The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks have changed the world. Aviation security was suddenly seen in the whole new light, and a new approach to securing national airports was urgently needed. Among the most important steps taken in this direction are the emergence of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as a regulatory transportation security organization in 2003. In 2004, TSA has prepared general aviation security guidelines to carry out security enhancement across the nation. As soon became evident, such a global and rapid security improvement all over the US comes at a significant cost. New security standards implementation added tens of billions in overall airport security spending, which became a substantial burden for the US government. In spite of these major challenges, evidence suggests successful resolution of all these problems. Survey of GA airports conducted in 2007 suggests successful adaptation of new security measures by most US airports, and their smooth day-to-day operation. This essay follows the line of events outlined above. It first discusses issues raised just after the 2001 attacks, including evaluation of aviation security leadership alternatives. This follows with a description of TSA, its role in the aviation security and its main functions. This leads to the description of airport security guideline description, prepared by TSA as a response to the September 11 events. The costs of proposed changes are discussed next, and then evidence of successful new practice adaptation is presented.

According to a study conducted just after terrorist attacks, several serious flaws in airport security were found. The study concentrated on airport access control, as well as passenger and carry-on baggage screening. (Dialing, 2001) Airport secure areas access control was proven ineffective 68 percent of the time, and luggage and carry-on baggage screening practices were also proven unacceptable. The major reason for this was seen as high security personnel turnover due to small wages, limited benefits and the repetitive nature of work. Two proposed ways to improve the screener performance was development of the threat image projection (TIP) system and certification program. TIP system is the technology that adds some forbidden object images on X-ray machine monitors to test screener and keep them alert. The certification program is intended to emphasize screening companies’ responsibility for screener performance. It sets performance, training, and equipment standards for screening companies, requires training time increase and expansion of background check requirements (Dillingham, 2001).

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Prior to the 2011 terrorist attacks, airline security was the responsibility of each separate airline. Growing security concern following these tragic events led to the idea to reconsider this. Responsibility for aviation security could stay the domain of airlines with new certification rules, shift to airports, a specially created federal agency, or a special federal corporation. These four options were evaluated against some predefined criteria, such as accountability and screening performance, cooperation among stakeholders, efficiency, and legal issues. New certification rules were mostly viewed as an option that would improve screener performance and accountability, but not affect other aspects of screening operations. Assigning screening responsibilities to airports was not seen as a substantial improvement to current screening operations. New federal agency control over screening was seen mostly as an improvement in screener performance and accountability due to improved working conditions of screening employees. If a federal corporation were to become in charge of screening, it would likely to be mostly the same, as in case of federal agency control (Dillingham, 2001).

The Transportation Security Administration

The discussion of an appropriate party to take responsibility for the airport security operations was resolved, after an independent agency called the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) emerged. TSA was created by Congress following the enactment of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA). The main mission of TSA is to to develop, regulate, and enforce transportation security standards for all modes of transportation (2004, p.3). The federal government was also likely to take control, but this did not happen due to the complexity of implementing measures in similar depth in all airports, and financing issues (Williams, 2007).

The Transportation Security Administration protects the nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce ( TSA leads transportation security enhancements in rail, transit, highway, and pipeline sectors, as well as aviation. TSA is mainly responsible for security screening, explosive detection, and cargo checks across US airports nationwide. It also provides background checks for transportation-related employees, and latest equipment for security system enhancement in airports nationwide (

In April 2003, TSA requested the Aviation Security Advisory Committee (ASAC) to develop general recommendations for security enhancements at all GA airports. This was a response to several airports developing their own security practices, and a call for unified US security standards (TSA, 2004). This is how the document called Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports came into existence (TSA, 2004). These are recommendations and suggestions for best security practices among GA airports in the US. Due to a great difference between different airports, each airport management is free to apply only ideas relevant for security at their particular airport. The document outlines practices in seven functional areas of GA airport security, such as: personnel, aircraft, airports/facilities, surveillance, security procedures and communications, and specialty operations (TSA, 2004). A more detailed description of these guidelines is presented below.

Personnel security recommendations by TSA consist of suggestions for dealing with passengers, student pilots, aircraft renters, and transient pilots. All passengers should be known prior to the flight departure, have valid id, and known baggage. Flight schools should control all aspects of student access to the aircraft, including use of proper entrances and exits, clarification of the student identity with valid id before every flight, and strict control of aircraft keys, such as using separate ignition and door lock keys, require student to check in with specific employee and sign for the key before being allowed access to the aircraft. Aircraft renters should present their id along with their airman and current medical certificate, be familiar with airport operations, and be ready to report suspicious activity prior to gaining access to the airport. Transient pilots should be assigned to specific parking spaces and use sign-in/sign-out procedures while using airport facilities (TSA, 2004).

