Thursday, March 13, 2008

And Then They Kill Me

This morning someone sent me a link to a news story about 122 missing FAA investigator badges. If an accredited representative of the local aviation authority, which in the United States is the FAA, requests access to an airplane, I must accommodate him or her. The only way a crew could say "no, you can't ride along with us in the cockpit" is if all cockpit seats were already filled by persons essential to the flight. The FAA inspector can also go anywhere in the airport.

FAA inspectors may pose as ordinary passengers to evaluate airline compliance of passenger briefings. And then in cruise the inspector could present his credentials to the flight attendant and ask for cockpit access. I believe in this case he could be denied access if the airline SOPs forbade opening the cockpit door for any non-emergency reason during flight.

According to the article, FAA inspectors may also bypass airport security checkpoints. So here we have a scenario where someone can carry as much shampoo as they like onto any airplane they choose, and then ask to be taken directly to the cockpit and remain there for the duration of the flight. With their family-sized bottle of shampoo.

I'm thinking I might print that article out. If someone with an FAA (or Transport Canada or especially Civil Aviation Authority of Moldova) badge asks onto my airplane I will delay access until I can verify, through a published FAA telephone number, that the badge number is valid and that the person is supposed to be on my airplane. i crack myself p here, because as anyone who has ever called the FAA knows, no one seems to know what they are supposed to be doing, let alone what anyone else is supposed to be doing, and they rarely get back to you. I apologize to any affronted FAA people reading my blog, but truly to an outsider the system seems to be set up as a number of impenetrable shells, denying access to the people who know anything unless the caller is unusually persistent and lucky. If the badgeholder is legit and seriously concerned about the safety of my airplane, they shouldn't complain. If they are a legitimate FAA inspector looking for a free ride for personal reasons, they'll change their mind, and if they are an impostor ... hmm, maybe I'd better have a plan B.


Xaqman said...

They can't forbid in-flight opening of the cockpit door for non-emergency reasons until they put a lav in the cockpit!

Roy McM said...

Hi There,

As with law enforcement badges, just having the badge is not enough. They must also have accompanying photo ID issued by the agency in question. You are perfectly within your rights to deny access to any schmuck that cannot produce photo ID with their badge.

Xaqman said...

That reminds me of a time two cops showed up late at night to my house. Everybody was asleep but me, and my modem had dialed 911 (it was configured to get an outside line at a hotel). They wanted me to open my front door. I asked them to show ID, and one of them, annoyed, said, "C'mon! Do we look like imposters?" I said, "You do NOW!"

Paul b said...

"They can't forbid in-flight opening of the cockpit door for non-emergency reasons until they put a lav in the cockpit!"

But surely a pilot needing to go to the lav *IS* an emergency, isn't it? :-)


PS: we had a lady pilot the other day on my Flybe flight to AMS :-)

PPS: one of the ground staff ran a set of steps into the nose of the plane, cracking it, so we had to use another plane about 3 hours later :-(

Anonymous said...

Dirtbag spammers are getting more creative....

Xaqman said...

Paul, they phrase it 'in connection with physiological needs'.

Someday I'll test whether that also means I can head aft to chat up the comely lass in row 19...! said...

Anyone with a basic artistic bent can make a convincing looking picture ID with readily available materials nowadays. (If someone waved a picture ID at you with FAA printed upon it in big letters and a seal, would you be able to reliably pick it out as real or a fake? If so, what the basis for your certainty?).
Often our law enforcement people don't come in uniform but in menacing black, or undercover sleaze or suits. Besides, I can go buy a uniform off the shelf without dept ID.

The answer is to not allow "unannounced anything", (to skirt a double negative), and stop letting FAA people feel like God.

Be it FAA, FBI, local law enforcement, or whomever, after announcing inconvenient and even dangerous security measures, the next thing security authorities always do is create "back doors" for themselves which are easily compromised because they ARE easy.The third is to start abusing these "back doors".

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?