The Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse
Lead Editorial

The Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

On March 26, 2024, at about 1:27 in the morning, a cargo vessel, the 984.3-foot-long Singapore-flagged Dali, reportedly lost power while transiting out of Baltimore Harbor. It struck a support column on the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland. The result was that a portion of the enormous bridge collapsed, and the vessel was damaged. The vessel remains in the vicinity of the bridge pier. Eight construction workers were repairing potholes on the bridge at the time of the incident. They were knocked into the Patapsco River below. Two were rescued, four bodies were eventually recovered and two more remain missing and are presumed dead.

Access to the Port of Baltimore remains limited since the collapse, and a delicate, complex salvage effort is underway in the river. Since the collapse, the FBI and NTSB have both launched separate investigations. The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board says the agency is focusing on the ship’s electrical system in its investigation into the crash.

“The FBI is investigating what led up to the Key Bridge collapse in a separate investigation, according to reporting by the Washington Post. The FBI said two weeks after the incident that it had agents on the Dali, which was still at the accident site. “[The] FBI is present aboard the cargo ship Dali conducting court-authorized law enforcement activity,” the agency said. “There is no other public information available, and we will have no further comment.”

An unclassified memo issued by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), said the ship reportedly lost propulsion at the time of the crash. The NTSB identified Hyundai as the manufacturer of the ship’s power and brake system. The agency expects the preliminary report on the collapse to be released by the first week of May.

A month after the accident, more than 1,300 tons of steel have been salvaged and four smaller shipping channels were open but those still only allow a fraction of the pre-collapse activity to get in and out of the Port of Baltimore. “We are still a long way from getting the size and commercial back to where it was before the collapse,” said Maryland Governor Wes Moore a few weeks after the incident.

“Today was an important milestone in the process of beginning to pull the wreckage out, beginning to open channels. We know we still have work to do,” the governor said when the first channel was opened. Moore said untangling the mangled mess of debris remains dangerous.

“We’re talking about a situation where a portion of the bridge beneath the water has been described by Unified Command as ‘chaotic wreckage,'” Moore said. “Every time someone goes into the water, they are taking a risk. Every time we move a piece of the structure, the situation could become even more dangerous. We have to move fast but we cannot be careless.”

A group called the Unified Command, comprised of the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Maryland Department of the Environment, Maryland Transportation Authority, Maryland State Police, the Singapore company that managed the striking ship and others, is working at the site to coordinate the disaster response.

A lawsuit filed by the city of Baltimore maintains “there were no high winds, visual obstructions or any reason to believe disaster was about to occur” when the ship crashed into the bridge. The lawsuit alleges alarms showing an inconsistent power supply on the Dali sounded off before leaving the port, but it continued on its voyage anyway, the documents state, despite its unseaworthy conditions. The city also accuses the crew of being incompetent and inattentive to its duties, adding allegations of failing to maintain or use several pieces of equipment, including the ship’s engine and propulsion system.

The Coast Guard was able to download the voyage data recorder which has been sent to the National Transportation Safety Board to be analyzed.

As we await the results of the investigations, it is not too soon to consider the security risks and implications of the incident.

First up is the structural integrity of bridges. Regular inspection, maintenance and structural integrity assessment of bridges is a must. Security of bridges extends beyond the cyberthreats which is a current focus. Infrastructure must be top of mind and old bridges should be beefed up to prevent an occurrence from destroying another bridge.

The incident emphasized the need for well-planned emergency response protocols. Effective coordination among emergency responders, law enforcement and other relevant agencies is essential for addressing such emergencies quickly and minimizing their impact.

Next, enhancing public awareness about safety measures during emergencies should be reviewed. Evacuation procedures and alternative routes should be clearly defined.

Conducting thorough risk assessments and implementing appropriate mitigation measures can help prevent accidents and minimize their consequences. This ties in with potential vulnerabilities in infrastructure and implementing measures to address them as mentioned earlier.

Leveraging technology for real-time monitoring of infrastructure can help detect potential issues before they escalate into problems. Implementing advanced monitoring systems, such as sensors and surveillance cameras, is one way to enable proactive intervention.

Communication and information sharing among the relevant stakeholders, including government agencies, emergency responders and the public, are vital for managing crises effectively. Timely dissemination of accurate information can help prevent panic and facilitate coordinated response efforts.

And finally, continual improvement is imperative. Reviewing and updating security protocols and procedures based on lessons learned from past incidents is essential. This ensures that security measures remain effective and adaptable to evolving threats and challenges.

What a Year
Lead Editorial

What a Year

This issue of TSI is chock full of helpful information and insight to assist you in the shared goal of safe, secure travel. Let me highlight a few stories.

First, we are excited to welcome back former editor of our predecessor publication ASI, Philip Baum, who has returned to this issue with an incredibly insightful and nuanced look at the Israel-Gaza war and how that is impacting travel. As Baum states so well, the aviation community is faced with challenges as people with divergent viewpoints about this highly emotive conflict are now thrown together, side-by-side either as passengers traveling or security professionals tasked with sleuthing out those with possible nefarious intent.

He also points out that airport-based protests, aggressive behavior, blatant Islamophobia and antisemitism and more, are happening with increasing frequency around the globe at many airports. Baum says it best when he states, “The reality is that we face a challenge of two peoples with legitimate concerns about their security and, indeed, very existence.”

