Bomb scare is worth the consequences

During Mary Schiavo’s term as Transportation Department inspector general, she scrutinized the Federal Aviation Administration. She accused the FAA of sloppy inspections, lack of airport security and disregard for counterfeit airplane parts. Perhaps Schiavo’s biggest complaint has been the lack of timeliness in FAA inspections. Often the administration has not looked into airplane safety until after a crash has occurred.
Schiavo resigned from her position in 1996 to write “Flying Blind, Flying Safe,” a book which criticized the FAA. Today she continues to keep a close eye on air transportation safety procedures. Although Schiavo brought many important FAA flaws to the public’s attention during her time as inspector general, now that she is out of office, her continuing efforts might have crossed the legal line, yet are worthwhile.
Earlier this month, Ms. Schiavo checked a bag containing suspicious-looking contents at Port Columbus International Airport in Ohio. Her goal was to demonstrate the ease of getting luggage unaccompanied by a passenger onto an airplane. This experiment was performed in conjunction with WCMH-TV, a local Columbus station, which was doing a story addressing airport security.
The bag, containing a tape-recorder, film-shield bag, can of shaving cream and colored balls of modeling compound, was found through the x-ray process two hours after it was checked. Airport security subsequently shut down one of two runways for four hours. Hundreds of passengers were evacuated and planes were pushed back from gates. When the contents of the bag were determined to be harmless, the FBI and FAA were called in. These organizations are now investigating the legality of Schiavo’s experiment.
Schiavo claims that the TV film crew informed an airport official several hours before the experiment began. Richard Morgan, the airport’s public safety director, denies this saying, “I can assure you the Port Columbus International Airport would not (temporarily shut down a runway) if we did not believe lives were at stake.”
Schiavo’s assessment of the FAA while she was in office was part of her job, and in many cases she was praised for it. Now, without the backing of her former position, Schiavo has decided that proving the lack of the security in airports is important enough to face criminal charges attached to bomb scares. It was her choice, and now she must live with the results of her actions, even if these include prosecution and possible jail time. Schiavo has stated that the investigation by the FBI and FAA has been enough to make her settle down on her air safety crusade, and although settling down does not make up for violating the law, her lack of perserverance is unfortunate.
Schiavo’s goal is noble and far-reaching, but like her predecessors, such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King who faced legal persecution in the process of bringing to light unrecognized problems, she must stand firm for a worthy cause. It is discouraging to see Schiavo give up the fight so easily when her activities have helped save lives and could save many more. The safety of air travel should be a cause important enough to face harsh consequences, including jail.