Honolulu Lite


Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Time to stop horsing
around with cockpits

Airline officials worry that improving the security of airplane cockpits will cost millions of dollars. They are ignoring a piece of technology that not only is readily available but affordable. Of course, we are talking about "The Club."

Airline pilots are now protected by a thin door with a latch not unlike that of your average sliding patio screen door. This is just insane. At least "The Club," modified to fit a cockpit door, would slow down someone trying to break in. The lunatic who got into a jet cockpit just a week ago merely ran up the aisle and burst in. This breach of security would not have happened at even a moderately secure nightclub. A bouncer would have bounced his butt back to the cheap seats before he could touch the doorknob.

Which is what is so crazy about the entire subject. The cockpits of our commercial airlines, planes that we now know can be turned into several thousand pounds of screaming fire and death, are not even as secure as a 7-Eleven. At least 7-Elevens have video cameras.

Video cameras and hardened cockpit doors obviously will become standard in the future. But there is an even more obvious security deterrent that goes back to the not-so-advanced technical days of the stagecoach.

The stagecoach was the commercial jet of its time. Passengers rode in relative comfort in the cabin while the "pilot" controlled the craft. A stage coach didn't have much horsepower, six or eight to be exact, but security was always a concern on flights through the American West. Valuables were protected by "The Club" of its time: "The Strong Box." And sitting at the side of the pilot was a co-pilot riding shotgun. They called it "riding shotgun" because the man carried a shotgun. And he'd use it if hostile elements -- bandits, Indians, amorous buffalo -- got too near.

This is no laughing matter. But it's ridiculous that stagecoach drivers were more trusted with guns and other means for self defense (six-shooters, Bowie knives, boot spurs ...) than commercial pilots. It's really silly when you consider that many commercial pilots were military pilots who wore sidearms when flying in combat. And make no mistake, this is combat.

Not only are pilots not allowed to carry guns, since the attacks of Sept. 11, they can't even carry screwdrivers, nail clippers or pepper spray. They are completely disarmed.

Think about that. You, piloting your car, can carry more protection than an airline pilot. You can have nail clippers in your pocket, pepper spray in the glove compartment, a screw driver in the trunk and "The Club" to make sure no one steals your ride when you aren't looking. And all this just to go down to Zippy's!

As stagecoach pilots used to say, it's time to hold our horses and get serious.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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