Can You Really Hijack An Airplane With A Belt?

Edward writes:

    I lost a zippo a few years ago. I was flying from the UK to Chicago to attend my sister’s wedding, and was told I couldn’t board the plane with it. It was a tough choice…I still miss that zippo…

    What REALLY pissed me off was having a belt taken away from me. It was leather with grommets all over it (as was the style of the time). Now, if I’m looking for an improvised weapon, there are a lot of things I’d choose…one of the glass bottles of wine you get on the plane, a high-heeled shoe, the screaming baby in front of me…before I go swinging a belt. Seriously…”Look out! He’s got a belt! With GROMMETS in it! Do what he says!”.

    So I apologise to everyone in Heathrow Terminal 3, Chicago O’Hare, and Washington Dulles who had to see my arse crack that magnificent trip. Sorry. Really.

Edward raises an interesting question: what exactly qualifies something as a potential terrorist tool? And would a lighter or pocket knife really be enough to take over an airplane, post-September 11th?

As a pipe smoker, every time I get on a flight I end up having to give up about $1.50 worth of pipe tools, which are cheap little devices to remove ash and gunk from a pipe. It’s not a big deal, but as the flight draws on, the absurdity of my possessions being confiscated combined with the comfort level of an Auschwitz cattle car makes me start fantasizing about easy ways in which I could kill my fellow travelers. For example, I could snap the ear pieces off of my glasses, clench them in my fists and gouge them into the spurting eye sockets of a stewardess. Or I could puncture someone’s throat with a pen. Or garrote someone with the complimentary headphones. Hurting someone with just about anything is, after all, pretty trivial.

But the reason September 11th’s attacks worked was not because of the ingenuity of the hijackers, but because at that time we’d all been trained to just sit back complacently, not be a hero, enjoy your free flight to Cuba. Times have changed — no one’s going to be able to try to take over an airplane with a piece of cardboard and a razor blade anymore without about a hundred passengers blitzing him.


Edit Your Comment

  1. J. Gov says:

    It’s a good thing Jet Li has never tried to hijack a plane or we wouldn’t be allowed to keep our hands and feet anymore.

  2. “Times have changed – no one’s going to be able to try to take over an airplane with a piece of cardboard and a razor blade anymore without about a hundred passengers blitzing him.”

    I could not agree more. Passengers would not put up with that nonsense these days. I’m terribly scrawny, but I sure as hell am not going out that way.

  3. Robin Hood says:

    All of the TSA procedures are about the perception of security. There is almost no resemblence to real security. They exist simply to convince the average high school dropout that it is still safe to fly.

  4. Falconfire says:

    whats hillarious about the whole thing is that even before 9/11 hijackings where very common, and typically much more involved than the 9/11 one.

    9/11 couldnt happen again simply because people would never take at face value what these thugs say. They know they arnt going to live if they sit idle. Now people are more willing to risk their life in a attempt to save it.

  5. Greyseeker says:

    Airport security. Great joke. Two recent incidents. San Diego airport – I got THROUGH security, walked about 15 feet to my gate and there was a garden store selling 4 foot long cast iron decorative garden stakes. All you’d need to do is get 4 of your friends to buy them, hide them under long coats at boarding, and chances are at least 2 of you would get on. AND, Vancouver airport – I had a pair of mini-scissors for trimming my mustache taken. I walked about 20 feet and there was a kitchen shop selling 18″ long sharpened teak knifes, not to mention HUGE decorative glass plates that could be broken up into really effective knives.

    We’re SO not serious about security and I’m not surprised that something like the above hasn’t happened.

  6. ValkRaider says:

    I am a frequent traveller, “status” mileage card to prove it. At some airports I even get to go through the special line that says “you never get to see your own bed”…

    So I get lots of annoyance by the TSA.

    For example, I have shoes that are 100% non-metal. About 80% of the airports I go through they never cause any issues. But at one particular airport they ALWAYS make us take off our shoes… During a rush once I forgot to. When the man at the XRay walk through thing noticed he told me I had to go back and take off my shoes. I turn around and there are 30 angry people all lined up right behind me I would have had to push back, and my laptop and bag were already through the machine sitting in the open for anyone to “borrow”.

    So I decided, no I would not take off my shoes. They said OK, but I would have to submit to additional screening.

