Bill Nienhuis asks an interesting question:
WHY ARE GLOBAL POSITIONING SATELLITE DEVICES (GPS) STILL ALLOWED (POST-9/11) ON MOST AIRLINES?
I scream this because returning from a cross-country vacation with my family yesterday, I spent five minutes explaining that the 2 oz. Infant Tylenol bottle (with syringe) was allowed under the less-than-four-ounces “essential non-prescription medication” language of the latest TSA-issued security bulletin to an airport employee, then proceeded to fly over multiple targets of opportunity sitting one row in front of the exit row with my wife and infant. The ‘gentleman’ sitting behind me in the exit row door seat at 31,000 feet was holding a GPS unit in his hand against the window. I’d love to share the seat letter and row number with you all, but since I was flying Southwest and there’s no assigned seating, what’s the point?
As an aside, doesn’t the ‘no assigned seating’ thing strike you as a security risk as well? If some guy with a GPS device is sitting in the exit row next to the door and decides to open it over the greater Chicagoland area, wouldn’t having a passenger list and seat map slightly aid in the investigation?
Painting this scenario I guess illustrates my point. While some airlines have banned GPS devices on their flights, most list them as APPROVED electronic devices at cruising altitude. And the only issue being discussed by the airlines in approving or banning GPS devices is whether the radio frequency emissions will disrupt the aircraft’s systems on takeoff or landing…
Here’s a 2005 list of airlines that allow/disallow GPS systems to be carried aboard and used during commercial flights.
According to the 9/11 Commission, one of the 9/11 hijackers purchased a GPS unit in Miami a week before the attack (he had attempted to buy four, but only one was available) and convicted al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui “had inquired of two GPS manufacturers whether their units could be converted for aeronautical use— actions that closely resembled those of the 9/11 hijackers during their final preparations for the attacks.”
Have GPS, will travel. But, ladies, don’t you dare think of bringing on lip gloss, liquid foundation, and more than four onces of contact lens solution on a plane. The liquid/gel bans are still in effect. Via today’s NYTimes:
Amy Kudwa, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration, said that loose or pressed powders are acceptable for carry-on.
As for solids, she said, “Deodorants that are gel or aerosol are not allowed, but solid deodorants are. Lip glosses that are liquid or gels like Carmex or Blistex are not allowed, but a ChapStick in a stick, as well as stick lipstick, are permitted.”
…Mascara is not allowed, but a product like Lola Loves Lashes ($25 at Sephora), the kind of cake mascara that made Bette Davis’s eyes something to write songs about, will pass muster.
Liquid foundation makeup is banned, but solid foundations are available. Benefit’s Some Kind-A Gorgeous ($26 at Sephora), calls itself a “foundation faker” because it is a solid that goes on with a light and creamy finish. It comes in only one shade, but Shiseido Stick Foundation ($35, Sephora), is available in 10 tones.
Passengers may carry on small amounts of baby formula or breast milk if traveling with a child, liquid prescription medicine with a name that matches the passenger’s ticket and personal lubricant like K-Y Jelly. A full list of what is and is not allowed is available on www.tsa.gov/travelers.
Ms. Kudwa said a traveler is also allowed up to four ounces of saline solution for contact lenses or eyedrops, so take Bausch & Lomb Sensitive Eyes Saline Solution in a four-ounce size (about $1.75 at drugstores).
Feel safer now?
Update: Reader Sarah writes in:
Your readers should rest assured that it is not possible to open any of the cabin doors while the airplane is mid-flight. Cabin doors open inward. At normal cruising altitudes the enormous pressure difference between the air
outside and the air inside the plane holds the doors so firmly in place that
it is impossible to open them.
One less thing to worry about.