Eagle eye TSA officer makes two great catches in one day

Thursday, May 13, 2021
Officer Fank photo

It was all just in a day’s work for TSA Officer Megan Fank of the University of Illinois – Willard Airport (CMI). Her keen detection skills were unexpectedly put to the test when she made not one, but two nice catches.

A passenger presented an unlocked medium-sized duffle bag with the notorious red “Return to Baggage Service Operations” tag wrapped around the handle. Items with red tags are often high value objects that can raise red flags.

After Fank placed the bag into the Explosive Detection System (EDS) machine, it alarmed on a large liquid. She inspected the suspicious item and resolved the alarm.

“When I opened the bag to screen the liquid container that had alarmed, the first thing I could see in the top of the bag was a firearm case,” Fank said. “It was then when I realized there was an issue with the declared firearms.”

The case had two lock holes; however, only one of them was secured by a long cable lock. She opened the left latch of the case and determined that either of the two handguns could be removed with little effort.

Fank told the passenger why the weapons were improperly packaged.

“I explained that in order for the firearms to fly, the case needed to be locked in a way that it could not open,” Fank said.

baggage inspection photo
CMI TSA Officer Megan Fank detects unsecured firearms while inspecting baggage. (Photo courtesy of TSA CMI)

The passenger quickly went to a nearby store to purchase two small TSA locks to secure the weapons and avoid unauthorized access.

The firearms detection was Fank’s second catch of the day.

Earlier, while working in the checked baggage room, Fank noticed that the EDS alarmed on a large aerosol container in a passenger’s bag. Fank pulled the bag for further inspection, found the item in question, and examined it.

While returning the item to the bag, she noticed an object nearby made of a white, semi-opaque plastic with clear liquid inside. The item was square, measuring only a few inches, and about an inch tall.

Fank read the label in an attempt to identify the material and immediately noticed the cautionary terms “EXTREMELY FLAMMABLE,” “DANGER,” and “EYE IRRITANT.”

She notified her supervisor, who then had the airline remove the hazardous material. It contained a cleaning liquid for self-serve machines. At first glance, the item may have seemed harmless, but it turned out to be potentially dangerous.

Fank’s attention to detail and diligence prevented harmful material from entering the airplane.

Fank, who joined TSA in July 2018, has always excelled in detecting threats – so much so that she has since become an On-the-Job Training (OJT) coach as well as a Take Acknowledge Call Turn (TACT) officer.

Fank’s critical thinking skills and attention to the mission allowed her to identify two unique and challenging objects that may have otherwise gone undetected.

CMI TSA Manager Michael Puhlman appreciates Fank’s diligence, saying, “Officer Fank’s attention to detail, keen eye for things out of the ordinary and practice with building bags utilizing our modular bomb set kits has honed her skills to an elite level.”    

Supervisory TSA Officer Jon Folsom agrees. “Becoming CMI’s OJT coach and TACT officer has allowed Megan to spend the extra time necessary to assist the rest of our team to improve our detection skills and improve our pass/fail rate during [field evaluation team] testing,” Folsom said. “Great things are in the future for this up-and-coming star.”