Chicago Expert Says Seattle Plane Theft, Crash is Cause For Rethinking Airport Employee Security Measures

DePaul transportation expert Joe Schwieterman says there's concern because airports and airlines will now have to re-think how they approach security for their own employees.

Any air traveler knows what its like to go through a security screening at O’Hare or Midway.

That’s because much of the effort and expense of airport security is focused on the passenger and not the thousands of airport workers who load our bags, refuel airplanes and clean them between flights.

Workers like Seattle’s Richard Russell.

The "suicidal" airline employee stole an empty Horizon Air turboprop plane Friday, took off from Sea-Tac International Airport and was chased by military jets before crashing into a small island in the Puget Sound on Friday night, officials said.

DePaul transportation expert Joe Schwieterman says there's concern because airports and airlines will now have to re-think how they approach security for their own employees.

"This is clearly something that is going to send reverberations through the industry because there is a huge amount of turnover on these regional airlines," he said. "Employees come and go. one gets in a place they shouldn’t be and something really terrible like this can happen."

Schwieterman says inside attacks like this are possible because many planes don’t even require keys or codes to start them up.

"It is remarkable," he said. "We have seen people get behind locomotives. We have seen people hijack buses. Usually that entails some sort of a key. The fact that you can get in an airplane and move it down the runway without a key seems like such a simple fix that it is perhaps embarrassing that hasn’t happened before."

Schwieterman says the Seattle case is not unique: we have already seen cases where even trained a screened pilots have crashed their planes on purpose to commit suicide.

"The Eurowings accident a few years ago was clear sign that this is a fact of life in aviation running a plane into the side of a mountain," he said. "Déjà vu effect here in the Pacific Northwest. Of course Malaysian airways there are a lot of indications that that might have been a similar kind of situation."

A situation he says passengers should be concerned about and one airports and airlines will have to scramble to address.

"How we are going to solve this is going to take years," he said. "Clearly congress is going to be prompted to have a hard look."

Contact Us