An internal memo from the union that represents pilots for US Airways claims there have been “several cases recently” throughout the airline industry of what the union believes are “dry-runs” for potential attacks with or on an aircraft.
The memo - released sometime just before September 11, 2013 -
from the US Airline Pilots Association states "there have been
several cases recently throughout the (airline) industry of what
appear to be probes, or dry-runs, to test our procedures and
reaction to an in-flight threat."
The union memo, titled “9/11 Security Update,” went on to detail one “typical example” that happened on a US Airways flight to Orlando International Airport (MCO) originating at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) in Washington, DC. (All italics and capitalization reflect the original memo.)
“A group of Middle-Eastern males boarded in DCA. Shortly after takeoff, one got up and ran from his seat in coach towards the flight deck door. He made a hard left and entered the forward lav, where he stayed for a considerable length of time! While he was in there, the others got up and proceeded to move about the cabin, changing seats, opening overhead bins, and generally making a scene. They appeared to be trying to occupy and distract the flight attendants.
Both US Airways and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) verified the incident.
The TSA responded to the original story with a statement, saying it "takes all reports of suspicious activity on board aircraft seriously,” and that "the matter required no further investigation at this time."
One skeptical US House member, however, called for further review of the event.
“Any suspicious reported incident of this nature should be properly investigated,” said Congressman John Mica (R), who represents area north of Orlando. “It is government’s obligation and responsibility to remain vigilant. While the specifics of the US Air incident are not public, federal authorities must review the matter.”
The union memo was obtained and reported by WTSP in Tampa Bay.
At least one unnamed Federal Air Marshal was interviewed for the original WTSP story and a follow-up published Friday morning.
The source said the TSA’s motivations should be received with suspicion.
"They're liars. They're flat out liars."
According to WTSP, the Air Marshal and other airline employees said several flights they have worked on have been the target of “dry-runs,” no matter what the TSA reports.
The security update memo followed the first DCA-to-MCO example with “another interesting twist to this case,” according to its authors.
“It just so happens that on the return flight from MCO - DCA, with the same flight number, a group of 8 Middle Eastern females -- concealed in full burkas -- were in the boarding area for the flight to DCA. This flight did not have a (Federal Air Marshal) team, even though it was supposed to have a significant VIP aboard. (He was rebooked when all these details were made known to his security detail.)
A pilot for Delta Airlines who is also chairman of the Aviation Security Committee for the Air Line Pilots Association, International - a pilots union for many North American airlines, not including US Airways - told WTSP any belief that another major attack on or with an aircraft will not happen again “is very foolish.”
The events of 9/11 were "an incredible attack on us. It was very well orchestrated and they're going to try it again... 100 percent, no question in my mind. They're going to try it again,” said Wolf Koch.
The union memo urges aircraft crews to be aware of safety protocols.
“ALWAYS, ALWAYS use the cart as a barrier when the flight deck door is opened in flight because, ladies and gentlemen, if a bad guy gets into the cockpit (it only takes 2 seconds!) and another 9/11 happens -- its GAME, SET and MATCH in favor of the bad guys!”
One airline ground crew member told WTSP ground crews are not screened and could plant bombs or weapons in a lavatory, for example.
"We could just carry our backpacks right through the turn style (sic) gate and could have anything we wanted to put on that plane."
The memo includes inflammatory and political commentary that appear to be meant to motivate union members to stay vigilant.
“Islamic terrorists have a thing about significant dates, and it just so happens that the 12th anniversary of 9/11 is in a few days. Do you remember that day? You can bet The Enemy does. Remember Benghazi? That’s when the US was attacked again on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. (And no, it was not about an anti-Muslim video.)
“Right now the Middle East is burning as the ‘Arab Spring’ turns into the Arab Winter and the conflagration is consuming an entire region of the world. Tensions are high -- and that is when bad things happen. Whatever the US does in the Middle East will be used as an excuse to kill Americans. As always, but especially now, keep the safety of your passengers and crew a top priority. Don’t cut corners.”