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SAMs - The New Air Security Threat

The bad news - most airplanes are defenseless against SAMs. The worse news - there are thousands of SAMs potentially in the hands of terrorists. The worst news of all – airplanes could be equipped with anti-missile systems, but the airlines are balking at the cost.

Read more, including an insider guess as to how the Israeli plane avoided the two missiles fired at it last weekend. More

Protecting a Plane Against Terrorist Attack

Even our most stringent security screening still seems to miss a large percentage of illegal items.  We can not guarantee that terrorists will not smuggle some type of weapons onto a plane.

And, even if terrorists have no weaponry, the plane is still at risk!

This series discusses the risks and potential solutions to ensure our flights are safe.

9/11 Revisited - Are we Safer?  Are we Safe?

Written on the third anniversary of 9/11/01, this article examines four major vulnerabilities within our commercial aviation system and looks at what has been done to resolve them.

It asks the questions 'Are we safer than we were on 9/11' and 'Are we sufficiently safe'.  You mightn't like the answers.

Lessons from the Moscow Metro Suicide Bombings

A detailed five part examination of the March 2010 Moscow Metro suicide bombings, the implications for the west, and how we can/should, and can't/shouldn't go about protecting our mass transit systems in general.

Lessons from the Multiple Security Failures on NW253

First a shoe bomber, now a crotch bomber.  If we're not all going to now be forced to remove our shorts as well as our shoes, we need to sensibly learn the lessons that this failed bombing attack teach us, and pro-actively implement appropriate responses.

Finding Hidden Explosives - An Impossible Task

The 'new' security risk for airplanes, we are told, is terrorists who smuggle explosives onto a plane with a view to blowing the plane up in mid air.

So we are forced to be electronically stripped naked, and/or given exceedingly intimate pat-down body searches, ostensibly so the security screeners can check if we have any hidden explosives or not.

Unfortunately, this doesn't work.  Here's all that you need to know about the charade we are now all being forced to participate in when going through airport 'security'.

Alternatives to Present Airport Security Procedures

Following on from the preceding article about finding hidden explosives, it is clear that our present airport security methodology is totally broken and needs a complete rethink.

This multipart series offers some possible alternate approaches.

Security - A Sham or a Shambles?

Aviation security and 'homeland security' has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar a year business. There is no denying that there were massive security loopholes prior to 9/11, and many of the new measures are sensible, and necessary.

But let's not pretend that we are now 100% secure, and let's not also pretend that we can ever achieve 100% security. Most of all, let's not adopt a mindless attitude but instead temper security with common sense.

The Master Terrorist List

Read what happens when an ordinary person finds herself somehow on the 'Master Terrorist List'.

This would be funny if it weren't serious and scary.

Beware of Checked Baggage X-ray Machines

The new X-ray machines that inspect checked luggage can destroy most normal film.

And that's not all, the new experimental anti-anthrax Post Office irradiation won't just zap your film, but may also kill computer chips and even regular CDs and DVDs.

Reconciling Security, Service and Sense

Everyone is understandably concerned about security at present, and some over-reaction is perhaps occasionally unavoidable and acceptable. When such mistakes occur, the chances are that a generally sympathetic public will respond positively to a simple 'We're sorry, we made a mistake'.

But United's actions in Philadelphia on 10 October cross the line into seriously inappropriate behavior, and their subsequent attempts to try and shift the blame by lying (rather than admitting their mistake and apologizing) is entirely out of place in a society based on honesty and transparency. 

The Weakest Link

Everyone breathes a sigh of relief as the new Airport Security Federalization Act is passed into law. but will this really solve anything? Based on previous laws passed after the Pan Am 103 and TWA 800 crashes, there is little reason to feel positive.

Meantime, the airlines continue to do what they're best at - attempt to delay introducing vital new security measures.

Spinning our Wheels

Exactly as predicted last week, the DOT is now admitting they won't have new baggage security measures in place by 18 Jan 2002.

While they are now promising an 'immediate' reduction in delays at security screening points, who knows what 'immediate' means to such people that have taken more than ten years and still not introduced baggage screening?

An Unbalanced Response

After 13 years, we still haven't closed the security loophole that allowed a terrorist to bomb the Pan Am 103 flight over Lockerbie. But in less than 13 hours after the 'shoe bomber' failed to explode his shoes on board a flight, we're scrutinizing everyone's shoes.

There are plenty of ways for bad things to happen about planes - including poor maintenance and bad piloting. Why aren't we sensibly addressing all threats to flight safety?

Security Silliness

Earlier this week the government said it was too dangerous for pilots to have guns in their cockpits. Rather than risk pilots shooting it out with hijackers and possibly endangering other passengers, the govt said it would simply order the airforce to shoot down any hijacked planes.

Meanwhile, there is a much more terrifying threat on most planes that the TSA seems to be ignoring in the hope it will go away by itself.

What's the Big Deal with Bags?

In 1990 Congress required the FAA to screen passengers' checked bags by 1993. Now, twelve years later, we're doubtful about implementing screening by the end of the year. Most industry observers claim this is impossible, but the TSA surprisingly says 'no problem'.

The TSA, in among other mammoth cost overruns, plans to implement the most expensive approach to bag screening. But, as this column reveals, their solution, while undoubtedly expensive, is almost certainly not as effective as a method costing forty times less!

The TSA Banned Carryon List

Here is the TSA's official list of what you can not take as carry-on onto a plane.

But note that the list is subject to interpretation. Just because something isn't on the list doesn't mean you can take it on board!

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