TSA Damages Airplanes, Blames American Eagle?!

Last Updated Aug 22, 2008 10:44 AM EDT

I thought this was a strange story when I first saw it, but now I find it downright scary. Apparently, a TSA agent decided to do some airfield security inspections. As part of his inspections, he decided to pull himself up on to 9 American Eagle aircraft using sensors on the aircraft that are clearly not supposed to be used to support a person's weight. An Eagle employee caught the guy, and you'd think the TSA would be doing everything it could to fix this situation, right? Wrong. Now they're threatening Eagle with fines.

The scariest part about this is that the only reason this was caught was because an employee saw the inspector doing it. How many times has this happened before when nobody saw? Is the TSA's training really so poor that its inspector didn't know not to step on a highly sensitive part of the aircraft that actually says not to step on it? For their part, they say that they will "re-enforce education about sensitive equipment located on the exterior of a plane."

You would think that the TSA should be on the hook for damages here. I mean, that seems like clear negligence to me. I would expect American Eagle probably wants to go after them aggressively, but they probably can't. The TSA appears to be drunk on power here. Instead of admitting that this was a very serious problem, they've instead tried to turn it back on American Eagle, as they've shown in their blog post yesterday.

The Inspector was following through on regulatory inspection activity. The Inspector was able to gain access to the interior of seven of the nine aircraft inspected, which is an apparent violation of the airline's security program. TSA is reviewing the inspection results and depending on the conclusion, could take action with the airline, up to and including levying of civil penalties.
What's wrong with this picture? Security of the airplane on the ground doesn't matter if YOU DAMAGE SOMETHING THAT IS CRITICAL TO FLIGHT and it doesn't get caught. American Eagle has responded with a relatively non-threatening press release but I imagine they had to use a lot of restraint to keep it like that.

As far as I can see, the TSA has not apologized nor has it offered to pay for damages. Instead, it's acting defensively and seems to be trying to deflect criticism by throwing out blame on to American Eagle here. This is very disturbing to see such a flippant attitude from the government. They made a very big mistake and they need to own up to it. Instead, I can see airlines becoming more and more afraid to push back on serious issues like this for fear of retaliation. This is not a good situation at all.