Science Questions

Why don't terrorists combine chemicals in flight?

Sun, 24th Jun 2012

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Question

CB Axel, 2nd Life asked:

What is to stop lots of terrorists each bringing very small amounts of liquid explosive and combining them in flight?

Answer

Pavel -   Well, the existing restrictions are meant to deal with such situations because 100ml is not to make a viable bomb and obviously, any precursors for explosives will be detected by the instrumentation I was describing.  So, its not just that explosives are detected, but also explosive precursors.  So the list against which we are comparing the data is very comprehensive.

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It certainly would not be easy to whip up a small batch of nitroglycerin in an airport restroom.  And, some of the precursors such as Nitric Acid and Sulfuric Acid would certainly raise a red flag for carry-on luggage.

Black Powder, of course, is made from dry materials (so much for the restriction on liquids).  But, it still would not be easy to mix and process on the fly.

The problem with the 100ml restriction is that 10 people all carrying 100ml can combine their allotments to make 1L.  Most airports have a combined gate area, so the people combining allotments would not even have to be booked on the same flight, and would only require a moderate overlap in flight times. CliffordK, Tue, 26th Jun 2012

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