Sunday, April 05, 2009

Airline Safety Controls are Laughable

"No electronics on airplanes" is a worthless reg; Tech dirt has the details.

With all the needlessly aggressive and often ineffectual security measures, I had wondered for a long time about that ban. That article crosses off a few plausible explanations.

I do not buy the ban as a courtesy to annoyed passengers. It's a security reg, not a reg from a customer satisfaction council. I do not buy the ban to keep people attentive during takeoffs and landings, or alcohol would be more aggressively regulated. Maybe the FAA can't ban alcohol because airlines thrive on its sales. And maybe bans phones to encourage use of the skyphones. In other words, maybe the FAA isn't completely incompetent, just subject to regulatory capture.

That's probably too conspiratorial. Perhaps it is just historical baggage from Pan Am 103, where the terrorists utilized a radio cassette to disguise a detonator.

I really think the cell phone ban serves a far more direct and contemporary purpose. This purpose might be shared with the aggressive security inspections and bans on innocuous items like nail clippers. Loud but useless regs are an easy way to put "drugs on the table", to crib a phrase from The Wire. It's a way to look busy. This agency has had some practice at that game, much as Kasparov has played a game or two of chess.