Maybe we Should Hide the Emergency Locator Beacon

Exactly six years ago today, our country underwent one of the most gut-wrenching moments in its existence. Nineteen people hijacked four airplanes were hijacked. Two of the planes crashed into – and eventually toppled – the world trade centers in New York City. One crashed into the Pentagon in Washington. The fourth crashed into a field in rural Pennsylvania. At this writing, 2974 deaths were directly attributed to the attacks.

It is an easy leap to attribute a huge number of additional deaths to this, as the United States sent a military force to Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s quite possible that those tallies will never be accurate, but the numbers are certainly much, much higher – both on our side and on theirs. Whether right o wrong, a number of lives have been lost.

What is interesting to me is that one of the issues with those planes is that the hijackers knew how to turn off the emergency locator beacon in the planes, so that their exact location could not be found. It seem that if you are going to hijack a plane, this would be a really, really good idea. Hijack the plane, and turn off the signal so that no one can find you. Is it hard to do? I don’t think so.

Just a few short months ago (I’m not going to say exactly when, because I don’t know exactly how widespread this is, and I’d like to do a bit more research, as well as allow time for the problem to be fixed, though I suspect it won’t), I took a flight. Realize that this flight took place at least five years after the original attacks. You would think that precautions had been taken to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.

High on my list would be to make sure that a hijacker couldn’t just turn off the emergency locator beacon. That seems simple enough. If someone hijacks the plane, it would be a good idea to be able to find them. If someone can just turn it off, what’s the point of having it there? The plane crashes, then it’s on, that’s nice – but if someone can just up and steal it, and turn it off, that makes no sense. So how about at least making it inaccessible?

Back to the story. Some five years after the attacks, and I’m on a plane. I happen to look up, and right in front of me – completely unexpectedly, I spot a sign that says – and I am not making this up – Emergency Locator Transmitter Behind Cover. I had to take a picture because I quite simply couldn’t believe that it was there. Even if it’s so accessible that any passenger can get to it, why are you going to advertise where it is? Is it any wonder that a hijacker can just turn it off?

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