There are no easy answers to these problems that have been going on for such a very long time with many nuances and subtleties. It will continue to create a heightened need for vigilance and caution, especially in that region but also across the world. In spite of these challenges, I recently said to my neighbor about the conflict, there is always hope for a better world.

We have a related feature story on mass evacuations. The large-scale movement of Palestinians away from Israeli troops advancing into Gaza is just the latest of many mass evacuations. Others include those in Syria, the Tigray region of Ethiopia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Yemen and Venezuela, to name just a few of the more recent ones.

As writer James Careless says, “The circumstances in which both individual and mass evacuations occur are central to what makes them so risky … people are only leaving because they see no other way to protect themselves and their families in their homes, due to the conflict, violence and chaos raging around them. It is this trifecta of danger from hostile players that makes these evacuations so dangerous, and security of paramount importance …”

Careless looks at documents from the Norwegian Refugee Council and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as well as info from the security experts at Osprey Flight Solutions to learn best practices and strategies.

We also take a look at drone countermeasures in another of our feature stories. Drone usage is increasing rapidly, whether for military, commercial or personal use. These aircraft come in various shapes and sizes and can create hazards to other aircraft, potentially severely damaging them if encountered.

We reached out to two top experts in the counter-drone technology market, Jeffrey Starr of D-Fend Solutions and Leo McCloskey with Echodyne, to learn about how each of their companies can assist in keeping the drone threat at bay.

And lastly, we have a feature on insider threats — a topic we have been covering a lot recently. Why? Because there are few things in aviation that evoke greater worry than the possibility that a pilot could deliberately crash an aircraft. One notorious case of this is the Germanwings Flight 9525 in 2015. One hundred and fifty people were killed in that accident when the first officer locked the captain out of the cockpit and flew the aircraft into a mountain.

More recently, we have just seen Alaska Airlines pilot Joe Emerson, 44, try to shut down the engines of the aircraft he was riding in the jump seat of. The quick-thinking pilots were able to prevent the engines from being shut down. Emerson was subdued by the crew and arrested. The outcome of this situation could have been so much worse. Emerson has stated that he was under emotional distress and had taken illegal substances 48 hours prior to being on the jump seat. He was clearly having some kind of mental breakdown.

Pilot mental health is surely one of the last taboo subjects for those who operate aircraft but, in my opinion, it needs to be addressed similarly to the way that operators have addressed pilots with addiction — head-on and without apology. Pilots are human beings, not automatons. More to come on pilot mental health in the new year.

As we close out the 2023 year, all of us here at Transport Security Intl. want to thank you, the security professionals who take on this daunting task, for working diligently to keep the traveling public safe and secure during their travels.

It is a thankless job, often invoking the wrath of travelers who must submit to numerous security checks, being asked to partially disrobe and occasionally being touched and probed by security officers, being stopped at checkpoints, borders and crossings and generally slowed down (albeit briefly) in their quest to get where they are going.

In spite of the angry, bothered, annoyed and anxiety-ridden passengers, you — the security professionals in every mode of transport — continue to hold yourselves and your work to the highest standard.

We may never know exactly how many incidents you have thwarted, but from the sheer numbers of firearms, knives and other contraband found, we can imagine.

So, for all you do, whether it is in the aviation, maritime, rail or road area of transport, thank you for being the frontline, traveler/passenger-facing deterrent to the next possible terrorist attack, unhinged passenger attack, drone incursion, act of piracy on the high seas, cybersecurity breach, rail incident or vehicle ramming attack. I am grateful to each and every one of you and wish you an uneventful and peaceful new year in 2024.

When The Insider Threat Is A Coworker
Lead Editorial

When The Insider Threat Is A Coworker

Caution: this piece contains descriptions of acts of a highly sensitive nature including sexual assault and sexual harassment, that may be triggering for some individuals.

Our guest column this issue is by David Bruce and looks at insider threats. Common examples of insider threats include the malicious insider. This is an employee or insider who intentionally takes actions to harm an organization, such as stealing sensitive data, damaging systems or distributing malware. Another example is the negligent insider. This is an employee who, often unintentionally, causes security incidents or data breaches through careless actions like clicking on phishing emails or mishandling sensitive information. And lastly, there is the third-party insider. This could be contractors, vendors or business partners with access to an organization’s resources who misuse that access for malicious purposes.

Bruce gives some examples of how the insider threat has manifested itself in aviation and more importantly he gives some great tips on mitigating those threats. You can check out David Bruce’s column starting on page 40.

But, for some, those tips won’t be enough. What happens when the threat is between coworkers? Here’s what a suit filed recently says happened to a first officer locked in a cockpit with a deranged captain.

Christine Janning showed up for work in August of 2020 just as she would any other day. But that day the captain of the flight, Michael Haak, locked her in the cockpit with him and stripped naked. She alleges that he then turned on a laptop, put on some pornography and masturbated in front of her for more than 30 minutes until he ejaculated. According to a story in the Fort Worth Star Telegram, “Haak pleaded guilty in May 2021 to intentionally committing a lewd, indecent or obscene act in a public place, which is a misdemeanor … Haak’s attorney, said the pilot took his clothes off as part of a ‘consensual prank’ with the co-pilot. Haak was sentenced to one year of probation by U.S. Magistrate Judge J. Mark Coulson in Maryland. The pilots’ union did not immediately respond to requests to comment.”

