Passenger jets and missiles don’t mix

Yesterday, we heard about Nicaragua’s problems with maintaining control of its shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Today as I was driving, I heard on WTAM that several communities near Hopkins Airport in Cleveland have complained so bitterly about jet noise that the government has responded with a web site … where you can track passenger jets. That’s right. According to WTAM, you can log on to a web site and make sure passenger jets are at their designated altitudes and in their correct flight corridors.
Now, assuming I heard the radio report correctly, am I the only one who sees a problem here? We’ve potentially got missing SA-7 surface-to-air missiles floating around on the black market, a new web site reveals location and altitude information for air traffic around a major international airport, and just up the road in the metro Detroit area there’s a very large community of Muslims. Heck, we have our own home-grown terrorist fundraiser here in town (and don’t tell me he’s alone).
Hello? Is anybody home at the Department of Homeland Security?
I’ll keep looking for a link to the aircraft tracking web site, which I’ve not found yet. Boy, I hope I’m mistaken.

UPDATE (12:02 PM): I just got off the phone with WTAM’s news room. I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news. The good news: I heard wrong … there is no jet tracking web site. The bad news: Hopkins Airport is indeed putting such a web site together (according to WTAM). I’ve already left phone messages with Marty Flask, the Security Director at Hopkins, and with Laura Farmer (position unknown … I got her number from the Media Relations Manager, Pat Smith, who didn’t answer my question about the web site).
UPDATE (3:21 PM): Andrew Cochran of The Counterterrorism Blog just let me know that the Department of Defense has been chasing down Nicaraguan SAMs for two years already, which wasn’t in the original story. That’s reassuring, since I suppose that if the terrorists had a workable SAM they’d have used it somewhere by now (in Iraq or Afghanistan if not in America). The idea of the jet-tracking web site still sounds foolhardy, though.
UPDATE (9:16 PM): Just to clear up what might otherwise be murky in my hurried post, the government entity involved here is the airport itself, which is owned and run by the City of Cleveland (except security of course, which falls under the TSA). So far as I can determine, this web site idea is not a state or federal one. The feds ought to take notice of this, in my opinion, if it truly will allow detailed jet tracking online.
UPDATE (9:30 PM): Jeff Quinton has thoughts on a similar-sounding system he’s seen before, and I sure hope what Hopkins has got planned is no more detailed than that.

7 comments

  1. Chet

    Maybe we should secure the nation’s nuclear power facilities, chemical weapons storage facilities, and tighten up the shipping ports before we get all crazy about someone shooting down an airliner. Just a thought?

  2. Puddle Pirate

    Let’s do all of the above. Surely it’s not too difficult to secure the high-value targets you mention while simultaneously not giving our enemies a gift-wrapped how-to-kill-Americans-cheaply guide, wouldn’t you agree?

  3. jaws

    I can’t believe that Hopkins would be so inept as to provide such a tracking system. I know there are sites where you can track where a flight is while it’s in the air (approxamently that is–like what state/area it’s over). But specific corridors, good grief!
    I like what El-Al does with regards to it’s flight paths and the like (Heck, I love everything El-Al does with security). Supposively they file multiple flight paths (and all but 1 are decoys). Also their published departure times and ETAs are both deliberately inaccurate, and when a flight has departed they won’t reveal when it’s scheduled to land either.

  4. Backcountry Conservative

    Passenger Jet Tracking Sites

    Puddle Pirate brings word of plans to set up a website to track passenger jets in the Cleveland area by a government entity responding to citizen complaints of jet noise. He wonders what sort of security issues this could cause…

  5. Chet

    Surely it’s not too difficult to secure the high-value targets you mention while simultaneously not giving our enemies a gift-wrapped how-to-kill-Americans-cheaply guide, wouldn’t you agree?
    And in the meantime, residents of that city are supposed to just put up with broken windows, etc, because there’s no way to hold pilots and airlines accountable for following their proper flight path? If there wasn’t a need for it, they probably wouldn’t be doing it. Why not let the people of that area determine the risks they’re willing to take to reduce noise pollution? Isn’t that what democracy is all about?

  6. Puddle Pirate

    What you’re suggesting is that the people living around the airport should decide what risks the airline passengers will take. Not acceptable.
    I live under the flight path west of Hopkins. There’s noise, but it doesn’t break windows; you get used to it. The loudest complaints come from a small group of people in Olmsted Falls, Berea, and Brookpark. They have a legitimate gripe about property damage/depreciation, but an interest in protecting their property does not justify endangering the lives of planeloads of passengers and the folks on the ground they might crash onto.
    Like me.

  7. Chet

    What you’re suggesting is that the people living around the airport should decide what risks the airline passengers will take.
    Nobody twisted their arm and made them fly into Hopkins airport at gunpoint.