Airline Terrorism

This essay has a total of 1832 words and 8 pages.

Airline Terrorism



Whether we would like to admit it or not, aircraft terrorism is a very real and deadly subject. Inside nothing more than a small suitcase, a carefully assembled explosive can bring an ending to the lives of countless men, women, and children, with no preference or regard to age, sex, and religion. In a single moment and flash, families are torn apart as their loved ones become victims of terrorism.
As the airline price wars have continued to rage, the amount of fliers increase at phenomenal rates. The airports are filled to maximum capacity with people all interested in just surviving the long lines and finally finding relaxation in their aircraft seats with the help of a cold drink and pillow. Sadly, it has come to the point where one must consider if the passengers should be relaxing.
The half a billion passengers that rush through a terminal each year are completely unaware of how much trust they are putting in a small, antiquated machine that scans their luggage. Teams of employees working for the government have been successful in passing through metal detectors armed with knives, guns, and even a discharged hand grenade. Reports Doug Smith of USA Today: “The fact that the people manning these machines and airport gates make less than someone at McDonald’s and usually are uneducated average Dicks or Janes, may be part of the problem.” In most of England, the guards are expertly trained and receive high pay.
The issue of sabotage and criminal attacks on aircraft is one that is horrifying to contemplate. However, the potential is ever present and cannot be swept under some political carpet. The statistics as provided by the NTSB and FAA are ugly, and the results

of these accidents uglier still. The bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21, 1988 and another similar bombing on an Air India flight in June, 1985 are forever etched in our memories. Around 1,000 aircraft passengers have been killed in the past ten years due to terrorist bomb attacks on civilian aircraft (NTSB). If the yet to be solved TWA flight 800 mystery proves to be a victim as well, the number soars to over 1,300 (NTSB). The government is aware of the problems, but chooses to act after the fact, despite the countless warnings that precede a massacre given to them by safety experts in the aviation industry. One only needs look at current and past legislation that follows an occurrence.
“In the next ten years, I believe the likelihood is pretty good that there will be a bombing of a domestic flight. There are too many dissident groups in the world and too many nuts willing to do the unspeakable in order to get into the history books (McGuire).”
In the book that provides a consumer’s examination of airline safety, Collision Course, by Ralph Nader, numerous employees voicing the need for improved safety and terrorism countermeasures are quoted. What is so frightening is that examination of the quotations reveals that they are from the mouths of highly respected officials who find themselves tangled in the slow process of instituting new laws to protect travelers by increasing safety regulations.
There are two ways to significantly reduce the possibility of such calamities as aircraft bombings. Ideally, security checks would be sufficiently stringent to prevent any bombs from being smuggled on board the plane. Steps are being taken, with passengers
having to be matched to their luggage by photo identification prior to departure in the United States. Secondly, a modification of the aircraft should be considered. More specifically, the cargo and baggage holds (St. John). According to the study, Technology Against Terrorism: Structuring Security, by the U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment (January 1992): “Explosive devices of the size used in airline terrorist events to date are deadly not because they directly cause catastrophic failure (blow the airplane to pieces), but because they start a domino effect where the aircraft destroys itself.”
The low level and poor quality of airport and airline security measures mandated by the FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations) have left domestic flights dangerously vulnerable to criminal attacks. Properly applied bomb-resistant materials could save passenger lives in the event of an explosion in a plane while flying, or on the ground. The effort would also act as a deterrent to would-be criminals who most likely would give up their efforts upon learning their master-plans would amount to nothing, even if they beat the initial airport security screening. If this plan is tangible, the FAA must implement it and make it mandatory for all airlines to purchase and install these containers, just as they must force airports to install the successfully tested CTX-5000 scanners (Nader). Yes, these scanners do cost in the millions for each individual unit, but what price tag can one place on a human life? Unfortunately, the probability of these scanners seeing full service is close to nil. The FAA sides with the airlines in order to keep more passengers airborne, and in order to make more money. If the airlines don’t feel like paying for new technology, they obviously feel they can afford to pay the resulting fees and lawsuits
when a plane goes down. Director of San Francisco International Airport, Louis Turpen was angrily quoted in Aviation Week & Space Technology as saying: “Our industry continues to react to aviation security needs in a dangerously piecemeal

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