It’s practically a storyline from a sitcom: a pilot takes a potty break and ends up trapped in the bathroom when the door lock malfunctions. A passenger who happens to have a thick accent (of some kind) learns of the situation, and tries to relay what’s happening to the co-pilot.
The co-pilot, safely locked inside said cockpit, hears the accent coming from a man knocking on the cockpit door and alerts the tower. Jets go into standby mode to potentially shoot down a terror threat.
All because a man got stuck in a bathroom.
I can’t imagine, at this moment, which man is being the bigger butt of jokes from his friends: the pilot who got stuck or the co-pilot who nearly sent the aviation industry into a full-fledged red alert.
I’m sure that pilot has probably gotten cases of Depends by now.
But this goofy story does give us an important look at what went remarkably well: security inside a post 9/11 airliner’s cockpit. This is exactly the kind of random incident that could have been exploited by a terrorist to gain control of a plane. The co-pilot did precisely what he should have done: he didn’t allow an unauthorized person entry.
The only question I have is why the passenger with that alleged thick foreign accent was apparently given a password by the captain in the first place. The co-pilot, in reporting the situation to ground control, mentioned that the unidentified passenger was giving him a password in an attempt to enter the cockpit.
What should certainly have happened was that the pilot should have asked the passenger to get a flight attendant who could have then notified the co-pilot via intercom. That would have at least prevented putting the Port Authority, the FBI and fighter jets on alert.
Still, if there needed to be a test of security in an unusual situation, I’m relieved that the cockpit door stayed shut.