Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Airport Insecurity

Our friend, Andy, is an accomplished pilot, having flown for the military in two diiferent tours in Iraq. He now lives in Alabama and trains Black Hawk helicopter pilots.

Andy and his girlfriend, Tessa, were flying down from Alabama into San Luis Potosi, Mexico to visit his parents and family. He had a brand new plane he was eager to put through its paces. They did well on their time until they both heard a loud thump from inside the engine.

Andy set it down and the nearest airport he could find, which fortuitously happened to be about 40 minutes away from us.

His mom called us from Mexico to explain the situation and then Andy called. Plans were made to pick them up and get them to a larger city about four hours away where he could get the part he needed to fix the plane.

Since Mr. Tejano was at work, I set forth to pick them up from the smaller than small airport. In the last month, I have been through some of the largest airports in the country: Houston Hobby, Chicago's O'Hare, and Washington Dulles. The security measures from those places were still fresh in my mind as I traveled to the Brooks County Airport.

My first clue their security would be different was the cattle guard I had to pass over to get into the airport. My second clue were the goats and longhorn cattle that grazed inside the fenced area. There were no signs, and I saw a building and a larg-ish hangar in the distance, so I set out for that. At one point I realized I was actually driving on the runway, so I booked it off there until I could find the caliche road for cars again.

I also passed a deer blind overlooking the runway.

It was just over the barbed wire fence that divided the airport from the rancher's land next to it. A teen boy poked around underneath the blind, holding a deer rifle. (It's not deer season and he was probably looking for birds or rabbits). As he climbed the ladder and sat on the lip of the open doorway to his blind, immediately facing the only runway of this airport, I thought how ironic.

In other, much larger and busier airports, you can not even take a bottle of water with you near the plane, and yet here, you can sit, facing the incoming and departing planes with a loaded rifle on your shoulder and not have any hassles.

I did get Andy and Tessa picked up and they recounted to me their day's adventure. Andy, the combat veteran, said when we passed the kid, "I saw him when we were landing. I was hoping either he was a really good shot if he was shooting at animals or that his rifle wasn't loaded. I almost felt like I was back in Iraq where locals look for opportunities to take down our aircraft with shotguns, rifles, pistols, anything they can get their hands on."

There is a great, deep spectrum in airport security, and now I had seen both ends. I was just glad I didn't have to give up my bottle of water or go though any grope-downs to pick them up.


  1. So glad you were able to help them without much difficulty.

  2. Interesting about the airport! And kind of strange. I'm glad they were able to land safely.

  3. Odie: I was, too- glad it's over with!

    Belle: It was really strange to me, and they were not at all worried about having to set the plane down. I would have been a little freaked.

  4. Wow. I'm not sure which security I prefer of the two. I'm not a fan of being groped by strange women called Bertha. But I am also not a fan of unchecked loaded weapons. Hmmm. It's a toughie.

    Maybe one day someone will find a happy medium. Maybe... but I doubt it. :)


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