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Wed, Aug 20, 2008

Commuter Flights Grounded Thanks To Bumbling TSA Inspector

Damaged TAT Probes On Nine Jets While Conducting 'Security Checks'

They're the government... and remember, they're here to help. A bumbling inspector with the Transportation Safety Administration apparently has some explaining to do, after nine American Eagle regional jets were grounded at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport on Tuesday.

Citing sources within the aviation industry, ABC News reports an overzealous TSA employee attempted to gain access to the parked aircraft by climbing up the fuselage... reportedly using the Total Air Temperature (TAT) probes mounted to the planes' noses as handholds.

"The brilliant employees used an instrument located just below the cockpit window that is critical to the operation of the onboard computers," one pilot wrote on an American Eagle internet forum. "They decided this instrument, the TAT probe, would be adequate to use as a ladder."

Officials with American Eagle confirmed to ANN the problem was discovered by maintenance personnel, who inspected the planes Tuesday morning... and questioned why the TAT probes all gave similar error indications.

One Eagle pilot says had the pilots not been so attentive, the damaged probes could have caused problems inflight. TSA agents "are now doing things to our aircraft that may put our lives, and the lives of our passengers at risk," the pilot wrote on the forum.

Grounding the planes to replace the TAT probes affected about 40 flights, according to American Airlines spokeswoman Mary Frances. "We think it's an unfortunate situation," she told ABCNews.com.

 TSA conducts routine spot inspections of aircraft parked at commercial airports, according to agency spokesman Elio Montenegro. "Our inspector was following routine procedure for securing the aircraft that were on the tarmac," Montenegro said, adding the inspector was attempting to determine whether someone could break into the parked planes.

Pilots respond that agents are only allowed to check for unlocked cabin doors... a clear security risk, that could indeed compromise security. Indeed, regional airline Mesa Air Group notes "48 percent of all TSA investigations involving Mesa Air Group involve a failure to maintain area/aircraft security."

It's unclear whether that duty also allows an inspector to paw around an aircraft, however.

E-I-C Note: This was an extraordinarily dangerous incident, folks. The TSA has neither the mandate nor the knowledge to inspect any aircraft for any reason. The stupidity of this matter is nearly unbelievable... until you hear that the TSA is involved... then it becomes understandable, though still tragic. And I can not tell you how frustrating it is, to see them continue to hurt an indsutry that they were created to protect.

The TSA has NO BUSINESS putting untrained personnel in a position to damage aircraft. Their bizarre games, in the name of security, do NOTHING to enhance security and do much to inhibit safety. Aviation personnel -- pilots, A&P's, ground personnel -- are all either licensed or supervised by licensed personnel and this kind of tampering, had it been accomplished by anyone  else, would have subjected that person to criminal charges.

In this case, ANN strongly recommends and encourages the criminal prosecution of this so-called inspector and his immediate supervisors... it is a matter of time before one of these morons does something stupid and gets someone killed... and with the way these incidents are occurring, we believe it is a virtual certainty that a TSA "Inpector" will hurt or kill someone in such a manner. No kidding. 

A few other notes.. ANN spoke directly to the TSA PAO in this story, Elio Montenegro... a man who desperately needs to get his stories straight. When ANN talked to him early Tuesday evening, Montenegro first stated that no aircraft were tampered with, and thereafter attempted to minimize the issue by stating that a TSA Inspector "may have touched" the aircraft... which American Eagle "sorta" objected to. He claimed that there was no attempt to enter the aircraft, and when he was asked if TSA was, in fact, authorized to attempt such an entry -- out of the sight/knowledge/supervision of American Eagle personnel -- he said that he thought that I had asked a good question, did not know the answer, and promised to get back to me... in direct conflict with other reported statements. TSA can not keep their stories straight... and lying to the media... especially that part of the media that actually knows a thing or two about airplanes, was just plain foolish... if not a deliberate attempt to mislead.

Mind you, this is the same agency that now wants to step up supervision and surveillance of the GA world. Would you trust these kind of folks around your airplane?

I sure do not, and will not -- and the first time that I see a TSA person attempt any interaction with any aircraft under my control, I will call the cops and do my utmost to see that person charged with a crime... TSA can not be trusted around Air Transport airplanes... hell, TSA can not be trusted around GA... and TSA has shown us little or no reason why they should be trusted, in any way, with the security of the traveling public.

We're fed up with the incompetence of this organization... and while it was simply 'annoying' when they were sniffing our shoes or trying to rip off our laptops, it gets downright threatening when they start tampering with our airplanes.

Yes... this is quite the rant and I admit to no end of frustration with this organization... but I have to tell you, it's time to scrap the TSA and failing that, it is WAY past time that they be SEVERELY curtailed in their ability to harm others. Simply put, it's time to reign in the TSA... before they kill someone... if they haven't already.

Rant over... for now. -- Jim Campbell, ANN E-I-C.

FMI: www.tsa.gov, www.ohare.com, http://inspectorclouseau.com/

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