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USAir Pilot Arrest - The Gestapo Tactics

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Jan 14, 2002
The US Airways Pilot Arrest - The Gestapo Tactics Begin
And The Media's Being Warned About What To Say, Too.

The Boyd Group
January 14, 2002

We've entered a new dimension in Big Brotherism. Don't criticize the government's security policy, or the thought police will throw you in jail.

``Why are you worried about tweezers when I could crash the plane?"

That was the valid comment made by a US Airways pilot, Elwood Menear, to a security screener. Sure, it was a waste of time mentioning it to some low-paid, uneducated baggage screener. But it gave the screener the chance to use some authority. "He made a threat!" To arms! Arrest him! Call the media, let's get some press!

Guaranteed, if he had said what dozens of pilots have commented: "Why are you worried about tweezers when I've got a fire ax in the cockpit?" the result would have been the same. His comment wasn't a threat. The real threat is the public's security is entrusted to half-witted programs operated by minimally-qualified people, and supervised at the top by incompetent FAA staff.

This is why US airports are still at risk. We don't have security, because security is identifying threats, not arresting pilots for making observations that the rest of the airline industry knows to be true.

For all those folks who will hasten to defend the arrest of this pilot, you might want to expend your energies on the point made by Mr. Menear: He was saying that we don't have better security. He was probably trying to express the point that his passengers are not as secure as they need to be when security is idiotic window-dressing: take the tweezers away, but let them be sold at airport newsstands.

His frustration is shared by thousands of airline employees - some of whom are in line to lose their jobs due to the inept and laughable "heightened" security imposed on airports by a DOT Secretary who has shown no leadership skills, no vision, and is only in the job because he's the token Democrat. (Let's stop dancing around that issue: he's a figurehead, and in wartime, that's dangerous to the flying public. We need leaders, not walking sops to political correctness.)

Standby: The Muzzle Campaign May Just Be Starting. So now, does this mean it's improper for pilots to criticize the government's bad, incompetent security programs? Does it mean that anybody who questions the security programs of the FAA and the DOT is promoting terrorism? Do we get arrested as being an enemy of the state we they dare say that security is not what it should be?

Think that's an overstatement? One hopes that it is, but a call last week from a correspondent from a nationally-respected business journal would cause some concern. The correspondent said there has been vague indications that some in high places would like the continuing stories of airport security failures to stop, on "patriotic" grounds. The implication was that folks who do stories on airport security breeches are "unpatriotic" because such articles might deter people from traveling, thereby hurting the economy.

No Leadership. What will be interesting is the response by US Airways management and by ALPA. Assuming that this pilot has a clear record in regard to security, the path of integrity is to stand behind him. But, US Airways senior management may not want to go to the wall for this employee, especially if it would offend politicians. It appears that the management of the airline will take the political correctness path and let the guy swing. ALPA is the organization to watch. At the very top, at the national level, ALPA has been less than vocal about the lack of leadership at the DOT. If this pilot is clean, and guilty of nothing more than simply making a valid observation about a security system that leaves the public at risk, his union had better drop the political correctness and go to the wall for him. If they don't, they're weasels.

Regardless of that, one would hope that every airline employee will forcefully come out in support of Mr. Minear. He said publicly what lots of people know but are afraid to say.

Security Is Poor and The DOT Is Negligent. Hello. The pilot is right. Too bad speaking one's mind can get one arrested. No, his comment by itself in no way threatened anybody except the negligent bureaucrats and politicians who put image ahead of public safety. So here we are arresting a uniformed pilot the same week that the DOJ came out with a report noting that international airports in the US are still sieves where people and contraband can easily get through. Four months after 9/11, the government still has not implemented real security measures. But for heaven's sake, don't mention it. It would be unpatriotic and could encourage terrorism.And you might get arrested.

