The other morning, as my flight ascended into the sky over a major Asian airport, I felt something hard fall to the floor beside my feet. Curious, I leaned forward and saw, on the floor, something that I initially mistook as a piece of the seat in front of mine. I picked it up, turned it in my hand and realized that – rather than holding a loose part – I was actually in possession of a quite serious 3.5 inch (89 mm) knife. Below, a photo of the sheathed weapon.
Slightly stunned, I turned to the fellow beside me – and he suggested that I give the blade to a flight attendant. I must admit, my initial thought was: “Thanks cowboy, but I have no interest in being the guy who has to answer for finding a titanium-framed knife stowed in a magazine pocket (or beneath a seat) on an international flight operated by a US airline. You do it.” But that was just my first thought, the one that happened before the good citizen sprung into action and pressed the flight attendant call button. At the time, we were still ascending, so a flight attendants didn’t exactly come running – providing me plenty of time to snap a photo of the knife (later, ID’d the brand and model, which you’ll find here), and speculate on just why it had been stowed away on my plane (which, as it turns out, regularly transits between North America and Asia). Conclusion: no idea.
Anyway, the flight attendant eventually arrived and, after I explained what had happened, she swiped the knife out of my hand with a curt “Thank you!” and walked away. Then, over the next few minutes, several flight attendants and a gentleman whom I assume was an air marshal all made their way up the aisle, had a look at me, and returned to the place from which they came. I assume they were trying to judge whether or not I was a threat. So, in hope of enhancing my non-threatening image, I asked for a vegetarian meal (in case they had an extra one available), and a glass of white wine (seriously).
It must have worked: nobody ever asked me anything. Nothing more happened. I guess they know what they’re doing, and I’m thankful, I guess.
So. I really have nothing more to add to this little tale beyond this question: how confident should we all feel about an airline security system that required a quarter tube of toothpaste to be seized out of my carry-on, and yet somehow managed to allow somebody to smuggle a blade onto the same plane? For some possible answers, see Bruce Schneier on “security theater” and Jeffrey Goldberg’s classic debunking of the post-9/11 airline security measures that have been implemented in the US, and airports worldwide (including the one that I flew through on this fateful day).