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View Full Version : British Army expert casts doubt on 'liquid explosives' threat


billbigtoe1
6th Oct 2006, 15:36
EXCERPT:

"The idea that these people could sit in the plane toilet and simply mix together these normal household fluids to create a high explosive capable of blowing up the entire aircraft is untenable," said Lt. Col. Wylde, who was trained as an ammunition technical officer responsible for terrorist bomb disposal at the Royal Army Ordnance Corps in Sandhurst.

FULL STORY:
http://www.rawstory.com/news/2006/Sources_August_Terror_Plot_Fiction_Underscoring_0918.html

yellerKat
7th Oct 2006, 02:40
Good techish article in The Register (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/17/flying_toilet_terror_labs/)

billbigtoe1
7th Oct 2006, 03:18
I thought it was worthwhile to look at other points of view on this topic. I always thought it a bit of a hollywood movie scenario and think it a topic worth questioning.

I won't post further news items on the subject after this one as there are loads of articles on the topic that are easy enough to find questioning the feasibility of the idea. Thanks

Sorry, meant to include this link in my previous "last post" on the topic. No that truly is the last I'll post.

http://www.rsc.org/chemistryworld/News/2006/August/11080602.asp

Pub User
7th Oct 2006, 15:45
From the article:

The pilot has the ability to dump all the air from an aircraft as a fire-fighting measure, leaving people to use oxygen masks

Clearly this gentleman is both an aviation and chemistry expert.

Perhaps things have moved on a bit since he defused IRA bombs in 1974?

mm_flynn
7th Oct 2006, 16:04
http://www.answers.com/topic/philippine-airlines-flight-434

Another perspective. While much less dramatic than the 'mix a bomb in the loo' headlines, this one seems to have been a smuggled liquid and an 'innocent' bit of electronics. I don't know, if a bit bigger bottle of contact lens solution, lucky positioning, etc. would have made it work.


On the other hand, it may be that planes today can withstand substantial over pressures and/or an explosive next to a fuel tank filled with vapours without anything bad happening;)

Ex Cargo Clown
7th Oct 2006, 18:09
Anyone with an A-Level in Chemistry could name all sorts of substances that could be mixed on an aircraft and bring it down.

I'm sure international terrorists would have access to all manner of resources. And let's not forget, you don't need explosives to make an aircraft crash. Just a structural failure.

Gallium anyone :eek:

archae86
7th Oct 2006, 18:28
The "disproofs" largely seem to attack specifics such as TATP, or use only of unaltered household items.
The threat response was rather broadly to liquids and gels, with _concealment_ in household containers, and a New York Times article in the October 4 edition asserts that specific explosive tests were carried out here in New Mexico on liquids deduced from the inquiry resulting in blasts of "considerable force".
While I have no personal knowledge of these specific tests, I do know a little about the thoroughly professional institution which carried them out, having been in the building which houses EMRTC within the last year. Possibly we should pay more attention to the work of experts practicing in the field using "inside information" on the alleged threat, and less attention to people who debunk specific press stories and go on to reject the whole threat.
If you have already registered (free, but requires some information) on the NY Times web site, you can read the story here:
NY Times story on basis of the 1 quart rule (http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/04/us/04plot.html)

flash8
7th Oct 2006, 22:01
From the article:



Clearly this gentleman is both an aviation and chemistry expert.

Perhaps things have moved on a bit since he defused IRA bombs in 1974?

May be so, but after reading the article the guy comes across as extremely credible. I wouldn't negate anything he said, and if you can, please bless us with your wisdom.

cwatters
8th Oct 2006, 00:09
It doesn't seem to have occured to him that they would have tried it on the ground first. Only if it worked would they have tried it for real on a plane. If they were buying tickets they probably had already have done that test.

flash8
8th Oct 2006, 00:18
It doesn't seem to have occured to him that they would have tried it on the ground first. Only if it worked would they have tried it for real on a plane. If they were buying tickets they probably had already have done that test.
I'm not defending these guys (who probably deserve to be locked up and the key thrown away) but how the heck do we know if they "tried it" on the ground first? Thats pure conjecture. Lets look for the TRUTH here surrounding these actions, it disturbs me when the UK spin machine takes over and everything takes on a life of its own - often totally at odds with the facts. At least the Colonel spoke out, likely to be shot down by armchair amateurs who know f*** all.

cwatters
8th Oct 2006, 09:43
how the heck do we know if they "tried it" on the ground first? Thats pure conjecture.

