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Airport Security Research Paper

Security forces in airports

Until the 9/11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre, the effectiveness of security professionals had not came into the attention of many because many had questions on how the terrorists, responsible for the attack, were able to board a plane equipped with their explosives without anyone raising eyebrows.

This was a clear indication of how inefficient airport security forces were prior to the attack. The cause of this laxity or ignorance lies in the poor training and constant turnover of security officials in the workplace. Turnover rates “exceeded 100% a year in a number of large airports” (Dillingham 6).

In addition, the unattractive wages and benefits offered to the security officials resulted into unskilled and inexperienced labor force.

In order to improve the quality of security in the airports, improvement of the security forces was a major requirement and this nudging need led to the formation of the Transport Security Administration on 25 November 2002 to be in charge of screening in all US ports.

This body is responsible for provision of high-notch security in most of the large airports. It puts guidelines to enhance the achievement of this goal. According to Dillingham, since February 2002 security screeners have been able to capture more than 7.8 million items including 1,437 firearms, 49,331 box-cutters, and 2.3 million knives (8).

Following the 9/11, attack on the World Trade Center, security personnel acts as the major defense system to prevent such an event from happening in the future. For the defense system to function effectively, there is a great need for reliable professional security personnel and equipment.

These are fundamental in taking measures against insecurity, which will also help to prevent issues such as drug trafficking as well as other planned crimes.

Restrictions imposed on air travel

There are some restricted items during travel including box-cutters, knives, explosives, firearms, and flammable objects among others.

These materials, according to the security forces, are potential weapons capable of causing dangerous attacks on the cabin. To ensure that these objects do not find way into the planes, passengers undergo a security check shortly before boarding a plane.

There are also restricted areas in the airports including airport ramps and operational spaces. It is important to mention that members of the public cannot gain access to these areas. Special qualifications are required for anyone with the intention of going to such places.

However, in May 2000, agents of the Department of Transport Inspector General used fake credentials and badges to gain access to secured areas (Degeneste, and Sullivan 59); therefore, it is important to ensure that those who enter such areas provide valid documents.

Consequently, strong forces are required to carry out effective security checks on all people who enter the airports inclusive of all passengers. Non-passengers accompanying people for a flight do not go beyond the security checkpoints.

However, there is an exception to those accompanying elderly people and minors as well as people with special needs and such measures help to prevent many forms of insecurity within the airport.

Security checks in airports

Security check is the most fundamental aspect to ensure that there are no loopholes as far as maintaining security in airports is concerned. After the incident that led to the death of thousands of people in the World Trade Centre, there has been a great improvement in detecting security threats on passengers and baggage.

It is a requirement that all security personnel go through intensive training before doing any form of screening. Some of the gadgets used in screening are hand-held metal detectors and explosives detection machines as well as X-ray equipment. The X-ray machine screens heavy jackets and coats for any forbidden objects.

The security personnel should never overlook any form of alarm from the gadgets when screening for security threats. Investigation on the terrorist attack of 11 September 2001 shows that on screening the passengers, the security personnel did not take the alarm from the terrorists seriously (McCamey 111).

If only the officers in charge looked keenly for the cause of the alarm, then the terrorist attack would not have occurred. At times, the security personnel opt to use their bare hands to search people, which mostly occur during instances when they have suspicions on someone.

Another important aspect is screening of vehicles entering and leaving the airports for this ensures that no firearms or explosives enter or even leave the airport without the knowledge of the security personnel.

Another form of security check is in the form of identification checks. Anyone entering the airport should always provide proper identification documents. Moreover, the security officers should always carry out boarding pass-ID verification for all plane passengers.

However, there are special cases whereby, one has the right to board a plane without proper identification documents (John 22). In such a case, the security personnel should carry out intensified screening of both the individual and his/her baggage.

The identification checks not only apply to passengers, but also to all airport employees. To the employees, the security forces carry out criminal background checks to ensure that the employees have not been involved in criminal offences that can replicate in the future. By so doing, the security personnel can therefore focus their attention on all forms of intrusion into the airport.

Following the global technological advancement, there has been an improvement in the means of screening for dangerous objects in airports thus boosting security. For instance, most international airports utilize fiber optic perimeter-intrusion-detective systems.

