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I spy with my beady eye ...

24 Jul 2006

Security awareness for flight schools

Two online presentations from the US Transportation Security Agency aim to raise awareness of [physical] security among employees at flight schools and flight simulators. The introduction mentions that the courses were made available "in accordance with 49 CFR 1552" as a "pro-active response from TSA".

Both presentations recommend reporting suspicious behaviors or incidents, including "unusual adjustments to strengthen the wheel wells" on aircraft among other things. We find out later on that strengthened wheel wells are considered a threat as they may indicate the intention to carry heavy loads - evidently that is Bad. Advice to interview suspicious characters such as people "loitering for extended periods" (as opposed to those who loiter briefly?), students who "continually want to fly over sensitive locations or critical infrastructures - nuclear facilities, power plants, dams, etc." or students "who perspire excessively or have excessive nervous energy", though well meaning, could prove life-threatening if the people under suspicion are indeed worth interviewing, and seems rather pointless otherwise.

It's so easy to poke fun at the training materials that I wonder whether this is some sort of elaborate joke or hoax, maybe even a honeypot. If so, it's very convincing, delivered without the vaguest hint of irony or humor. If it is genuine, though, I have to ask why the TSA considered it A Good Idea to post this advice on a public website if they are genuinely expecting to catch suspicious characters loitering, sweating or whatever near aircraft ... 

The "Reference PDF" is not available as I write this blog entry so maybe the presentation was uploaded for testing or by accident, or maybe it's just broken. The 'interactive learning' elements make good use of the technology although the stodgy, repetitive language soon gets tedious. Judging by the number of times the courses recommend 'inform your supervisor', for instance, US flight schools seem to have a plentiful supply of highly-knowledgeable supervisors. They have presumably been trained into an elite defense force, experts at body language and psychology as well as (possibly) flight training.

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