For the next week or so, magazines, newspapers and web sites will focus a great deal of attention on the tenth anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, and the impact those convulsive events had on the world. Much of the coverage will be about the human toll—the thousands of lives that were lost and the psychological trauma to survivors, victims’ families and witnesses to the horror.
Aviation Week & Space Technology will have its own in-depth coverage, focusing on aviation security in the aftermath.
In the 10 years since those acts of war, nations have invested billions of dollars to screen out individuals hell bent on using commercial jets as weapons of mass destruction. Authorities have employed technology, security protocols and cooperation among countries in their pursuit of better aviation security. But every so often, someone manages to foil the system, as if to remind the world mockingly that the existing architecture, elaborate as it is, remains susceptible.
In the Sept. 12 edition of AW&ST, editors will examine what has worked, what has not worked and what’s next in the quest to counter future threats. Like the proverbial 800-pound gorilla in the corner, the quintessential question that hangs over every discussion about aviation security is this: is there such a thing as a foolproof system, especially in an open society in which travelers tend to grouse at the smallest inconvenience.
It is a matter of debate, of course. I tend to come down on the side of the argument that a perfect system is unattainable, given the inevitable tradeoffs that go with trying to satisfy all stakeholders. Then I look at the success of Israel, which has been a magnet for terrorists for decades. It relies on a layered system that extends even beyond an airport's boundaries. Is it a model that other nations could replicate? I seriously doubt it; Israel’s circumstances are unique, with survival itself at the top of the national agenda. I don’t believe for a moment that citizens of the U.S. or France, for example, would go along with it.
What do you think — all things considered, is civil aviation about as secure as it needs to be, or can be?