First officer Janning has followed up by filing suit against Southwest Airlines, the Southwest Airlines Pilot Association (SWAPA) and the former pilot, Michael Haak. The suit gives details of Haak’s actions, implicates the airline’s administration and the pilots’ union in alleged cover-ups of his misconduct, as well as stating that Southwest retaliated against Janning for reporting Haak.

Janning’s lawsuit filing states that she had never met Haak before August 2020, which is common among airline pilots as they are paired monthly or even per trip and there are thousands of pilots at each airline. On the flight day in question, she was the first officer on a flight from Philadelphia to Orlando. The filing says Haak, who had been with Southwest for 27 years, had used his seniority the previous day to bump another pilot who had been scheduled to head the flight. Janning says she believes he did that because he saw a woman was the scheduled co-pilot. The filing says that when they reached cruising altitude, Haak told her this was his final flight and there was something he wanted to do before retirement and the events detailed above ensued.

What happened after Janning filed her FBI report was retaliation, she claims. She reports being grounded for more than three months, which impacted her earnings. She was required to take additional flight training before she could work again due to falling out of the recency of experience requirements, having been sidelined for so long. The suit says on the day she was grounded, the airline left her stranded in Denver and the FBI had to book her a United Airlines flight home to Florida. The filing goes on to say a manager at the airline sent a memo to more than 25 employees “that made baseless allegations” about her flying competency, damaging her reputation.

Southwest denies Janning’s allegations, saying in a statement, “We immediately supported (Janning) by cooperating with the appropriate outside agencies as they investigated. Our corporate culture is built upon treating others with mutual respect and dignity, and the events alleged in this situation are inconsistent with the behavior that we require of our employees.”

Research into Haak’s background shows a history of misconduct accusations. He was accused of forcing his way into a Southwest flight attendant’s hotel room in 2008 and sexually assaulting her, the suit says. He was accused of other sexual assaults and sexual harassment, such as exposing himself to flight attendants and other pilots in a hotel following a flight and disseminating nude photographs of his wife to flight attendants. The suit says Southwest pilots accused of sexual misconduct would be sent to “treatment” in Montreal as “a slap on the wrist.” The suit says that office was known as “the Charm School,” where “pilots caught in disreputable acts” would be sent “in an effort to avoid meaningful discipline and to keep their indiscretions out of the public eye.”

While seemingly outrageous, this type of behavior is not unheard of, and it won’t be the last time it happens. Airlines need to step up to support employee victims in these situations. It seems that the airline took the Catholic Church approach in handling this occurrence by sweeping it under the rug, victim blaming and protecting their facade.

Pointing to a Larger Security Issue
Lead Editorial

Pointing to a Larger Security Issue

As we go to press with this issue of Transport Security Intl., a small but highly technical submersible called OceanGate had gone missing as it was diving thousands of feet below the Atlantic Ocean in hopes of exploring the wreckage of the Titanic. It had been missing since Sunday June 18, which made Thursday morning, June 22 the deadline for finding the submersible and its passengers.

First, let me take a moment to acknowledge the humanity of this situation. On board the craft known as Titan, as we know now, are five people that include British businessman Hamish Harding, founder of Action Group and chairman of Action Aviation, an international aircraft brokerage company headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Also on board is Pakistani businessman Shahzada Dawood, 48, vice chairman of Pakistan’s Engro Corporation, and his teenage son, Suleman Dawood, aged 19. Suleman is a multimillionaire who had previously survived an aircraft incident that left he and his wife shaken, according to his wife’s blog.

MARITIME 18 June North Atlantic Ocean

French explorer Paul-Henri Nargeolet, 77, was reknowned for his “unparalleled” knowledge of the Titanic shipwreck and is said to have helped inspire his friend James Cameron’s 1997 movie Titanic. He had previously done as many as 37 dives to the wreckage site. He is director of underwater research for RMS Titanic, an American company that owns salvage rights to the wreck. It has been reported that his friends say he is an “extraordinary leader in crisis situations, and if anyone can keep those on board calm in the claustrophobic conditions on board the Titan, it’s him.”

And lastly, Stockton Rush is also on board. He is the CEO of the company that operates the OceanGate. He has been compared by some to Jacques Cousteau, a “nature lover, adventurer and visionary.”

It has been stated that each passenger paid about $250,000 or more for the extreme tourism experience to explore the wreck of the Titanic on the ocean floor, which is located about several hundred miles off the nearest coast — about 900 miles (1,450 km) east of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and 400 miles (644 km) south of St John’s, Newfoundland.

These are real people and they are in a desperate situation. In no way do I want to diminish or sensationalize that. There is a great and overwhelming amount of coverage of this situation, and here’s hoping that the submersible, and all on board, are found alive and well and simply out of communication for some reason.

The trip to view the wreckage is supposed to take eight to 10 hours and the submersible is reported to have a 96-hour supply of oxygen for five people, four full days. As mentioned, Thursday morning as I write this is the key deadline date at which point the craft is said to run out of oxygen. Many factors would impact the amount of oxygen used, such as the temperature and rapid breathing due to a stressful situation. But perhaps there was also a safety margin added in that might allow for a bit of extra time.

