Term Paper: Aviation Security and Its Impact on Airports

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Aviation Security and Its Impact on Airports

The economic prosperity and the security of the U.S. depend to a large extent upon the world's airspace utilization by the Nation and its global partners and the safe and secure operations of its aviation system. There are innumerable threats and perils for the Air Domain. The catastrophic events of 9/11 and the August 2006 Heathrow plot are blatant reminders of the dangers facing the aviation industry and the ability and intent of enemies who wish to harm the U.S. And its people. The main originators of threat are the criminals, the terrorists and the hostile-nations; and there are three main categories of threats- hostile exploitation of cargo, threat to the Aviation Transportation System infrastructure and threats to and from the aircrafts. There is a wide array of probable threat scenarios at various types of airport facilities that require caution. Placing of explosives inside or near the passenger facilities; targeting commuter concentrations at commercial airports, targeting multi-use airports, for instance those which combine military and commercial operations or general and commercial aviation operations where there is a co-existence of dissimilar security procedures and unrelated security authorities, are some of the tactics used by terrorists. ("National Strategy for Aviation Security," 2007)

The danger and threat to commercial aviation is nothing new now, it has become sort of routine; there has been no change in the basic modes of attack. In July, 1968, the very first terrorist hijacking for the purpose of political extortion took place. The very first terrorist bombing of an airliner in mid-air took place in May, 1949. In June, 1968 the first armed attack took place on an on-the-ground airliner and the initial indiscriminate armed attack occurred in May, 1972 on air commuters at an airport. Classified as per the target, commercial aviation assault can be carried out against airline offices, airliners and airports. It is apparent that the most common target in commercial aviation attacks has been the airliners. During the 50-year period from 1947-1996 the attack on airliners were 1,098 as compared to 249 airline offices attacks and 129 airport attacks. The airline office and airport attack are not done by any private party but is a terrorist group tactic. These attacks started surfacing only after 1968 when international terrorism started growing. The attacks can also be classified according to the mode of operation used. The main ones are armed assaults, bombing and hijacking. There were 959 incidents of hijacking during the 50-year period, i.e. hijacking contributed almost 87% of all the airliner attacks. (Wilkinson; Jenkins, 2003) critical constituent of the nation's physical infrastructure, overall security and economic foundation lies in the safety and security of the civil aviation system of the nation. In order to attain such a safe environment, nations spend billions of dollars and multitude of policies and programs are formulated to upkeep the security. The U.S. General Accounting Office -- GAO tried to analyze the weaknesses in their aviation security system after the 9/11 bombings. They found that in May 2000, the controls used for restricting access to secure areas have not always been effective as was intended. Counterfeit credentials and law enforcement badges were used by special agents to gain access to restricted areas at two airports; security points were bypassed and they walked unescorted to the departure gates of the aircraft. These agents could have carried explosives, weapons or dangerous objects onto the aircraft. Also they found that the screeners had significant weaknesses when they were subjected to testing- almost 20% of the potentially hazardous objects were missed by the screeners in their testing in 1987. (United States General Accounting, 2001)

One of the main reasons for the decline in the performance level of screeners is the high turnover rate among the screeners- this rate was greater than even 100% a year at many of the large airports, mainly due to limited benefits, low wages and the work being of a monotonous and repetitive nature. The current system has got inherent weaknesses in which the screening of passengers and controlling access to the secured areas are the responsibility of the airline. Questions have been raised whether they should consider alternative approaches. The 9/11 events have changed the way the U.S. perceives the aviation security. The air carriers and FAA -- Federal Aviation Administration implemented new controls, which promise a sense of greater security, a week after the incident took place. However, still more actions and policies needs to be implemented for minimizing the vulnerabilities in the aviation system. (United States General Accounting, 2001)

Many factors including operator training, law enforcement personnel's presence and physical presence affect the effectiveness and performance of security systems. Although, the overall responsibility lies with the FAA for ensuring the aviation security's effectiveness, the buy-in of additional stakeholders is vital for the implementation of a long-term security strategy, for example the TAAS -- Total Architecture for Aviation Security, and for the funding of security equipment. The aviation security program of the U.S. today is an amalgamation of resources, regulations and laws for protecting the travelers and the industry against criminal acts and terrorism. The program is a coordination of corresponding and shared responsibilities which involve the airport operators, the passengers, the federal government and the air carriers. The guidelines and standards are set by the FAA and these are implemented by the air carriers and the airports. The ultimate beneficiaries of this program are the users of air cargo and the airline passengers and they in turn pay for this program through the security charges which are included in the cargo shipments and the price of the airline ticket. (National Research Council, 1999)

Since the year 1926 the FAA has been in existence under various names and in various forms. An independent Federal Aviation Agency, was formed by the Federal Aviation Act of the year 1958, and has the responsibility of setting up the requirements of air regulations and safety. The agency was renamed in 1967 as the Federal Aviation Administration and it was transferred to the newly formed U.S. Department of Transportation -- DOT. In 1971 the FAA issued FAR -- Federal Aviation Regulation Part 107. This gave the responsibility to the airport operators to protect the areas of air-operation at the airports against unauthorized access. Many changes have been made to the FAR in order to keep up with the changing needs of security over time. The security rules of FAA are applicable to 458 out of the 667 certified U.S. airports. FAR Part 107 basically lays down the aviation security rules which govern the operation of all the airports which serves the scheduled passenger operations regularly. (National Research Council, 1999)

FAA has continued to fortify the security of the country's air traffic control computer facilities and systems since September, 2001. Under its Chief Information Officer, FAA has launched a systems security management structure. The office of the CIO has developed security architecture, i.e., an overall blueprint, a strategy for information systems security, directives and policies for security and training campaign for security awareness. This office has also controlled the incident response center of the FAA and put into action an accreditation and certification process to make certain that the susceptibilities in the current and future air traffic control are recognized and the weaknesses are attended to. Even so, the office continues to face challenges in obtaining official approval for systems that are already on an operational basis, increasing its intrusion detection competency, and managing security of information systems throughout the agency. (Zellan, 1999)

The attacks of 11th September, 2001 have indisputably put the airport industry in an environment which is quite volatile and uncertain. Both in the airport industry and the airline, changes have taken place. However, it is not easy to attribute all of these changes to the terrorist attacks and the consequential decline in demand for air travel. Some of the dismal predictions following 9/11, such as, the termination of Europe's complete independent airline sector or the abandonment of airports which are less popular, have failed to reach culmination. However, the entire airport industry is still open to external problems such as the outbreak of SARS and furthers terrorist attacks, for example, Saudi Arabia, Bali and Casablanca and the Iraq War. (Graham, 2003)

It is necessary to concede to the fact that none of the challenges which were prevalent prior to the 9/11 incident, have gone away. There has been a major impact on the airports brought about by the airline industry's deregulation in the competitive environment; first in the U.S., followed by Europe and to a smaller extent in Asia. The airports are working in a progressively more commercial marketplace and have to adapt their products to meet the needs of new airline customers such as low-cost carriers and alliances. With the further evolution of the airline industry and greater deregulation, the airports will have to continue to modify themselves for catering to the new demands. The airport's customer base could be significantly… [END OF PREVIEW]

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