James Fallows does a good job demolishing another Atlantic article about the possibility that terrorists will hijack a plane by sneaking in when the pilot is going to the bathroom. If that kind of stuff interests you, Patrick Smith also has a good discussion of the “surgical explosive” threat that was going around last month.
The “be afraid, be very afraid” story is a real staple of local and daytime TV. Part of the reason is journalistic laziness — given some perceived vulnerability, it’s easy to spin a whole host of tragic scenarios without doing much research. Another part of the reason is the journalistic habit that any source that can produce a quote is worth quoting:
If terrorists do get inside the flight deck, the reinforced cockpit door, which Folsom called a “kneejerk reaction” on the part of the government after 9/11, could end up working against the flight crew, making it impossible to regain control of the aircraft.
Folsom is a United pilot, but shouldn’t we be a bit suspicious of someone who thinks that a reinforced cockpit door was anything but a fairly prudent safety measure? That’s especially true if the source is a proponent of a secondary barrier that costs $100,000 over the life of the airplane and will give the pilots 3 more seconds to defend against hijackers.