View Full Version : Glass seen as potential threat aboard planes

24th Feb 2004, 18:49
Glass seen as potential threat aboard planes
23.02.2004 [20:23]

When she saw two young men board her flight from Houston to Fort Lauderdale in December, holding open beer bottles and looking "partially lit," Terry Nahuina was dumbfounded.
"After going through this extensive screening process, here are these two guys who could break a beer bottle and put it against anyone's throat," said Nahuina, a banquet captain at the Hyatt Pier 66 hotel in Fort Lauderdale.
The two men caused no trouble. But after landing, Nahuina called Continental Airlines and was further distressed to learn that beer, wine and liquor bottles are, indeed, allowed in airline cabins.

Considering many sharp objects are banned from airline cabins, some security experts say the Transportation Security Administration should revisit its policy of allowing liquor bottles because they could be converted into a jagged-glass weapon or a Molotov cocktail.
"Worried about a little penknife? Imagine what a chunk of glass could do," said Marvin Badler, a former chief of security for El Al, the Israeli airline. "No matter what, it could be shampoo, if it's in a glass bottle it could do a lot of damage."

The TSA says bottles are permitted as long as the liquor does not exceed 70 percent alcohol, or 140 proof, and is limited to five liters per person. Also, the liquor must remain sealed. Only an airline can provide alcoholic beverages for consumption during a flight.
Badler and other security experts said the TSA should restudy its entire list of prohibited and permitted items.
"The fact is they don't allow knives on board; broken glass is no different," said Joseph Del Balzo, who runs a security technology firm in Washington, D.C., and is a former Federal Aviation Administration administrator. "I'm really surprised."

Lauren Stover, TSA spokeswoman, said liquor bottles are permitted because they "would not pose a threat to a reinforced cockpit door. The TSA's main concern is the safety of passengers and any potential threat that could take down an aircraft or allow it to be used as a missile."
Stover said the TSA decides what is prohibited based on its potential to be used as a weapon. She noted the banned items list is evolving as security measures and technology improve.
For instance, she said tweezers were once forbidden in cabins but now are allowed. Because box cutters were used in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, they were once dreaded. But today they do not pose a serious threat, she said, although they are permitted only in checked bags.

A major problem with a liquor bottle ban is duty-free shops around the globe would be severely hurt, officials said. Alcohol sales are a big part of their business.
"It's a balance of economics and security," Stover said. "Security does come first, but we do recognize people do like to take back alcohol from various places."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been no incidents reported where a passenger converted a liquor bottle into a weapon. However, in May, 1987 of 1987, a worker at Fiji's Nadi Airport threatened to blow up an Air New Zealand Boeing 747 with sticks of dynamite. After a six-hour standoff, the flight engineer struck the would-be hijacker with a bottle of duty-free whiskey and knocked him unconscious.

In the incident reported by Nahuina, Continental Airlines officials could not confirm two men boarded the flight with open beer bottles -- a violation of federal rules. But they insisted their flight attendants knew to "vigorously enforce" those regulations.
Bob Poole, a Los Angeles-based expert in aviation security, said a ban on alcohol bottles "would be one more burden on air travel and leave people thinking of other ways to spend their money. And I don't think the airline industry can stand much more of that."
Just the same, Badler, of Boynton Beach, said it wouldn't be hard to drain some alcohol from a liquor bottle and turn it into a Molotov cocktail. He said that while he doesn't want to give terrorists ideas, if he's thought of it, terrorists likely have, too.
He said other items permitted on airlines also could be deadly, such as hair spray, which if lit by a cigarette lighter could become a small flamethrower.

Capt. Steve Luckey, of the Air Line Pilots Association, representing 67,000 pilots at 43 airlines in the United States and Canada, said despite reinforced doors, pilots are at risk of an attack whenever they leave the cockpit.
He said many items could be turned into weapons, but rather than ban them, he'd rather the TSA develop trusted traveler programs and identify potentially dangerous passengers.
"We don't know who anybody is, and we have to know who you are," he said.

Sun-Sentinel, Feb 22

24th Feb 2004, 20:35
That's a pretty desperate article.

You're telling me two slightly tipsy men walked onto a plane with beer and caused - gasp - no trouble?

And there have been no bottle-equipped hijackers since September 11? Never!

As for "draining alcochol from a bottle and turning it into a molotov cocktail", well my Chemistry days are quite far behind me but I'd have to guess that seperating the alcohol from the rest of the liquid in a bottle would take a bunsen burner setup that would be difficult not to notice.

And sure, while we're at it, let's ban bottles, nailclippers, hairspray, cabin mirrors, sharp edges. Heck, just wrap the cabin in foam and have the passengers board the plane naked after a cavity search.

Alarmist reportage at its very worst.

24th Feb 2004, 21:02
Ever see what happens if you sprinkle a little powdered coffee creamer over an open flame such as a cigarette lighter.
Just like gunpowder.
We could go on and on.
Not going to make things safer.

24th Feb 2004, 21:21
There may have been no broken glass hijackings since 9/11, but there have certainly been 'air rage' incidents where pax have used, or threatened to use, broken glass as a weapon. It wouldn't be a big deal for the airport shops to sell the booze in plastic bottles.

