Monday, August 21, 2006

With news like this, why bother flying ever again?

Front paged at Booman Tribune and ePluribus Media

Ok, so outside of the fact that it is necessary to fly sometimes - whether it is for business travel or for those instances where you can't drive (of course with gas prices being as high as they are, even that isn't all that feasible), I am coming to the conclusion that flying is just not worth the hassle or the headache, not to mention the safety issues - but not necessarily what you think.

Now, my wife HATES to fly - also not for "terrorist threat" reasons, but because she just doesn't feel all that safe when she is thousands of feet off the ground, locked in a tube that she has no control over. And I generally was able to let her know that planes are safer than driving, and that she really doesn't have much to worry about.

And then I read this and this.

In all honesty, even with all of the news about DHS (which I will get into in a bit), the first bit of news is more scary to me, and leads me to wonder about what type of liability for negligence Boeing could be on the hook for.

Boeing may have knowingly accepted and installed defective parts for its 737s and other jets.

That is not a misprint. According to two former auditors of Boeing:

Former auditors Taylor Smith and Jeannine Prewitt told Sky that Boeing accepted defective parts for 737s and other jets from Ducommun, a Californian supplier, and installed them even though they knew them to be faulty and potentially dangerous.

The components - which are crucial to the safety of an aircraft's fuselages - are alleged to have had incorrectly drilled holes and other physical defects that make them more likely to fail.

Ms Prewitt said safety was compromised by "so many manufacturing and quality discrepancies", building the planes should have stopped immediately but did not.

Of course, Boeing's response was along the lines of "nothing to see here, please move along". And why should they have any other response when its stock price has nearly tripled over the past three years, despite a lagging economy all around?

So there is a potential for countless numbers of planes (as the ones at issue were manufactured over an eight year period, beginning in 1994 to be flying around at risk of major damage and defect. Now, I am certainly no expert in the field of aircraft safety, but this doesn't sound good at all, especially since the Boeing 737 is the world's most popular aircraft.

Oh, but wait, there is more. With the new rules on what can and can't be carried onto an airplane (and no doubt a boon to the toothpaste and shaving cream industries) and despite the fact that security in UK airports (you know the country that actually had the terror threat in its airports) will be eased in the coming days, airport news here in fascist `Murka just keeps on getting worse.

We can look forward to more racial profiling in airports if Rep. Peter King gets his way:

The chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security Rep. Peter King , R-N.Y., said additional layers of security at U.S. airports are needed and more emphasis must be placed on training security screeners to spot suspicious people, even if that means looking at their race and nationality.

"The fact is the overwhelming odds are that it is going to be someone of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent and of the Muslim faith. And I think a screener should be allowed to factor that in as one of many factors. Like if we were told that the Ku Klux Klan was going to attack Harlem or Bedford Stuyvesant, I think we'd spend more time looking more closely at whites than we would at African-Americans," King told 'FOX News Sunday.'

Of course, we still can't bring dangerous items such as water, deodorant or mouthwash on planes, even though it wasn't the US airports that were targeted.

But now, we hear just how much of a mess things are at DHS with respect to airport security. Last week, in a diary I wrote about DHS, I mentioned that there is no checking of cargo that is being shipped in the belly of the aircraft, nor is there any way to verify that the driver's license that you need to provide at the security line is actually a real driver's license. And now, we have top Congressional officials, scientists and DHS officials calling the Homeland Security Department's Science and Technology Directorate "a rudderless ship". To make matters worse, things are so bad at the Directorate that Congress is about to cut its funding in half.

"So what?", you may say. Well, this is only the very agency that is in charge of countering threats such as liquid explosives. And according to resident xenophobic Congresscritter Peter King:

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee said yesterday that the United States is at least a year from being able to detect explosives in liquids carried by airline passengers. ``The technology is being pursued,"

"The technology is being pursued." Only five years since 9/11. But that isn't even the punchline - guess why the Directorate is in such bad shape:

the Bush administration's overriding focus on nuclear and biological threats has delayed research on weapons aimed at aviation, a controversial choice that was questioned anew after a plot to blow up US-bound airliners from London was made public Aug. 10.


Disputes over money delayed by two years the testing of walkthrough ``puffer" machines designed to detect explosive residue at checkpoints, said Tony Fainberg, a private consultant who oversaw explosives and radiation detection at the Homeland Security Department in 2003. Ninety of the devices were finally installed at US airports over the past year.

The department also delayed consideration of a proposal to deploy breadbox-sized chemical trace explosive detectors at overseas airports, Fainberg said, even though about 8,000 are now in the United States.

Despite spending billions of dollars to defend against everything from dirty bombs to anthrax, the administration has not delivered a coherent long-term strategy to underpin its rhetoric, said Albert Teich, director of science and policy programs at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


But with Homeland Security's well-documented start-up problems, the S&T Directorate has been thinly staffed and deprived of money. Its reorganization was put on the back burner by Secretary Michael Chertoff, who took over in March 2005. Meanwhile, its management problems sapped the confidence of administration and congressional budget officials, analysts said.

Yup - it goes right to the top. The very people who talk about how much their job is to keep `Murka safer. And while that is no shock, it certainly makes me want to fly less and less.

Can you really blame me or think otherwise?

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