I've been watching two programmes tonight with some interest. The first being Panorama, on the dismal state of the RAF's Nimrod reconaissance aircraft and the second, the Tonight programme of the even more dismal state of airport security at Birmingham airport.
I'm beginning to think that my own aircraft are better maintained than those of the RAF, which has some of the best engineers in the world but are short of funds and are being forced to cannibalise other aircraft for spares, as is reportedly happening in the case of the Nimrod which is falling apart, quite literally, with old age. It's not alone, I've heard and is only one problem among a host of other ageing and overworked aircraft. The Harrier is agood example. One RAF engineer once told me that for every Harrier that flies, you'll find a second grounded. It's sad to think that our once proud air force is in such a sad state, with so many frustrated and highly professional personnel now leaving.
The Tonight programme exposes Birmingham airport, where the security staff being secretly filmed on video, patently don't give a damn about doing their job with even the pretense of any professionalism. Sciving and sleeping appears to be endemic and members of the same group that are most likely to be profiled as representing a potential security threat, are among those providing airport security, to the extent that the contractor employing them published an internal memo on the danger of "Hostile insiders."
Mind you, from the pilot's perspective, security is a myth to reassure the travelling public and the Birmingham expose clearly shows why.
All of us are inconvenienced in the name of security any time we pass through an airport but the reality, as the Tonight programme suggested, is that the potential terrorists have a better than even chance of smuggling a bomb on an aircraft. Simply apply for a job with the airport security company.
So next time you travel, just remember that security is only as good as the weakest link in the operation and that placing all your belongings in clear plastic bags, probably won't make much of a difference if the bloke cleaning the toilets works for Al Qaeda as well as the security contractor.