NEW YORK (CBS 2) — Across New York and across the country, people are talking about Steven Slater, the flight attendant who found his 15 minutes of fame by quitting his job in highly dramatic fashion.
The part of the story that has yet to be addressed is how Slater’s unique escape to freedom has exposed gaps in JFK Airport security. As CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reports, the finger-pointing is now taking place between the Port Authority and JetBlue Airlines.
According to security professionals, the deployment of the emergency chute used by Slater to mark his dramatic resignation should have issued a red flag.
“The deployment of a chute off the back of an aircraft as it just entered its docking space should have alerted people on the ground to immediately respond,” said security expert Bill Daly.
CBS 2 has obtained a recording between the seemingly stunned cockpit and air traffic controllers.
Cockpit: “So we just had a slide deployment on the 274. So, um, that’s in the book.”
Dispatcher: “Copy that, sir.”
Despite this, Slater’s intense exit drew no emergency vehicles – no firetrucks, no nothing.
“Deployment of the chute is like a big Fourth of July firecracker going off,” Daly said. “It’s saying, ‘look at this.’”
And that’s not the only security hole. Slater ran through what are supposed to be secure zones around airplanes – with two carry-on bags. In fact, the response took so long that Slater got all the way back to his Queens home without being stopped. It was there that police arrested him.
Chris Ward, the executive director of New York’s Port Authority, is pointing the finger at JetBlue.
“Any breach of security is a concern,” said Ward. “The public wants to know that airports are safe.”
Port Authority sources told CBS 2 that JetBlue didn’t follow proper protocols, and that there was a 25-minute delay before JetBlue alerted police.
“It’s like calling 911,” said the source. “The cops can’t get the bad guy unless 911 is alerted.”
A JetBlue spokesman claimed it was only five minutes before police were contacted, but admitted the timeline was one of the things under investigation.
“We are debriefing,” Ward said. “This is another example of being ever retentive, but who would have thought that this would be the type of security issue that you are facing?”
“Deployment of that chute, one person sliding down with a couple suitcases and what was suggested as a can of beer, would have certainly drawn some attention,” said Daly.
Admittedly, it is an odd security issue for JFK officials to deal with. Generally, they’re trying to keep unwanted people out of the airport, not going after people leaving.
Meanwhile, JetBlue is trying to maintain some sense of humor about the whole thing.
On a company blog titled “Sometimes The Weird News Is About Us…,” JetBlue writes:
“Perhaps you heard a little story about one of our flight attendants? While this episode may feed your inner ‘Office Space,’ we just want to take this space to recognize our 2,100 fantastic, awesome and professional in-flight crewmembers … You can’t make this schtick up.”