Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Flying Sucks

I travel quite a bit for my job so I've become all-too familiar with airports. They suck.

Sometimes I wonder if the whole air travel industry is really just a giant experiment to see how much crap people will put up with. I can see some PhDs at a think tank sitting around one of those yin-yang tables brainstorming:
How about this: we say they can't take liquids of any kind on the plane--even if they buy them on the other side of the security checkpoint. Then, a couple of weeks later, we'll say you can take as many 3oz bottles as you can fit into a single 1 qt bag and people will cheer--but they gotta be in a bag! And, if we want to make people really happy, we'll let them buy water and take it on the plane, too. They'll hate it at first but when we give a little, we'll all be heroes! All hail SkyMall!

It seems to me that the whole airline industry is taking the wrong approach to solve the issue of security. Instead of belittling thousands (millions?) of people each day with completely ridiculous procedures, I suggest we try something else.

First, let's recognize that a plane is basically a bus that can fly (you are so clever, Airbus). Terrorists or any other nut job can take a bus (or diner, or super market, or cafe) hostage much more easily than an airplane and yet all the focus is on planes. I guess this is because of the sole difference with airplanes--they are unique in their ability to be used as missiles. Let's focus our energy and money on that issue.

Instead of spending billions on sniffers, scanners, and detectors, let's make the cockpit into a tank and just let the pilots fly the planes. Build in some fail safes to keep the pilots isolated from cabin activities (including conversation) when the plane goes into "hijack" mode.

With this system, passengers can breeze through a greatly reduced and simplified security system and hop onto the plane (without showing up 90 minutes early for the flight).

If I can listen to a couple hundred channels of music on my XM radio which decodes a signal from space, we can probably have the planes controlled from space, too. I bet the avionics of a commercial plane are nearly 100% electronic anyway so a remote override, perhaps with on-board confirmation by the pilot, shouldn't be too difficult.
I guess my point is that flying from point A to point B shouldn't be any different from busing from point A to point B. Of course once you get in the air, the two are quite similar. Sadly, the two hours leading up to each journey is very different.