TSA Suspicions: Arabic Flashcards Land College Student In Jail

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Discrimination


BY Scott McCartney, Wall Street Journal, the middle seat

Is studying Arabic in college something that should land you in jail?

The Transportation Security Administration has “behavior detection” officers roaming airports looking for suspicious behavior. Two weeks ago, officers at Philadelphia International Airport flagged Nick George, a student at Pomona College, as worthy of scrutiny before he got to a checkpoint for a flight back to school in California.

According to Dave Davies in the Philadelphia Daily News, TSA searched Mr. George’s backpack and found Arabic-language flashcards. His passport also had a stamp from Jordan — where he went overseas to study Arabic for a semester — and Egypt and the Sudan.

“I understand I might warrant a second look,” said the college senior from Wyncote, Pa. He thought with student IDs, including his student ID from Jordan, and a pretty standard explanation he’d be on his way. Heck, the U.S. needs all the Arabic speakers it can get, right?

(Full disclosure: I’ve done NPR radio broadcasts with Dave Davies, and one of my daughters attends Pomona College.)

After some questions from TSA, a Philadelphia police officer put handcuffs on the college student and took him to an airport police holding cell. The cuffs stayed on for two hours, then were removed. Two FBI agents arrived a couple of hours later, questioned him and decided he wasn’t a threat. He was given a ticket to fly the next day.

A Philadelphia police lieutenant told Mr. Davies that police were called because TSA got suspicious about the Arabic flash cards and because Mr. George had longer hair in his driver’s license and passport photos than his current clean-cut appearance. Mr. Davies thinks TSA should have apologized to Mr. George and acted with more humanity.

I’ve written before about aggressive TSA actions. This really is an issue that a new TSA administrator, when he gets confirmed by the Senate, needs to take a hard look at. (Erroll Southers, an assistant police chief at Los Angeles International Airport, was tapped by the Obama Administration last week.) One question is how far the “behavior police” can go? Another is simply how travelers are treated once in TSA custody.



Passenger Jet Makes Emergency Landing After Losing Cabin Pressure

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


 BY: Fox News, Associated Press 

OMAHA, Neb. —  A Continental Airlines flight from Houston landed safely at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb., after the pilot reported losing cabin pressure.

The Embraer regional jet left George Bush Intercontinental Airport around 2:40 p.m. Thursday and was about 20 minutes from Omaha when it started having problems. The plane continued to Eppley, where it landed on time, around 4:45 p.m.

A spokeswoman for Houston-based Continental referred questions to Express Jet, which was contracted to operate Flight 2278.

Express Jet spokeswoman Kristy Nicholas said Friday that the plane’s automatic pressurization system failed and oxygen masks were released for passengers’ use. The three-person crew manually activated an emergency pressurization system.

Nicholas said the plane wouldn’t have lost altitude in such a situation, but the 49 passengers on board likely felt popping in their ears. One woman suffered bleeding from her ears and was treated at the airport, she said.

Express Jet is investigating the cause of the problem.



Pilots report more than 900 laser contacts in 2008

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events


BY Martin Finucane, Globe Staff

PUBLISHED BY: Boston.com

Pilots flying over Massachusetts reported seeing laser beams flashed in their direction eight times during 2008, with the rays hitting everything from commercial airliners landing at Logan International Airport to a State Police helicopter to the blimp floating over a Red Sox playoff game, according to a review of Federal Aviation Administration data.

The FAA takes all such incidents very seriously, officials said, because of the potential that pilots might be temporarily blinded by the beams.

“Lasers can temporarily impair pilots’ vision while they are in the critical landing or takeoff phases of flight,” said Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA’s western region, an area that has seen a large number of laser contacts.

Nationwide, during 2008, there were more than 900 reports by pilots of laser beams illuminating their planes, according to an FAA database obtained by the Globe. The Transportation Department announced in January 2005, after a rash of such incidents, that it was requiring pilots to immediately report laser contacts to air traffic controllers, who would then notify law enforcement.

“You don’t want a pilot to be incapacitated,” said FAA national office spokeswoman Laura Brown. “The message is: Do not shine laser lights at airplanes. You face federal prosecution and time in jail if you’re caught doing this.”

In several cases, pilots have reported being temporarily visually impaired and, in some instances, they have had to turn control over to a co-pilot or abort their landing. There have been no accidents or permanent injuries from the laser contacts, however, the officials said.

Gregor said he didn’t know why people point lasers at airplanes, but he noted that some of those arrested in the incidents had been consuming alcohol and others were teenagers. He said some contacts could also be accidents caused by amateur astronomers who use lasers to help them aim their telescopes or to point out constellations.

