Do you feel safe about taking a flight? Do you think that another 9/11 style attack couldn't possibly succeed? Do the TSA regulations and onerous security procedures make you feel safer? If they do, they shouldn't. We're just as much at risk as we were six years ago.
Hot Air > Blog Archive > A Pilot on Airline Security
At this moment, there are roughly 5000 commercial airliners in the skies above you. There will be 28,000 flights today, and 840,000 in the next month -- every month. The U.S. fleet consists of some 6000 aircraft -- almost all of which will be parked unattended tonight at a public airport. We will carry almost 7 billion passengers this year, the number increasing to 10 billion by 2010, barring an exogenous event like another 9/11.
There is simply no deployable technology that has a prayer of keeping a motivated, prepared terrorist out of the system every time -- even most times. TSA misses more than 90% of detectable weapons at passenger checkpoints in their own tests, and it is not their fault, because of the limitations of technology and the number of inspections they must conduct. This doesn't count several classes of completely undetectable weapons like composite knives and liquid explosives.
What is TSA's fault is their abject failure to embrace more robust approaches than high visibility inspections, and their accommodations to the Air Transport Association's revenue interests at the expense of true security, while largely ignoring the recommendations of the front-line airline crews and air marshals who have no direct revenue agenda and are much more familiar with airline operations than are the bureaucrats (remember government ignoring the front-line FBI agents who tried to warn them about 9/11?). Deplorable amounts of money have been wasted on incomprehensible security strategies, while KISS [Keep It Simple, Stupid] methods proven to work have been ignored.
Almost six years after 9/11, it is inexcusable that -- in an environment where TSA misses more than 90% of weapons, RON aircraft are not secured, and ground employees are not screened -- fewer than 2% of our airliners have a team of armed pilots aboard, fewer than 5% have air marshals, and the flight attendants have no mandatory tactical or behavioral assessment training. $24 billion dollars later, we are not materially safer, except in the areas of intelligence that prevent an attack from getting to an airport. Once at the airport, there is little reason to believe the attack won't succeed.
I know I've gotten pretty far afield of your topic, but I want to give you the sense that RON aircraft are just one small piece of a multilayered security system wherein every layer leaks like a sieve. The problem is much, much bigger than any single element.
In the end, we should be starting with defending the smallest spaces -- the cockpits and cargo compartments, and working outward to the limits of our resources; instead of starting with the airport perimeter and working inward, ignoring the actual defense of those spaces that are actually the terrorist targets. And we should be using the resources already in place to the greatest extent possible, instead of trying to bring new, untried methods into play, then waiting to find out they don't work nearly as well in reality as they do on paper.
Given that Congress regulates air travel and air security, you can blame them for that. Just one more reason Congress has earned its 14% approval rating.
If you want to demand change, the issues raised in this article would be a great place to start.