Early on Wednesday morning, tapping sounds were detected by sonar in the search. “A Canadian P-3 aircraft detected underwater noises in the search area. As a result, ROV operations were relocated in an attempt to explore the origin of the noises. Those ROV searches have yielded negative results but continue,” a tweet from the Canadian Coast Guard said. “The data from the P-3 aircraft has been shared with our U.S. Navy experts for further analysis which will be considered in future search plans.” However, as of this writing, the tapping and the missing submersible could not be pinpointed.

Through all of the coverage, I have been thinking about other implications of this potentially tragic event and how it relates to security. U.S. and Canadian Coast Guard have searched an area larger than the state of Connecticut, more than 7,600 square miles of ocean, according to Jamie Frederick, a U.S. coast guard captain said at a press conference on Tuesday and the search was ongoing. Sonar buoys had been released to listen for the submersible. Additionally, a remotely-operated vehicle was also launched to search the area according to a tweet from the U.S. Coast Guard’s Northeast District. Aircraft are running a search grid in the skies above the area.

GPS and radar can scout out missing objects on Earth’s surface but are no match for the ocean, experts say. Water absorbs electromagnetic radiation, which is why sonar technology using sound waves is required. But even the sonar technology that rescuers are using to locate Titan is limited by depth.

There is also The Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) which is a cold war-era array providing deep-water long-range detection capability in certain areas. SOSUS had success during the Cold War tracking submarines, according to the Federation of American Scientist’s (FAS) website. SOSUS consists of high-gain long fixed arrays in the deep ocean basins. After the Cold War became less of a concern, some of those devices were being placed in a standby status in which they are not continuously monitored. In the event of a resurgence in the global submarine threat the worldwide network of fixed undersea surveillance systems such as the Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) would be a critical asset. Perhaps this is a good time to revisit the status of those arrays and think of upgrades?

Currently, the Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS) uses technological advancements in the Fixed Surveillance System (FSS), Fixed Distributed System (FDS), and the Advanced Deployable System (ADS). According to the FAS website, that program has undergone a major transition from emphasis on maintaining a large, dispersed surveillance force keyed to detection and tracking of Soviet submarines to a much smaller force that is effective against modern diesel and nuclear submarines in regional/littoral or broad ocean areas of interest. But what of using it to assist in this humanitarian effort?

In any case, it would seem logical that our current security surveillance systems should be able to assist in finding this lost submersible. Are they able? Do they already know the fate of the five? I cannot believe they would withhold that info when lives are at stake. And if the capability does not exist to assist, perhaps this is the nudge needed to upgrade for better security of our maritime environs.

UPDATE: As we went to press, it was reported that the U.S. Navy had heard, via a top secret acoustic detection system, the implosion that killed the five passengers hours after it began its descent to the Titanic wreck.

“The Navy began using the system, which is used to locate enemy submarines, to listen for the Titan almost immediately after it lost contact with its radio ship on Sunday,” a U.S. defense official told The Wall Street Journal. However, without the full certitude that what was heard was in fact the submersible imploding, the search went on to ensure that no stone was left unturned.

Lead Editorial

Spy Balloon, Train Derailment

In late January a large, Chinese balloon entered into United States airspace over Alaska. U.S. officials first detected the balloon with a large dangling payload on January 28 when it entered U.S. airspace near the Aleutian Islands and then over several days into February the balloon drifted (or was directed) over parts of Canada and then over the continental U.S. The balloon traversed Alaska, Canada and re-entered U.S. airspace over Idaho.

Equipment dangled from the balloon, including solar panels that could power its propulsion, cameras and surveillance equipment. The balloon itself was 200 feet tall, according to Gen. Glen D. Vanherck, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), with a payload that weighed “a couple of thousand pounds.” Decisions were made to not take the balloon down while it was over land as it drifted so as to mitigate the potential of the debris falling and possibly injuring people or objects on the ground.

But the Department of Defense said that long before the shoot down, steps to protect against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information were taken, mitigating its intelligence value to the Chinese. The senior defense official said the recovery of the balloon will enable U.S. analysts to examine sensitive Chinese equipment.

“I would also note that while we took all necessary steps to protect against the PRC surveillance balloon’s collection of sensitive information, the surveillance balloon’s overflight of U.S. territory was of intelligence value to us,” an official said. “I can’t go into more detail, but we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.”

Eventually, about a week after it was first sighted, a U.S. Air Force fighter shot it down, over water off the coast of South Carolina. “The balloon, which was being used by the PRC in an attempt to surveil strategic sites in the continental United States, was brought down above U.S. territorial waters,” Austin said.

The U.S. Department of Defense called the incident “an unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty.”

Meanwhile in Ohio, a train derailment, also in early February, caused much ado in the U.S. On the evening of February 3, a train with about 150 cars that was carrying chemicals derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. About 38 of the cars derailed, reports say, and another dozen were damaged. A fire erupted from the wreckage and filled the small town with smoke — and fear — and rightly so. The chemicals turned out to be toxic.

Even though authorities evacuated an area and carried out a controlled release of the fumes from the chemicals, the entire process seems to have been handled poorly. On February 6, toxic material from five tanker cars was released and diverted to a trench to be burned off.

Authorities repeatedly said there was nothing to worry about, but residents began experiencing health issues and reports of fish kill in local waters surfaced. The chemicals on the train cars included vinyl chloride, butyl acrylate, ethylhexyl acrylate and ethylene glycol monobutyl ethers. A few days later, around 3,500 fish had been determined to have been killed in the nearby streams and river.

