Friday, December 28, 2001
participation making air travel safe for law-abiding citizens
By MONROE ROARK
I've always found a quick post-holiday getaway to be helpful in making it through the remainder of a potentially depressing winter without going bonkers. To that end, my wife and I will leave our son in the capable hands of his grandparents for three days and spend the second weekend of January in sunny south Florida.
While Kelly has no qualms about spending some quiet time near the ocean in a warm climate, she keeps reminding me about one minor detail: "We have to fly to get there." Granted, a 13-hour drive to Miami Beach would not be feasible for a three-day weekend, but lower fares sparked by a recent decrease in air travel made this trip seem too good to be true when I planned it in October.
"I wasn't a very good flier before Sept. 11," she reminded me last weekend as we watched the Shoe Bomber escorted from Logan International Airport in Boston by authorities after trying to ignite his feet. Just one more example of how we live in a world filled with maniacs with no regard for human life of any kind. As Charlton Heston so eloquently put it in the original "Planet of the Apes" more than 30 years ago: "It's a madhouse!"
Well, the way I see it, you have two choices. You can decide that all is lost, go home, turn out all the lights and pull the covers over your head. Or you can decide that Someone bigger than you are is in control anyway, and you do the best you can to live your life, but remember to be smart about it.
My wife is certainly allowed some trepidation as she steps on a commercial aircraft not knowing who else is going to be traveling with us. I think that anyone would be more concerned after having the images of two jets crashing into the World Trade Center indelibly etched in our minds. But I believe I have seen some very positive signs emerge in the past few months as well.
Take, for instance, the Shoe Bomber I just referred to. Most of you have probably seen his photo on television or in newspapers since his ill-timed terrorist attempt last weekend. You may have noticed that he didn't look too good, that he appeared to have been injured recently.
According to some reports I have seen and heard, many of those injuries were sustained in flight, as fellow passengers did not take too kindly to his plans to blow up his shoes and perhaps take down the plane. He allegedly was struck in the face with a fire extinguisher, injected with tranquilizers by a couple of physicians on board, and guarded by a six-foot-eight professional basketball player until the plane, originally bound for Miami from Paris, made its emergency landing in Boston. While a handful of passengers struggled to subdue this guy, other travelers reportedly passed long whatever they felt could be used to put him down.
I feel pretty good about flying with folks like that. It looks like a lot of people are not going to take this anymore. Not only that, but now you never know when you're going to get on a plane with an armed air marshal. And while no one has officially authorized having armed pilots in the cockpit, it wouldn't bother me if they started packing. Most commercial pilots are military veterans with combat experience and weapons training, so that's one more mark for our side.
Consider the notorious "air rage" incidents of the past few years. Obnoxious passengers, helped along with generous helpings of alcoholic beverages, have started fights with flight attendants, tried to break into cockpits, and even urinated on drink carts when they were denied that umpteenth serving of liquor. An airport in Maine even created its own cottage industry by being the first airport in North America along the trans-Atlantic flight route where airlines could dump rowdy passengers into the waiting arms of law enforcement.
What would happen to one of those people now? These days, if you get liquored up on an airplane and make a move for the cockpit, you're likely to be mistaken for a terrorist and get the daylights beaten out of you. That's bound to make a lot of sober, law-abiding air travelers breath a little bit easier.
I would still like to see some airline take a courageous step and ban alcohol on all of its flights, not due to a federal regulation, but as a market-driven move to see how the flying public would respond. It might become an industry standard, like smoking regulations.
In the meantime, I'm going to feel a little more relaxed flying to Fort Lauderdale in a couple of weeks. I'll continue to encourage my wife as well. But I'll also remind her to wear slip-on shoes, so that they're easier to take off and be inspected for explosives at the airport.
[Monroe Roark can be reached at mroark@TheCitizenNews.com.]