Technology is playing a tremendous role in securing our airports, and will continue to until we reach a point where we feel safe and secure in the fact that the government can positively ID every person boarding an aircraft, whether it's a commercial carrier or a charter flight.
As TSA shifts its focus to general aviation facilities, many in the industry are confident that TSA learned from its actions at the 429 previous airports and will take a more even-handed approach. The last thing a struggling industry needs is to be bogged down with more unrealistic deadlines and additional expenses to meet security mandates.
According to a TSA-issued press release, security screeners were successful in blocking 4.8 million prohibited items from being taken on aircraft in one year. The items included 1,101 firearms, some 1.4 million knives, 2.4 million other sharp objects including scissors, 39,842 box cutters, 125,273 incendiary or flammable objects, and 15,666 clubs. Still, curiosity remains whether among the "sharp objects"were the knitting needles, fingernail clippers, and corkscrews reportedly snatched away from travelers who had no idea their hobby, personal hygiene, or taste for wine would peg them as a possible threat to other travelers.
London's Heathrow International Airport has implemented a new screening technology at Terminal 1 called the Sentinel II. The explosive vapor detection portal, manufactured by Smiths Detection & Protection System-Barringer Instruments, is designed to be capable of screening seven people per minute for a variety of substances. The non-invasive device uses Ion Mobility Spectrometry (IMS) to perform a real-time chemical analysis as passengers pass through the portal. More information about this technology can be found at www.sandia.gov.
Broomall, PA-based Siedle Communication Systems of America, LLC (www.sideleusa.com) is one of many companies marketing biometrics technology to the aviation community. It's product, AcSys Biometrics Face Recognition System, uses holographic/quantum neural technology (HNeT), a technology that mimics the analytical processes of the human mind, and does not rely on measurements for recognition. It's designed to be capable of recognizing up to four individuals simultaneously, and every time it recognizes an individual, it updates its memory. The HNeT technology allows the system to accommodate gradual changes in physical appearance over time and eliminating the need to keep photographs of individuals in its memory in order to recognize them.
At Denver International Airport, TSA workers have launched a "kid-friendly" screening program. The process begins when families approach the lanes designated for them at the airport checkpoints. Screeners talk to the kids, give them a sticker with a smiling face, and use hand puppets to entertain them as they go through the metal detector. If secondary screening is necessary, screeners ask kids to stand on special mats that feature cats and dinosaurs, and use a fuzzy caterpillar that wraps around the hand wand making it friendlier. Perhaps some of the people who walk away from the checkpoint shoes in hand and scowls on faces would be a little more pleasant if we all got this treatment.
Visitors to www.flighthumor.org can watch a five-minute video about the long-standing struggle over which state should take credit for the Wright brothers, Ohio or North Carolina. "Wright the Wrongs," created by writer/director Jim Sutherland, follows one man's attempt to correct history -one license plate at a time. The website was created by the University of Dayton's Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop to celebrate the 100th anniversary of flight.