Stay safe on airplanes by being alert on airplanes

Posted: Friday, November 09, 2001

"These are the best of times, and the worst of times." We have heard this statement before. Who would have expected the discomfort and concern that Americans are feeling. We are shaken to our very foundations by a faction of hate that we never thought would touch us in our person. The aviation industry has felt the brunt of the blow and has been mortally wounded. Even the private pilot's freedoms have been taken from them. We are not feeling the loss as much as our fellow pilots in the lower forty-eight but restrictions are there just the same.

There are economic considerations to be sure, but the loss of personal freedom is, in my opinion far worse than the loss of money and all that it brings. We can all tighten our belts and make it through the thin times but taking away our ability to travel where and when we want to, safely, hits us where it hurts. Suddenly we all have to be on the alert for suspicious individuals, concerned about vehicles that we aren't sure of, packages from someone unknown to us, and the ubiquitous rubbish containing envelope selling heaven knows what. I was once told that paranoia is the height of awareness. I'm not sure I like this paranoia at all. With that in mind I ask all of you to be careful in your dealings when traveling.

I would like to ask all of you who are planning to travel in the near future and also during the continuing war against terrorism that you remain alert for unusual activity in and around airports and aircraft. When you are in a line preparing to enter the screening area or even at the ticket counter, never joke around about anything concerning a bomb, gun or knife. Your harmless conversation could be misconstrued as a threat. Someone did that recently and landed in jail. Even our young people are subject to the same level of scrutiny. They will be arrested too. No one can be considered exempt from suspicion when our national security is at risk..

Only take with you those items that are approved to be in the cabin in your hand carried luggage, briefcase or purse. Everyday items of convenience such as cell phones and computers will be inspected thoroughly. Place the rest of your personal items, such as sewing scissors, metal nail files, leatherman tools etc. in your checked baggage. Resist taking flammable items however small with you. A couple of years ago a traveler put some matches in checked luggage and it ignited in the cargo bay. An alert cargo handler noticed a small amount to smoke and removed the luggage. Imagine if it had occurred at altitude. That was a mistake on the part of the passenger. Now it is purposeful intent to cause harm that we need to be alert to. Don't take anything for granted. If you see something that you question, bring it to the attention of someone in authority. You might be wrong, but then again you might be the very person to save a bunch of lives by your question.

I guess what I have meant all along is, be proactive in any situation that might be a danger either to yourself or those around you. Protect yourself by vigilance and attention to detail. Be patient with this new heightened security as it is in everyone's best interest. Soon this too shall pass and we will see our basic freedoms restored.

Patricia Mattison is the Safety Program Manager at Juneau Flight Standards.

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