This is last week’s news, but I just now got around to blogging about it.
Everybody’s favorite government bureaucracy, the Transportation Safety Administration, stepped in it last week when it was announced that one of their agents may have damaged at least nine American Eagle commuter aircraft at O’hare International Airport by attempting to gain entry from the outside using sensitive probes as handholds to pull himself up.
The TSA agent, as part of spot inspection of aircraft security, climbed onto the parked aircraft using control sensors mounted on the fuselage as handholds, according to a TSA official in Chicago, Elio Montenegro.
“Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac,” Montenegro told ABCNews.com.
One small problem. The agent climbed up grabbing on to something called the total air temperature probe, or TAT probe. The TAT probe is part of the sensor system that feeds into the aircraft’s computers; it measures outside temperature, used in the computation of airspeed and determination of whether the plane is in icing conditions or not (at least, that’s how I understand it). TAT probes are marked “NO STEP”–meaning, durrr, grabbing onto them is a Really Bad Idea that might damage the probe. (They are also electrically heated to shed ice, which could be interesting if TSA Drone tried that on a plane with the probe heat turned on. “Say, Harry, is somebody screaming outside on the tarmac? And what’s that smell?”)
Well, leave it to the TSA. Their response to totally screwing up AE’s schedules out of ORD for a day? Accuse American Eagle of security violations!
TSA, however, strongly defended its inspector’s actions, noting in a statement that he was able to gain interior access to seven of the nine aircraft he inspected, which was an “apparent violation of the airline’s security program.” TSA said it encourages its inspectors to look for such vulnerabilities and after reviewing the inspection results, the agency “could take action against the airline, up to and including levying civil penalties.”
Insult, meet injury.