Saturday, December 19, 2009

the birth of canadian airport security

i'm getting near the end of Christmas at the Airport - 90 minutes to go! why not end with a bang? i just met a guy who was on the only airplane hijacking in canada. even walter cronkite covered the story.

dave gets the scoop below:

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Dave passed the noon hour eavesdropping to a steady stream of bellyaching about the boggling security measures in airports.
“It doesn’t bother me a bit,” said a man next to him.
“How come?”
Sean told him when he was four, he and his family boarded a flight in Wabush, Labrador, to spend Christmas with family in Ontario. So did another man.
That man was holding a shotgun.
“I don’t know where he’s going to put that,” Sean’s mother wondered. “That’s just going to be in somebody’s way.”
It was 1972. People carried shotguns onto airplanes in 1972. Shortly before they were to take off, the man stuck his rifle under the chin of a flight attendant.
“Close the doors and take off!” he shouted.
They closed the doors and the plane took off – with 56 passengers.
The plane flew to Montreal. The crew convinced the hijacker to let the passengers off. The first person had to walk past the pile of coats at the front of the plane, grab one, and walk all the way off the tarmac before the next person was freed.
Sean didn’t hear the rest of the story for more than 30 years. Searching online, he found the flight attendant who had had the rifle pointed in her chin. She’d since moved to Houston and now worked in PR – at an airport.
She filled Sean in. After the passengers were freed, the plane took off. The crew convinced the hijacker they needed to refuel. When they landed, the RCMP were waiting – along with the man’s father and a priest. They talked him off the airplane and he handed in his weapon.
He got more than two decades in prison for 56 counts of aggravated assault, as there weren’t specific laws against hijacking.
Back in 1972, Sean and his family got on with celebrating Christmas. They’d lost all of their presents in the kerfuffle and so everybody got new ones. Sean’s brother got a plastic rifle.
He wasn’t allowed to take it on the plane home.
“Now, I just sit in the aisle and I don’t care what they do for security,” he laughed.
“So I guess that’s the very moment airport security was born in Canada,” Dave suggested.
Sean nodded.
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