Odd things sometimes happen in ironic ways. I was working on a long form piece on the international growth and competition out of Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) on Friday when the news struck. Suddenly focus shifted to the scene at FLL for the rest of the day.
As with any act of terror or mass shooting (they are the same thing and why for politically correct purposes we’ve equated mass shootings with something troubled whites do and terror with something ideologically-motivated nonwhites do is beyond me) we have a lot to digest – but this time even more so for me, since I am uniquely familiar with the operations at FLL and as someone who follows both state and local government as well as the aviation industry.
Here are some takeaway from the situation:
- Governor Rick Scott has a way of soothing the public during crises but his decision to contact the President-elect and Vice President-elect for help before he spoke to the sitting President needlessly politicized the situation.
- Local TV media in the Miami/Fort Lauderdale market did a fantastic job of covering the situation. With lots of national and international coverage in a 24-hour news cycle, local news bureaus and reporters showed a unique value in a global story.
- Part of the value demonstrated by local media was to emphasize that tens of thousands of travelers flying in/out of one of the United States’s major airports (as classified by the FAA) made this a bigger story than just the takeaway of 5 dead and 8 wounded that flashed across screens of those watching CNN, the BBC, MSNBC or other news outlets.
- People are already spinning into ideological camps with some on the right citing ISIS-Daesh possible connections to the alleged shooters and those on the left citing the need for increased gun control. As was the case after the Pulse shooting both sides are correct but need to be more willing to listen to one another. The right is unwilling to do enough to regulate the purchase and carrying (thus leading to the use) of firearms in this state and nation while many on the left continue to whitewash the radicalized ideology associated with religious fanaticism which drove the alleged Pulse shooter to target LGBT-citizens. We don’t know if this was similar or not, but the eagerness of some of my brethren on the left to discount any possibility of religious radicalization of the suspect is worrying.
- Broward Sheriff Scott Israel is a not ready for prime time figure in general. However given his limitations as a public speaker and that he’s never been really tested in a crisis like this, he did very well.
- Both Commissioner Chip LaMarca and Barbara Sharief were irresponsible with public statements about the suspect and how he arrived at the airport. Ultimately, I must plead guilty to taking LaMarca’s statement at face value BEFORE I checked incoming flight schedules and determined it would have been difficult for the suspect to have flown into FLL on an Air Canada flight from Toronto that arrived AFTER the shooting took place or on a flight from Montreal where baggage would have likely cleared long BEFORE the shooting. I have access to flight schedule software and information so I do take responsibility myself for the irresponsible tweets and speculation on my twitter feed related to LaMarca’s statement.
- FLL has long had a congestion problem as it emerged from a sleepy backwater spoke airport in 1990’s to a major air traffic hub that is among the 50 busiest airports in the world in the 2010’s. During an emergency like this at a larger land-area airport like LAX, Orlando Int’l or Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, fleeing passengers and scared bystanders would have more room to escape. But busy congested airports like FLL, New York’s LaGuardia and Washington’s National Airports provide a softer target than other airfields, something that needs to be accounted for going forward.
- This congestion and feeling of being trapped perhaps led to the fear that manifested itself in reports of additional gunshots in Terminal 1 (the shooting that left five people dead was in Terminal 2 and fleeing bystanders were generally escaping toward Terminal 3) and incidents in a parking garage. WFOR-TV reported that three people including a pilot of a United flight reported hearing gunshots in Terminal 1. WPLG-TV reported the same thing based on a single source. As is the case with any act of terror where a captive population remains (in this case trapped in an airport) paranoia spreads as does the potential for copy-cat and attention getting actions by those in the area. I remain skeptical that something sinister did not happen in Terminal 1 despite official reports. I don’t believe anyone was shot to death but perhaps a shot from a gun in the air or something else that is being hushed up occurred.
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport probably has the smallest footprint for an airport that carries lots of international passengers in the United States. Above I have cited the similar small size of New York-LaGuardia and Washington-National. Neither of those airports carry much international traffic and have limited transcontinental service. FLL on the other hand actually handles more international passengers on a daily basis than the much larger Orlando International Airport and more than twice as many as Tampa International Airport does. Again, FLL might represent a soft target especially as international traffic grows further with the opening of five new gates and a customs facility for the exclusive use of Southwest Airlines in the summer of 2017.
- It has been reported that Spirit Airlines, often criticized for its service was outstanding in how they handled stranded passengers on Friday. Spirit operates a hub in Fort Lauderdale where they connect domestic passengers to Latin America and vise versa.
- Orlando showed great community spirit in the wake of the Pulse shooting last June. However, southeastern Florida is generally less community-oriented and more like the wild west in terms of creating any sort of local consensus, pride or consistency. It would be nice to see Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding areas united in the way Orlando did after Pulse but forgive me for being cynical about this possibility.
- The messy job of bringing FLL back to full operational capability will take a few days as many flights were again cancelled or delayed on Saturday.