Additionally, two weeks after the event, local residents were advised to use bottled water, prompting residents to lose trust in the officials handling the event and many felt that no one communicated the scale of the event or impact to public health to them. People complained of headaches, rashes, irritation of the throat and a lingering chemical odor in the air.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and that investigation is ongoing. Future investigative activity will focus on the wheelset and bearing; tank car design and derailment damage; a review of the accident response, including the venting and burning of the vinyl chloride; railcar design and maintenance procedures and practices, the agency says.

Now to the issue at hand: please enjoy this latest edition of TSI as we delve into some fascinating topics. Our cover story looks at flight attendant training in the face of the uptick in unruly passengers during the past several years. Was this a crisis due to the pandemic? Or was it already happening? How are airlines responding? What options for security and self-defense training exist outside of the standard initial courses at the airlines? Find out on page 14 in our look at these resources for frontline workers whose main job is safety and security of the flight.

Body scanning has made rapid advancements to get to where it is today. We spoke to the leading players to see how far they have come in developing this key security technology. “Through a Scanner Darkly” begins on page 20.

Next, we explore the futuristic use of artificial intelligence (AI) in security. It is something we are hearing about daily with AI chatbots like Open AI’s chatGPT and Google’s Bard coming into use now. AI is finding its way into all aspects of life ­— how will it impact security? Learn more starting on page 26.

We also peer into tunnel security. What do the experts say are the biggest concerns and how to mitigate them starting? Find out on page 28.

Finally, our last feature should appeal to everyone — “Boost Security, Not Cost”. This looks at how entities can improve their vigilance and security without spending money.

Also, please don’t miss the column from Shannon Wandmaker about the intersection of security and disability — a complex issue with no easy answers. That column starts on page 40.
Happy spring to all.

Lead Editorial


On Dec. 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 was destroyed, in the blink of an eye, shortly after takeoff, when a bomb in the forward cargo area exploded. The flight was at 31,000 feet over Scotland having taken off from London-Heathrow heading to John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. That terrorist act and the crash are often associated with the beautiful Scottish town in which the aircraft crashed, Lockerbie.

Citizens from 21 countries were killed. The victims included people from America, United Kingdom, Argentina, Belgium, Bolivia, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Philippines, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago.

Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Mas’ud)
Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Mas’ud)

Among the 190 Americans lost were 35 Syracuse University students returning home to the United States for the holidays after a semester studying abroad. Of the 43 victims from the UK, eleven residents of Lockerbie, Scotland were also killed on the ground as debris from the aircraft destroyed an entire city block of homes. The attack was planned and executed by Libyan intelligence operatives. At the time it was the largest international terrorist attack in both the United States and the United Kingdom.

Scottish and American law enforcement jointly undertook an investigation which has been called unprecedented in scope. It led to criminal charges filed in both countries charging two Libyan intelligence operatives – Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi (Megrahi) and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah (Fhimah) – for their roles in the bombing. They were tried in a Scottish court sitting in The Netherlands. Fhimah was acquitted. Megrahi was found guilty.

The reverberations of that event are still being felt today more than 30 years on.

In December, Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud Kheir Al-Marimi (Mas’ud), 71, of Tunisia and Libya, made an initial appearance in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on federal charges, stemming from the bombing.

The United States and Scotland say their partnership will continue throughout the prosecution of Mas’ud.

“Nearly 34 years ago, 270 people, including 190 Americans, were tragically killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Since then, American and Scottish law enforcement have worked tirelessly to identify, find, and bring to justice the perpetrators of this horrific attack. Those relentless efforts over the past three decades led to the indictment and arrest of a former Libyan intelligence operative for his alleged role in building the bomb used in the attack,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The defendant is currently in U.S. custody and is facing charges in the United States. This is an important step forward in our mission to honor the victims and pursue justice on behalf of their loved ones.”

The U. S. Justice Department and Scottish authorities worked for more than three decades to continue to find additional perpetrators. Mas’ud’s appearance in court is a message to those who would seek to harm innocents anywhere in the world. “Know that we will find you however far you run and we will hold you accountable however how long it takes,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

The Dryfesdale Cemetery Garden of Remembrance and Memorial to the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 with photo credit: Image by Joy Finnegan.
The Dryfesdale Cemetery Garden of Remembrance and Memorial to the victims of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 with photo credit: Image by Joy Finnegan.

Acting Assistant Director in Charge Michael H. Glasheen of the FBI Washington Field Office added, “Thank you to the families of the victims for showing us your perseverance and strength for decades. The U.S. government will also persevere in our quest to bring justice, on your behalf, for those we so tragically lost.”

In 2019 my husband and I took a holiday in Scotland and one of our stops was at Lockerbie’s Dryfesdale Cemetery Garden of Remembrance and Memorial to the victims of this event (see image). And while another small piece of justice is about to occur, all of us who were around in the aviation industry back in 1988 will forever remember Lockerbie.

It’s Personal
Lead Editorial

It’s Personal

Last year in our autumn issue I used the opportunity of publishing right around September 11th to introduce myself as the new editor of this publication. It was the 20th anniversary of 9/11 (and of course this year marks 21st anniversary). For those of us who were working in aviation at that time, I guess we will always have a visceral reaction to that date and the memories of that time.

I take every opportunity to publicly reminisce about my college friend, David Charlebois, who was one of the pilots on American Airlines Flight 77 that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon on that fateful day. So, I want to mention him again here. David was a super smart, motivated guy, pursuing his dream of becoming a captain for a major legacy airline.

