Saturday, August 06, 2011

Physics And The Peril Of Airline Flights

This was bound to happen, and something I fully expected.

This report gives an account of an amusing (at least for those of us not delayed by such a thing) incident at the Omaha, Nebraska airport. It seems that a student's demonstration equipment became a suspicious item and caused the airport security to go on high alert.

According to an article from the Omaha World-Herald, the Omaha Police Department's bomb squad was called to the airport's Terminal B just before noon on Wednesday to attend to a "suspicious-looking item" in a carry-on bag. Screening was halted and the B concourse was evacuated, the World-Herald said, though operations in the airport's other terminal remained unaffected.

The newspaper reported that, according to an FBI spokesperson, an Oregon college student's science project was the culprit. The student had been at the AAPT meeting and had submitted his or her project in the meeting's apparatus competition. After about two hours the suspicious items were deemed safe and the airport was cleared, but nine flights were delayed as a result.
Honestly, I'm not surprised by this. I've had many occasions where I could have brought along several equipments with me onto the plane, and I chose not to. Things such as photomultiplier tubes, multimeter, vacuum components, etc.. etc. may not look at ominous to those of us who know what it is. But to those who don't, they could easily trigger as a "suspicious items", since they are not really a common items that they encounter. So yes, in all of these cases, I always had them shipped, rather than bringing them with me either in my carry-on or checked luggage. The last thing I want is for something exactly like this to happen. It may not cause any legal implications, but man, it causes a lot of headaches, delayed flights, and very annoyed people.


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