The need for aviation security has been around for decades or at least since terrorists started using airplanes as a weapon or as a tool to achieve their goals. From the beginning of aviation history, safety was more important than security, until the world started seeing the price some people have to pay resulting from the lack of security.
According to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission article, "Aviation Security", security measures are devices implemented to prevent criminal activity in the aircraft and in airports. Throughout the years, aviation security has been changing and advancing. At first, it was a minor concern, aviation was not very popular and few people knew much about it, as a result, there were few attacks on airliners.
In 1930, however, the first reported hijacking occurred when Peruvian revolutionaries took over a Pan Am mail carrier with the goal of dropping propaganda over Lima. Fortunately, this was the first and only attack until 1947. In July 1947, the first fatal hijacking occurred when three Romanian hijackers killed a member of the crew aboard the aircraft.
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Between 1947 and 1958, the number of hijackings skyrocketed. There were 23 hijackings reported. This however, did not cause much change to policy or create any more awareness.
On November 1, 1995, a man named Jack Graham placed a bomb in this mother's luggage before she boarded a U.S. airliner. Graham did not board but instead hoped that the plane would be demolished he would be able to cash in on her life insurance policy. When the bomb exploded, it killed all 44 people on board the aircraft. For this, Graham received a death sentence.
In 1960, a suicide bomber killed an entire airliner full of people and after so many deaths, this finally became a turning point. The suicide bombing became the event that caused demands for devices that would scan baggage. This device was not created, let alone used, for many years later.
In 1961 the number of attacks on airliners began to increase dramatically as a direct result of Fidel Castro's come to power. There were many flights attacked in an attempt to escape from Cuba. Many incidents displayed this trend occurring over the course of the summer of 1961 and it caused the government to begin placing armed guards on board the commercial flights. In addition to this, President John F. Kennedy signed a bill in September that imposed the death penalty or at least 20 years imprisonment for hijacking and air piracy.
After this bill there were few incidents until 1968. According to the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission's article,
"The skies remained relatively quiet until February 21, 1968, when a fugitive forced a DC-8 plane to fly to Cuba. This started a rash of hijackings in the United States that would last through 1972. Worldwide, the U.S. Department of Transportation placed the total number of hijackings from 1968 through 1972 at 364 (paragraph 6)."
Between 1969 and 1971 many violent terrorist attacks and hijackings emerged. In 1969 the Federal Avaiation Administration created the "Task Force on the Deterrence of Air Piracy". This created a profile of what a hijacker would look like and act like, this along with metal detectors became the first line of defense against terrorist attacks. In 1970 President Nixon created another security measure, the Federal Marshal program. Later it was realized that these ideas were not enough.
The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission's article says,
"In December, the FAA issued an emergency rule making inspection of carry-on baggage and scanning of all passengers by airlines mandatory at the start of 1973. An anti-hijacking bill signed in August 1974, sanctioned the universal screening (paragraph 9)."
These safety measures were paying off for quite some time, with few serious attacks the skys seemed much safer. All this changed, however, on December 21, 1988 when a bomb placed inside of Pan Am flight 103 was detonated over Lockerbie, Scotland. Both the crew and the passengers were killed, in total 259 people died in this bombing and it changed the way the world viewed aviation security forever. After the discovery of the fact that the bomb was concealed within a radio cassset player the FAA passed an immediate bulletin warning of the possibility of concealed bombs. It was at this point that the United States and the rest of the world realized that flight security measures needed to change.
Always on Time
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Not long after the Lockerbie tragedy security measures began to include an x-ray of all baggage, carry on and cargo, boarding the plane. In 1990, the FAA sponsored the research and development of new security equipment and began creating lists of banned items to include many hazardous materials known for being ingredients in bombs.
Over the last several years, the development of technology has accelerated greatly and many new technologies are just over the horizon. The government and private companies are constantly working towards creating the latest and greatest machine that will keep our skies safer and allow for the advancement of our aviation industry.
Deterrent : x-ray
Modern technology comes with many advances that will acquire terrorist targets in different ways. Some of these advances are included in x-ray machines, metal detectors, and backscatter scanners are all considered deterrents. As they may be a deterrent they are also used to detect any weapons. All explosives contain nitrogen which is a colorless and odorless chemical. However, modern day x-ray machines will pick up any organic material such as nitrogen. When a dense object passes through the machine it will display on the monitor as just a dark object which depending on the shape may lead the operator to conduct further inspection. In the case of a passenger attempting to conceal explosive material in a container such as an aluminum can, the walls of the can are thin enough for the x-ray particles to pass through revealing the contents on the inside.
