June 20, 2012

"No, said airline security, you can't take this bottle onboard. It exceeds the 100 milliliter limit; it's forbidden."

"But wait, said professor Martin Birchall of Bristol University. This is a medical container. Inside is a trachea, a carefully constructed human windpipe, seeded with 60 million stem cells from a very sick woman in Barcelona. We have just 16 hours to get it into her body...."

36 comments:

BarryD said...

So they shot him.

The end.

Original Mike said...

As a medical researcher, I used to routinely carry on board human skulls, hearts in bags of formaldehyde, etc. Sometimes it drew an amused response, but I never had a problem.

But those were the good old days.

PatCA said...

Our TSA would have given him the pro forma molestation, and then let him on board. They're compassionate that way.

Michael K said...

Just cut off an inch. No problem. Now it fits.

bagoh20 said...

If you absolutely, positively have to get it there, you can put stuff like that up your ass to get it through TSA.

No, apparently, I cannot patent this idea. Surprisingly, it's been done before. So, no royalties, go ahead, have at it.

traditionalguy said...

Terrorists using C4 molded into a trachea shape and carried in a bottle of nitro as an impact fuse are everywhere. Thank God the bureaucrats are on the job and saving lives.

John Burgess said...

Want to make friends and influence people? Stay the hell away from taking a job with airline security. Anywhere.

MadisonMan said...

It's policy!

The phrase used by brain-dead bureaucrats everywhere!

Balfegor said...

Re: John Burgess

Want to make friends and influence people? Stay the hell away from taking a job with airline security. Anywhere.

You can't shame them if there's no names. Where are the names?

Patrick said...

Yeah, this is stupid policy, and stupid of the gate agent and the supervisor to fail to recognize the stakes.

Having said that, and knowing how stupid the system is, if I was going to carry something as crucial and time sensitive as that on a flight, I'd make damn sure that I had whatever waiver was required in writing, with names and telephone numbers.

It is ridiculous that such planning would be required, however.

Chip S. said...

They spent $21K on a last-minute charter jet.

I certainly hope they first gave bribery a chance to work its magic.

TWM said...

Not defending the totally useless nonsense of TSA, but wouldn't a private jet have been the first choice for getting something like that there in that timeframe? It certainly seems important enough to justify it and even in the best of times, scheduling crap happens when flying commercial.

bagoh20 said...

"I'd make damn sure that I had whatever waiver was required in writing, with names and telephone numbers. "

Exactly.

Who really did a piss poor job here? As much as I hate them, it wasn't the TSA. If they can pushed out of the way with a good story, they aren't doing what they are paid for. If you want to get waived through the rules, have something besides a story to tell.

If they were terrorists, and this story worked, you'd be justifiably mad as hell about it, and calling them idiots.

Beta Rube said...

Idiocy aside, the medical part of the story is amazing. Those of us with Type I diabetics in the family are hopeful that the human pancreas, or the islet cells that produce insulin, will someday be produced by a similiar method.

Miracles and Wonders indeed!

Chip S. said...

If you're associating this with the TSA, you don't know where Bristol University is.

If you think these guys thought they could just saunter up to the security checkpoint without having made prior arrangements, you haven't read the article.

Balfegor said...

Who really did a piss poor job here? As much as I hate them, it wasn't the TSA. If they can pushed out of the way with a good story, they aren't doing what they are paid for. If you want to get waived through the rules, have something besides a story to tell.

A) It's not TSA, the United States have not yet succeeded in inflicting the mad tyranny of the TSA upon the prostrate peoples of the Earth. The airport is in UK, and the flight was to Spain.

B) TSA are useless doing the job they are doing right now. Airline security is a reasonable objective, but TSA does nothing to fulfill that objective. I'm shocked no one complains about this more: if you're a terrorist, TSA has created the ideal suicide bomb target. In many US airports, you have hundreds of people concentrated into a small space (in LAX's international terminal, it's actually an enclosed space), in the lines leading up to the TSA checkpoint. Why would a terrorist even bother trying to get their bomb on a plane? You can kill just as many of us while going through security.

Michael said...

I once transported a hunting dog to west Texas. On the way home the same airline refused to carry the dog without a Vet's note saying it was OK. Notwithstanding the fact that no such note was required before. I got a buddy to write the note and sign it as a Vet. Everybody, inckpluding the dog, was happy. Bureaucracy is a very workable system when you get the hang of it.

Michael K said...

" TSA are useless doing the job they are doing right now. "

It's not just the TSA. I was once stopped half way down the jet way and frisked and had to take off my shoes. It was the third security check that day. That was in Paris.

gregq said...

With the US TSA, a simple "it's medical liquid" gets through every time. You don't even have to be particularly nice about it (I find I'm pretty fundamentally unable to be nice to bozos playing security theater with my time).

Sad to think our security drones are actually better than their security drones.

Balfegor said...

Re: Michael K:

It's not just the TSA. I was once stopped half way down the jet way and frisked and had to take off my shoes. It was the third security check that day. That was in Paris.

Paris too? Drat. One of the joys of travelling outside of the US, these many years, has been that it's so much more civilised. Specifically, that one generally does not have to take one's shoes off, and if one does, one is given slippers to wear going through and a shoehorn at the other end.

Cedarford said...

