Air Canada Embarrassed By Security Lapse 'Raging Granny' Makes Case For Armed Air Marshals

Montreal, Oct. 15.  Air Canada admits it was caught 'flat-footed' when an Air Canada flight to Calgary was forced to land in Winnipeg after an in-flight incident. According to Air Canada, the flight was forced to land after the pilot radioed ground controllers that a hi-jacking was taking place. 

Though the incident turned out to be a hoax, the plane was forced down after two scrambled F-18s had 'bumped' the jet and made several threatening passes. In accordance with the government's new anti-terrorist policy, the jets were preparing to shoot down the 757 with 20 mm. cannon but, fortunately, the plane landed at Winnipeg before the Prime Minister could give authorization. Only Prime Minister Chrétien can authorize the shooting down of an airliner that is suspected to have fallen into terrorists hands. Luckily, at the time of the incident, he was giving a Liberal fundraising speech to an enthusiastic audience of Montreal-based defence contractors. Before the end of his speech, which netted the Liberals $5 million for their War Chest, the plane had already landed at Winnipeg.

The hoaxer, who will remain under observation in the geriatric wing of the Winnipeg Police Hospital until the Minister of Justice decides what to do with her, is an 87-year-old, white-haired great-great-grandmother, who admits that she is a member of the militant 'Raging Grannies'. The fragile, gentle faced old lady told police she was concerned that air travel wasn't safe enough and that terrorists could board 'any aircraft' doing just what she did.

What she did, according to police, is that she had tucked a sharp, 12" long, serrated edged, hard plastic butcher knife into her panty hose close to her inner thigh. The plastic knife was not detected by the usual metal-detecting wand lightly passed over her during the pre-boarding security check. Given the location of the potential weapon and its nature, only a strip search would have revealed its presence. (As yet, strip searches are not made of passengers during pre-boarding, but Transport Canada is said to be considering such a step.) 

During the flight, after visiting the toilet at the back of the aircraft, the woman had emerged brandishing the knife and began running up and down the aisle screaming, "I'm going to slit the throat of the pilot and anyone who tries to stop me!" Before the stunned crew and passengers could react, she stopped at the locked cockpit door and threw the knife down. Then she turned and addressed the now terrified passengers. "Take it easy everybody, I'm not a terrorist, I'm really a very gentle person and wouldn't hurt a fly. I just wanted to make a point," she said.

According to police, her point is that the new rules are wrong in that the government won't permit the pilots to be armed or have armed air marshals flying undercover in passenger jets. The government's rationale, according to David Collenette, The Minister of Transport, is that Canada is a law-abiding, peaceful nation and guns don't belong in airplanes. But at the same time, she told police that an airliner, "carrying hundreds of innocent passengers, can be shot down by air force jets on the PM's OK. That is truly terrifying," the old woman said.

This incident, and the fact that armed RCMP undercover officers are flying in Canadian aircraft landing at Reagan National Airport in Washington, the government may revisit the 'no guns in airplanes' policy.