Metal detectors are made to do just that, detect metal. These detectors were placed inside airports as a result of a string of hijackings which led a Finnish company, Outokumpu, to construct a walk through metal detector. Metal detectors are now a common sight in almost any airport. New advances have led personnel to pinpoint the location of metal on a person's body. If a metal detector identifies that a metal object is present, a security personnel will then have to identify that object.
Backscatter x-ray is the newest form of scanners that are being placed inside airports around the world now. This new type of scanner takes a giant step forward from traditional metal detectors in that it will create a picture of the person on a monitor. This picture will show up as if the person is nude but will also reveal any objects the person is trying to hide. Unlike metal detectors, this machine will point out any object, metal or organic. Some positive attributes that will come with these types of detectors are faster security checks, better inspections, and there will not be a need for a frisk or pat down. However, some people might consider that their privacy rights are being violated since security will be viewing what essentially is a naked body. The first body scanner was implemented in Schiphol, Netherland's main airport.
Control :Federal Air Marshal
In order to control a passenger who has passed a security check point with a weapon, a Federal Air Marshal may be able to diffuse the situation. "TheÂ Federal Air Marshal ServiceÂ (FAMS) is aÂ United StatesÂ federal law enforcement agencyÂ under the supervision of theÂ Transportation Security AdministrationÂ (TSA) of theÂ United States Department of Homeland SecurityÂ (DHS). The Air Marshal service is meant to promote confidence in civil aviation by effectively deploying Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting U.S.Â air carriers,Â airports, passengers, and crews." FAMs are dispersed onto different airplanes loaded with a pistol trained to take down any threat to passengers or plane.
Personnel : TSA
All of these technological advances are a great way in preventing another terrorist attack, however, this new equipment is only as good as the user behind the control. In most airports, the Transportation Safety Board is the force behind securing our airports. "TheÂ Transportation Security AdministrationÂ (TSA) was created as part of theÂ Aviation and Transportation Security ActÂ passed by theÂ U.S. Congress and signed into law by PresidentÂ George W. BushÂ onÂ November 19, 2001. The TSA was originally organized in theÂ U.S. Department of TransportationÂ but was moved to theÂ U.S. Department of Homeland SecurityÂ onÂ November 25, 2002. The agency is responsible for security in all modes of transportation." Prior to the TSA, private security companies that were employed by airline companies. conducted searches at airports. A few airports, under the TSA's Screening Partnership Program, have kept their private security companies. "The TSA use layers of security to ensure the security of the traveling public and the Nation's transportation system. Because of their visibility to the public, they are most associated with the airport checkpoints that their Transportation Security Officers operate. These checkpoints, however, constitute only one security layer of the many in place to protect aviation. Others include intelligence gathering and analysis, checking passenger manifests against watch lists, random canine team searches at airports, federal air marshals, federal flight deck officers and more security measures both visible and invisible to the public." The TSA also deploy Behavior Detection Officer (BDO). This program is put in place to identify any high-risk passengers by observing the behavior pattern of passengers. This program "utilizes a non-intrusive behavior observation and analysis techniques to identify any high-risk passengers."
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However, passengers are not the only area TSA is concerned with. Effective February 1st, 2009, TSA has implemented a directive requiring all air carriers to screen fifty percent of cargo placed in passenger airplanes. As of last October TSA has required all cargo being placed in a narrow body plane to be screened.
Now, in 2010, the world is a whole different place and the mentality of most people is so different as well. We have seen how airplanes can be used to kill thousands of people, destroy building, smuggle prohibited items, and even change governments' laws and foreign policies. Many nations have realized the importance of aviation security. It has become a race with time to implement the most efficient regulations, and invent more tools and equipments to enforce security and minimize the threat to people and infrastructure.
Since September 11, 2001, the United States government has been doing a great job regarding aviation security. It is a none-ending job. Developing newer technologies to use in airports is an ongoing challenge. Security agencies have to keep up with new terrorist threats and younger generations of terrorists. The ways to damage and destroy are changing with time, and governments have to change accordingly in order to prevent any terrorist attacks.
Government agencies and private security organizations work hard to secure American airports, domestic flights and flights leaving or entering the American airspace. There is so much to be done by the American government as well as the American people. Security is a 24-hour job, and it has to be done at 100% efficiency in order to keep our people and assets safe.
The whole process is costly, and that is where things get a little more complicated. At the end of the day, airlines operate to make money. Whatever security procedures cost, they come out of the passenger's pocket. The fear is that airline tickets might get too expensive to buy because of all the security tools and procedures used to secure flying. It is the perfect balance that is everyone is looking for. The balance where flying is 100% safe and secure, airports and airlines are making profit, and tickets are not too expensive for passengers. This is where it gets more complicated because 100% safe and secure is almost impossible to achieve.
The United States government has been coming out with new laws and regulations to minimize threats and deter terrorists from attacking again. Regulations vary, from purchasing airline tickets to prohibited carry-on items and having to go through specific security checks. Fortunately, all the new laws and regulations seem to be doing a good job, but terrorists always look for new ways to attack and we have to look for more ways to defend.
Here are some of the newer technologies and general suggestions regarding aviation security:
Taking from Ezine Article, is an article talking about recent study done by the FAA and NASA to increase aviation safety and what could be also used in case of airplane hijacking:
The FAA along with NASA is developing super realistic Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Simulators for air traffic controllers, which hook up with airliner simulators all playing in real time in the virtual world. Of course with the advent of zero-zero visibility airline pilots and corporate jets are now about to land without ever seeing the actual runway or looking at an infrared version of it. (Winslow)
Based on recent incidents, government agencies come out with new regulations to prevent certain scenarios from happening again. Here are two paragraphs, from Government Security News Magazine website, regarding a recent incident:
After the failed car bomb attack in Times Square on May 1 and the arrest of its principal suspect Faisal Shahzad after he had already boarded a Dubai-bound flight, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has increased its alertness towards passengers flying within the United States and its territories. DHS announced on June 7 that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) would, from now on, cross check the names of all passengers against terrorist watch lists.
"Secure Flight fulfills a key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission Report, enabling TSA to screen passengers directly against government watch lists using passenger name, date of birth and gender before a boarding pass is issued," Napolitano said. "This program is one of our many layers of security - coordinated with our partners in the airline industry and governments around the world - which we leverage to protect the traveling public against threats of terrorism." The agency said Secure Flight would be fully in place for domestic air carriers by the end of June and for foreign carriers by the end of 2010. (Beauge, 2010)
Newer technologies have helped airport security agencies do their jobs a lot more efficiently, whether screening baggage or passengers. Baggage scanners are now very accurate and they can scan for many different metals and substances. The advanced imaging technology scanners or what are known as the "new body scanners", are now able to see through clothes to make sure passengers don't hide any prohibited items on them. Many American airports are already using them, which have caused some controversies.
Another issue that has been causing concerns is bombs at airports or even just bomb scares at airports because of some unattended baggage or forgotten luggage. Airports may require evacuation for hours, which could cost the airport and the airlines millions of dollars. Here is a paragraph under the title "Blast Containment" from Aviation Security International website regarding bombs at airports and a way to deal with them.
Blast Containment Isolation units enable the airport to respond immediately, reducing the need to carry out procedures such as ICE - Isolate, Cordon and Evacuate - thus enabling the airport to continue operating rather than face costly, disruptive and potentially dangerous evacuations. Technologies for bomb containment are designed to protect everyone using the facility and surrounding area, as well as the buildings and assets themselves, from IED attacks. ("Blast containment: holding," 2010)
Nowadays, we hear about the possibility of new laws or regulations at airports all the time. Some are just rumors but some are not. Lately, on the news, there have been some talking about banning electronics on board, prohibiting passengers from standing or using the lavatory during the last hour on international flights, or even banning carry-ons all together. After all, security procedures could be different from one airport to another, which could possibly be intentional on the part of TSA. Here a recent TSA publication:
Secretary Napolitano, in conjunction with the United Nations specialized agency International Civil Aviation Organization, has been leading a global initiative to strengthen the international aviation system against the evolving threats posed by terrorists, working in multilateral and bilateral contexts with governments as well as industry. Over the past three months, Secretary Napolitano has participated in regional aviation security summits around the world in Spain, Mexico and Tokyo, forging historic agreements with her international colleagues to strengthen the civil aviation system through enhanced information collection and sharing, cooperation on technological development and modernized aviation security standards. ("Secretary Napolitano announces," 2010)