These systems enable the security personnel to detect and locate any form of intrusions within the airport that can result into a security threat and such measures are instrumental in enhancing top-notch security within the airport because these systems keep the security personnel alert all the time.

The screening processes require the appropriate equipment and it follows that the airport security forces have to acquire them at a high cost. Research has shown that since the September 2011 incident, the US government has spent over 40 billion U.S. dollars on screening passengers (Bandyk 1).

Robert Poole, a member of the National Aviation Studies Advisory Panel in the US, has faced this with a lot of criticism. The cost incurred in the screening processes is not only in monetary terms, but also in terms of time. Adequate time is required to allow the security personnel to carry out their duties pertaining screening.

This calls for passengers to arrive in the airport as early as possible. Some even arrive hours before the time set for their flight. For the passengers, this translates to less time at work, with their families as well as less time for leisure activities. In addition, the recruitment as well as the training offered to the security personnel is an expense incurred by the airport security systems.

Security within the aircraft

To boost the level of security in airplanes, there are several improvements on the body of the plane. For instance, CCTV cameras in various positions of the plane help to detect any terror attempts on the cabin.

In addition, there has been elimination of the curtains that used to partition the first class cabin from rest of the cabin. It is also important to mention that there has been installation of bulletproof cockpit doors.

All these modifications lead to an increase in the cost of maintaining security within the aircraft, because the airport security personnel have to pay for the installation services. Therefore, only the pilot and the co-pilot should enter the cockpit and this restricts all passengers, some of who could be potential terrorists and hijackers, from causing any trouble during the flight.

For their own safety, the Transport Security Administration has allowed pilots to carry a gun with them during flights. It is therefore the responsibility of the employers to train the pilots on how to use a gun effectively.

Another improvement on the security of cabin is the increment of air marshals; to ensure that all is well during a flight, after security screening of the passengers, all drinks must be supplied by the airport authorities i.e. to all those who want to buy. Such measures help to enforce the restriction of certain items from getting into the plane.

The advancement in airport security has led to a decrease attacks in airports and during flights. However, there has been substantial criticism about the measures taken.

For instance, Bruce Schneier, a security expert, argues that imposing restrictions on certain items cannot prevent a determined terrorist from executing his/her plans. He argues that it is difficult to predict or rather tell the kind of weapon a terrorist will use prior to an attack (Rumerman 18).

Nevertheless, it is always important to seize all the objects that have already proved to be a threat to aviation security.


It is evident that the 9/11 World Trade Center terrorist attack acted as a wakeup call to airport security forces. It led to many reforms in the aviation security systems.

These reforms include the thorough screening of baggage, passengers, and vehicles; increment in the number of air marshals in planes and invention of new technologies for passenger identification. Modifications in the construction of aircrafts such as installation of CCTV surveillance cameras are also part of the improvements made in enhancing airport security.

Security personnel should go through proper training and should have a good package of benefits. These reforms increased the cost of security maintenance in the airports. As a result, the cost of air travel has increased to enhance the security systems to meet their monetary expenses.

With the rate at which the world is experiencing technological advancement, there will be great and more reliable security forces in the future. Owing to this, there will be little or no cases of terrorist attacks, drug abuse, as well as planned crimes associated with airports.

Security professionals need to come up with less time consuming screening processes to reduce the time utilized in baggage as well as passenger screening. However, this will depend on the intensity with which airport security personnel embrace aspects associated with enhancing air travel safety.

Works Cited

Bandyk, Mathew. “The High Cost of Airport Security.” US News and World Report, 2010.

DeGeneste, Henry, and Sullivan, John. Policing transportation facilities. Illinois: Springfield, 1994.

Dillingham, Gerald. “.” United States General Accounting Office, 2003. Web.

John, Peter. Air Piracy, Airport Security, and International Terrorism: Winning the War Against Hijackers. New York: Quorum Books, 1991.

McCamey, William. “Transport Security Administration.” Journal of Security Administration 24.2 (2001):110-115.

Rumerman, Judy. “Aviation Security.” US Centennial of Flight Commission, 2003. Web.

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