What we have is a DOT that is above any oversight. Nobody in Congress seems to care if the DOT is effective or not. Window-dressing is the goal, and if that translates into harassing pilots and citizens who legitimately point out sloppy security, so be it.

Wait until the same ill-trained, uneducated, and poorly supervised screeners become federal employees. Then they're have real power, and you better not question the wisdom of Big Brother.

And if we're still vulnerable to terrorism, that's not a concern of either the DOT and Congress.
ALPA's Mission Statement

ALPA Mission Statement:

The mission of the Air Line Pilots Association is to promote and champion all aspects of aviation safety throughout all segments of the aviation community; to represent, in both specific and general respects, the collective interests of all pilots in commercial aviation; to assist in collective bargaining activities on behalf of all pilots represented by the Association; to promote the health and welfare of the members of the Association before all governmental agencies; to be a strong, forceful advocate of the airline piloting profession, through all forms of media, and with the public at large; and to be the ultimate guardian and defender of the rights and privileges of the professional pilots who are members of the Association.

--ALPA Board of Directors, October 1992

Though I am not familiar with the source of this article, it makes good points. We are headed down a "slippery slope" where average citizens will be prosecuted for speaking out against the government. But hey, anything in the name of "The War on Terror", right? Maybe we should re name the Justice Department "The Ministry of Love".
Very scary.

flashpoint said:
ALPA Mission Statement:


Let's hope so, but frankly, I'd be surprised if they did. ALPA is too politically hungry to offend the powerful, too politically correct to risk losing dues money. And they have shown absolutely zero courage in defending our profession since 9/11 outside of big talk.
They're going to let him hang.
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Email I recieved from a retired fellow Airline Pilot who knows Captain Menear personally-

"I know this guy-he was really pretty mild but not one to be stomped on. I would also consider him a friend. He also knows both Wolf and Dan Miller-is a Bucker guy. I am disappointed that this is the situation that has developed. I used to hate PHL security and I would guess that this is the result of a long standing situation between pilots and PHL security. Im sorry Woody got caught in the middle. Knowing ALPA and its a@#h%@e security committee (who would rather be buddies with the cops rather than represent pilots) Im sure they will dedicate their resources to help prosecute the pilot-Im so happy Im gone-I just feel bad for Woody."
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Wait until the same ill-trained, uneducated, and poorly supervised screeners become federal employees. Then they're have real power, and you better not question the wisdom of Big Brother.

This is going to be like going through a police roadblock every time you go to work. It is unpleasant and a little scary when you know that some screeners will try to pick a fight when you are on your way back to the airplane on a fourteen hour day - or continuous duty overnight.

I'll try to think of Chevy Chase singing "Moon River" and asking the Doc, "Was that the finger, or your whole fist?"
If Elwood had just kept quiet, there would be no problem.

Since the late 60's, it's been very tabboo to say words like "hijack", or "bomb," on flights. This is basic. Passengers have warnings to be careful about what they say, posted throughout the terminal. Passengers are warned not to make jokes, or comments or any nature that could be construed to be threatening.

Recently we have seen a public uproar, not entirely unjustified, when a pilot during an emergency remarked that he gave himself to God.

The recent flap with the secret service agent didn't start with a confrontation. It began with two FA's who were nervous because they found a passenger's reading material with an arabic title. The rest followed afterward. Small things lead to big things.

Avoid even the very appearance of evil as they say. Don't give cause.

One might as well cry foul that a police officer is upset when one suddenly runs away from him. Of course he will assume you are running for a reason; weather you have done anything or not is no longer material. Running from the police officer is a crime in many jurisdictions. Every bit as much as running down the escalators the wrong way...several folks on this very forum were ready to crucify a passenger for that. But let it happen to a pilot; oh, no!

When you're pulled over by the highway patrol one evening, have some fun with the officer. When he arrives at your window, rather than just complying with your driving license and registration, why not hide your hands, and say, "I don't need a gun, officer. I could just back over you with my car." See if you get some laughs, and then call the ACLU for defense when you're dragged from the car under protest.

