Thursday, June 9, 2005

Airline jam

A Washington lawyer aboard US Airways Flight 532 last week from Miami to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, with a stopover in Charlotte, N.C., says the pilot of the flight made an intriguing, if not alarming, announcement over the intercom.

Shortly before touching down in Charlotte, the pilot announced to passengers that the landing was being delayed because somebody was “jamming” the plane’s communications with the control tower.

“We have a jamming problem,” the lawyer, who asks not to be identified, paraphrased the pilot. “We’ve gotten word from the tower that our radio frequencies are being jammed.”

Then these words: The problem could “involve national security.”

“Upon deplaning I went up to the captain and said, ‘Did I hear you correctly … that it could be by someone who is trying to do us harm?’ And he said yes, there is a problem here. It’s happened before.”

In the 26 years he’s been in the business, John Mazor, a spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association, tells Inside the Beltway, ever so often there is a “flurry” of such incidents, including cases where somebody gets on the same radio frequency and imitates an air traffic controller, or else pretends to be a pilot.

As far as frequency jamming, he says: “Unless you find the source, you’re not sure if it’s inadvertent or on purpose. As you know from reporting on the lasers [being beamed at pilots from the ground], laser incidents go back 10 years. But it wasn’t until the September 11th attacks that we have to look at everything through national security lines now.”

Frequency jamming, like laser attacks, take on “a new dimension post-9/11. And it’s better to be safe than sorry,” he says.

Flat available

We have good news for filmmaker Morgan Spurlock, who will have the company of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and former Clinton White House Chief of Staff John Podesta at a special Capitol Hill screening next Tuesday of his new TV documentary “30 Days.”

As we reminded readers yesterday, Mr. Spurlock, a West Virginia native, is the guy who spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s food and lived to tell about it in the film “Super Size Me.”

In his latest Hollywood endeavor, Mr. Spurlock and his fiancee, Alex, spend a month trying to live on the minimum wage in Columbus, Ohio, where they struggle to find jobs and affordable housing.

Mike Beeler of Columbus, Ohio, writes to Inside the Beltway that Mr. Spurlock’s “experience in Columbus must be like a Michael Moore movie remake. I have owned several small businesses in Columbus, most recently a pizza restaurant.

“My experience in hiring staff is that you will never find kitchen help willing to accept the minimum wage. Hispanics here illegally demand as much as $9 per hour for washing dishes. Delivery drivers can make as much as $200 working just Friday and Saturday nights; that is $7 per hour plus tips, working only 14 hours,” he says.

“Bartenders working in most small bars make an average $100 or more in tips paer shift plus their hourly pay. Like most other Midwest cities, if you’re willing to work you can make an honest living here in Columbus,” he says.

“By the way, I will rent Mr. Spurlock a nice one-bedroom flat for only $475 a month and with some Section 8 money, he and his wife can live quite well courtesy of our government.”

That’s the one

“Is this the same Howard Dean who was criticized by Al Sharpton for not having any minorities on his [presidential campaign] staff?”

— Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican, responding this week to Democrat National Committee chair Howard Dean’s characterization of Republicans as a party of white Christians.

Hillary reality

Recent “missteps” by Washington Republicans have resulted in a significant shift toward a second Clinton White House, says, a licensed online sports book that now gives “5-to-1 odds” that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton would occupy the White House in 2008.

The recent filibuster fight, Social Security privatization, the war in Iraq and uneasiness in Iran and North Korea are leveling the playing field for 2008, according to the sports book.

“The way we see it, battered Democrats will gladly take 5-to-1 odds,” says spokesman Kevin Manning. “Conservatives may hope for a million-to-1, but when you’re making a bet, one has to deal with reality.”

Granddaddy Doolittle

“All fingers and toes are accounted for!”

— House Republican Conference Secretary Rep. John T. Doolittle, California Republican, welcoming the birth this week of his first grandchild, Lorelai Taylor Doolittle.

• John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or

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