Airport security proves fears were unfounded

Airport security proves fears were unfounded

January 17, 2011

Besieged by media horror stories about airport security, my wife, Anne, and I approached a Christmas flight with “tripidation.”

The fears were largely groundless. We breezed through Springfield security for a pre-dawn takeoff.
But, at Denver, agents confiscated my wooden cane. They gave me a plastic one to get through security.
I still tripped the alarm. “What have you got in your pocket?” the agent demanded. It was a cell phone that caused the trouble. Yielding that to X-ray, I got through without a peep.

We took off at 9:30 p.m. That’s my usual bedtime. For the first time in nearly 70 years of flying, I went to sleep on an airplane. I awakened for the descent into Springfield.
An overcast blotted out lights. I didn’t know where we were. I hoped the captain did. Then I heard the landing gear and flaps go down. Then ground lights swam into view.
An instant later, the jet made a perfect landing. Through the flight attendant, I learned from the captain that the Springfield ceiling was only 300 feet.
– Daughter Annie, knowing I like to see history as well as write about it, checked out DVDs on flying and railroading.
The railroad one reminded me that the spike symbolizing completion of the transcontinental railroad was driven in Utah in 1869.
That was the year before the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad reached North Springfield from Rolla.
The film reminded me of two Georges prominent in railroading: Westinghouse, who invented the safer air brakes; and Pullman, who developed the sleeping car.

The upper berth was a perfect test of claustrophobia and a nice stage for a Laurel and Hardy comedy routine.
– A fascinating history of the air mail told of intrepid airmen who flew single engine JN-4 open cockpit biplanes by day and later at night before there were lighted beacons or radios.

The planes, nicknamed “Jennies,” were World War I trainers. A replica of the plane hangs in the Denver airport terminal.
The pilots clashed with a postmaster general, who knew nothing of flying. He told them they must fly if he could see the statue on top of the Capitol.
– Biographies of Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart rounded out my history lesson.
The latter had intriguing theories on the 1937 disappearance of Earhart and navigator Fred Noonan; Franklin Roosevelt sent them on a spy mission, and they were executed by the Japanese; or she survived and returned to the U.S. under an assumed name.
Lindbergh’s story concentrated on his 33-hour solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927. It reminded that he opposed U.S. entry in WWII, but he taught military pilots how to extend their range in the Pacific and even shot down a Japanese Zero in his P-38.

Contact Hank Billings at 836-1210 or at hbillings.

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