Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

January 11, 2010

Keeping the Skies Friendly?

Filed under: Aviation Security,General Homeland Security — by Jessica Herrera-Flanigan on January 11, 2010

In 1965, Leo Burnett Co. designed a campaign focused on the theme “Fly the Friendly Skies” for United Airlines.  The campaign lasted more than 30 years, ending in 1996 when United took its advertising in a new direction, first focusing on “Rising” and then on “it’s time to fly.”  For those of you who may want to reminisce about some of those feel-good (and corny) ads, here are some links to a few of my favorite:

While seemingly random, this campaign came to mind as I was reading about what seems to be an increase in the number of disruption of flights  from unruly passengers.  On Wednesday, a passenger in Miami on  a flight to Detroit shouted that he wanted to “kill all the Jews” as the plane was beginning its takeoff. The plane had to turn around and the man removed.

Last Thursday, two F-15 fighter jets were scrambled by NORAD to escort a Hawaii-headed flight back to Portland, Oregon after a passenger became “uncooperative.” 

The next day, a flight from Atlanta to San Francisco was diverted to Colorado Springs and two F-16 fighter planes were sent from NORAD to escort the plane.

In this heightened environment, airlines and officials are more likely to take the cautious route and turn planes around or divert them when unruly passengers are reported.  Unfortunately, such actions for every drunk or misbehaving passenger complicate the nation’s aviation security efforts and cost significant amount of time and money.   While the military  doesn’t estimate costs,  one quote put the cost at $10,000 an hour for the scrambling of each jet. That cost does not include the additional cost for fuel, personnel, and resources to accommodate diversions.  Add to that the disruption of schedules and costs to travelers, the costs are outrageous.  To make matters worse, the diversions also frustrate an already strained flying public.

Post 9/11, the diligence and security of planes has increased – pilots, airline personnel, attendants, and passengers are more aware of their surroundings and fellow fliers.  While much attention has been paid to screening efforts in recent days, I wonder if the increasing phenomenon of plane diversions should also be examined to determine what solutions or alternatives may be in order.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

January 11, 2010 @ 6:30 pm

Always fascinated by the trust of passengers board narrow cylinders of metal that they will take off and land successfully. What is becoming clear is that the US airline cannot survive without direct and indirect federal subsidy but they continue to fear correctly IMO disclosure of the extent of the subsidy. Now with fuel costs again rising looks like a tough 2010 for the airline industry. Not clear that either the FAA or others really understand the current economic arrangements of the industry and impact of those economics on safety.

Comment by William R. Cumming

January 12, 2010 @ 9:08 am

Addendum to my previous comment! Exactly how does TSA and DOT organizations liaise?
How do those organizations liaise with the industry?

This could be important ingredient in success IMO!

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