Aircraft security recommendations from TSA include consistent use of door locks, keyed ignitions, further auxiliary locks, and hangars to store the aircraft (TSA, 2004).

Airport facilities security recommendations were mainly requirements for use of hangars with adequate locks and appropriate lighting to store aircrafts. Other recommended security measures include appropriate use of signs to warn the against trespassing and other dangerous activity. Consistent identification system is also recommended, which could include employee and vehicle identification systems. Airport planning should also be incorporated into the security practices (TSA, 2004).

Surveillance recommendations from TSA include the introduction of airport community watch program, establishing clear reporting procedures, creating airport security committee and having close relationships with local law enforcement officer. Most importantly, it is best to use CCTV for airport surveillance, as well as to introduce intrusion detection systems (TSA, 2004).

Most imponrtantly, airport security system should have written security procedures to formally communicate all the security measures described above. It is also crucial to establish close relationship with the Homeland Security Advisory System to minimize the terrorist attack threat. Other organizations, such as state police, fire brigade, and the FBI, can also be helpful contacts in case of emergency (TSA, 2004).

Specialty operations should also be incorporated into the airport security plan, such as appropriate agricultural aircraft security, airport tenant security and fuelling facility security (TSA, 2004).

Increasing security costs

Security recommendations outlined above were being adapted in airports across the US, but such a great change on such a global scale obviously led to a substantial security costs increase. Before September 11, 2001, annual security costs of the US airline industry totaled $1 billion, in 2002, on the other hand, it became more than $5.8 billion. In 2004, expected security costs were $4.8 billion, with $1.7 billion covered by passenger security fee and $300 million from air carriers. The rest of the required funds, which was approximately $3 billion, had to come from the General Fund. Such large investments from the General Fund were a major issue and called for all possible airline security cost reductions (Mead, 2003). The biggest reason of such a sharp cost rise is the fact that in 2002 TSA was a young organization and still had to hire most of its personnel, as well as establish its operations. The other problem was a strict deadline for those actions (Mead, 2003). Additional costs of up to $3 billion were due to introduction of explosive detection systems (EDS) into baggage processing systems.

Some major opportunities for security cost reductions lie in the capitalization on economies of scale. Three possible opportunities are centralized administrative services, wise use of airport space, and appropriate use of law enforcement personnel. If DSL had provided TSA with general contracting, budgeting, human resources and other centralized services, substantial cost savings would have been made. Consolidating airport office space with other organizations could also help bring costs down. Avoiding extending duties of TSA existing law enforcement personnel beyond basic requirements would also save money (Mead, 2003). Another option to relieve the General Fund from additional spending burden would be to impose those costs on airline customers. This option is unattractive due to the fact that passengers already pay a high tax, which is 26 percent of the price of a ticket, and additional price increases would most likely turn all customers away from air travel. The impossible cost burden was mainly reduced by employment of audit company which renegotiated unprofitable new contracts made by TSA with screening companies and reconsideration of a $500 million deal by Boeing.

Although measures were taken to get these costs under control, and major aviation security sector restructuring are long gone, today security costs are still rising. The 2011 budget of the Department of Homeland Security totalled $56.3 billion, which represents an increase of $1.2 billion from the previous year. Much of this budget is used on aviation security. For example, in 2011, additional $433 million was used to introduce new body-scanning machines at airports, $85 million more went to increase the number of air marshals, and $60 million to buy more explosives detectors. Additional unexpected expenses and disruptions to airport operations also sum up to a large number (Kennedy, 2010).

Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports

In 2007 a further study into general aviation safety and security practices was made. It was based on survey of managers of 53 airports, their follow-up interviews, and some other available information. The study discussed security and safety practices in GA airports after the shock of the 2001 terrorist attacks. These security practices were mainly based on Security Guidelines for General Aviation Airports prepared by TSA in 2004, and mainly focused on security planning, perimeter and access control, watch programs and risk assessment. It was found that thirty-eight (80 percent) respondents have prepared security plans. Fencing was widespread among GA airports even before terrorist attacks, with more than 40 percent of space of all airports fenced. 90 percent of responding airports had Airport Watch programs in place, and 66 percent of surveyed airports had a security risk assessment in the previous five years. These numbers indicate successful new security practice adaptation and security threat elimination (Williams, 2007).

Since September 11, 2001, aviation security has become a very important issue. This paper has provided description of possible security loopholes which led to terrorist attacks, and what was done about it. It also describes the rise of TSA and its role in aviation security practice enhancement. Then, it is shown that such great changes always come at a cost. In spite of difficulty, evidence suggests successful new security practice implementation. The September 11 events have led to complete change of perspective on the aviation security in US, including a shift from event-based security view to continuous work toward security improvement. With all these security pracices in place, there is definitely no chance of events similar to September 11 happening again. 

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