Wouldn't you test it first? I can't imagine them not dong so. They might be misguided but they aint stupid. They might not have tested it in this country but they sure would have tested it somewhere.

Lon More
8th Oct 2006, 11:19
when the UK spin machine takes over and everything takes on a life of its own

looking at the name of the author I think any "spin" might be in a different direction.

Hand Solo
8th Oct 2006, 12:00
Anyone with an A-Level in Chemistry could name all sorts of substances that could be mixed on an aircraft and bring it down.
I'm sure international terrorists would have access to all manner of resources. And let's not forget, you don't need explosives to make an aircraft crash. Just a structural failure.
Gallium anyone :eek:

I've got an A-level in Chemistry and I can't think of anything I could mix that would create a big enough bang to take the aircraft down yet not be picked up by bog standard security checks. I could start a few fires by smuggling a load of flammable liquid on board but a powerful explosive? No way. I spent two years trying to create that sort of effect in a school lab without success!

chrisbl
8th Oct 2006, 12:40
I ve got O level chemistry and we used to do it all the time back in the 60s. Homemade fireworks were the order of the day.
May A levels are not what they used to be

Permafrost_ATPL
8th Oct 2006, 12:40
If they have not practiced mixing the chemicals before the flight, they're in for a big surprise. And even then, things might prove more difficult than expected...

My comments are purely based on my personal experience opening Muller yogurt packs on the flight deck. Most of the time, there is no yogurt left in the container to mix in the crunchy bits. I have tried to scrape it off my shirt but I can never get enough of it back in the container to achieve the right proportion of liquid/crunchy...

P

rmac
8th Oct 2006, 15:17
There are lots of online articles around detailing the small amount of time available to put out an onboard fire, before it was beyond control. I suppose they were originally directed at galley fires, toilet fires, electrical fires (entertainment system) etc.

I wonder what the result would be of a brandy based molotov cocktail smashed over some seats, or down the toilet. No answers please on open forum :mad: , just consider the question rhetorical !

Lord Lucan
8th Oct 2006, 16:52
I ve got O level chemistry and we used to do it all the time back in the 60s. Homemade fireworks were the order of the day.

Back in the 60's I used to make home made fireworks too.

Sodium chlorate weed killer (no longer available, I think) plus sugar or gunpowder, ..that sort of thing. But I do not believe these type of pyrotechnics will bring down an airliner, not without using very large quantities, anyway.

I rather suspect that the whole thing was just another political put-up job designed to distract us proles from the appalling bombardment of Lebanon, and the UK governments unpopular stand on this. At the very least the whole affair was a hysterical overreaction which inconvenienced millions of people.

Let us face the fact that the risks of dying from terrorism are totally insignificant. And lets just get on with our lives and ditch most of this expensive and inconvenient "security" nonsense.

flash8
8th Oct 2006, 16:59
Back in the 60's I used to make home made fireworks too.

Sodium chlorate weed killer (no longer available, I think) plus sugar or gunpowder, ..that sort of thing. But I do not believe these type of pyrotechnics will bring down an airliner, not without using very large quantities, anyway.

I rather suspect that the whole thing was just another political put-up job designed to distract us proles from the appalling bombardment of Lebanon, and the UK governments unpopular stand on this. At the very least the whole affair was a hysterical overreaction which inconvenienced millions of people.

Let us face the fact that the risks of dying from terrorism are totally insignificant. And lets just get on with our lives and ditch most of this expensive and inconvenient "security" nonsense.

The "capture" of these "terrorists" who were going to cause "loss of life on an unprecedented scale" seemed perfect timing for many people as Lucan suggests to deflect from the real issues of the day, certain parties were starting to look rather embarrasing. Voila.. this "major event" saved the day. However lets wait for the court case, as I have little doubt many people are going to be looking very foolish. Don't expect any resignations though - this government and senior police officers have absolutely no shame.

Ex Cargo Clown
8th Oct 2006, 17:01
I've got an A-level in Chemistry and I can't think of anything I could mix that would create a big enough bang to take the aircraft down yet not be picked up by bog standard security checks. I could start a few fires by smuggling a load of flammable liquid on board but a powerful explosive? No way. I spent two years trying to create that sort of effect in a school lab without success!

