From the Wild, Wacky but True, Case Files
From Alaska to the Bahamas and from cash filled microwaves to smuggled sinks, Senior Field Operations Program Manager Thomas Kabacinski has seen it all while out in the field with Morpho Detection.
He's been around from the beginning, ever since there was one CTX machine at JFK International Airport, before the Federal Aviation Administration began buying units in bulk.
Here's a look at the wild, wacky but true experiences Thomas has encountered since joining InVision, a predecessor to Morpho Detection, back in 1997.
Did you remember to pack everything? The bowling ball, the kitchen sink, the car parts?
As you can imagine, people try to travel with all sorts of strange goods. From various battery operated gadgets to car parts, tires, and yes, even the kitchen sink. One alarming item however, was a bowling ball that was found in luggage. Nobody was 100 percent certain it was just a bowling ball and not a bomb so the uncertainty led to a call to the bomb squad. So, Tom said, there was only one safe option: blow it up. Luckily, the item turned out to be just bowling ball, but one unlucky traveler was forced to pick up a spare bowling ball.
Early Days, Early Problems
These days, most if not all travelers know when they see a conveyer belt, they have to scan their bags and luggage. But in the far off past of the 1990s, people weren't quite sure what to make of CTX units. In New York City, Tom would have to ask random travelers to put their bags on a ramp for scanning. Naturally, New Yorkers were a bit skeptical to just hand their bags over to a stranger. "It was a bit odd," Tom said. "With no badge and no gun, I didn't look much like an aviation security professional."
Money Talks — and Incriminates
Even before sophisticated screening techniques and protocols to screen passengers, there were some key indicators that would cause security agents to take a closer look at someone. One indicator was, and still is, buying a ticket with cash. When one traveler who purchased a ticket with cash was flagged for a screening, techs came across a nice, new consumer-grade microwave in his luggage. The only problem was with what the screener found inside the microwave—more than $10,000 cash.
Overall, the industry has changed a lot throughout the years. Before 9/11 security screening was a whole different ball game, with less stringent rules. For Tom, the job has evolved; he's worked on many different units throughout the world.
Aviation security remains a small but important industry with many variables, and I am proud to be a part it.