a hoax, he would have arrived and checked
in. Problem solved.

Interesting idea, but perhaps not something to try in 2011. Amis
of course wrote Money in a far more trusting age. Too trusting, as it turned

In 1996 myself and two colleagues caught a flight from Boston‘s Logan airport to Newark. We were late and
had to run for the gate. The security staff, seeing us rushing, let us pass without
checking our bags or jackets.  We didn’t
even walk through the metal detector.

“Everything is turned off anyway,” yelled one guard, waving
us through. “Hope you make your flight!”

I recall that the FBI probed Logan‘s security around that time. Undercover
agents had no problem smuggling guns and explosives aboard aircraft, and all this
was duly reported in the nation’s newspapers. Year’s later I was not surprised
to learn that the 9/11 hijackers had chosen Logan as one of their points of embarkation.

In 1998 I was with friends aboard a Japan Airlines 747 on
the Tokyo-Singapore route. Since the flight was six hours delayed we had spent
the day in Narita drinking Japanese beer. Despite our inebriation, the crew had
no qualms about letting us visit the cockpit. There we stood, smelling of beer,
chatting with the pilots. Hell, my friend actually brought a glass of whisky
into the cockpit.

I’m sure Flightglobal readers have plenty of such pre-911
anecdotes. Perhaps it is not surprising that 9/11 happened, but that it took so
long for it to happen. In the 80s and 90s we had but the veneer of security,
when really the industry was a huge, lucrative soft target. Aside from the
tragedies of 9/11 and the wars of revenge that followed, it is indeed a pity
that aviation has lost its old carefree innocence.

Things are much different now. In 2002, at Changi Airport,
I approached the gate for a United flight bound for the USA.  There were two lines, one longer and one
shorter. A security official told me to get on the longer line, but I needed to
use the restroom, so I passed by. Upon my return I joined the short line.
Within moments four soldiers with assault rifles were around me, a tense
security guard asking me to join the first line, which turned out to be an
additional security check. I didn’t argue.

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2 Responses to Heightened insecurity: anecdotes from the pre-9/11 era

  1. fred perry polo 10 August, 2013 at 7:54 am #

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  2. fred perry 10 August, 2013 at 8:03 am #

    Once they took away the playlist characteristic it has become not really worth possibly $3. Something practical on the spot can be purchased for free.

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