Plenty of very unstable mixtures would cause a big bang and uncontainable fire. Obviously not going to post anything on here, but if the wouldbe suicide bomber is willing to take their own life as well as everyone elses, I don't think they would be too busy with the stoichiometry of the particular reaction and would just put large amounts of the reactants together and wait for the bang.

Lord Lucan
8th Oct 2006, 17:11
Plenty of very unstable mixtures would cause a big bang and uncontainable fire

Of course there are, plenty of stable ones too!

It is never really that much of a problem to cause an uncontrollable fire. As suggested above the duty free gin was always a good start. The point is that everyone knew this years ago. Nothing magically changed on the fateful day. And, to my knowledge, no-one has actually tried it (deliberately, anyway:) )

PaperTiger
8th Oct 2006, 17:18
I don't think they would be too busy with the stoichiometry of the particular reaction and would just put large amounts of the reactants together and wait for the bang.Timothy McVeigh demonstrated that one can make a very big bang indeed from 'everyday' materials. I would hope that the very large amounts would attract the attention of the screeners though. Maybe not.

Ex Cargo Clown
8th Oct 2006, 17:43
Timothy McVeigh demonstrated that one can make a very big bang indeed from 'everyday' materials. I would hope that the very large amounts would attract the attention of the screeners though. Maybe not.

5 Pax with 2 litre soft drink bottles filled with various non-soft drinks would cause a big enough bang to bring down your average airliner if mixed together....

You don't need tonnes of the stuff when you are sat in a pressure vessel.

It's not so easy to get Gin to light when it is cold either :cool:

rmac
8th Oct 2006, 21:25
Ex-CC, obviously not a fan of flaming sambuccas or brandy on your christmas pud then ;)

cwatters
8th Oct 2006, 23:39
Sodium chlorate weed killer (no longer available, I think)
Still available in many garden centers but comes diluted with stuff to make it less hazardous. According to this HSE article....
http://www.hse.gov.uk/comah/sragcwh/hazards/haz5.htm
"Sodium Chlorate is the most common explosive material found in mixed warehouses".

This site has a table of home made explosives and the ingredients needed to make them (but not the instructions!). Some look like they would be easy to obtain but how stable they are I've no idea..

http://www.aristatek.com/newsletter/0512December/TechSpeak.aspx

walter kennedy
9th Oct 2006, 00:33
cwatters
<<Only if it worked would they have tried it for real on a plane. If they were buying tickets they probably had already have done that test.>>

I don’t think many of them even had passports (remember transatlantic flights were the alleged targets).
I don’t think that the (crude) devices found on the stooges arrested for the attempted 2nd wave of London bombings would have worked – and so, presumably, we are to believe that such volunteers would be sacrificed to indefinite incarceration with untried devices – or that they were set up as stooges by the intelligence services.
I agree with Lt Col Wylde that details of the detonation of the first wave of London bombings should be made public – after all, one early police comment I recall seemed to imply that they were “professional” and so presumably not from the same source as the latter ones.
The reason for so much “conspiracy theory” conjecture is, I suggest, that so much is made of implausible techniques supported only by hearsay from informant sources while the real incidents are cloaked in secrecy – sort of like grabbing at straws to blame target groups whilst protecting agents provocateurs.

beamer
9th Oct 2006, 09:15
Trouble is, all this talk about liquid hazards ignores the fact that any such threat has to have been a long-standing one that goes way back before 9/11 so why are we only now getting so excited about it. Are mobile phones, laptops etc any less hazardous now they are allowed back on aircraft than they were when they were banned back in the summer. Either this stuff is dangerous or its not - the rest is political bull.

cambioso
9th Oct 2006, 09:50
If I were a Suicide Bomber - prepared to lose my life for the "Cause", then why would I prat about trying to get past security with my explosive toothpaste?? I could pack away my Large Device in an even larger strong suitcase (to improve the "bang") check it in, and just sit there waiting for the moment to trigger it with my mobile phone from seat 37A on approach to 27L..
"That would learn 'em"!!!???

mm_flynn
9th Oct 2006, 09:51
Trouble is, all this talk about liquid hazards ignores the fact that any such threat has to have been a long-standing one that goes way back before 9/11 so why are we only now getting so excited about it. Are mobile phones, laptops etc any less hazardous now they are allowed back on aircraft than they were when they were banned back in the summer. Either this stuff is dangerous or its not - the rest is political bull.