But, when I knew him, he was a friend with like interests — mostly flying. We shared that love of the sky and a passion for slipping the surly bonds of earth, traveling, adventure and the idea of a non-routine job that didn’t require sitting at a desk all week. David was motivated to get his ratings, build flight time and get hired by a legacy airline.

He was also a planner. He had a very defined plan for his path to achieve that goal. Talking to him about that plan gave me my own ideas and helped me formulate what I hoped would come next in my path after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where we were studying and training. He was also a person with a sharp sense of humor and I remember laughing about some of his very specific and unique ideas.

David was a son, a brother and an uncle. On the Pentagon Memorial page, his write up says, “He will be remembered fondly by many friends for his kindness, loyalty and positive attitude.” I can confirm that is how I remember him: kind, funny, loyal, hard-working, motivated.

As I sit and write this, it’s September 11, 2022. Twenty-one years ago, American Airlines flight 77, along with three other airline flights, was hijacked by terrorists and deliberately crashed into the Pentagon as part of the September 11 attacks. Here is a brief recap of what happened on that flight as written by Patricia Bauer in the Brittanica entry, “American Airlines flight 77” (edited for length).

“The Boeing 757-200 took off at 8:20 am. There were six crewmembers and 58 passengers. Unbeknownst to all, five hijackers boarded the flight. One of the hijackers was a trained pilot. Approximately half an hour after takeoff, the hijackers took control of the aircraft. At 8:54 the westbound plane turned to the south, deviating from flight plan. Two minutes later the airplane’s transponder was turned off. Radar contact was also lost. An air traffic controller at the Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center tried repeatedly to make contact with the pilot; receiving no response, he contacted American Airlines, but was also unsuccessful. Unaware of the earlier hijackings, the air traffic controllers began notifying other agencies that the plane might have crashed. At 9:09 the Indianapolis ATC notified the FAA that it had lost contact with the flight. At 9:12 one of the flight attendants, Renee May, used her cell phone to call her mother; she asked her mother to tell American Airlines that the flight had been hijacked. Another passengers, Barbara Olson, a Washington pundit phoned her husband, a politician to tell him that the plane had been hijacked and that all the people aboard had been herded to the back of the plane. Shortly after, Indianapolis ATC learned from American Airlines that other planes had been hijacked. A discussion ensued between the FAA command center and Indianapolis, and another confused conversation took place between the FAA and the Northeast Air Defense Sector. During that time, flight 77 traveled undetected back toward Washington for 36 minutes. At 9:32 air traffic controllers at Dulles found an unidentified aircraft traveling east at a high rate of speed and notified their compatriots at Reagan National Airport. FAA officials at both airports notified the Secret Service and controllers at Reagan ordered a National Guard aircraft that was already airborne to find and follow the (as yet) unidentified aircraft. At 9:34 flight 77 was 5 miles (8 km) west-southwest of the Pentagon; it executed a sharp turn and quick descent and dove toward the Pentagon, crashing into it at 9:37.

The plane hit the outer wall between the first and second floors and smashed through three of the Pentagon’s five concentric rings. The jet fuel exploded into a fireball, and about half an hour later a section of the building above where the plane hit collapsed. By that time, most people working there had been evacuated. However, 125 people working in the building were killed, as were the 64 crew, passengers, and hijackers on the plane. The impact, fire, and collapse of the affected part of the building destroyed most of the aircraft, leaving only a few pieces of wreckage.”

I think of my friend David, how aviation and travel changed after September 11 and where we are now, every year at this time. For some, security is nothing more than a pain and an inconvenience they experience when flying somewhere. But for me, it’s personal. Never forget.

Breast Milk of All Things
Lead Editorial

Breast Milk of All Things

This week a woman named Emily Calandrelli tried to go through TSA security screening at Los Angeles Intl. Airport in Los Angeles Calif. She was told by two male TSA agents that she couldn’t bring two ice packs through security because they were not frozen solid (one was, one was not). Worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep her breast milk, which she was going to pump prior to her flight, from going bad, she asked to speak to someone else.

I’ll let Emily tell the story — here is a partial transcript of her tweet thread: “Yesterday was my 1st trip away from my 10wk old son, who I’m currently breastfeeding. I’m going through security at LAX. I brought my pump and 2 ice packs – only 1 of which was cold (I won’t need the other until I come home, when I’ll have more milk).”

She didn’t have milk with her as it was the beginning of her trip but she was planning to pump at the airport prior to her flight and throughout her trip. “I was planning to get a last second pump sesh in before my 5 hour flight,” her tweet said. Two male TSA agents told her she would not be able to bring the ice packs through because there were not frozen solid. The ice packs are absolutely necessary to store the pumped breast milk safely, for later consumption.

When she was told she couldn’t bring the ice packs through, she asked to speak to someone else hoping they might have a better understanding of the rules and allow the gel packs, which can be frozen and thawed many times, to go through. The supervisor came over and told her the same — the gel packs could not go through. “He said ‘if you had milk on you, this wouldn’t be a problem.’ He asked (‘multiple times’) ‘well WHERE is the baby.’ He said if my child was with me, it wouldn’t be an issue,” she recounted in her tweet.

