Airport Security Re-Imagining Airport Security Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

The physical passage from the entrance hub should consist of a single hallway, as narrow as safety limits will allow and without any branching, to ease the monitoring of movement.

This hallway would connect the entrance hub to the main public area of the airport, where shopping and food service establishments would located. Again, this area should be modeled after many existing airports; a large and open area resembling a shopping mall food court that can be easily monitored, and without multiple point of egress and ingress. Everyone entering the area would either have come through the screening process at the entrance hub, or from a plane in one of the terminals where presumably they had been screened before being allowed to board. A single hallway exit from the food/shopping area to the terminals would increase security in the area, as there would ten be only two points of entrance into the area. Electronically monitored emergency doors leading outside would be placed in the hallways and in the shopping area to facilitate mass evacuations should the need arise.

The hallway leading away from the shopping area should extend without branching for some distance, and the eventual branches to different terminals should lead to similarly narrow corridors (safety permitting) that lead to the arrival/departure gates themselves. The more separation that can be affected between planes and populations, the lower the risk to any particular terminal becomes, and the easier it would be to secure each individual section of the airport. Thus, a problem in one terminal could result in the sealing off of that terminal and the deployment of security, isolating the problem and preventing an airport-wide security breach. Security doors at all hallway terminus could again be electronically monitored, enabling centralized security forces to seal off unsecured areas from the rest of the airport nearly instantaneously. Security walls and fences surrounding the perimeter of the airport would complete the functional security of this particular airport structural design, barring unauthorized access from outside.

Passenger Screening

Though security could most easily be affected by simply barring all movement from on area of the airport to another, this is an impractical solution that would eliminate the functionality of the airport (Klauser 2009; McCartney 2009). Employee screening and access control is essential to the security of an airport, but screening passengers for possible security threats is a far more complex and ultimately more necessary task of airport security forces (Diedam 2008; McLay et al. 2009). This area of airport security has been the subject of much recent research.

Many of the long-standing methods of passenger screening are still quite viable and effective today, and would be essential in an airport designed for enhanced security. The beginning of the hallway leading from the entrance hub to the shopping area of the airport would be used for passenger screening, as this has been deemed more effective and efficient than searches conducted immediately prior to boarding (Cate 2009). X-ray imaging machines would be used, as they are currently, to scan any carry-on items belonging to passengers; suspicious bags and/or items and the passengers they belong to would be brought to a separate security area for more extensive searching and examination. Passengers would also pass through metal detectors, and wanded with a hand-held metal detector if the source of an alarm were not immediately found. Large and bulky clothing items, including footwear and any over-sized jewelry, would be removed and passed through the x-ray machine; privacy cubicles would be set up adjacent to the security line to be used as needed for searches when the removal of such clothing items would cause embarrassment or discomfort to the passengers.

Closed-circuit television monitoring of passengers waiting in line for their turn through the security checkpoint would also be utilized as an effective way of identifying suspicious individuals and activities (Klauser 2009). The lack of a visible immediate security presence in the line encourages suspect individuals to let their guard down, and perhaps to attempt concealing a weapon or other item not permitted through the security checkpoint and into the airport; closed-circuit television monitoring allows for the detection of such individuals and activities without letting the suspect know that they have been spotted, which allows for a calmer and more controlled apprehension and detention of the suspect (Klauser 2009; McCartney 2009). This not only improves real security, but also diminishes the magnitude of threat in the public eye.

New methods for identifying high-risk passengers have also been recently developed, some of which allow for the real-time determination of risk weighed against the time and resource constraints of performing extra searches (McLay et al. 2009). Security personnel trained to monitor passengers and make such determinations would be present on the ground at the security checkpoint, and monitoring passengers at a centralized location via closed-circuit television. Passengers selected via these criteria would not be approached until they had reached the security checkpoint, at which point they would be taken to an adjacent secured area for a more extensive search and possible interview without alarming other passengers. The inconsistent presence of bomb-sniffing dogs and random searches of individuals within the terminals themselves has also been proven an effective deterrent of unwanted activity (Cate 2009).

System Integration

Each of the three major components of airport security detailed above are only slightly effective as standalone tactics; it is only when these various approaches are integrated as part of a cohesive and centralized security plan that the measures described truly ensure increased airport security (Diedam 2008; McCartney 2009). The combination of technological and human resources is quite apparent in the passenger screening process as described above; it is the integration of these two resources that makes the screening process effective. The building structure also takes advantage of available technologies, and assists security personnel by providing several clearly defined and easily separable areas. These discrete areas are more easily monitored and securely maintained than an entire airport as a whole ever could be.

A Word on Freight

Freight carriers have not received much attention in airport security research and commentary, and truly they do not present as great a security risk to the airport simply because of the enormous reduction in the number of individuals on the plane -- crews are typically limited to only three or four individuals. An entirely separate structure would be set up across the tarmac from the passenger terminals, allowing freight carriers to use the same runways and control tower but keeping the cargo and the flight crews completely separate from the larger airport population. This would minimize the risk to the airport at large from explosive devices and other security threats possibly onboard the cargo planes, while at the same time protecting the cargo planes and their freight and flight crews from security disruptions in the airport at large. The only true need for freight carriers to use the same airport as passengers are the runways and control towers, which are expensive to build and maintain; separating the areas of the airport in entirety poses no real complication or economic hardship.


Airport security continues to receive a great deal of attention from a variety of scholars. Engineering principles must be tempered by psychological realities when confronting the task of maintaining security, and this is accomplished through a variety of methods. The personnel hired, technologies utilized, and even the structure and layout of the airport are all essential to its security. The effective integration of these various systems is the only way to ensure the continued safety of airline passengers.


Cate, F. (2009). "Plane-side TSA searches aren't worth the trouble." USA Today, 8 April.

Diedam, J. (2008). "Access control: The process of securing a transportation site." Airport management, 3(3), pp. 263-73.

Klauser, F. (2009). "Interacting forms of expertise in security governance: the example of CCTV surveillance at Geneva International Airport." British journal of sociology, 60(2), pp. 279-97.

McCartney, S. (2009). "Tips for TSA to…

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