However, funding cutbacks have delayed the expected completion of this training by all air marshals. Currently, federal air marshals protect less than 5% of daily U.S. flights. Other limitations to the use of air marshals include a mandatory dress code and the ongoing surveillance, which makes the marshal obvious to passengers. Furthermore, marshals must show identification to the flight crew and board the plane before first-class and handicapped passengers, which further compromises their undercover status.
Despite the limitations to the current aviation security system, many aspects are quite strong. Although not 100% accurate, airport screening devices are sensitive enough to detect metallic orthopedic implants (Kamineni, Legge and Ware). Also, TSA made remarkable enhancements to these areas in a relatively short period since "9/11." The agency has ongoing initiatives to increase the efficiency of screening checked baggage, including the development and construction of in-line baggage screening systems at larger airports to aid in streamlining the screening processes. The TSA is also conducting research activities to strengthen passenger and baggage screening. These efforts are designed to improve detection capability, performance, and efficiency for current technologies, and to develop the next generation of explosive detection systems equipment. Finally, TSA is currently funding further development and testing of a walk-through chemical trace detection portal for detecting explosives on passengers.
From a practical point-of-view, there have been no aviation casualties related to terrorism in the United States since "9/11." Thus, one may argue that the most important passenger safety safeguards have already been implemented and further developments may only increase passenger security slightly.
Regardless, potential improvements may be made in every aspect of aviation security. Recommendations for future development are outlined below:
Periodically check the information of all registered pilots, mechanics, flight attendants, and other aviation professionals against information within law enforcement, voter registration, drivers license, and other government databases. Surveillance of this nature may find those who are sought by law enforcement as well as help uncover those who have outdated or fraudulent information.
Put airport security screeners under federal control
Use of digital radiography may aid in detection of explosive devices and computed tomography may detect actual explosive compounds (Galiano Riveros)
Incorporate algorithms into scanners that automatically detect common weapons, such as guns, knifes, and sticks
Intrusiveness of Scanners and Human Screeners
Human screeners should be limited only to same-sex searches
With the advent of backscatter x-rays in airport screening (CBS Broadcasting), the passenger should be made anonymous to the employee analyzing the image
In lieu of using air marshals, the following measures may be taken:
Flight and cabin crews should be trained in tactics for violent situations with passengers and terrorists alike
Provide a way for video images from the cockpit and cabin to be recorded, as well as broadcast to the ground
Provide a way for the crew to see activity in the cabin
Allow the aircraft to be controlled remotely from the ground
In conclusion, aviation security has increased remarkably over the last 3 years. However, considerable improvements must be made in the future to maximize passenger safety and privacy. These efforts have been hindered by limited funding and unrealistic timelines to implement such guidelines. Government spending on aviation security should be increased, human screeners should be adequately trained and paid a wage to decrease turnover. New technology, such as backscatter x-ray, should be implemented to improve the accuracy of screening machines. Finally, armed air marshals pose a threat to passenger safety and should be replaced with implementations self-defense training for crews and air tower remote plane access.
Barnett, a. "Capps Ii: The Foundation of Aviation Security?" Risk Anal 24.4 (2004): 909-16.
CBS Broadcasting, Inc. New Airport X-Ray Too Revealing? New York, NY, 2003.
Galiano Riveros, E. "The Digital Radiographic and Computed Tomography Imaging of Two Types of Explosive Devices." Appl Radiat Isot 57.6 (2002): 861-5.
Kamineni, S., S. Legge, and H. Ware. "Metallic Orthopaedic Implants and Airport Metal Detectors." J. Arthroplasty 17.1 (2002): 62-5.
McCarley, J.S., et al. "Visual Skills in Airport-Security Screening." Psychol Sci 15.5 (2004): 302-6.