Spotlight on Maui

It was a little strange seeing Maui as the focal point of a huge national news story.

The saga of the 15-year-old stowaway in the wheel well of a Hawaiian Airlines 767 brought a big spotlight on Maui.

Photos taken by The Maui News’ Chris Sugidono ended up on national morning and evening television news shows and on front pages across the country.

The teen’s miraculous survival on the five-hour trip from San Jose to Kahului sparked disbelief among some veteran airline personnel. Emerging alive on the tarmac at OGG after subfreezing temperatures and almost no oxygen, the young man is apparently in good shape and plans are being made to reunite him with his family.

Aside from his incredible ride on the plane, though, his ability to get to the plane at the San Jose airport has sparked major concerns about security. If a naive and guileless teenager can scale an airport fence and make it to gates where planes are parked, it would seem to be a piece of cake for a suicide bomber to emulate the fete.

We were therefore taken aback to see a spokeswoman for the San Jose airport make the statement that the facility meets all federal standards for security. If they do, those standards need to be updated and upgraded quickly.

So, once the shock of this wheel-well traveler wears off, we may owe him a debt of gratitude.

He has certainly exposed a huge gap in airport security – at least at one heavily traveled airport.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.