Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Risks of in-flight safety

From Ian Frow

Sir: In proposing locked flight-deck doors, the author of your generally sensible leading article (Leader, 3 January) overlooks the fact that within months of 11 September the US authorities were insisting that all aircraft flying in US airspace must have locked and armoured flight-deck doors. The writer was correct to say that many airlines (and their operating crews) would prefer to have them unlocked. Locked doors complicate other emergency situations and make it very difficult for a captain to communicate with, and exert his authority over, the cabin and the cabin crew behind the flight-deck door. This is an example of a solution for one problem creating new threats to a safe operation.

Despite the guarded approval of my former colleague Norman Tebbit, placing armed 'sky marshals' on board aircraft is another example of the same error. Yes, the idea has worked for El Al, a small airline, employing a few hand-picked marshals who can be well trained and continually monitored. But, once the number of marshals is in the tens of thousands, then the average marshal is more likely to resemble a lethally armed, inadequately screened, poorly trained, airborne version of a nightclub bouncer who, as you suggest, could easily be an al-Qa'eda operative. Again the solution is probably more dangerous than the original problem. Preventing terrorists and their weapons boarding an aircraft is the only sane solution, and all the money spent on 'sky marshals', locked doors and the rest should be devoted to this task and especially the necessary intelligence networks to back it up.

Ian Frow



I'm no defeatist

From Correlli Barnett

Sir: May I briefly reply to Patrick Beeley's attack on me (Letters, 3 January)?

Point one: even Beeley has to acknowledge that al-Qa'eda's rate of striking has greatly increased since the Americans invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, as compared with the years beforehand.

Point two: Geoff Hoon has just confirmed my contention that the occupation of Iraq has opened up a vulnerable American flank.

Point three: the disruption to international aviation caused by the mere threat of al-Qa'eda attack bears out my argument that it is the terrorists, not the US, who hold the initiative.

Point four: it is ludicrous for him to dub me 'defeatist' over the current situation in Iraq simply because I don't buy into the missionary zeal of Bush & Co. to convert the world to the true faith as preached by Richard Perle. …

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