Smoke gets in your eyes
April 19, 2006 6:33 AM   Subscribe

What exactly happens when a smoke detector alarm in a plane is disabled? (more inside)

This is not for personal dreams of sabotage, it's for something I am writing. I know it's a federal offense and that there is a light that shows it is disabled that can go off in the cockpit or else the cabin. What would be the response of the crew? Do they note the person when they exit and inform someone on the ground to arrest the person? Do they try to intervene? If there were a sky marshall aboard would things occur differently? Has 9/11 changed this so they treat it as a potentially sinister act of sabotage?
posted by dances_with_sneetches to Travel & Transportation (5 answers total)
Best answer: This happened to me on a flight to Germany in 1998. I didn't disable the smoke detector, but someone did. From my seat I had a great view of things. and here's what happened...

About 4am my time all the flight attendants gathered in the restroom lobby of the big AirBus we were flying on. They were all being quiet, which I assumed was due to the fact that most people were sleeping. They hung around in there exchanging expressions of amusement with each other and I, and probably others watching, assumed that someone was joining the Mile High Club in the restroom.

Nope. Instead a couple of guys came out of the restroom and immediately I could smell the smoke. The head flight attendant took the two guys to the back of the plane and later in the flight I saw them sitting on the last row looking a little concerned. When I got off the plane in Germany there were two policemen (I assume) waiting at the gate for them (again I assume).

I thought about hanging around but the idea of getting into something called a 'meat wagon' (I forget the German spelling) was too much for me, so I left for the Avis counter.
posted by DragonBoy at 6:57 AM on April 19, 2006

I'd imagine you found your self in a Mietwagen (rental car) soon thereafter.
posted by oaf at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2006

yourself is one word. argh.
posted by oaf at 8:08 AM on April 19, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks. Wish there was more than one person with experience or knowledge about this, though.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:17 PM on April 19, 2006

On arrival at Barbados after a 12-hour flight, we were all kept waiting while the police came onto the plane and arrested a man who had been smoking on the plane and had disabled the detector. The man protested his innocence but the crew were insistent and I guess the smell was pretty obvious.

He left the plane in handcuffs, but I'm not sure if they were applied by the crew or the police on arrival.

What happened afterward I don't know.

I've always wondered about enforcement here - it usually says its a federal crime to tamper with the smoke detector, but what is the jurisdiction? I'm sure that's easily discerned, but if you are over open water and the duty free sales are open, aren't they outside of any jurisdiction? I would imagine the captain is the law in flight.

There are occasional reports in the British press of holiday makers who get surly with flight staff. They are sometimes subdued, arrested on arrival, summarily deported or find other pleasant interventions stop them from having the great start to their holidays they are envisioning.
posted by sagwalla at 10:41 AM on April 25, 2006

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