Category Archives: Commercial Aviation Airport Security

Security Checkpoints Are Choke Points

Security Checkpoints Are Choke Points

Today, the aviation industry screens passengers and their carry-on bags essentially the same way it did in the early 1970s. While detection technologies have changed to better detect threats and move people through the checkpoint, training and performance standards for screeners has improved, and risk-based processes have been implemented, the fundamental process is still the same.  There are only so many ways you can continue to improve upon the same process, before it’s time to imagine a new way of doing things. Just like when the automobile revolutionized transportation throughout the world, it still couldn’t get us across the oceans, and it could only get us across land at a certain speed. For more access and less travel time, we had to imagine and build the airplane.
Checkpoints are choke points. They create crowded public areas that make for tempting and deadly targets for active shooters and suicide bombers. They take up a lot of space in an airport – space that could be producing revenue. They upset the traveling public, who, by and large, do not present a threat to aviation and largely feel the process is intrusive and ineffective.

The new technology available discussed in a recent article by Singularity Hub that discusses the need for a security upgrade represents a very important step in changing the entire passenger experience. I envision a future where screening checkpoints are no more. There are scanners placed strategically throughout the terminal building where all members of the public, passengers, well-wishers, and employees, pass through the scanners and are inspected – many times not even knowing the process is taking place. There can be additional scanners near boarding gates and positioned randomly throughout to ensure that passengers do not board a flight with a deadly item. This would also allow us to go back to the days where you can take people right to the gate and again, greet grandma as she walks off the jet bridge.

We can cut the screening workforce in half, or more. Let automation do much of the detection and sound an alarm when a threat item is detected. The individual can then be tagged via laser or other technology, tracked by CCTV and intercepted by unarmed or armed personnel, depending on the level of threat. Security police personnel will still roam throughout the airport to be able to rapidly respond to a threat and to be a visible deterrence.

I first saw equipment capable of this being tested at Denver International Airport in 2008, during the Democratic National Convention, and then I wondered where it’s been ever since. In my opinion, TSA can’t deploy new technology to improve the process fast enough. It’s time to do things differently.

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Theft of Aircraft at SeaTac

Theft of Aircraft at SeaTac

This is an evolving situation so facts may change the information expressed below. The theft of an aircraft out of SeaTac’s airport has shined a light on a rarely considered area of aviation security, the potential threat from those with unfettered access to an airplane.  The last significant incident like this was the Germanwings first… Continue Reading

Is Crowdsourcing A Component of Our Aviation Security of the Future?

Most of us have heard the phrase, “See something? Say something.” This phrase was adopted by New York City initially after the 9/11 attacks. The phrase was quickly adopted by the TSA as a mantra to encourage passengers and airport workers to report any suspicious activity, people and baggage. In theory, crowdsourcing an active watch… Continue Reading

Will Screening Detection Continue To Improve?

With repeated reports of detection failures during airport screening checkpoints, aviation security professionals discussed growing concerns during the AAAE/TSA/DHS Annual Aviation Security Summit in Washington DC in December 2017. The fact is that screening detection will continue to improve but likely will still not get a passing grade. The bad news is, a recent DHS… Continue Reading

How Will Checkpoint Screening Continue to Evolve?

We have all heard the reports of checkpoint screening led by the TSA failing at rates as high as 90%. During the AAAE/TSA/DHS Annual Aviation Security Summit in Washington DC in December 2017, industry professionals continued to debate methodology to improve our commercial aviation security screening protocols. In 2018, we will continue to see changes… Continue Reading

Will A Threat to Commercial Aviation Continue?

The quick answer to the question of whether the threat to commercial aviation will continue is yes. At the AAAE/TSA/DHS Annual Aviation Security Summit in Washington DC in December 2017, Kevin K. McAleenan, Acting Commissioner, CBP, stated that commercial aviation security threats “…have been a constant since before 9/11. Our most consistent adversaries see aviation… Continue Reading

Miami security incident shows the system worked, in this case

The recent security incident at Miami International Airport begs the question whether this a failure or a success of airport security? From an airport security perspective this is a success because the individual was not able to either access an aircraft to place a prohibited item on board, nor cause any other act of unlawful interference. However, others will… Continue Reading

Two new rollouts for TSA this week.

By Jeffrey C. Price   TSA and the airlines have rolled out several new programs this week. First is the deployment of biometrics for boarding aircraft and at the screening checkpoints. Second is the deployment of CT machines into the screening checkpoint. What will these mean in terms of your security while flying? Passenger Biometrics… Continue Reading