There is nothing new under the sun, Air Security Edition
Reading about the man kicked off a plane for doing math reminds me of a story.
At a prior job, perhaps a dozen years ago, we had a yearly trip where one of the Professional Engineers would travel around to a number of customers over the course of the week to show various (proposed) modifications to our software, solicit input and advice, see if the customers had any suggestion, and generally get buy-in before we did our budgeting and prioritization.
We called it the ‘World Tour,’ because it was flight, meeting (repeat 5-6 times).
One year our PE was on the plane early Sunday evening for the first leg of the World Tour (which started in CA and worked east) as the plane boarded. The woman next to him — a rather unassuming character, to hear him tell it — got up and left for the restroom, and then the stewardess spoke to the PE.
“Sir, there’s a problem, can you come to the front of the plane.”
Not knowing what the issue was, the PE assumed that the woman (who had been gone for a while) had turned ill. He protested that he did not know the woman, but the stewardess was insistent, and so he gathered his stuff (just in case, you can’t leave work product lying around) and went to the front of the plane and the Jet Bridge.
The woman was standing there, and she pointed to the PE and said “That’s him!” to the Air Marshall standing beside her. She then reboarded the plane.
Only at this point did the PE look down at the white three ring binder he was holding and note the title.
Attack Planning Aide.
For one of the proposed new features of our software (developed for the USAF) was an automated system to match payloads against high-valued targets. The passenger, seeing my friend studying this document, reached the obvious conclusion that the procrastinating terrorist had not done any of the assigned reading beforehand.
Or was looking over his notes in a final cram session, I suppose.
The Air Marshall asked to see the binder and was unable to make heads or tails of it (as it was a detailed civil engineering document). The PE now worried about missing his flight, because it was Sunday evening and nobody would be at the office to vouch for him. However, he realized he had one ace in his wallet.
“Sir, would it help you if I showed you a badge granting me access to all military bases?”
The Air Marshall agreed that would be a considerable help. Coupled with the PE’s itinerary, the Air Marshall was satisfied.
As the PE got re-seated, the woman next to him smiled sheepishly and said, “I guess I got you into trouble.”
“I guess so,” he agreed.
As he told me later, “Those were the last words we exchanged during the six hour flight.”