I think I had my first airplane flight when I was in 10th grade. It was great, and I loved everything about it, except for the rapid descent into Atlanta as we dodged a thunderhead.
One thing I don’t remember anything about is any security there may have been. If memory serves, the main type of airline terror back then involved people wanting to get to Cuba, for which there was no commercial flight schedule available. So, now and then, somebody with a gun would hijack a plane and demand that it be flown to Cuba. I’m guessing that once in Cuba these folks had second thoughts about the whole thing, but that’s another matter.
Over the years airport security improved, and not only did we have to go through magnetometers to make sure we weren’t made of, or carrying metal, but our stuff started to get x-rayed as well. It wasn’t a perfect system, as we found out on September 11th, 2001. Box cutters either weren’t spotted by the
Since then, the Transportation Security Administration was formed, and the sluggish, low-performing individuals who previously had been contracted for by the airports were replaced by sluggish, low-performing individuals who are now Federal employees.
That’s actually funny, but not a fair characterization. On average, the new TSA agents do seem to be more professional, better trained, and interested in doing a good job. Of course there are exceptions, such as the agents who have stolen things, groped people, and just generally behaved in an irritating fashion.
As I went through the lines in Madison on Tuesday I noticed something. The activities being performed by these well-compensated federal employees range from very high skilled to menial. Reviewing the validity of driver licenses and passports, or analyzing the video display of the x-ray machine are important jobs which need a lot of training. Moving the empty trays from the end of the conveyer back to the beginning strikes me as something even I could do.
So, on the morning in question, instead of 30 or so government employees dealing with potential passengers at one of the two security stations at the Madison airport, there could, perhaps, have been 10, with another 10 or 20 people doing the less-skilled jobs.
I realize this is lunacy, of course, but it did occur to me.
For what it’s worth, I would say that a high majority of the TSA people I’ve encountered when I fly have been doing a very good job – more so than the pre-9-11 days of private security services. It could be that the same improvement could have resulted from increasing government oversight of those companies and setting higher standards, but I’ve always thought, why fix a problem when you can start a new government agency?