24th Feb 2004, 21:31
I recently flew as a pax from Geneva to the UK. It was perfectly OK with Geneva security for me to have in my handluggage 2 Swiss army knives with about 3" blades that I had purchased from an airside shop!!!

I suppose the argument that they are a Swiss national product means that they can be carried in the cabin?

Let's have a level playing field here please.

24th Feb 2004, 22:05
ANYTHING can be used as a weapon......simple as that.

Bit of a throw away comment I know, but it is very true. Even a simple baseball in a sock (whoops...........everybody bare feet now, and it eliminates shoe bombs). High heeled shoe? The toilet seat would make a handy thing to clout somebody with. Is that a pen you're filling out your landing card with? Even a simple shoelace can be dangerous in the hands of a determinded person. If you really want to damage people, it doesn't take much imagination.

In this current environment, if a situation occurred where old mate grabs a passenger and puts a broken bottle to their neck demanding into the flight deck, I really don't think you would see the door opening very soon (and I realise this is very blood thirsty and heaven forbid it happening!!).


25th Feb 2004, 01:48
A couple of times since 9/11, I have taken a plastic water bottle through security. Each time I've been required to open it and take a drink to prove it was really water and not something nasty.

So, at least some people are checking.

25th Feb 2004, 05:17
ANYTHING can be used as a weapon......simple as that. Flying will be a lot safer if boarding is only allowed completely nekkid w/o hand luggage. No food or tax free items will be hand out and pax are obliged to keep seated the whole trip.... :p

25th Feb 2004, 05:50
In some countries, once a passenger has made a duty free purchase, they can only collect the items at the gate.
If everyone is so worried about taking glass items, or worse in the Geneva case..a knife), why not give passengers the duty free on arrival at destination. Logistics might seem like a nightmare, but with a bit of thought it could be worked out.
Also would mean less items in the cabin.

25th Feb 2004, 06:00
Not true that a duty-free bottle has not been used in an attempted hijacking. Last year in South america (Brazil?) a looney who had replaced the whiskey in a bottle with petrol poured it over a couple of seat backs and threatened to set it alight. He was taken down by the cabin crew.

Attempts have also been made using just fists (Algeria?) asthma inhaler, chopsticks and even a tv remote control (that one was successful) just in the last couple of years. We used to let the hijacker succeed, in order to prevent loss of life, but now we know that some of them are suicidal and cannot be allowed to take control of the airplane.

But no matter what the hijacker is armed with, crew and pax can use the seat cushions, which usually have straps on the back to enable them to be held like a shield (meant to be used as flotation devices). If a group goes for the hijacker(s) they should be able to get them down even if the crims are armed with knives, bottles or whatever.

26th Feb 2004, 16:01
God help us, ever see what a properly trained "terrorists"can do with a visa card? Imagine if he/she had two.........

27th Feb 2004, 04:34
Delete this thread.

Or are we trying to give the b***ards new ideas.

27th Feb 2004, 05:19
I seem to remember making similar comments about glass bottles shortly after the security overkill started in the wake of 9/11. Trouble is that the people masterminding it are civil servants whose top level qualifications are double first class degrees in Latin & Greek at either Oxford or Cambridge university. As my ex-RAF first officer pointed out at the time, these people have unlimited access to experts who really know what security is about, and they decline to use them - their own armed forces!

What amused me not so long ago was passing with my wife as a passenger through the local airport to go on holiday. The security man stentoriously ordered my wife to expose the contents of her handbag. In it he found a hairclip (which was a long pointy object) which he declared was not allowed and therefore had to be thrown in the bin. Naturally my wife was a bit miffed. On inspecting the air side shops we found an identical hairclip for sale - at three times the price my wife paid for in the local shopping centre! Clearly another technique used by BAA to enhance their profits.


Wot No Engines
28th Feb 2004, 06:08
The biggest problem is not what is or is not permitted, but the consistancy with which the rules are applied and the over zealous approach taken by some so called security agents.

I have had many occasions of having items be examined and passed, only to have them rejected for my return flight the same day. In all cases, these were items I could have bought having passed through security. Fortunately I live in a country where questioning back politely pointing this out won't get you locked up and in all except one case, the supervisor permitted me to keep the item.

Items include a laptop computer security cable and spare stylus for a PDA.

As many have alluded to, the only sure way to remove all items of risk is to provide all passengers "cabin clothing", conduct a full cavity search and permit no luggage in the cabin. That would obviously result in no one flying, so a ballanced approach has to be taken - weigh up risk against economics - after all, isn't that exactly what we all do when we cross the road, drive a car, or fly as a pilot or passenger.

Unfortunately, decent threat profiling doesn't seem to be permitted due to civil liberties groups in the US, so as a result ALL have their civil liberties removed, causing delays and a desire to avoid travelling to the US if possible.

28th Feb 2004, 09:06
WEBLUEIT, do nae fret, if the terrorists were not able to concoct any of these ideas themselves then I do not imagine they would have made it to adulthood without a serious life threatening accident.