Airline Safety and Anti-Terrorism for Travelers

Many of you will be flying to your timeshare rental on your summer family vacation this year. If you're like most people, flying is an easy, convenient, and comfortable means of getting to your destination. And, if you're like most people, the thoughts of airline safety, especially as relates to terrorism, are not far from your mind as you step aboard that plane. Rest assured that governments world-wide continue to work toward anti-terrorism safety.

On June 28, 2010, the EU (European Union) announced that it will begin trials of anti-terrorism technology aimed at detecting suspicious behavior on board aircraft. The system has already been tested by the EU on a British Aerospace plane and a mock Airbus. Trials of similar systems have been conducted at airports around the world, but the new trials would be a first for on-board commercial aircraft.

The system uses a combination of CCTV, microphones, and explosive detectors all linked through a software package that analyzes the data. Microphones pick up on anything which could suggest terrorist behavior. Inside the lavatories explosives "sniffers" detect if a bomb is being assembled. All this information is analyzed by computer and if it identifies something suspicious the flight deck is alerted instantly.

“What we are doing is extending technology already used at airports and railway stations and placing it on an aircraft,” said James Ferryman, who is leading the research project.

According to researchers this technology could have prevented the Nigerian Al Qaeda terrorist, who tried to detonate an explosive device on a Christmas Day flight to Detroit, from getting as far as he did. “It is known that the terrorist was acting nervously in the airport prior to boarding – this could have been picked up with the same automated CCTV technology – and that he spent time in the toilet assembling the components of the explosive,” Ferryman said.

Meanwhile, in the United States, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced that 100% of passengers traveling within the United States and its territories are now being checked against terrorist watch lists through the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Secure Flight program. "This is a major step in fulfilling a key 9/11 Commission recommendation," (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano stated.

The goals of Secure Flight as explained by the TSA are to: Identify known and suspected terrorists, prevent individuals on the No Fly List from boarding an aircraft, provide enhanced screening of select individuals, facilitate passenger air travel, and individuals' privacy. The TSA began implementing Secure Flight in late 2009 and expects all international carriers with direct flights to the U.S. to begin using Secure Flight by the end of 2010.
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