October 10, 2010 marks the 77th anniversary of the first bombing of a commercial airliner. Last week, the world observed the ninth anniversary to the start of the Afghan War.
In 1933, a United Airlines flight bound for Chicago left Cleveland at 6:57pm with four passengers and three crewmembers. A little after 9:00pm, the Boeing 267 exploded over Chesterton, Indiana, killing everyone on board.
Given the nature of the crash, the size of the debris field, and eyewitness statements, conclusions for the reason of the explosion immediately focused on a bomb. The U.S. Department of Commerce, who investigated the crash, determined the aircraft was destroyed by an explosive device; possibly a container of nitroglycerin attached to a timing device. No one was ever charged.
In the current day, where the specter of international terrorism and criminality continues to play a key role in shaping the geopolitical and economic climate, we would be wise to remember that attacks against civil aviation are as old as commercial air travel itself.
We should never forget the ability of the 9-11 terrorists to achieve their vicious ends was facilitated by an aviation security system that was, in many ways, set-up to fail.
Today, despite all of the money, security measures, and attention recently paid to protecting aviation- including the launch of the Afghan War- attacks against it remain regular occurrences. Just a few days ago, we learned that al qaeda is planning to deploy suicide teams to attack airport terminals in the EU.
As taxpayers, passengers. and citizens, we would do well to hold our governments to account when it comes to designing, funding, and implementing effective AND reasonable aviation security systems.