I reckon this blog has about 50 US warheads trained on it after the googling I’ve been doing. But it’s been fun. I’ve been looking at the recent claim by overseas airlines and their security staff that terrorists can carry deadly explosives onto planes in little separate bottles, mix them together and Bob’s your hideously disfigured uncle.
Cooking up this deadly mixture, however, is far from the walk in the park that the news reports had led me to believe.
Blogger Jacob of A Man, a Plan, a Trash Can thinks it might be possible to bring down an airliner using small amounts of explosive, but on the other hand, the restrictions on shampoo and contact lens saline bottles are going to be ineffective anyway.
The way to stop terrorists on planes is to encourage passengers to bring loaded firearms aboard: guys in orange vests sitting in exit rows with deer rifles on their laps, ladies with Mr. Colt in their purses, kids with peashooters. Somebody wake up the NRA. Does the Second Amendment say ”The right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed except on commercial airliners”? Where is the right wing when you really need them?
This way, if some guy in a burnoose sets up a chemistry lab in row 24 and mixes hydrogen peroxide, sulfuric acid and acetone in a big beaker that is packed in 15 pounds of dry ice to keep it cool, and cooks up some triacetone triperoxide, or TATP, the passengers will be able, in the several hours it will take him to make the deadly explosive, to bring him under control, assuming the fumes haven’t knocked Ahmed out. And they could nab the mastermind, too, the monocled guy in first class petting the white cat.
See, it just doesn’t appear to be that simple. (Cooking up the recipe, I mean, not nabbing the mastermind.)Possum talks to his local pharmacist, who elaborates:
“So, imagining for a moment that you’re a jihadi and you’re actually going to try to cook up TATP on an airliner, what would you have to do?” I asked.
“Well, firstly you’ve got to understand that TATP isn’t a liquid, it’s a white crystalline powder. Looks like sugar and it makes nitroglycerine look safe. I read in one breathless story that the alleged bombers got the recipe from an ‘al-Qaeda website’. Why would al-Qaeda bother? Everyone who studied chemistry knows the recipe. And it’s on Wikipedia.
“The three ingredients are acetone, sulfuric acid and hydrogen peroxide. The acetone and sulphuric you can buy at the hardware store without attracting suspicion, but the hydrogen peroxide has got to be virtually full strength. You can’t use the stuff you buy over the counter at the pharmacy because it’s 97 per cent water. Well, you could, but you’d have to buy a lot of little bottles of peroxide and boil off the water, which is very risky. One false move and you’ve burned your house down.
“Anyway, you can premix the peroxide with the acetone – a couple of litres might make a useful amount of TATP – and carry that onto the plane in a single container but you’ve got to keep it cool and the only way I can think of to do that is to carry it in a Styrofoam container with some of those cold bricks from the supermarket. Plus, in your kit you’ll need to have a stirrer and a thermometer and a glass beaker or a stainless steel bowl to mix it in.”
“Hang on a sec”, Joadja said. “You mean you’ve got to get a cooler box and all that stuff on as hand luggage? That’d raise a few eyebrows!”
“Sure would, but let’s pretend you use your Jedi force on the security folks and get it on board. Next, you’ve got to get all your gear into the toilet. So you get the cooler down from the overhead luggage and lug it up the aisle. And then you’ll need to take out a mortgage on the toilet, ’cos you’re gonna be in there for a long time….”
Read the whole thing – it’s a riot.
So, what was responsible for the aeroplane with the blown-off roof in the picture? Well, I don’t want to bore you, but it was an ageing aircraft with weak rivets and corrosion. Good old-fashioned cost cutting and profit making, in other words. I’m more worried about the endless casualisation of maintenance staff, and outsourcing of aircraft mechanical repairs, than some guy trying to smuggle an esky into a plane. But they should definitely watch out for that guy with the monocle and the white cat.