Airline inspections, surveillance protocols under scrutiny

More questions are being raised as to why a Hawaiian Airlines plane was able to take off with somebody inside the wheel well.

The wheel well of Hawaiian Airlines Flight 45 still has the footprints believed to be from the teenaged boy. The Associated Press reports that he had been in that compartment up to seven hours before takeoff.

According to the airline, planes are routinely inspected before takeoff. A spokeswoman for the airline says “before an aircraft is put into service, safety and security inspections are conducted… to visually review any compartment accessible from the ground, including the wheel well.”

But she couldn’t say when those inspections are done.

Security expert Ed Teixeira worked with Homeland Security when he was vice director of State Civil Defense. Teixeira says there was clearly a failure in the system.

In addition to the airlines checking the flight before takeoff, Teixeira says somebody from airport security at San Jose should have raised an alarm because surveillance cameras caught the boy walking on the tarmac.

“Somebody should have been doing something about it,” he said. “There should have been some backup security systems saying, ‘Hey, we got a breach on the fence line somewhere and somebody needs to check why and what was it,'” he said.

As to the plane taking off with the boy still inside the wheel well, Brian Isaacson, assistant professor at the Aeronautics Maintenance Technology program at Honolulu Community College, says ground crews inspecting the wheel well might not have seen the boy. The compartment sits 10 feet above ground and Isaacson says they could have easily missed the boy hiding in there.

The state Department of Transportation says there have been six incidents where people scaled the airport perimeter fences in Hawaii in the past seven years. All of them were caught by airport security and never got on a plane.

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