Safe Airports Are a Myth

Shotguns are not allowed through airport security. But what does that matter if you can build one from items purchased in an airport gift shop? The break-action shotgun pictured above was made from Red Bull cans, a hair dryer, batteries and a can of Axe body spray – and it can blast a handful of pocket change through a sheet of drywall.


The improvised firearm can achieve an estimated muzzle velocity of 260 feet per second. That's obviously a far cry from your "standard personal-defense shotgun," which can fire "nine 00-buckshot pellets at a muzzle velocity of 1,200 fps" – but that kind of technicality starts to feel insignificant rather quickly when weighed against the TSA's stringent security policies, or... well... the destructive potential of several dollars in quarters flying for your face at 175 miles per hour. (As a point of reference, typical "less-than-lethal" ballistics, used by the Department of Justice, are tuned to achieve muzzle velocities of 250 feet per second.)

Point being: this thing can do some serious, arguably lethal, damage. What's more, it's astonishingly simple to build. That it can be made from items sold in airports after a security screening, says white-hat hacker Evan Boothcreator of this and several other lethal, improvised airport weapons – is a very serious problem.

"Maybe my expectations are too high," says Booth, in a piece published yesterday at Wired, about a remote-trigger suitcase bomb he created from travel-size aerosol cans, wooden stirring sticks and toilet paper, "but I don't think it should be that easy to build an explosive device out of items purchased in an airport."


Just how easy is it? Booth presents the following rules on his website, Terminal Cornucopia, where he's published "the bulk of his research" on improvised airport weaponry:

  • Only materials that can be sourced inside the terminal after the security screening can be used.
  • Only cash and a small, travel-approved multitool can be carried into the terminal.
  • Anything in the airport you'd get yelled at for taking or messing with is off limits.

Following these basic guidelines, Booth has created everything from spike-tipped nunchaku (that's them above – they can bust open a coconut) to frag grenades. Then he posted videos to Terminal Cornucopia documenting their construction and operation. Yesterday, 10 of his weapons were showcased in a piece by Wired's Joseph Flaherty, who writes:

Terminal Cornucopia is especially impressive, or alarming, considering Booth limited himself to items that could be purchased at stores. He ignored the readily available, and wildly dangerous, high-voltage cardiac defibrillators hanging on walls and toxic cleaning chemicals left unattended on janitor's carts, figuring removing them might draw attention. No special tools are required—all of these implements were crafted with an innocuous, TSA approved multi-tool.

Some of the designs seem complex, but after watching the videos, it's all too easy to imagine a ne'er-do-well assembling these weapons in the loo at 30,000 feet. According to Booth, family restrooms at the airport are even better workshops for terrorists to tinker in since they offer a private space equipped with a full size sink, power supply, and a handy workbench in the form of an infant changing table.


Booth says he reported all of his findings to the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA prior to posting his videos online,"to help them better detect these types of threats." Flaherty notes that while the government was "happy to accept his info and sent a couple FBI agents to his home for a short discussion," they have yet to provide "any feedback addressing the vulnerabilities that his research has identified."

[Terminal Cornucopia via Wired]


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