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Aviation Security Update

Air travel has been in constant security evolution since 9/11 . Last month’s foiling of the alleged plots on transatlantic airlines illustrates vulnerability is aviation security. British Airways reported a loss of 40 million British Pounds, as thousands of travelers were affected by longer lines, restrictions on cabin luggage, and cancelled flights. The events mandated changes in permissible items to be carried on board commercial flights. No longer can one carry on personal toiletries?hair gels, lotions, perfumes, colognes, etc. Since the new rules have gone into effect, many travelers have obeyed the new regulations, while others take a chance. But, many passengers are finding that some of these banned items are making their way through security or are not being noticed in carry on bags. TSA officials point to a 20% increase in checked bags, indicating that the majority of passengers seem to be complying with the new mandates. Metal detectors at security check points cannot sense plastic items that may contain liquids or gels. Clark Kent Ervin, former Inspector General of DHS and friend of TRC, states: “There are obviously limitations to this ban.” There are additional issues with the interpretation of X-ray images. Security authorities depend heavily on the screeners’ interpretations of images. Ervin supports the new restrictions but admits they are flawed. “It depends entirely on screeners’ alertness and training and there are problems with both,” he said. Gary Boettcher, President of the Coalition for Airline Pilots Association, which closely tracks security issues , and himself an airline pilot, observes a myriad of security violations. He says he sees people with bottles of water on the plane or applying lip gloss as he walks through the aircraft. “An old woman drinking a bottle of water does not concern me. The whole screening process is a fa?ade to make people feel safe and to show that the government is doing something.” Plans to “hijack-proof” aircraft include a joint effort by BAE Systems, Airbus, and the European Commission and are designed to counter terrorists who might slip through airport security. Their technologies go beyond reinforced cockpit doors or additional security staffing. Privacy concerns will come into play, as the most controversial part of the new technologies with on board threat detection will be the monitoring of passenger conversations and hidden cameras on board. Last month, actors were used in Bristol, United Kingdom , and Hamburg, Germany , for the first tests. Daniel Gaultier, the Paris-based co-coordinator of the project named “Security of Aircraft in the Future European Environment,” stated: “We cannot say you will reach a zero level of risk, there is no such thing, be we think it is important that the public is reassured we are doing everything possible to get them maximum protection.” The new technology will be available in mid-2008, and the full system should be installed a few years after that. In the United States , similar work has begun. Ultimately, airlines will be forced to raise ticket prices to accommodate these new security measures. Explosive sniffing detectors at the doors of each aircraft, on board cameras and recording devices, and computers chips that match luggage to passengers are only a few examples of security efforts that will drive ticket prices up. As airport security and technology evolves to prevent airline disasters, the public will need to be tolerant of changes.

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