Just scanned Memeorandum this morning and came across this piece from Debra Burlingame, who lost her brother, American Airlines Flight 77 pilot Charles F. “Chic” Burlingame III, whose plane was hijacked by terrorists and slammed into the Pentagon, in which she responds to the controversy over the six imams who were escorted off a plane at the Minneapolis International Airport a few weeks ago. She writes:
In five years since the 9/11 attacks, U.S. commercial carriers have transported approximately 2.9 billion domestic and international passengers. It is a testament to the flying public, but, most of all, to the flight crews who put those planes into the air and who daily devote themselves to the safety and well-being of their passengers, that they have refused to succumb to ethnic hatred, religious intolerance or irrational fear on those millions of flights. But they have not forgotten the sight of a 200,000-pound aircraft slicing through heavy steel and concrete as easily as a knife through butter. They still remember the voices of men and women in the prime of their lives saying final goodbyes, people who just moments earlier set down their coffee and looked out the window to a beautiful new morning. Today, when travelers and flight crews arrive at the airport, all the overheated rhetoric of the civil rights absolutists, all the empty claims of government career bureaucrats, all the disingenuous promises of the election-focused politicians just fall away. They have families. They have responsibilities. To them, this is not a game or a cause. This is real life.
Here’s what the flying public needs to know about airplanes and civil rights: Once your foot traverses the entranceway of a commercial airliner, you are no longer in a democracy in which everyone gets a vote and minority rights are affirmatively protected in furtherance of fuzzy, ever-shifting social policy. Ultimately, the responsibility for your personal safety and security rests on the shoulders of one person, the pilot in command. His primary job is to safely transport you and your belongings from one place to another. Period.
This is the doctrine of “captain’s authority.” It has a longstanding history and a statutory mandate, further strengthened after 9/11, which recognizes that flight crews are our last line of defense between the kernel of a terrorist plot and its lethal execution. The day we tell the captain of a commercial airliner that he cannot remove a problem passenger unless he divines beyond question what is in that passenger’s head and heart is the day our commercial aviation system begins to crumble. When a passenger’s conduct is so disturbing and disruptive that reasonable, ordinary people fear for their lives, the captain must have the discretionary authority to respond without having to consider equal protection or First Amendment standards about which even trained lawyers with the clarity of hindsight might strongly disagree. The pilot in command can’t get it wrong. At 35,000 feet, when multiple events are rapidly unfolding in real time, there is no room for error.
We have a new, inviolate aviation standard after 9/11, which requires that the captain cannot take that airplane up so long as there are any unresolved issues with respect to the security of his airplane. At altitude, the cockpit door is barred and crews are instructed not to open them no matter what is happening in the cabin behind them. This is an extremely challenging situation for the men and women who fly those planes, one that those who write federal aviation regulations and the people who agitate for more restrictions on a captain’s authority will never have to face themselves.
Likewise, flight attendants are confined in the back of the plane with upwards of 200 people; they must be the eyes and ears, not just for the pilot but for us all. They are not combat specialists, however, and to compel them to ignore all but the most unambiguous cases of suspicious behavior is to further enable terrorists who act in ways meant to defy easy categorization. As the American Airlines flight attendants who literally jumped on “shoe bomber” Richard Reid demonstrated, cabin crews are sharply attuned to unusual or abnormal behavior and they must not be second-guessed, or hamstrung by misguided notions of political correctness.
Amen. Make sure to read it all.
By the way, did you hear the news that three different probes into this incident have found that that airline (US Airways) acted properly?
Related news: More bad news for the Burlingame family.
Today’s must-read on the lying imams: Investor’s Business Daily: Tale Of Fibbing Imams