Since Sept. 11, 2001, billions of dollars have been spent on aviation security, including the creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), heightened passenger and baggage checks; reinvigoration of the federal air marshals program; and hardening of cockpit doors. How safe is air travel, asks the Dallas Morning News. “We’ve accomplished almost nothing,” said Michael Boyd, president of The Boyd Group, an aviation consulting firm in Evergreen, Colo. “We have hired a lot of nice people in white shirts to look for pointy objects.” Critics cite the lack of 100 percent cargo checks; the fact that many airport and airline personnel still can enter secure areas without being screened; and a host of other upgrades unaccomplished. TSA spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said the agency has managed to stay “one step ahead of those who wish to harm us” by taking a “layered” approach to security. they include reinforced cockpit doors on about 5,800 domestic aircraft, and 45,000 federal screeners who had, through May, intercepted 3.9 million knives and 1,905 guns at airport checkpoints.
In its report, the 9/11 commission highlighted vulnerabilities. Passengers aren’t screened for explosives, and there is no comprehensive explosives screening for the 2.8 million tons of cargo shipped annually on airlines. Though the government permits only accredited shippers to move cargo via air, less than 5 percent of cargo is physically screened. A Dallas Morning News informal survey of professionals directly affected by TSA decisions – pilots, flight attendants, airport and airline executives – suggests that the agency has an enormous amount of work to do. Each group identified what it perceives to be sizable holes in security.