She then asked several times to speak with a female agent, who might understand the nuances of the issue better. They did not allow that. They escorted her out of the line and made her check the ice packs. Without them, she could not pump before the flight as the milk would spoil. She was flustered, upset and worried about both her baby’s food supply and her own health. She was worried about getting mastitis, which is an inflammation of breast tissue that often involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness accompanied by fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding and can result from engorged breasts that have not been expressed of milk.

Turns out those three men were pretty clueless, not only about breastfeeding, breast milk storage and female anatomy, they were also wrong about the very rules they work by. TSA rules specifically state that you’re allowed to have gel ice packs, whether they are frozen or not, for medically necessary purposes. Here is the exact wording on the TSA website: “Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice — regardless of the presence of breast milk — are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.”

And as Calandrelli tweeted, “Emptying my breasts on a regular schedule and providing food for my child IS medically necessary.” The TSA’s website also states: “Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements. Note that medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy) with or without the presence of breast milk. Please notify the TSA officer at the checkpoint for inspection.”

Reasonable quantities of gel packs are allowed — she had two — regardless of their state of matter. With or without the presence of breast milk. “Yesterday I was humiliated that I had to explain to 3 grown men that my breasts still produce milk when I’m not with my child. Yesterday I was embarrassed telling them about my fear of mastitis if I didn’t pump. Today I’m furious.”

To add insult to injury, the TSA agent, as he was escorting her back towards the screening area said, “…and don’t try to sneak it back through a second time. We’ll just make you toss it out,” Calandrelli tweeted.

The TSA guidelines go on to say: “Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk. Breast milk and formula are considered medically necessary liquids. This also applies to breast milk pumping equipment (regardless of presence of breast milk).”

Breastfeeding is more important and necessary than ever, and yes, it is medically necessary — medically necessary to keep tiny babies alive. Pumping and storing breast milk is part and parcel of the process of feeding most babies. Moms refer to breast milk as liquid gold. The nutrients in breastmilk are better absorbed and used by babies. Science has found that breastmilk has the nutrients that are best for a baby’s brain growth and nervous system development. If a mother must be away from her child during this time, the best option is to pump and store the milk for later use.

But in case you are oblivious and haven’t read the news recently (I’m talking to you TSA), there is a massive formula shortage in the United States right now. This severe shortage of infant formula is a result of the global supply chain problems and has been compounded by a huge product recall after two babies allegedly died after consuming a specific type of infant formula. That company closed the factory in which that formula was produced shortly thereafter, further exacerbating the shortage. It is causing stress for mothers who may have low milk supply and need to supplement with formula, were unable to breast feed for any number of reasons or who have a premature baby that cannot suck yet. Across the nation mothers are searching for formula in networks set up on social media to find specific types that are needed due to medical reasons.

Talk about adding insult to injury…women who are able to breastfeed and want to do so, are now faced with ignorant, poorly trained screeners who do not understand human female anatomy, not to mention the very rules they are supposed to enforce. As Calandrelli said, “The lack of training at TSA is unfairly punishing and harming women.” Do better TSA. Do better.

Danger Close
Lead Editorial

Danger Close

Danger close is a military phrase used in battle when forward and directing fire onto an enemy. As we come into this new year, the term has never been more relevant in the world at large than now in so much that is happening around the world.

We are faced with a pandemic disease that doesn’t play fair — leading to inexplicable deaths for some and cold symptoms for others — that is also mutating. Fortunately, we have good vaccines that are working — as long as people choose to get them. We are faced with a continued threat of this illness but many are moving on regardless of the status of the disease’s progress. For most it is a matter of survival: jobs, work, earning a living must continue, especially for those at the financial edge.

We now have a madman invading a sovereign country with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What can he be thinking? The lives of the 44 million people of Ukraine have been turned upside down with the chaos of war for no reason. And this aggression is surely causing ripple effect worries for other former members of the Soviet bloc.

As in all times of uncertainty, transportation is playing a key role. As Ukrainian women, children and elderly flee the country, trains, planes and automobiles are the key to their escape. Neighboring nations such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and others are receiving thousands of refugees daily. Poland’s Prime Ministry tweeted: “Attack civilians, inflict suffering on women and children, undermine democratic freedom: that is Putin’s policy. We’re fighting it on every front. Today I spoke about humanitarian aid with EEA ambassadors in Poland and fighting RU disinformation with Google CEO.”

Images of Ukrainian refugees pouring into rail stations, airports and bus stations are everywhere — and thank goodness these modes of transport are bringing people to safety.

One clear ripple effect that is causing pain around the globe is rising fuel prices. The economic sanctions put in place against Russia have led to increased pain at the pump, even for those on the other side of the world from where the madness is happening.

Just as we began to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, this conflict, less than a month old, has already caused multiple problems in transportation and supply chain with aviation shipping, rail and road all impacted.

As we prepared to send this issue to the printer, we took a look at some key areas to see what is happening. Let me highlight a few of the stories. Safe parking for trucks is sorely lacking all over the world and it is needed now more than ever. We are pushing drivers harder and further as the supply chain bends and breaks under the intense pressure it has been put under during the pandemic. These drivers need rest and a safe place to do that. Maneuvering a massive vehicle is not easy especially in areas that are not built to receive them. With heightened security concerns over the safety of the drivers and their cargo, more needs to be done to solve this dilemma. There are some companies working on it – learn more in our cover story on safe truck parking on page 36.

