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Pilot furious at U.S. for silence on bomb

By Steve Danyluk, Special to CNN
  • Airline pilot Steve Danyluk was flying over Atlantic during bomb attempt but wasn't notified
  • He only learned about it after landing "when I looked at the CNN Web site on my iPhone"
  • Writes "government clearly dropped the ball" after the incident as well as before
  • Danyluk: Only luck that this was not a coordinated attack involving multiple aircraft

Editor's note: Steve Danyluk is an international first officer for a major U.S. airline and president of The Independence Fund, a nonprofit that supports troops wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(CNN) -- Following the attempt to bomb a passenger jet on Christmas Day, President Obama said that "once the suspect attempted to take down Flight 253, it's clear Homeland Security and Aviation Security took all appropriate actions."

I am a commercial airline pilot who was deep over the Atlantic flying from St. Kitts and Nevis for nearly six hours on Christmas Day following the attempted bombing on Flight 253.

I only learned about the incident after landing when I looked at the CNN Web site on my iPhone. I'm justifiably furious that I was not notified while airborne.

Our government clearly dropped the ball. President Obama has ordered a review into the intelligence failures leading up to the attempted Christmas Day bombing by Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, but an equally important review needs to be made into how events were handled once AbdulMutallab attempted to carry out his plan.

Specifically, why weren't the actions the Transportation Safety Administration outlines in our aviation manuals initiated, and what took place inside the federal Domestic Events Network in the immediate aftermath of the terror attempt?

Following the 9/11 review, the DEN was given the task of instituting new procedures for controllers on how to communicate information about suspicious aircraft throughout the system.

Why ... was the information concerning the incident available to me only on my iPhone?
--Steve Danyluk, commercial pilot

The Washington-based DEN Operations Center is supposed to allow federal agencies with jurisdiction over the security of U.S. airspace to communicate information in real time. So why, after eight years and billions of dollars, was the information concerning the incident available to me only on my iPhone?

Like many commercial pilots, I flew in the military. There, each squadron maintains something called a pre-mishap plan. Basically, it's a three-ring binder with a series of actions the watch officer is supposed to take when a mishap happens.

It's a very useful tool -- but only if the officer who is assigned to carry out the plan is familiar with the binder's contents. Good commanding officers run simulated mishap drills within their squadrons to ensure their junior officers effectively execute the plan.

I'm left with the sickening sense that after 9/11, the government spent horrific amounts of money to create the "mother of all" pre-mishap plans, but never effectively tested it. Why? Because unlike the military, where commanding officers rise up through the ranks based on professional competency, our government operates on a different model.

How else does one explain the failed governmental response to natural disasters like Katrina, or man-made disasters like the Christmas Day bombing attempt?

The silver lining is that AbdulMutallab's failed attempt gave us that test of the response system. It can only be attributed to luck that unlike 9/11, this was not a coordinated attack involving multiple aircraft.

Now that the gaping holes in our response have been exposed, let's do a thorough review of what took place on Flight 253 and ensure we have professionals in decision-making positions who will execute the plan if this happens again.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Steve Danyluk.