I would be going to the lawyers if I was the university that had to pay 21,000 USA for a private jet - and sue the airline, plus another 50,000 for lawyers fees and distress to all parties.
1st thing I hope they did was get a court order to preserve the security tapes of the airline office the professor filled out the paperwork at.

Even in the UK, but certainly in the USA...there has to be an effort to place someone with an actual functioning brain in charge of airport security that can waive rules if they are convinced the cargo is legitimate and no threat....
If you want staff and paid gropers with the IQ level of a McDonalds reject hire - fine! No smart person would want to be pawing blue haired old grannies because "Evil Brilliant Muslims will naturally use blue haired grannies next!" But someone at each airport needs to have decent cognitive abilities and the role and the power to cut through government drone idiocy.

edutcher said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
edutcher said...

"You don't professionalize unless you federalize".

Terrible Tiny Tommy Daschle would have been out Health Czar.

What a thought

prairie wind said...

Michael, I will begin inckpluding your word in conversation. It's just too good to let waste away.

Bender said...

I was once stopped half way down the jet way and frisked and had to take off my shoes. It was the third security check that day. That was in Paris.

When I took my mom to Italy for her b-day, we connected through Paris. We had a long layover that allowed us to spend an afternoon in the city. And when we returned, of course we needed to go through security.

At the x-ray machine, my mom acted as if it were the U.S. and started stripping her clothes off -- coat, shoes, belt, etc. before I stopped her. She had not bothered to pay attention to the security agent, who just looked at her shaking her head and laughing, who had told me that I did NOT need to remove anything, even my shoes.

Bender said...

I would be going to the lawyers if I was the university that had to pay 21,000 USA for a private jet - and sue the airline, plus another 50,000 for lawyers fees and distress to all parties

The lawyers would tell you that you should have gotten proper authorization IN WRITING and that you should have taken the item to the airline office and taken through by airline personnel, rather than simply show up at the security gate and expect to be allowed to go through by a security guard who has no idea who you are or what you are doing there.

Larry J said...

MadisonMan said...
It's policy!

The phrase used by brain-dead bureaucrats everywhere!


It's a variation of the infamous "we were just following orders" defense. It didn't work well at Nuremberg.

"It doesn't have to make sense, it's our policy!"

Chip S. said...

The lawyers would tell you that you should have gotten proper authorization IN WRITING and that you should have taken the item to the airline office and taken through by airline personnel...

And they'd expect to be paid for this, I suppose.

bagoh20 said...

yea, I didn't notice it was UK, but it doesn't matter to my point, which is that if this did not get through an I was the patient, I be pissed at the crew who handled getting clearance so poorly that this was even a possibility. Only they knew the truth and the importance of it. The security people just saw a guy with a story, like they get all day long. They might even have already heard a variation of this one used fraudulently. The point is: it's not reasonable or their job to conduct an investigation for each person they inspect. They need to assume dishonesty, because they never know. The medical people knew and blew it.

Balfegor said...

Re: bagoh20:

yea, I didn't notice it was UK, but it doesn't matter to my point, which is that if this did not get through an I was the patient, I be pissed at the crew who handled getting clearance so poorly that this was even a possibility. Only they knew the truth and the importance of it. The security people just saw a guy with a story, like they get all day long. They might even have already heard a variation of this one used fraudulently. The point is: it's not reasonable or their job to conduct an investigation for each person they inspect. They need to assume dishonesty, because they never know. The medical people knew and blew it.

Look, the problem is with the whole daft system, not the particulars of this case.

But even with this case, the medical people did call the airline to figure out what they needed to do. Only they called the UK Head Office, which screwed up the request. My guess would be they got some customer service representative who had no idea what the proper procedure was, and made the mistaken assumption that the people at the check-in desk would be reasonable so there wouldn't be an issue. Sort of the same thing that always happens with cable or phone company CSRs. Or, for that matter, the US government.

Crimso said...

"But those were the good old days."

In those days we worked with an enzyme purified from Drosophila cells (now we use the human enzyme helpfully made for us by yeast), and a purification would use a couple of months' worth of cultured cells. We would spend literally days (at least a week) ahead of the 5 day purification making sure that every buffer and solution we needed was made and made correctly, and that every piece of equipment (from ultracentrifuges down to spatulas; we had a checklist) was present and fully operational. And what we were doing wasn't life or death.

Sometimes, it pays to sit down and write out the exact sequence of events, and then look for places where something can go wrong. (The Japanese did that by wargaming the Midway operation, and when the officers in charge of the American forces laid an ambush that resulted in a severe loss to the Japanese, the referees disallowed the result on the grounds that the Americans couldn't possible know to lay the ambush since the operation would be a surprise).

Jose_K said...

summum ius, summa injuria
Or bureacratic stupidity kills

Leon said...

Not for nothing he should have hired a professional. I was a courier for a while specializing in international air shipments. When I had a problem at the airport I had a whole crew in new York to run interference for me. They kept notes and could have said we talked to this person on this day at this time. They loved crawling up peoples assess. They also did it right from the start.

I'm not really at liberty to tell how all stuff is shipped but properly cleared peoples can ship body parts without a physical inspection by the screener. At one point the muckity mucks at, the tsa decided to go to 100% screening, yea that lasted less than two days.

zeetech yousaf said...

Should you safe the woman? i think the work you are going for you should get cheap flights to safe her precious life.

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