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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
An airline employee - not a pilot - near Seattle stole an empty 76-passenger Q400 and did some confused and sad joy-riding including a deliberate barrel role before crashing and dying.

The article below includes video of the barrel roll, as well as a link to a Twitter account for a Jimmy Thomson who published clips of conversation between the employee and an air traffic controller. The calm caring professionalism of the controller and the sad confusion of the employee are moving. A life-stranger-than-fiction story.

Plane crashes after airline employee’s solo ‘unauthorized takeoff’ from Seattle airport

EDIT: I guess the authorities are moving in to "protect" their investigations by removing information from the public domain. At 7:00am this morning the video link in the above article showed the full barrel roll and successful pull-out followed a moment later by a view of a military jet at full power racing to catch up with the stolen plane. Now the linked video shows nearly nothing.

Here's another YouTube video containing audio of conversation with the controller.


Here's another showing the barrel roll.

 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Pretty sure this was a suicide?
Did you listen to the recordings? As I said above he sounds sad and confused about what he wants to do. Suicide was on his mind, but he didn't sound single-minded about it. I'd guess that a confluence of things, including consequences and low fuel, may have committed him to suicide late in the flight. Sad. Sounded like a nice guy; something that his shocked family and friends are saying about him.
 

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You dont say "i want to apologize to my family" without feeling suicidal in a stolen plane. Thats not how that works.

You dont have to be single minded about suicide to be suicidal.
 

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My guess is American airport security will become even sillier. They’re already having a hard time finding enough people to work for TSA. I guess stringent background and security checks mixed with long hours working with pissed off people for minimum wage makes it tough to maintain staff.
 

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You dont say "i want to apologize to my family" without feeling suicidal in a stolen plane. Thats not how that works.

You dont have to be single minded about suicide to be suicidal.
The apology could have simply been for publicly embarrassing his family, and what turned into a suicide could have been a spur-of-the-moment event, and maybe not even a "decision" on his part, but the result of a panicked reaction. Taking a car for a joyride is one thing, and generally doesn't show up in the papers (certainly didn't when my car was stolen for one). Taking an airplane for a joyride WILL show up in the news.

I'm not going to say that this was definitively NOT "going out in a blaze of glory", but I think that it is difficult to say that his motives were clear to both him and to authorities. The act was impulsive. Maybe it took planning to act on the impulse, but it was impulsive, and when it comes to the decision-making of impulsive people, all bets are off.

The perennial enemy of security is trust. Once you come to trust someone, security can be breached. The challenge is that humans cannot psychologically survive in the complete absence of trust. Would YOU work alongside someone who trusted absolutely NO ONE, not even those closest to them? There is an urge to seek trust wherever possible. That's why it is standard practice to regularly rotate security personnel. If they've seen you go back and forth from the elevator to the coffee shop 10 times in the previous hour, they stop checking your I.D. pass. So standard procedure is to move security personnel in a manner that preserves the "strangerness" of those they are supposed to scrutinize as much as possible.

The challenge that poses is "How do you protect against employees going off the deep end?". You can screen job applicants for undesirable qualities at point of intake, but once they become employees that you say "Hi. Howya doin" to in the hallway 5 days a week, and come to trust them, security breaches become a risk. That's how embezzlement happens - people become trusted and gain access to things they can exploit. The exploiting of access may never have been planned, and may simply be an impromptu impulse, but it occurred because the person became trusted. But as I say, could you continue to work for an employer where nobody trusted anyone else?

It's a conundrum that refuses to go away, and can result in tragedy.
 

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To be fair, as I understand it to date TSA has not foiled one single true danger, but something like 1700 have been charged with theft; read that somewhere, don't remember where.
But ya, can't understand why anyone would choose that job but the above to me hints at who would.
 

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My guess is American airport security will become even sillier. They’re already having a hard time finding enough people to work for TSA. I guess stringent background and security checks mixed with long hours working with pissed off people for minimum wage makes it tough to maintain staff.
To be fair, as I understand it to date TSA has not foiled one single true danger, but something like 1700 have been charged with theft; read that somewhere, don't remember where.
But ya, can't understand why anyone would choose that job but the above to me hints at who would.
About 12-15 years ago, I attended a seminar at CATSA (the Canadian TSA) by a Swiss cognitive psychologist (the talk was a presentation to a room of industrial/organizational psychologists) who had been contracted by several air authorities to develop employment tests, and development materials, for airport baggage screeners. One of the most fascinating talks I've ever attended. Beyond addressing the specifics of the pre-employment tests intended to identify "screening aptitude", and the imaging technology of the time, it covered many of the issues generic to security-related jobs, including what I sort of described as "mistrust fatigue". Even though the pre-employment and staff-development procedures were aimed at hiring those possessing good intuition about problematic/suspicious objects in baggage, the protocol was that they would be regularly rotated. So, sometimes they would be scrutinizing X-rays of baggage on the screen but sometimes they would be waving the wand around people coming through the metal detector, and sometimes they would be doing something unrelated to baggage screening. The impetus for this was that their "hit rates" in identifying prohibitted items in baggage would decline if they were not rotated in this manner.

How did they know this? At some undisclosed airports, the speaker told us, they had an arrangement whereby the central server handling the X-ray images would do some "instant photoshopping", inserting images of prohibitted objects into the X-ray for the screener to notice. Screeners were instructed to indicate whether the piece of baggage was clean or suspect. If flagged as suspect, they would receive a message that they had correctly caught a "probe", and the passenger was allowed to proceed with their baggage. The server would log when they had missed an inserted image, and the employee would be directed to work with the image bank and study multiple X-ray images of those prohibitted objects they had missed that day (this was the staff-development material). At that time, the image bank consisted of over 35,000 images of a wide array of prohibitted or suspicious items, imaged at a variety of orientations, and wedged between other objects.

Given that the imaging technology has evolved in the intervening years, I would imagine that the training and testing materials have likely changed, and what screeners look for has changed. But what remains unchanged is the tendency for humans to let their guard down when things start to become familiar or repetitive, and the need to provide procedural "resets" for them to resume the appropriate degree of suspicion and scrutiny. That can be as simple as 45 minutes on and 45 minutes off doing something else.
 
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