Sunday musings: FAA tower closings posponed, movie complaint diversion, TSA and knives on planes

Questions to muse about: Should FAA towers be closed? When should complaining be considered extreme? Do you feel that TSA is endangering passengers with their new rules?

FAA delays air tower closures until June
After the uproar about the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) threatening to close control towers at nearly 150 airports across the country, the administration pulled back and delayed a final decision.

Is this any way to run an air transportation system; especially a system that is funded for the most part by user fees paid for by passengers and general aviation pilots.

Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said the additional time would give the FAA improved ability to ensure the flight tower closures did not impact the safety of flying in the U.S.

“This has been a complex process and we need to get this right,” LaHood said in a statement. “Safety is our top priority. We will use this additional time to make sure communities and pilots understand the changes at their local airports.”

The FAA had said it needed to close the air traffic control towers to meet it obligation to cut its budget for the rest of the 2013 fiscal year by $600 million.
That announcement drew sharp criticism from lawmakers who represent districts that contain airports on the list. Additionally, several individual airports filed lawsuits to block the FAA from beginning the closures as planned.

Letter alleges captain diverted plane because family complained about in-flight film

Here is a situation that is almost too bizarre to believe. But, evidently it happened since the airline involved is being most reluctant to answer questions. Is it possible for a flight to be diverted because passengers complain about violence on video screens? There may be an answer coming from United.

A family traveling from Denver to Baltimore on United claims that their flight was diverted by the captain because the parents requested that the in-flight movie, “Alex Cross,” be turned off.

The parents, thus far unnamed, wrote a letter to The Atlantic about the incident. According to the letter, after the flight took off, the flight crew lowered the TV screens and began playing the PG-13-rated cop thriller starring Tyler Perry.

The parents, whose children are 4 and 8, believed the film to be too violent for their kids. “Alarmed by the opening scenes, we asked two flight attendants if they could turn off the monitor; both claimed it was not possible” and would be a nuisance to the people behind them.

Upon making an unscheduled landing at Chicago O’Hare Airport, “a police officer boarded the plane and allegedly asked the family to gather their things to disembark.”

TSA chief: I’m still going to let knives back on planes

Despite howls from the flight attendants’ unions and more than a hundred letters from Congress, TSA is moving ahead with their new rules streamlining the forbidden items list for flights. Small knives and some sporting equipment like hockey sticks and golf clubs will now be allowed.

Pistole replied in his letter Wednesday that 3 billion passengers have flown domestically since small scissors and knitting needles were allowed on planes “without a single reported disruption from these objects.” He aims to focus on riskier threats.

Locking and strengthening cockpit doors has reduced the risk that terrorists can gain control of a plane. But Pistole said the shoe bomber in 2001 and the underwear bomber in 2009 were able to smuggle non-metallic explosives onto planes, and intelligence suggests more bombers are trying to do so.

“Given these real and significant threats, security experts worldwide have concluded that small pocket knives and certain sporting equipment do not pose a security risk that would result in the catastrophic failure of an aircraft and the loss of all life on board,” Pistole wrote lawmakers.

Photo: JoshuaDavisPhotography, Flickr Creative Commons

  • Lisa Simeone

    Re the diverted plane: parents silly, pilot insane.

    Re the TSA: forget the knife controversy. Knives get on planes all the time. Knives, scissors, etc. Big deal. People should be more concerned that Uncle Sam is sticking his hands down their pants. And they should be putting their comments in the public docket: