"As the first flights began again on September 15, some crews refused to fly, not confident of airport security. Those who steeled themselves to work entered a strange new workplace. With no guidance from the airlines or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on how to handle potential future hijackings, flight attendants inventoried galleys for objects they could use as defensive weapons. Shell-shocked passengers sometimes hugged flight attendants as they boarded. Many crewmembers barely contained tears, often hiding in galleys to avoid alarming passengers."
Association of Flight Attendants
As the growth in air traffic appears to be picking up again, people are demanding more safety and security. As we look back to the events of September 11, 2001, we realize that this was a day that most Americans will never forget as long they live. Some of those who witnessed and watched airplanes plunge into both World Trade buildings in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, DC will have to live with those memories for the rest of their lives. The impact and aftermath of that dreadful day are still being felt emotionally and economically by many private citizens and commercial industries.
Airline safety is one of the most important issues facing the world today. In a recent study, Wassink and Cherry (2003) showed that this has been a consistent phenomenon in history; major increases in safety and security efforts are implemented in response to successful terror attacks. Government direction and funding, which are generally required to enforce these improvements, are more readily available after a successful terrorist attack.
Wassink (2003) stated that one of the most significant challenges for the aircraft manufacturing and air travel industries is to identify vulnerabilities and implement a combination of technical and procedural solutions prior to a successful attack. This challenge is made significantly more complex because market forces drive neither aircraft manufacturers nor the air travel industry towards enhanced safety and security measures. These industries readily recognize the devastation another successful terrorist attack would have on both the U.S. And international air travel markets. However, profitability currently drives the aircraft industry. For this reason, efforts to enhance safety and security will not be undertaken voluntarily by the aviation industry (Wassink & Cherry, 2003).
This paper is aimed at exploring the most important safety issues in the airline safety and suggestions to address these issues. The author used empirical research studies on the topic of aviation security.
Issue in Aviation Security
Since September 11, 2001, Americans have become all too familiar with the flaws in the nation's aviation security. According to Yeoman and Hogan (2002), "throughout the 1990s, government inspections designed to intentionally breach airport security met with extraordinary success. Federal inspectors discovered that they could smuggle firearms, hand grenades, and bomb components past screening checkpoints at every airport they visited" (p. 2). They got on airplanes with no problems and placed objects throughout the cabins. In one investigation conducted in 1999, "they successfully boarded 117 airplanes, some filled with passengers, and were asked to show identification only one fourth of the time" (Yeoman & Hogan, 2002, p. 2). Mary Schiavo (as cited in Yeoman & Hogan), the inspector general for the Department of Transportation from 1990 to 1996, said "her office repeatedly recommended security improvements, including a system to match checked bags with onboard passengers" (p.2). The FAA wanted no part of this, said Schiavo. Their attitude was since we had never had a major incident in the United States, the risk was low.
"The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sets standards for the air-worthiness of all civilian aircraft, inspects and licenses them, and regulates civilian and military air traffic through its air traffic control centers. It investigates air accidents and, in response, may establish new rules on such issues as de-icing and airframe inspections. It also promotes the development of a national system of airports" (FAA, 2001).
According to Claybrook (2001), the FAA has been taken over by the very industry it regulates; as a consequence, airline safety and security has become seriously and dangerously lax. She further stated that millions of people fly daily for pleasure and employment and depend on airlines -- and the FAA's oversight of those airlines -- to keep them safe.
Wassink and Cherry (2003) suggested that the most significant challenges facing the leadership of federal agencies, including the FAA and the aircraft manufacturing and air travel industries, are identifying vulnerabilities and implementing a combination of technical and procedural solutions prior to a successful attack. These challenges are made significantly more complex because market forces drive neither aircraft manufacturers nor the air travel industry towards enhanced safety and security measures. Wassink and Cherry further posited that profitability currently drives the airline industry. As a result, efforts to enhance safety and security will not be undertaken voluntarily by the aviation industry.
Wassink and Cherry (2003) stated that federal intervention and direction is required to establish a long-term balance between aviation commerce and profit, aircraft security, and aircraft and air travel safety. These three forces frequently operate in opposition to each other. Numerous security enhancements, both implemented and proposed, have wide-ranging safety implications.
Claybrook (2001) pointed out that the ATA (Air Transport Association of America, Inc.), the lobbying group formed by the top nine airlines, has spent millions of dollars trying to dissuade the FAA and legislators from passing stronger security measures that would cost the airlines more money.
Claybrook (2001) pointed out that the ATA, the lobbying group formed by the top nine airlines, has spent millions of dollars trying to dissuade the FAA and legislators from passing stronger security measures that would cost the airlines more money.
The ATA meets the definition of a dominant coalition, "a social network of individuals having the greatest influence on the selection of an organization's goals and strategies" (Ansoff, 1983; Charan, 1991; Neilsen & Hayagreeva Rao, 1987; Pearce & David, 1983; Pearce & DeNisi, 1983; Pfeffer & Salancik, 1978). The airlines want the safety and security changes, but they insist that the federal government pay for any or all safety and security enhancements. Thompson (1967) stated that dominant coalitions are bound together by the fact that the achievement of members' goals usually requires interdependent action by the coalition members.
The Airline Industry: The Present
According to B.L. Cherry (2003), the airline industry is clearly about to undergo great changes, as suggested by the recent shutdown of Vanguard Airlines, the Chapter 11 filing by U.S. Airways which later recovered, and the possibility that United Airlines may also file Chapter 11. Business and commercial travel has declined because of the poor economy B.L. Cherry argued that many travellers are still uneasy about airline safety and security or irritated by the delays and inconvenience of intensified security post 9/11. He also suggested that the FAA has no real solutions to these problems, although technically the FAA does not involve itself with the business aspects of the airlines. The FAA sets rules and guidelines on safety and security for airports and carriers. The FAA and the federal government will have to step in and mandate some of these measures (B. L. Cherry). Potential measures include the following:
1. Enhanced police surveillance at airports
2. Further enhancements and increased vigilance at pre-board screening checkpoints
3. Expanded searches of passengers immediately before boarding
4. A requirement for passengers to provide government-issued photo identification at departure gates
5. Enhanced screening of checked baggage
6. Expanded screening of personnel accessing aircraft
7. Enhanced cargo security controls
According to B.L. Cherry (2003), a major issue to emerge from the terrorist attacks has been the poor screening of passengers who had access to the four planes that were used as weapons on September 11, 2001. The present passenger security screening needs were urbanized in reaction to an augment in hijackings before 1972. Today passenger-screening procedures put more emphasis on identifying certain passengers carrying illegal substances and weapons that could be used in overtaking an aircraft and changing its destination. With the political unrest, the FAA has been forced to recognize the need to improve security screening and processes at airports. These improvements include, but are not limited to the following: (a) enhancing the ability of metal-detection portals to operate effectively; (b) providing better information and a heads up to security screening personnel on the type and location of potential weapons on individuals who trigger metal-detection systems; and (c) increasing the detection capabilities of existing systems to detect alloys, plastic explosives, and other materials that may be harmful to passengers or the aircraft.
Such technologies as trace detection could be used to detect the presence of explosive materials by reacting to their vapours or particles. These detection procedures can be used to supplement existing metal-detection technologies and build more comprehensive security systems.
After the events of 9/11, President Bush stated that the federal government would take on a larger role in airport security and safety. He also stated that some airports already met high standards and that…