Monday, April 20, 2009

737 Hijacked in Jamaica by 'Mentally Challenged' Gunman

This was not supposed to happen. Ever. Again. Under. No. Circumstances.

A "mentally challenged" gunman forced his way past security and took over a charter CanJet 737 at the Montego Bay airport Sunday night. He freed the 170 or so passengers and two crew members and held six of the crew hostage, and demanded to be flown to Cuba.

Where, as it turns out, the plane was bound anyway after its Montego Bay stopover. I guess the mentally challenged gunman wanted priority boarding and exit row seating.

Here's the statement from CanJet on the situation.

CanJet also said that a "full security operation is underway."

They're a bit late out of the gate on that one, I would say.

[UPDATE: Police captured the 20-year-old hijacker this morning and the hostages were released unharmed.]

{{UPDATE 2 -- And I do not buy the baloney here and see comment below that this was not a big deal. Nor do I buy the risible assertion from one Edmund Bartlett, Minister of Tourism, that this was a great day for Jamaican security. What does the "Minster of Tourism" have to do with security? An dangerous man got through Jamaican airport security with a gun and took control of a plane. There is absolutely no excuse for this, Jamaican government blandishments aside.]]

All of those 3-1-1 rules, all of those take-off-your-shoes rules, all of those terrorist watch list precautions and rummage-through-your-bag routines mean absolutely nothing if some lunatic with a gun can sail past security.

And a hijacked 737 in Jamaica is just as much a potential threat as a 737 hijacked in Miami in Atlanta.

Air travel security rests on the fundamental assumption that it is no longer possible for a plane to be commandeered, thanks to fortified cockpit doors and well-trained crew. It is not supposed to be possible for a terrorist or a "mentally challenged" gunman -- and God knows there are enough of both around -- to get through security with a firearm.

Inept, malfeasant airport security in Jamaica is not a local matter, mon. Air travel security is a global matter. In the United States, it is a matter of vital national interest. Now that the crew is safe, the authorities, and we travelers, need to hold Jamaica to account for an inexcusable lapse in Security 101.

A hijacked plane, no matter who took it over and how, was not supposed to happen again. Period.



the said...

OK, let's be honest here. From an international security perspective, this is nowhere near as big of a deal as you seem to want it to be.

First, the airplane never took off. The airplane never even left the gate, as far as I can tell from the various news reports. Unless the airplane gets in the air, it's not much of a threat to anything outside the airport perimeter fence.

Second, the crew did pretty much exactly what you'd expect them to do. The cockpit door isn't supposed to be secured while the plane is parked at the gate and there are pilots in the cockpit. Presumably, this guy wasn't a pilot and couldn't have done anything with the airplane even if he had managed to get the crew off the plane (which it *also* doesn't seem he was trying to do). If a plane is on the ground and is somehow taken over by hijackers, the crew's first priority is to ensure the craft doesn't leave the ground. They succeeded. Mission accomplished, as it were. Leave the crew out of this.

If you want to stop this sort of thing from happening again, station armed law enforcement officers with shoot-to-kill authority just inside the security checkpoint and just inside the exit. Security exits are HORRIBLY insecure; they're probably the weakest point in public-facing airport security. There's usually just one (unarmed, often seriously out of shape) TSA agent sitting there at a podium doing a Sudoku and occasionally making sure no one is trying to enter through the exit hallway. If a crazy guy with a gun wanted to enter the sterile area that way, he'd just have to be fast enough to outrun the agent and confuse the first four or five people who saw him inside of security. (And let's face it, people running like madmen through a concourse is not exactly a cause for alarm, especially at big hub airports.)

See also said...

From an international security perspective, an armed lunatic sailed through Jamaican airport security and took over a plane. I don't fault the crew. I do fault Jamaican security. Rather than high-fiving each other, they ought to be looking closely at the obvious problems with security at that airport. And by the way, that is the last of the anonymous comments. If you don't have the guts to sign a name, don't bother writing.

the said...

It's my Blogger ID. You don't like it, not my problem, but you should go complaining to Google that they allow people to choose anything they want for their IDs instead of making people show photo ID when registering for an account.

Poor airport security anywhere is a local matter until such time as someone manages to get on an *airborne* aircraft and do some damage. That didn't happen here because the folks on the airplane did exactly what they were supposed to do. Yes, it's a high-profile lapse in local security, but it's one that could easily happen in the US, too.

ChefNick said...


From what I can parse, this "anonymous" guy's post has the ring of authenticity. Too bad it smacks of an air marshal aboard your flight.

Yep, true, the plane never got off the ground, but f**k, they had to switch pilots with agents, THROUGH THE BLOODY COCKPIT WINDOWS. Uh, Hell, loooh!!!

Let him not be allowed to be anywhere near there in the first place. THAT'S why we're screening grannies in wheelchairs and running wands up 8-year-old kids' armpits.

THAT maniac is what we should be looking out for, not an "All-race, all-age-inclusive" policy of discrimination.

Hence, ONE dude at every gate, disguised or not, armed to the teeth, to prevent just this kind of thing from occurring. Don't ask questions, just kill the guy, then pick up the pieces. Umm, kind of like they did with the pirates in Somalia.

It matters very little whether the guy had actually made it into the air (an extremely disturbing thought) but what should have prevented him from getting anywhere NEAR a plane with a weapon should be uppermost in anyone's mind.

Hey, if this tactic is this effective, maybe I'll employ it to get to my seat a little faster. Show Gun, Will Travel.

Anyway, I ain't goin' nowhere near Jamaica in the foreseeable future.

Just add it to the list.