California teen who stowed away aboard flight to Hawaii stirs worries over airport safety

SAN DIEGO - A California teen who stowed away aboard a flight to Hawaii is stirring concerns over airport safety.

Authorities believe the 16-year-old boy stowed away in the wheel well of a Sunday flight from San Jose to Maui, defying the odds when it came to cold and a lack of oxygen.

In the wake of his apparent survival story, attention is also being directed to how he got on the plane.

"It's very alarming," said Glen Winn, a former security chief at two airlines. 

Winn cannot help but wince in light of details released by airport officials in San Jose: the boy jumped over a fence at night and walked across the tarmac undetected. He calls this type of breach deeply concerning.

"The worst-case scenario is the person gets over the fence, carries an explosive device to the aircraft, plants it on the aircraft … either blows it up in flight or on the ground," Winn said.

To guard against that possibility at Lindbergh Field, motion sensors were installed in 2005 on the barbed wire, double-layer fencing.

In January 2013, the security was put to the test as a Marine recruit climbed over the fence, immediately setting off alarms and a massive police presence.

Recently, Winn joined a group of top experts from USC invited to informally assess the airport security.

Winn has inspected a lot of airports and says Lindbergh Field ranks very high when it comes to fence height, sensor technology and spotters in case someone does hop the fence.

"We found that the safety and security were the tops for any airport the size of San Diego," he said.

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