There are lots of ways and places to commit 'mass murder on an unimaginable scale' and the means are relatively to hand. Trying to prevent all of these possible actions would put ordinary activity under such a security burden that nothing would get done - and given the very small number of individuals who are actually trying to do something, we would be better off just taking the casualties.

Rather than either of these two extremes, the security people, in my view properly, take a view of which methods and targets are currently of interest to the bad guys. On 9/11 they got it wrong (crashing airliners had been an idea floating about for a decade but obviously wasn't viewed that critically), On 7/7 they were right, but weren't effective at stopping the attacks. On other occasions the security forces claim to have been right and effective - but very little public information is available on these incidents.

With regard to the professional/amateur comments –everyone who is successful is called ‘professional’ by the media – and if a plot fails it looks amateurish. But the only real difference is one group were lucky. As the IRA used to say ‘you need to be lucky every time, I just need to be lucky once’

Tan
9th Oct 2006, 11:17
Pardon me for being seemingly politically incorrect but could this article have been prepared for a Muslim publication? That withstanding, their is no doubt in my mind that security is on another power play and that for the sake of the industry they must be reined in. Otherwise we won't have an aviation industry.

rmac
9th Oct 2006, 18:40
Yet another example of how OBL and his fellow travellers have got us all chasing up our own ar#ehol#s and generally degrading our quality of life on an almost daily basis.

How about this for a terrorist coup " Why not just make up outlandish plots and leak them through sources until eventually the whole western world is tied up in one big straightjacket" :E "Hell we won't even have to leave our cave, we could just sit here all day eating roast mutton and gigling over girlie mags until the westies are all [email protected]" :ugh:

selfin
10th Oct 2006, 02:33
Timothy McVeigh demonstrated that one can make a very big bang indeed from 'everyday' materials. I would hope that the very large amounts would attract the attention of the screeners though. Maybe not.

And Brig. General Benton K Partin had a few words to say about that particular incident. His CV (http://www.brasscheck.com/OKBOMB/partinres.html) in case you're interested. You'll find his input in Congressional records.

Richard Spandit
11th Oct 2006, 11:54
The terrorists didn't need to blow up the aircraft to achieve their aims - so the truth as to whether or not liquid bombs are feasible is largely irrelevant.

Terrorism lives through the hysteria caused by the press. Blowing aircraft up mid-Atlantic wouldn't have given us any glossy photographs of explosions, but there was just as much panic created by the heavy handed kneejerk reaction of the DOT combined with the likes of the Daily Mail adding fuel to the fire.

Al Qaeda has already proved that it can cause mass disruption so the mere suggestion of another plot is enough to start the whole media frenzy up again thus only adding to the terrorists cause.

Richard Spandit
11th Oct 2006, 11:56
Nothing like bypassing all "those problems" by just parking your bottom in some bushes near LGW, LHR etc, with a "friend" and a couple of SA-7s (or even Stingers!) or some more recent kind MANPADS and pick out a plane or two.......
Not on the Dover 8P departure please, I live under the flightpath... :)

tony draper
11th Oct 2006, 15:44
Hmmm, Conc Hydrogen Peroxide + Potasium Permangernate,one seems to recal that can have some interesting results,one the other hand,a plain can of petrolium lighter fuel squirted on upholstery and a match applied could well overwhelm.
Two very large bangs around here this morning,Nov 5th early tests,they weren't no penny bangers of my sproghood,more like military thunderflashes,and apparently freely available, the contents of twenty or thirty of them (black powder) could cause a lot of damage,I don't understand how in the present sitution fireworks have not been banned,at least in private hands.
:cool:

Lord Lucan
11th Oct 2006, 16:28
Tony Draper,

I don't understand how in the present sitution fireworks have not been banned

Surely the point is that it is impossible to control all substances that might be used to produce explosions (or fire). Banning fireworks will make no difference, because it is already easy to make similar things at home.

It is impossible to make flying (or anything else) completely safe. We should take the pragmatic approach and decide what sort of risk we are prepared to put up with. Then we tailor our precautions and/or engineering appropriately.

I would also point out that the risks of an individual being involved in a terrorist attack are very, very small indeed. The amount of effort put into ""security"" should reflect this.