We take a look at the advancement of X-ray technology for airport luggage and people screening. Advancements have been made and they include software-driven artificial intelligence along with its focused self-improvement process, machine learning (AI/ML). We see how this technology is supercharging airport screening systems in this piece by James Careless.

We are grateful to former ASI Editor Philip Baum, who is back in this issue with a look at what really matters in avsec as the world seemingly tumbles out of control. He shows how being influenced by primary-recency, such as a 9/11 or a shoe bomber event, can make us in the security industry succumb to considering the most recent news we have heard as being indicative of the preeminent threats. But, Baum says, we need to focus on the next thing coming, the unknown. How? Training will be crucial. See more of his thoughts and suggestions starting on page 20.

We continue our two-part story on coastal surveillance by Mario Pierobon. This second of the two-part series looks at the increasing use of unmanned systems for this purpose. Big data and artificial intelligence will also play a larger role, as they do for so many areas of technological development. Learn how in this story starting on page 28.

And finally, let me call your attention to our story on the cyber challenges in the rail transportation industry. Experts call cyberattacks on the rail system “relentless.” How are they coping? What have we learned from the attacks on other areas of critical national infrastructure? The hackers have shifted from a ransomware tactic — corrupting a computer network’s code to lock out vital components like file servers, then demanding a substantial payment from the network’s owner to unlock those components — to a “double extortion” scheme of demanding payment for unlocking and then a second payoff demand to refrain from publicly releasing confidential information. Learn more in Jim McKenna’s fascinating look at the cyberthreats facing rail systems.

Stay safe everyone, even as danger comes closer and closer in so many different forms.

Decorum: The Continuing Saga
Lead Editorial

Decorum: The Continuing Saga

Federal Aviation Regulations 91.11, 121.580 and 135.120 state that “no person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”

Interfering with the duties of a crewmember violates federal law. And yet, weekly we see and hear reports about yet another unruly passenger outburst, clash or assault — some sexual in nature and others merely physical — occurring on aircraft or at the gate.

The repercussions for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be substantial. Fines can be imposed by the FAA or the offenders can be prosecuted on criminal charges. FAA can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases.

Under the new zero tolerance policy, the FAA says it will not address unruly passenger cases with warnings or counseling. The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.

But still, it doesn’t seem to be enough to deter people from acting out in such negative and outrageous ways which compromises the safety of everyone. Can anything else be done?

Let’s look at the numbers. There have been 5,664 unruly passenger reports as of the writing of this column so far in the year 2021. In addition, 4,072 incidents have been mask-related. According to the FAA, 76% of passenger incidents reported during the first five months of 2021 were over masks.

At a Senate hearing December 15, 2021 Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said he thinks the mask mandate for airline passengers should be lifted. “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add very much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” Kelly said. “It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.” Keep in mind that only a year ago Gary Kelly said, “If people would wear the mask — please wear the mask — we can defeat this pandemic.”

At this same hearing American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he agreed. “I concur,” Parker said. “An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It’s true of all of our aircraft ­— they all have the same HEPA filters and airflow.” That may be true for American Airlines aircraft but not all aircraft have HEPA filters and that doesn’t even address the airport terminal where passengers must congregate and stand shoulder to shoulder while boarding a flight. Or the point that some people are vaccinated and some are not, like children under five years old.

Right now the Transportation Security Administration’s mask mandate has been extended to March 2022.

Outspoken flight attendant union leader Sara Nelson had this to say about the mask mandate: “I believe that the government has taken a very responsible approach to this. We believe it should continue to stay in place. [It’s a] workplace safety issue,” she said at the hearing. “We do need a consistent message though. I hope we are going to stay on the same messages and follow the medical experts, and do what’s necessary to keep everybody safe.” She also concluded that it is the medical community that should make the decision about whether to mandate mask use on airline flights.

For the record, studies have shown that masks significantly decrease the chances of transmitting or contracting the coronavirus, depending upon the type of mask used. The N95 is the gold standard, experts say.

Mandating the wearing of masks only seems to incense some people and that has clearly led to an uptick in unruly passenger incidents.

Oh Demon Alcohol

The FAA has also proposed $161,823 in civil penalties against eight airline passengers for alleged unruly behavior involving alcohol. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA says it has received nearly 300 reports of passenger disturbances due to alcohol and intoxication.

Federal law prohibits passengers from consuming alcohol aboard a flight that is not served by a flight attendant. Airport bars frequently offer “to-go” cups for passengers awaiting their flights but in August this year, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson sent a letter to airports requesting that they work to prevent passengers from bringing to-go cups of alcohol aboard the aircraft.

Flight attendant leader Sara Nelson also called for airports to limit passenger access to alcohol before flights, saying it sent the wrong message to push access right up to boarding and then allowing more to be carried onto the aircraft. Currently, both Southwest and American have banned alcohol sales in economy class through January 2022.

What has happened to good old decorum, being ashamed of outrageous behavior and common decency? The rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped since the FAA launched its Zero Tolerance campaign but incidents continue to occur. Clearly it is not enough.

Perhaps we need to rethink booking levels and dividing the aircraft accordingly. Instead of first class and economy, let’s have partitians and extra-high fares for maskless fliers and those who want to drink onboard and place them in the back.

And for non-alcohol imbibing, mask-wearing, pleasant and kind passengers, I suggest your cheapest fare, widest seats and extra legroom.