Stupid is as Stupid Does

Sept. 1, 2004

Editor's Viewpoint

Stupid is as Stupid Does

Testing the water in dangerous ways

By Joe Escobar

September 2004

One of my former jobs was working for a civilian contractor at NAS Corpus Christi. We worked on government aircraft (Navy T-34s and T-44s), and had government inspectors assigned to oversee our work and ensure we were complying with our contract. One particular inspector was always difficult to work with. To us it seemed like she had nothing better to do than make our lives miserable.

One morning, the inspector decided to check if we were doing our FOD walk down properly. So she commenced to throw some assorted FOD (screws, nuts, and cotter pins) on the flight line to see if we would pick them up during our morning FOD walk. In an ironic turn of events, the base commander happened to see her drop the FOD on the ramp, and she received a reprimand for her actions. It appeared that she was testing the waters to see how we would react (or not react) to this planted FOD. She was not thinking of the damage one of her items of hardware could potentially inflict on an aircraft engine should it go unnoticed. As Forrest Gump said ?stupid is as stupid does.?

The reason I bring up this story is that a recent event has exhibited similar stupidity. It occurred at the St. Louis Downtown Airport on Aug. 11 when two Middle Eastern men attempted to penetrate security at Fostaire Helicopters. The men telephoned Fostaire and asked about a charter flight. After discussing price and getting directions to the facility, they arrived about an hour later. When asked how they were going to pay for the flight, they produced cash. The IDs they produced were from two different states, and they were driving a car registered in yet another state.

Needless to say, things didn?t seem right so while a mechanic took them to the hangar to see the aircraft, another employee called the local police and the FBI. The mechanic was able to stall the men until the uniforms arrived and hauled the men off in handcuffs.

Shortly thereafter, the FBI verified that the two men were employed by NBC New York, and were on an assignment. The men had stayed at a local hotel and had purchased box cutters, knives, and other potential weapons at the local Wal-Mart using a credit card. They had hidden the box cutters in the lining at the bottom of their backpacks, and tucked the other weapons in their luggage. The men were staging this event to air a national news story on how easy it is to hijack a helicopter to commit a terrorist attack. It seems that this was the first airport that NBC had attempted to penetrate, and it planned to attempt similar penetrations for stories in other facilities.

HAI and NATA were quick to note the good job that Fostaire Helicopters did in determining the threat and reporting it to the local authorities. Each and every aviation employee must continue to be vigilant in looking out for suspicious activity. After all, you don?t know if it is your local terrorist organization or the terrorizing media who will be making the next hijacking attempt. What?s next? Driving 120 miles an hour on an Interstate to see how long it takes for police to respond? How about jumping the fence on Pennsylvania Avenue to see how far one could run before being tackled by the secret service?

It is sad to see the lows a news organization will stoop to in order to get a story! Stupid is as stupid does!

Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Joe Escobar