Van driven onto Sea-Tac runway. Nobody notices, cares.

Ross Hershberger says: "This is a story relating to Homeland Security Theater. A retired Army Lieutenant Colonel was able to drive a van onto a runway at Sea-Tac to pick up a military passenger with no challenge, inspection, attention or concern from security personnel. Subsequent investigation revealed no problems with the airport's security measures."
"We were sitting there, the engine idling, nobody around, when all of a sudden I realized: We're out on the goddamn runway," [retired army lieutenant colonel Greg] Alderete recalled. "We're in a gassed-up, seven-passenger van, and no one really knows who we are. We have an unobstructed path to the main runways, the commercial gates, the whole place. It was unbelievable."

No one asked their names or screened them or the van. Both were in civilian clothes.

"Within 30 seconds we could have been flooring it down the runway," Clodfelter says. "They couldn't have stopped us."

"With a van full of weapons we could have shut down the entire aviation system," Alderete said.



  1. Yes, a guy in a van was able to get on the tarmac. But no one was able to sneak infant formula on the planes. Have you no sense of perspective?

    It isn’t even good security theater. I’d rather watch Ishtar.

  2. “With a van full of weapons we could have shut down the entire aviation system,” Alderete said.

    Not without a four ounce tube of toothpaste you won’t. Nice try…

  3. >>”With a van full of weapons we could have shut down the entire aviation system,” Alderete said.

    “But, of course, it would be wrong!

  4. Anecdotal evidence that “Homeland Security” is a myth (except for its value to the gov’t for posturing and for propaganda).

  5. Homeland Security also allows teams of unscreened workers, some of them undocumented aliens, to swarm all over each and every plane every time it touches the ground. Cleaners and baggage handlers are not screened, and have minimal employment standards (higher than the mouthbreathers at TSA, though).
    The TSA is bullshit. BULLSHIT.

  6. The terrorist setting next to me in the library reading over my shoulder would like to thank you for the idea and ask what the address is for that airport.

  7. It’s almost like they are leaving the front door open and inviting the terrorists to walk in on purpose.

  8. @10. Correction: This was clearly the back door. The front door is strongly defended against liquids, shoes, people with names on lists and other threats. Corporate jet area, not so much.

  9. I do this all the time in Grand Theft Auto. The van per se isn’t full of weapons, but I have a rocket launcher in my hip pocket. The planes are invincible , however, so it seems locking the gate is an unnecessary precaution in the virtual world.

  10. I was at Sea-Tac two weeks ago and saw a sign reading “No Firearms” outside the airport bar. (Photo & comments here: The TSA had already given me a virtual cavity search, so I didn’t understand the necessity of the sign. Turns out, it had been an issue in the past.

  11. Burns!, your bartender may have lied to you. It’s a legal requirement for all establishments that serve alcohol.

    “A number of signs are required to be posted at your business, based on the type of license you hold. These are the signs that Liquor Control Agents and local law enforcement will be looking for when checking on compliance with liquor and tobacco laws. ”

  12. The former director of SeaTac is now the head of Los Angeles airports, including lax.

  13. Driving a van onto the runway was the first thing I tried in GTA IV. Within seconds I had cops firing on my vehicle from the ground and air. It wasn’t long before I was careening around the runway on sparking rims James Brown style and dodging police vehicles. After a couple of minutes of that, I was dead.

    Oh well, apparently GTA is not very realistic.

  14. @anonymous #18

    I’m sure there’s a good pun to be made about lax security….

    Any takers?

  15. I’ve done this hundreds of times (as a limo driver in Seattle), and the story is accurate in that there’s nobody checking IDs or the trunk of your car, they just open the heavily padlocked gate and wave you in onto the tarmac. You’ll need to know the tail number of a flight arriving at that FBO within the next hour (info available online) and look presentable enough so that you don’t arouse suspicions. A black suit and matching Lincoln Towncar would do the trick, and as a bonus they have huge trunks. Here’s the “back door” in question.

  16. #18 posted by Anonymous , May 21, 2008 1:00 PM

    The former director of SeaTac is now the head of Los Angeles airports, including lax.

    Ahh yes, security at LAX, known for their bright yellow jackets with, I kid you not, “LAX SECURITY” printed in big black letters on the back. Unfortunately when the TSA came in they switched to a standard Homeland Security approved uniform.

  17. Wow, what if there really isn’t much of a security threat at all, and TSA / Homeland Security / etc. are just dog-and-pony shows set up to convince the public that there is an actual enemy against whom expensive wars need to be waged?

  18. OK, the abundance of security theatre is an excellent source of hilarious jokes, but this lack of real security is chilling. One might almost say … terrifying …

  19. @#25 SAEHN

    Ah, but they have identified the enemy.
    *insert standard Pogo reference here*

  20. This reminded me of my own security theatre escapade in Washington State back on 3/20/03, the first day of the Iraq War.

    My company was contracted to do some pipelining at Fairchild AFB. We pulled up to the gate and they searched our truck upside down for two hours before letting us out on the flightline. The funny part is that they let us take a 60HP high-pressure boiler with us and operate it on the tarmac for the better part of a week.

    The only difference between a boiler and a bomb is a pressure relief valve that can be replaced with a plug in about 60 seconds. Dial up the Pressuretrols and move away quickly – A 60HP boiler without a PRV will easily take out a building. Mythbuster’s did a nice demo of this with a household boiler.

    Anyway, doesn’t surprise me a bit that somebody was able to a mini-van onto an airstrip at SeaTac without anybody saying a thing. Having worked on a lot of ‘secure’ facilities, it never ceases to amaze me how big the security holes really are.

  21. quoted from the Seattle Times article:

    Both the Port of Seattle and the federal Transportation Safety Administration reviewed the incident, including videotapes, and concluded their security system is sound.

    “We are satisfied with how procedures were followed that day,” said Perry Cooper, airport spokesman. “We have never had a security lapse in that part of the airport.”

    Move along people, there’s nothing to see here!

  22. “They” could do anything at any time-to ANYBODY!


    More fear mongering.

  23. My biggest concern (not that I don’t actually travel by air in the states for work) is how much freaking money is being wasted protecting us from imaginary threats when genuine security holes like this exist.

    I love that attitude though “there was no security lapse” meaning that all the procedures were followed. Possibly some procedures need to be reviewed. Like less idiocy interfering with the passengers, and a little more checking on who has access to the tarmac.

  24. I’m sick of complaining about airport security and pointing out the hypocrisies. OK ok so there’s all kinds of holes in the giant mess they’ve piled on after 9/11 and all of it sucks and is useless. Just let me keep my shoes on and don’t throw out my hair stuff, I’ll risk dudes in vans anytime. Airplane related terrorists acts are so 2001, the next big thing is yogurt poisoning. Keep vans away from yogurt!

  25. We were discussing this the other night and decided that the security guards that waved a van through the corporate jet entrance are probably being more rational about actual risk than the armed squad in the passenger terminal throwing away baby bottles, shampoo and nail clippers. ‘Security’ is a facade displayed to the public for a complex variety of reasons. But behind the scenes it’s business as usual and that’s probably OK in some ways.

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