MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) When a local police officer arrived in his Miami hotel room on vacation, he was shocked to find what was in his bag. It was a knife - a very large and lethal knife.
The officer had been on a flight that departed Myrtle Beach International Airport. He is amazed the knife made it through the X-ray machine undetected. And the knife wasn't in luggage stored in the belly of the plane. It was in his carry-on bag, offering him access to it during the entire flight.
"Could kill the crew in a heartbeat," was the reaction of retired Eastern Airlines captain Ed Edelen, who lives in Myrtle Beach.
WMBF News Investigates wanted to talk with a local TSA manager about what we'd learned. But spokesman Jonathan Allen said no. Instead, he sent us a written statement saying, "While many sharp objects remain prohibited, they are unlikely to cause catastrophic damage on an aircraft."
"Heck no," said Edelen, the former airline captain, of the TSA employees. "(The) worse could happen to them is they'd spill their coffee."
Edelen has been in danger in the air before, both as a fighter pilot in Vietnam and, he says, when a man managed to get a gun on-board the Eastern Airlines plane Edelen was piloting. He was angry with a flight attendant and tried to force the crew to land in Havana, Cuba. Edelen says he managed to outwit the man and landed in Miami, resulting in no injuries.
Despite TSA telling WMBF News that cockpit doors have been reinforced, Edelen is worried a terrorist with certain knowledge could still get into the cockpit and attack the crew.
"These terrorists are trying to destroy us, destroy America, and they don't mind destroying themselves," he said. "That was the difference between the old hijackers. They were on a single mission --- to get home. To get to Cuba."
The TSA spokesman says security officers "continue to take the discovery of knives and other prohibited items seriously...in today's post 9/11 security environment..." But he adds that intelligence leads the TSA to believe they should focus more on explosives.
WMBF News' investigation into the knife being allowed on-board the Delta flight in Myrtle Beach in May comes as Congress reveals there have been more than 25,000 breakdowns in security at America's airports since 9/11. That means that at every airport in the country, including Myrtle Beach International, there are slightly more than five security breaches every year.