Between the body scanners and the bomb-sniffing dogs, airlines would like you to think that airports are impregnable force fields where bad guys are stymied on the regular by their love of comically oversized shampoo bottles.
But the reality is that while you're enjoying a cavity search for accidentally packing nail clippers in your carry-on, security meltdowns of slapstick proportions nonetheless happen with frightening regularity. Like ...
#6. Partying Jet Skier Defeats $100 Million Security System
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In a post-9/11 world, there are at least three layers of security between you and the plane, at least one of which may involve a stranger looking at a 3D scan of your genitals. So you can only imagine what the security would be like if you were to, say, run onto the tarmac from outside the airport. They probably tase you and feed your body into a jet engine, right? Well ...
In 2012, Daniel Casillo was enjoying a nighttime jet ski outing in New York City's Jamaica Bay when he ran out of fuel. Stranded in the middle of the bay, Casillo had no choice but swim to shore. Unfortunately, the closest shore happened to be the one that bordered John F. Kennedy International Airport.
$9 beers are just a muddy sprint away.
Now, Kennedy Airport had recently installed a $100 million security system courtesy of defense contractor Raytheon. This system was designed to detect any potential terrorists who might attempt an aquatic landing. Little did Raytheon realize that their million-dollar mettle would be tested by one marooned jet skier whose nerves were hardened from an evening of boozing.
"Hands? We didn't expect him to have hands!"
JFK's first line of defense was an 8-foot barbed wire fence, which Casillo managed to scale without any problem. He then channeled his inner James Bond and crossed two active runways while unintentionally thwarting a number of motion detectors and surveillance cameras. Next, he walked right up to the damn terminal and probably could have even boarded a flight if he hadn't finally been spotted by an airport staffer. At this point, JFK staff freaked the fuck out and cancelled 100 flights as a result of one confused man toddling around the runaway armed with nothing but a life jacket and poor life choices.
"I'll be back in like an hour, be cool."
In an attempt to save face, the Port Authority police charged Casillo with criminal trespassing and pointed out that they had several clearly marked no-trespassing signs, which Casillo had the audacity to ignore (but which surely would have deterred any real wild-eyed terrorist).
To be fair to JFK and Raytheon, this is far from the first time the devil's nectar has defeated airport security. In 2004, a Scottish lap dancer named Soraya Wilson, galvanized simultaneously by a bender and a fight with her boyfriend, clambered up a barbed-wire fence at Aberdeen Airport and took a nap in a parked aircraft. It's unclear why news media at the time focused on Wilson's career as a lap dancer, but we're assuming her gyrating talents allowed her to python her way over razor wire without getting filleted.
It's a good thing terrorists can't dance for shit.
#5. Airport Guard Impersonates Dead Guy ... for 20 Straight Years
Sure, the TSA staff who man the baggage scanners at the airport might not be top-of-the-line law enforcement, but everyone in the building has, if nothing else, been background checked going back five generations. For the bad guys, getting somebody on the inside of airport security would be a gold mine, so if you want that job, you'd better have a squeaky-clean record.
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"I killed six terrorists just to get an interview."
Take Jerry Thomas, a 20-year veteran security officer at Newark Liberty International Airport. He was a model employee who had risen in the ranks to become a supervisor in charge of 30 other guards. And he was still a supervisor when he was arrested for identity fraud.
Yes, it turns out that Thomas' real name is (the considerably more spectacular) Bimbo Olumuyiwa Oyewole. The real Jerry Thomas was murdered in 1992, the same year that Oyewole stole his identity and -- like a really boring version of Don Draper -- began working as a security guard in Newark.
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Fewer affairs, but way more accidentally touching someone else's sex toys.
Now, you may be asking yourself why a company that employs security guards at sensitive installations like airports wouldn't perform a background check. Oyewole may have been hired pre-9/11, but surely there were checks in place that at a bare minimum would turn up someone, oh, using the identity of a murdered guy. It's not like the concept of doing bad things to airplanes was invented in 2001.
Al-Qaida just hit it big. These guys have hated airplanes since before it was cool.
Well, a background check was in fact performed by FJC Security Services prior to Oyewole being hired, a check that depended almost entirely on fingerprint identification. Since neither Oyewole nor Thomas had ever been fingerprinted before, it was assumed that everything was copacetic. Oyewole also aced state and federal background checks, all of which gave him gold stars for totally not being a Nigerian guy named Bimbo who sneaked into the U.S. in 1989.
And let's not chalk up Oyewole's arrest to additional security measures put in place after 9/11, seeing as how he wasn't exposed until 2012, and then only because someone phoned in an anonymous tip.
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That dude's detective badge looks embarrassed.
#4. Kid Flies to Italy Without Ticket or Passport
Really, every single uniformed person in the airport is there to do one job: to make sure you don't get on the plane without a ticket. We suppose it's still possible for somebody to pull it off -- with the right knowledge, they could fake a boarding pass, or maybe hack into the system. They'd still need a fake ID and be cool enough to fool the staff at the gate, but surely some kind of highly trained foreign agent could pull it off. Or, you know, an 11-year-old kid.
Because that's what little Liam Corcoran managed to do in 2012. Despite having no ticket, chaperone, or passport, he was able to board a flight at England's Manchester Airport and fly 1,000 miles to Italy.
Liam Corcoran: next appearance will be on the space shuttle.
Just by virtue of being a cherubic li'l guy, Corcoran was able to waltz past five security checkpoints and board a flight bound for Rome. He later bragged, "Getting on the plane was easier than doing my homework. I didn't have anything on me and no one asked me for anything. They smiled at me when I went through." Either this kid is the next incarnation of Harry Potter, or Manchester Airport's holographic security staffers (yes, this is a real thing) have been drinking intoxicating photons on the job.
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It's a British airport. Sober workers wouldn't be authentic.
Mind you, Corocoran was only detected when he began joking to fellow passengers about how much fun it was to run away from home. If there's a silver lining to this entire scenario, it's that the plot of Home Alone 2 totally came true.