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August 20, 2008

TSA Agent Who Endangered 9 Aircraft Won’t Do Prison Time

by tarran

A few weeks ago, a man damaged the Total Air Temperature sensors on 9 aircraft. These sensors are critical to the airspeed gage, without them, a pilot can get an inaccurately low or high airspeed reading.. An inaccurate airspeed indication can cause a pilot to go unexpectedly into a stall. To understand the seriousness of this condition, one should recall that the famous Chicago DC-10 crash in 1979 was the result of the plane unexpectedly stalling, in that case because a hydraulic failure had changed the wing’s shape without the pilots knowledge.

The man who did this damage did not do it willfully. Mistaking the sensors for a ladder, he climbed up them in his zeal to test how well the aircraft were secured against burglars.

If I had done this, I would be facing many years in jail, charged with various felonies under the statutes governing terroristic threats to aircraft. However, the man who did this will not face jail time. He worked for the TSA, the sworn enemy of the American Shoe Lace Manufacturers Society, which heroically consumes tens of thousands of man hours daily in highly intricate, stylized, and futile security theater. The Aero News Net article is worth reading in full:

[N]ine American Eagle regional jets were grounded at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Tuesday.
Citing sources within the aviation industry, ABC News reports an overzealous TSA employee attempted to gain access to the parked aircraft by climbing up the fuselage… reportedly using the Total Air Temperature (TAT) probes mounted to the planes’ noses as handholds.
“The brilliant employees used an instrument located just below the cockpit window that is critical to the operation of the onboard computers,” one pilot wrote on an American Eagle internet forum. “They decided this instrument, the TAT probe, would be adequate to use as a ladder.”
Officials with American Eagle confirmed to ANN the problem was discovered by maintenance personnel, who inspected the planes Tuesday morning… and questioned why the TAT probes all gave similar error indications.
One Eagle pilot says had the pilots not been so attentive, the damaged probes could have caused problems inflight. TSA agents “are now doing things to our aircraft that may put our lives, and the lives of our passengers at risk,” the pilot wrote on the forum.
Grounding the planes to replace the TAT probes affected about 40 flights, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances. “We think it’s an unfortunate situation,” she told ABCNews.com.
TSA conducts routine spot inspections of aircraft parked at commercial airports, according to agency spokesman Elio Montenegro. “Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac,” Montenegro said, adding the inspector was attempting to determine whether someone could break into the parked planes.
Pilots respond that agents are only allowed to check for unlocked cabin doors… a clear security risk, that could indeed compromise security. Indeed, regional airline Mesa Air Group notes “48 percent of all TSA investigations involving Mesa Air Group involve a failure to maintain area/aircraft security.”
It’s unclear whether that duty also allows an inspector to paw around an aircraft, however.

H/T: The Agitator

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2 Comments

  1. As is par for the course, “government can do no wrong”. The agent should be prosecuted, fined, and imprisoned, but will probably be promoted, via “The Peter Principle”, you are elevated to the highest position possible, compatible with your level of incompetence.

    Comment by jammer — August 20, 2008 @ 8:42 pm
  2. “Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac,”

    Routine procedure? If this is a routine TSA check, shouldn’t we be grounding the entire US airline fleet for inspections as to what all the other TSA goons damaged during their routine checks?

    Comment by Brad Warbiany — August 21, 2008 @ 8:15 am

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