Seeing through the smoke of the Qatari-diplomat incident

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The April 9 article "A smoke, a joke and an international incident" described a bizarre smoking incident involving a Qatari diplomat on a United Airlines flight that resulted in the scrambling of two F-16 fighter jets. This raises the question of why cigarette lighters are allowed to be carried on to airplanes, given that smoking is not permitted. Lighters were once on the prohibited list, but they were removed in 2007. I urge the Transportation Security Administration to put lighters back on the prohibited list.

I travel frequently. During a recent flight check-in, I had a tube of Preparation H, with about two remaining applications in it, removed from my briefcase. On my next flight, I purposely placed a full cigarette lighter in my briefcase, and it sailed through security. I can think of at least a dozen ways to cause havoc aboard an airplane with a cigarette lighter, but I'm puzzled as to how to cause havoc with a very small amount of Preparation H.

John O' Hara, Bowie

--

So a 27-year-old Arab man named Mohammed al-Madadi disappears into the airplane bathroom, which then smells of smoke. When confronted, Mr. Madadi tells the flight attendant he "was trying to light my shoes on fire," then refuses to hand over his lighter.

How do some Arab diplomats react? "This never would have happened if Madadi was Swedish."

Won't someone please say it: Blond, blue-eyed Swedes aren't trying to blow up commercial airliners.

Lloyd Meyer, Chicago


© 2010 The Washington Post Company