The airline industry has grown up to 7% in the last decade. Official air carriers of most of the countries have accounted over one and a half billion travelers last year, due to a spurt in tourism and business.
But the last few years, have been difficult for the aviation industry. The attacks on World Trade Center on 9\11 and the consequent security delays in the airports dealt a major blow to the aviation industry. An executive vice president of the U.S. Travel Association, Geoff Freeman said “The post 9/11 environment is making the TSA’s (Transportation Security Administration) job in easing travel security extremely difficult.”
Although airports security has always been tight, but the 9\11 attacks woke the people up to the harsh reality that- it was not tight enough.
The new technology used for security:
Two new forms of technologies being used now for airport security screenings. The DHS (Department of Home Security) has been rolling out backscatter advanced imaging technology (AIT) units – each one of them costing from $130,000 to $170,000. “Backscatter technology projects an ionizing X-ray beam over the body surface to produce an image that resembles a chalk-etching.”
Backscatter technology requires a passenger to stand in between two box panels; low-dose radiation is emitted from the panels to the body, mainly to the scalp during the scan. Then this image is sent to an assigned agent in another room protecting the passenger’s privacy to ensure the anonymity of the image. If the agent finds a threat, he/she can call another agent to inspect the image further.
The other technology, active millimeter wave scanner, is a whole body imaging device, the competing technology is backscatter X-ray wave systems, can penetrate clothing to expose hidden threats, but do not emit harmful radiation.
How Airport Security Works:
Considering all the issues regarding time consumption, passenger’s health and privacy, and most importantly airways security, the high-tech solutions can be divided into several parts and used to ensure flying safety and also we might consider that- what we are doing is enough.
The First Line of Defense:
At first we have to understand the psychology of a terrorist. For a second, imagine that you are a terrorist wants to hijack a plane and blow up. You know well that when you enter the airport, you must have to pass through metal detectors, bomb-sniffing dogs, and possibly a search of your luggage and clothes. How could one bypass those security measures? He/she could climb a fence; otherwise drive a truck to a secured area of the airport.
That is why the first line of defense in an airport is the most obvious issue and it includes fences, walls and barriers. Tall fences which would be difficult to climb may be used to enclose the entire airport property. Security patrols scan the perimeter regularly if someone tries to cut through the fence. Especially in sensitive areas, like fuel depots, the terminals, and baggage handling facilities, fences and security checkpoints are must. All access gates must be monitored by either surveillance cameras or a guard station.
Now consider the risk, if someone could drive a car or truck with a bomb in to the airport terminal entrance and blow up the airport itself! Large concrete barriers can be deployed up to the size of a truck, if any threat is detected. Loading zones, where people park their cars and get their baggage in or out of the trunk, are kept clear of traffic now. No one is allowed to park their cars, close to the terminal.
Your Identity Please:
One of the most important security measure is confirming the identity of the traveler and is done by checking a photo ID, such as a driving license or national ID card. For traveling internationally, your passport is a must.
Taking a simple look at a photo ID is not enough now a day. The high-tech biometrics is now used for checking fingerprints, retinal scans, and facial patterns by using complex computer systems to ensure if someone is who they say they are – or if they match the list of potential terrorists determined by the government.
A new system named CAPPS II (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) could help for airport security which requires more personal information from travelers, which will lead to a risk assessment as of no risk, elevated risk, unknown risk, or high risk. Travelers considered to be risky will be screened again.
The public address system at an airport replaying an automated message continually telling not to leave your bags unattended and asking some questions that sound little odd:
• Has your luggage been in your possession always?
• Has anyone given you anything or asked you to carry on or check any items for them?
These are most important questions they ask. A tactic can be used by terrorists is to hide a bomb inside a luggage of unsuspecting person. Another tactic is to give something, like a toy, to someone who is about to board a plane. That innocent looking object could be a bomb or any other harmful device.
Metal Detector: Step Through, Please:
All public access to an airport have the metal detectors, where every person must walk through it and luggage must go through X-ray Machine. Those metal detectors are normally based on pulse induction (PI). If a metal object passes through it, the pulse makes an opposite magnetic field in the object and consequently produces an “echo” which shows the passenger has any metal stuff.
Many newer metal detectors are multi-zone, which means they have the multiple transmitter and receiver, each one at a different height. Basically, it’s like a unit having several detectors.
X-Ray System: Step Through, Please:
While stepping through the metal detector, your carry-on stuffs are going through the X-ray system. The machine used in airports is normally based on dual-energy X-ray system.
Since different materials absorb X-rays at different levels, the image on the display monitor is colored, based on the range of energy passes through the object and represent one of three main categories:
All X-ray systems use shades of orange to represent “organic”. This is because most explosives are organic. As machine operators are well trained, they are able to look for suspicious items such as improvised explosive device (IED). An IED can be made in an astounding variety of ways, from basic pipe bombs to sophisticated, electronically-controlled component bombs.
Electronic item, such as laptop computer, has many different items packed into a small area. So, it can be hard to determine if a bomb is hidden within the device. That is why airports also have a chemical sniffer. The security attendant quickly swipes a cloth over the detected device and places the cloth on the sniffer. The sniffer analyzes the cloth for any trace of chemicals used to make bombs and able to warn the security attendant of a potential bomb.
Now, let’s see what is happening with checked baggage.
X-ray Systems: Check Your Bags
Besides passenger baggage, planes also carry huge amounts of cargo. All this cargo has to be checked before it is loaded.
Airports mostly use one of the three systems to do this:
• Medium X-ray systems – These fixed systems are used to scan an entire pallet of cargo for suspicious items.
• Mobile X-ray systems – By using this system a large loaded truck can be scanned. The entire contents of the trucks are scanned for suspicious items.
• Fixed-site systems – This is an entire building which is basically one huge X-ray scanner. A tractor-trailer is pulled into that building and the entire loaded truck is scanned at one time.
An old-fashioned technique of bomb detection- the use of trained dogs still works and sometimes performs better than most hi-tech systems. These special dogs, called K-9 units, are well trained to sniff out the exact odors emitted by chemicals which are used to make bombs and the odors of other items such as drugs. A K-9 barks at a suspicious bag or package, warning the human companion that this item requires to be investigated.
Besides a X-ray system, many airports also use larger scanners. Let’s take a look at those next.
CT Scanners: Check Your Bags
In the United States, most major airports have a computer tomography (CT) scanner. It surrounds your bag, the X-ray mechanism rotates slowly around it, bombarding it with X-rays as well as recording the resultant data. This scanner uses this data to make a very detailed tomogram (slice) of the baggage. The scanner is able to perform the calculation of the mass and density of individual objects in the bag based on this tomogram. If mass/density of an object falls within the range of a dangerous material, the CT scanner alarms the operator of a potential hazardous object.
CT scanner is slow compared to other types of baggage-scanning systems. Because this, most other countries, particularly in Europe, use a larger version of the X-ray system for carry-on items checking. It has high-speed, higher KVP range of the X-rays and automated machines integrated into the normal baggage-handling system.
With all these detectors, scanners and sniffers, it’s pretty obvious that no one is allowed to take a gun or bomb on a plane.