    So I walk through the XRay thingy – NO BEEP. (this is important, remember this fact – NO BEEP from the regular machine that is good enough to screen 95% of all passengers).

    They take me and my gear to the little sectioned off area – with clear glass walls so everyone can watch and see how thourough the TSA is and feel all safe and fuzzy… They get out the little wand. They run it over my head (I am bald as a cue ball) in case am hiding a killer weapon in my first two layers of skin… The little wand beeps at the rivets in my jeans and they make me turn out the jeans to show that I had no weapons hidden behind the rivets. They make me take off my belt and they examine it (I ask why) and they say to make sure I had not filed the (plastic) buckle to a sharp weapon…

    OK, so I get the search. But All of the things that they were “checking” for – WOULD HAVE GONE UNDETECTED IF I HAD TAKEN OFF MY SHOES. The regular screening device would not have picked up any of the “dangerous” things – except they wanted to be hard asses because I didn’t take off my shoes… (They are Vans shoes – no large soles to hide anything in and completely rubber/fabric…)

    And another time, I have my Powerbook in a laptop sleeve, and I keep that in my plain old backpack. I have that backpack and my small roller bag. As I was waiting in line at the checkpoint, I know they make me take my laptop out of the cases. So I take the laptop sleeve out of my backpack, and take the laptop out of it. Nice and ready to lay it all in the gray tub, and go through as speedy as possible. But wait! This is the TSA we are talking about, (TSA = Thousands Standing Around). The guard in my line tells me I cannot pass because I am only allowed 2 carry on bags. I say – I only have two! He counts the laptop sleeve, the backpack, and the roller… I explain that the laptop sleeve goes inside the backpack. Nope, he doesn’t care. Before he lets me pass I have to put it all back together. OK, two bags – he lets me pass.. Right after him, I take it all back apart and put it on the tray…

    I have had a fake bullet on a keychain taken away (weapon facsimile – not allowed). Your ods with finger nail clippers vary airport by airport – EVEN TO THIS DAY. And if you complain, they simply point to the rules that state that they can, at their own discretion, restrict anything they see as a threat.

    And you have to take camcorders out of thir bags – but my SLR camera with several large lenses and equipment can stay in its bag. What the hell is that all about?

    And they wonder why we hate them when they are only trying to make us safer…

  7. RandomHookup says:

    Chuck Norris could hijack a plane by just thinking about it.

  8. MrBartokomous says:

    I shudder to think what MacGyver could do, were he ever motivated to commit evil acts mid-flight.

  9. ModerateSnark says:

    What’s all this about Jet Li, Chuck Norris, and MacGyver becoming fake terrorists? These guys are fake heroes! They should be fake air marshalls to provide our fake security! I bet they could provided better fake security than we have now!

  10. Tex says:

    “All of the TSA procedures are about the perception of security. There is almost no resemblence to real security. They exist simply to convince the average high school dropout that it is still safe to fly.”

    *ding* We have a winner folks.

    George Carlin did a bit on this a couple years prior to 9/11/01 about how all airport security was worthless and only there to coddle middle class businessmen and tourists into thinking that flying is safe, when it isn’t… ever.

    I used to travel constantly for business and the more often I got on a plane the more perilous I realized the position of an airline passenger is. You are at the mercy of the ground crew, the mechanics, the flight attendants, the pilots and the air traffic controllers – and that’s just talking about the plan you’re flying on. There’s a whole other set of the same characters with your life in their hands represented by every single other plane in the air.

    So, how do I stand to fly? I take Carlin’s suggestion and appreciate it for what it is – a high risk behavior that adds some much needed danger to my otherwise rather mundane life.

    The real problem with the TSA and the whole Homeland Security apparatus is that it’s all bullshit designed to protect us from bad movie plot dangers. No amount of investment in the TSA or Homeland Security is going to stop a committed and zealous wingnut from setting off a dirty bomb or a bio weapon in a big city.

    What might actually help would be to dismantle the economy of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the UAE entirely and completely and send all three nations back into the stone age. Unfortunately that would also cause an economic cataclysm that would pretty much annihilate western society as we know it.

  11. I’m pretty amazed that with 10 comments, I’m the first person to skip over this security mumbo jumbo and get to the real issue at hand . . .

    “It was leather with grommets all over it (as was the style of the time).”

    Unless “the time” was a dystopian future via Mad Max, Escape from New York, or cyberpunk film, this is a blatantly untrue statement.