Thursday, 21 October 2021

Alaska Air Suicide Flight Highlights Gap in Airport Security

Alaska Airlines photo

CALIFORNIA: Step inside the cockpit of an empty commercial aircraft and the pilot controls are yours. You don’t need a key or any special passcode to power up the plane and fly it away, whether it’s a small regional jet or a giant twin-deck Airbus A380.

The suicide-by-plane Friday at Seattle’s Sea-Tac International Airport, which ended when a rogue airline employee crashed a stolen 76-seat turboprop into an island, has raised fresh questions about aviation security. To abscond with a parked plane, there are basically just two security barriers in the way: obtaining access to a non-public area, and possessing enough knowledge to operate the aircraft.

The first hurdle was easily jumped by the Horizon Air employee who stole and then crashed a Bombardier Q400. As a ground services agent, he was authorized to be in the maintenance area where the plane was parked, said Brad Tilden, chief executive officer of Alaska Air Group Inc., which owns Horizon Air.

“This is aviation in America: The doors to the airplanes are not keyed like a car, there’s not an ignition,” Tilden said at a news conference Saturday. “We secure the airfield and then we have employees that are credentialed and authorized to be there.” – bloomberg

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