Laser contact reports have been on the rise nationally recently, he said, with more than 730 reported through July of this year, though it’s not clear if more pilots are reporting or if more people are actually pointing lasers into the sky. California was the leader in laser contact reports in 2008, with 276. Massachusetts was near the middle of the pack. In Alaska, Iowa, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and West Virginia, there was only one report listed on the database.

The vast majority of the pilots reported seeing green lasers. Gregor said green lasers can typically be seen at a greater distance than red lasers and their price has gone down in recent years.

The Massachusetts cases included several incidents in which people pointed lasers at planes at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Someone also pointed a laser at a State Police helicopter flying over the Six Flags theme park on July 14, 2008, and someone shone a laser at a blimp about a quarter-mile west of Fenway Park during an American League Championship series game on Oct. 13, 2008.

In March of this year, someone also beamed a laser at an American Airlines jet that was taxiing after landing at Logan in March.

A Medford man was charged after allegedly shining a laser into a State Police helicopter that was escorting a liquefied natural gas tanker into Boston Harbor in December 2007.

“I don’t know whether people who engage in this kind of irresponsible behavior are ignorant or malicious or both,” said Gregor. “People have been arrested all over the country for shining lasers at aircraft.”



Flight attendant unsure of return

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Other Events



Sep 29, 2009 (The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review – McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX)


— A Beaver County flight attendant aboard US Airways Flight 1549 hasn’t returned to work or made any plans to. Doreen Welsh of Economy, who suffered a deep cut on her left leg during the flight’s emergency splash landing and evacuation, said she is recovering physically and emotionally. She said it hurts to be on her feet for extended periods of time, a necessity for a flight attendant.

“I’m not putting any timetable on it,” Welsh, 59, said about a potential return to her job of nearly 40 years.



Airline’s breastfeeding bungle

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Discrimination




A MELBOURNE mother says she was left in tears after a Tiger Airways flight attendant repeatedly asked her to hide her breastfeeding baby from other passengers on a flight earlier this month.

Kathryn Ward said she was feeding her three-month-old son, James, on a flight between the Gold Coast and Melbourne when a crew member asked her if she had a blanket to cover him.

”I didn’t say anything because at the same time she asked me she saw a padded insert underneath him and put it on top of him without asking my permission,” Mrs Ward said. ”She said, ‘I know it’s natural, but some people may not like to see it.’ ”

Mrs Ward said she told the attendant that she had a right to breastfeed, but was asked again to cover her baby because a man seated near her ”might not like to see it”.

”I said to [the man], ‘Does this offend you?’ and he said, ‘No, not at all.’ [The flight attendant] said, ‘Well, people walking down the aisle might not like it.’ ”

The mother of two said she felt embarrassed and humiliated after the incident.

A spokeswoman for Tiger Airways said the airline had reviewed the incident and planned to apologise to Mrs Ward for the error. The flight attendant had been disciplined and informed of a new policy as a result of the complaint. ”All relevant staff will undergo training immediately to ensure this situation does not occur again.”

Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission chief executive Helen Szoke said six formal complaints had been received about discrimination over breastfeeding last financial year, although ”that’s just the tip of the iceberg”. She said the law protected women breastfeeding in public, including at work, in shops and on public transport.



Unruly Passenger Forces Flight Delay at LAX

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Discrimination, Other Events


Published and written by: KTLA News, Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Two passengers, both described as Middle Eastern, were removed from a New York-bound United flight at LAX after one of them refused to comply with a flight attendant’s request to remain seated just before takeoff, police said.

Passengers on United Flight 22 told reporters the flight was about to take off when a man in row 23 jumped up, stating he needed to go to the bathroom. 110 passengers were on board the flight.

Passenger Charlie Rosene says the man ran to the bathroom despite a flight attendant’s orders to sit down. That’s when a flight attendant notified the pilot and told him a passenger was acting “suspiciously.”

The pilot returned the plane to the gate where the man and his companion were taken off the flight for questioning.

The other passengers on board were escorted off the plane and are being re-screened at Gate 73. The plane was searched but nothing suspicious was found, police said.

Airport police say there was no bomb threat made against the jet.

Both men will be questioned by the FBI and are said to be cooperating with authorities. The LAPD’s anti-terrorism unit and the FBI are on the case, but the source said it’s too early to tell whether terrorism played any role in the incident.

The flight was scheduled to depart LAX at 8:30 a.m. and arrive at New York’s JFK airport at 4:50 p.m.

“No criminal charges are anticipated and the plane will depart to New York as soon as the searches/screening process is concluded,” according to FBI spokesperson Laura Eimiller.




Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Fumes


AUTHOR: Anil Dawar

PUBLISHED BY: Daily Express, UK news

The fumes can cause memory loss, spasms, sweating, muscle pain and fatigue if crew are repeatedly exposed to them, say medics.

The damage is caused by organophosphates in engine lubricating oil which heat up and evaporate and then seep into cockpits.

Since 2004, 26 pilots have been diagnosed with the problem, dubbed Aerotoxic Syndrome, and scientists say that until it is confronted more will develop the condition.

Dr Peter Julu, a consultant neurophysiologist behind the latest research, said: “The ­effects do not seem to be permanent and once a pilot or cabin crew ­member stops being ­exposed to the toxic air, they improve.”

A Boeing spokesman said: “It is our belief that air quality on planes is healthy and safe.”

A Government report on cabin air quality is ­expected next year.



New filter fights pilot memory loss

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Fumes


By: UKPA,  Press Association

An aircraft manufacturer has unveiled new technology to improve cabin air quality after research indicated that toxins on board planes were linked with brain-related illness.

Cabin crew and pilots have complained of memory loss, tremors, lethargy and other symptoms of so-called aerotoxic syndrome for many years.

Now researchers have linked contaminated air to health problems being experienced by pilots.


Orginal story:


1 Dead in Idaho small plane crash

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Crashes


The Olympian

The Associated Press

NMPA, Idaho – A small plane has crashed at the Nampa Airport in western Idaho.

Details of the Thursday morning crash are still sketchy, but Nampa police say that the pilot – thought to be a local resident – was killed.

Police say the aircraft had just undergone repair work and was being tested around 10 a.m. when it took off from the runway, lost power and crashed.

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating.


Scientists say they have found a link between toxic fumes on planes and brain damage in pilots

Author: Alisa Brodkowitz  |  Category: Fumes


By: Impact Lab

Poisons in the air pumped into plane cabins and cockpits have been linked to brain damage.  Cabin crew and pilots have long blamed exposure to jet engine fumes for memory loss, tremors, lethargy and other symptoms of so-called aerotoxic syndrome.

Now, scientists have for the first time directly linked chemicals present in the contaminated air to health problems being experienced by pilots.

Peter Julu, a consultant neurophysiologist at the Breakspear Clinic in Hertfordshire, says his tests on pilots with memory loss leave no doubt were poisoned by fumes in the air used to pressurise cabins.

Half the air we breathe on-board is recycled but the other half is drawn from deep within the engines and cooled down before being pumped into the cabin.

Faulty seals can lead to this ‘bleed air’ being contaminated with fumes from the engine oil – and passengers and crew breathing the chemicals in.

Official figures suggest that the cabin air in one in 2,000 flights is polluted.

But unions say it happens much more frequently and have highlighted the widely-used Boeing 757 and BAe 146 aircraft as being of particular concern.

Dr Julu collaborated with scientists from around the world to test pilots suffering from aerotoxic syndrome.

Tests in the US found organophosphates – toxic chemicals found in jet oil – in the blood and fat of pilots.

Dr Julu ran tests on 26 British, American and Australian pilots suffering from memory loss and other symptoms of aerotoxic symptom.

He found damage to the part of the brain that controls dozens of vital bodily processes including breathing and heart rate matched that seen in farmers exposed to organophosphates from sheep dip.

He is adamant that the pattern of changes seen could only have been done by engine fumes.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The only connection I can derive from there is the organophosphate.  Meaning that the pilots who have been tested have suffered neurological damage because of organophosphates that they were exposed to while they were on the planes.’

He believes passengers do not fly enough to be put at risk.

‘It needs repetitive long-term exposure not just travelling on a plane once or twice,’ he told the Daily Mail.

But John Hoyte, a former pilot and founder of the Aerotoxic Association, has a different opinion.

Mr Hoyte, who gave up his licence because of ill-health, said: ‘Can you imagine a baby of 12 months breathing toxic fumes on a journey across the Atlantic?

‘Of course it is going to affect anybody on board.’

The Department of Transport commissioned a study into issue last year and the results are due this winter.

Professor Helen Muir, one of the researchers, said the link was not yet proven.

She said: ‘There will be organophosphates on the flight deck, but what matters is, are they in sufficient concentrations to potentially cause harm to people?’

BAE Systems said a new filtration system has been trialled and is being fitted onto aircraft.

A spokesman added: ‘BAE Systems regards the safety of its fleet of aircraft and those who operate them as of the utmost importance.

‘The air quality on the BAE 146 has been shown by independent studies to exceed all existing international standards.’

Boeing said the air quality on its aeroplanes was ‘healthy and safe’ and levels of contaminants were ‘generally low’.