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JetBlue passengers follow 'how to foil a midair attack' script of a TSA critic

If you watch TV news or follow news alerts on your electronic device, it was hard to miss the story yesterday of an apparent mental breakdown of a JetBlue captain aboard a New York to Las Vegas flight. He behaved erratically, prompting his copilot to lock him out of the flight deck. He began screaming about bombs and terrorists, and had to be subdued by fellow crew members and passengers. He was taken to a hospital in Amarillo, Tex., after an emergency landing. This story includes updated information from today.

JetBlue passengers follow 'how to foil a midair attack' script of a TSA critic

Emergency workers tend to a JetBlue captain that had a "medical situation" during a Las Vegas-bound flight from JFK International airport, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Amarillo, Texas. Passengers said the pilot screamed that Iraq or Afghanistan had planted a bomb on the flight, was locked out of the cockpit, and then tackled and restrained by passengers. The pilot who subsequently took command of the aircraft elected to land in Amarillo at about 10 a.m., JetBlue Airways said in a statement. (AP Photo/Steve Douglas)
Emergency workers tend to a JetBlue captain that had a "medical situation" during a Las Vegas-bound flight from JFK International airport, Tuesday, March 27, 2012, in Amarillo, Texas. Passengers said the pilot screamed that Iraq or Afghanistan had planted a bomb on the flight, was locked out of the cockpit, and then tackled and restrained by passengers. The pilot who subsequently took command of the aircraft elected to land in Amarillo at about 10 a.m., JetBlue Airways said in a statement. (AP Photo/Steve Douglas) ASSOCIATED PRESS

If you watch TV news or follow news alerts on your electronic device, it was hard to miss the story yesterday of an apparent mental breakdown of a JetBlue captain aboard a New York to Las Vegas flight. He behaved erratically, prompting his copilot to lock him out of the flight deck. He began screaming about bombs and terrorists, and had to be subdued by fellow crew members and passengers. He was taken to a hospital in Amarillo, Tex., after an emergency landing. This story includes updated information from today.

The incident is as clear a case as I've seen to support those who say commercial airline flying is much safer today because of two post 9/11 facts: Airlines have made their cockpit doors virtually impossible to penetrate, and passengers have repeatedly shown a willingness to risk their own safety to stop a would-be midair terrorist or deranged person. Some of those security experts are also highly critical of the TSA's airport screening procedures, calling it "theater" to make it appear treating everyone like a criminal suspect with body scanners actually makes flying demonstrably safer.

In an ironic twist, one of the loudest of the critics, aviation security consultant Bruce Schneier, has been barred by the TSA from testifying before Congress on the same topic. Schneier, who I interviewed about this right after the "underwear bomber" was thwarted, was invited to speak to two House committees but TSA objected because he is involved in a legal case challenging the use of the most advanced of airport scanners. Read more about that in an article that includes a link to the legal case filed by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.  

Tom Belden
About this blog
Tom Belden has been reporting about Philadelphia International Airport and other air travel subjects for more than 20 years, writing columns for The Inquirer's Travel and Business sections. His reporting (with colleague Craig McCoy) on baggage handling problems in Philadelphia have been credited with helping to improve the system. His previous blog was called Road Warrior. He can reached at tbelden@phillynews.com. Reach Tom at tbelden@phillynews.com.

Tom Belden
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