It's such a simple matter to pass through security and keep one's trap shut. One needn't make comments about crashing airplanes, bombs, threats, or any other issue. Simply pass through, and be done. Is this so hard? Is this rocket science?

I see people jumped all over on boards from time to time for making simply gramatical or spelling errors. Don't do that, they're told. A pilot pays attention to detail. A pilot must be careful, professional. Does that include speech, or is it only an internet issue? A professional pilot should know when to speak, and when to keep silent. Certainly a professional who considers himself at a higher level than those around him. This is evidently a widespread commonality, as I've been hearing a number of derrogatory comments talking down to screeners on various posts.

Why not just take the high road? It only takes a few moments to pass through security. A few moments of silence. Wanded, waved through, done. Silence is golden. It goes a long way. If one has anything at all to say, perhaps a complement to the underpaid person performing the screening, or a comment on the weather. Perhaps a remark about football, or the color green. But for the love of pete, with so many other things to say, or discuss, or keep silent about, are we going to sympathise with a pilot who makes a crack about crashing the airplane?

I certainly won't.
Very well put, however opposite to what I believe to be right. I do not have the energy at this hour to make as forthright of a post (as you did) to your responce. However, I will say that an Argenbright security agent is not and never will be the same as a police officer. Of course I wouldn't back over a cop or make any suggestion of it. Hello? Common sence goes a long way, doesn't it? I can tell you this, it would have been an alternate way of ending things, had the security agent had any. About going through security with a smile, that's what I do now- Everytime. It works, sure, but I am thinking the same thing you are when you're standing there with someone else's hands between your legs and trying to maintain that smile you referred to, right in front of the passengers. The difference is maintaining the professionism here.
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I'm sorry Avbug but I will. I will not ever be silent when rules are made that are obviously B.S. What he was stating wasn't even a joke, it was a fact. I could see being a little perturbed about a joke, but when someone brings up something that is common knowledge, maybe something is wrong.

Oh, no I'll just except that our gov't has a clue and never ever question their reasons for their insane rules. I'll just put my clockwork orange eye clips on before going through unsecurity so as to never have to question why I can carry a fork but not those deadly nailclippers. Give me a break. It's obvious that all FAA rules are written by people who have no operational experience. If we don't speak up and demand what is needed then we don't deserve to hold the positions that we occupy.

I'm sorry Avbug, I usually have much in agreement for your posts, but to be silent, is just unamerican.
A few moments of silence. Wanded, waved through, done. Silence is golden.

Avbug - certainly I agree it is smarter to go along and get along. But it is not as clear cut as you suppose.

In my former life I used to defend airport security companies in legal actions. When your coat is shredded in the X-ray machine due to unnecessary backing up of the belt, or somebody else runs off with your stuff because you are separated from your bags, lets see how you feel then.

The fact of the matter is that under the security directives we do not have to take off our shoes in public view, or pass our clothing through the x-ray machine.

If you fky the line you are aware that these security companies are making up their own protocol at every single airport, rather than following the FAA's directive. As such, I think we are helping ourselves and fellow travellers by insisting that the screeners follow the rules. (Unfortunately their managers are not training them to follow the rules to begin with)

The problem with this screening system is that there is no objective standard being used to measure the screener's performance. Nothing ensures that they have the mental, or physical capacity for the job and thanks to our friends in Congress they will not have to qualify for their position.
If the initial post was factual about what that guy said, I certainly think things got blown out of proportion. On the other hand, we as pilots are role models. The public looks to us for direction (literally sometimes...where's gate C?) when they are at an airport. If they see flight crews going through security and losing their cool, they will too. People are lost puppies in the airport looking for someone to emulate. Why not show them how a professional handles the hassles of security. After all, we are part of the theater that is security nowadays. Does anybody have some Soma for these hotheads?

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