Evolution of Airport Security

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Evolution of Airline Security in the United States
Mike Matthews

Survey of Criminal Justice 1010
Mark Sundermeir
Written Assignment #2
3 / 13 / 12

Abstract
The purpose of this paper is to track the evolution of the system of airline security in the United States. A major turning point in Americas system of airline security was the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. It is important to understand the history of airline security before 9/11 to then see how terrorists exploited the system’s weaknesses. It is then necessary to analyze how the U.S. federal government responded to 9/11 and how airline security procedures have evolved since then. This paper thoroughly outlines how airport and aircraft security protocol has adapted over the years to provide a background and understanding of Americas current system of airline security. It is also important to review the numerous controversies resulting from new security measures. Finally, this paper examines past trends to try and foresee future developments for airline security in the U.S.

One of America’s most important concerns in the 21st century is the threat of another terrorist attack. The events of September 11, 2001 have had a lasting affect on all aspects of society. One of the most drastic changes occurred within the country’s law enforcement system; mainly the security of America’s aviation system. The new model for airport and aircraft security has faced a lot of opposition from advocates for individual rights, who believe many of these new laws and procedures are unnecessary and in some cases illegal. To get a better understanding of the current system, it is important to first examine aviation security prior to 9/11 and how the system has changed since.

The first recorded hijacking of an aircraft took place in 1931 when a group of Peruvian revolutionaries seized pilot Byron Rickards and his airplane. By the late 1950’s, the number of plane hijackings was dramatically increasing which resulted in many airports implementing the first security measures to screen passengers. One of the new security measures used was metal detectors to prevent passengers from carrying firearms or other contraband onto airplanes. Another response to increased hijackings was the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) under the Federal Aviation Act of 1958. Some of the FAA’s major goals were to regulate U.S. air traffic and civil aviation to ensure safety. In 1966, Congress created the Department of Transportation, which absorbed the FAA. Despite the creation of the FAA and the use of new screening procedures, hijackings still increased, and in 1969 there was a record 82 hijackings.

In another attempt to reduce hijackings and increase airline safety, the Federal Air Marshal Service was created in 1970. Under this program, armed and anonymous marshals would ride on passenger flights to increase security.

In addition to the Air Marshall program, in 1972 the FAA required all airports to screen passengers and their carry-on bags. Under this new rule, airports outsourced the job of screening passengers to private security companies.

Another call for enhanced airline security came in 1976 in response to the first actual terrorist attack against an aircraft. Cubana Flight 455 was blown up mid-flight by hidden explosives. Everyone on the plane died. This attack shocked the airline industry and again many airports began to increase their security by adding more screening check points, metal detectors, and x-ray machines. Another advancement to airport security occurred during the 1980’s. This decade saw an increased war on drugs, including the smuggling of illicit narcotics into the United States via commercial flights. To combat this issue, drug-sniffing dogs as well as new pat-down methods were adopted by airports.

These security measures basically remained the same up until 9/11....
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