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Airport security

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Airport security refers to the techniques and methods used in protecting airports and aircraft from crime (Hijackings/Bomb Attempts).

Large numbers of people pass through airports. This presents potential targets for terrorism and other forms of crime[clarification needed] due to the number of people located in a small area. Similarly, the high concentration of people on large airliners, the potential high death rate with attacks on aircraft, and the ability to use a hijacked airplane as a lethal weapon may provide an alluring target for terrorism.

Airport security attempts to prevent would-be attackers from bringing weapons or bombs into the airport. If they can succeed in this, then the chances of these devices getting on to aircraft are greatly reduced. As such, airport security serves several purposes: To protect the airport from attacks and crime and to protect the aircraft from attack, and to reassure the travelling public that they are safe.

Monte R. Belger of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration notes "The goal of aviation security is to prevent harm to aircraft, passengers, and crew, as well as support national security and counter-terrorism policy."


Process and equipment


Some incidents have been the result of travelers being permitted to carry either weapons or items that could be used as weapons on board aircraft so that they could hijack the plane. Travelers are screened by metal detectors. Explosive detection machines used include X-ray machines and Puffer Machines. Explosive detection machines can also be used for both carry on and checked baggage. These detect volatile compounds given off from explosives using gas chromatography  A recent development is the controversial use of Full body scanners to detect hidden weapons and explosives on passengers. These devices, which use Compton scattering, require that the passenger stand close to a flat panel and produce a high resolution image.There are misunderstandings about how x-ray backscatter personnel scanners function, but they do use ionizing radiation and the x-rays emitted from them penetrate skin as well as clothing. While the risk of cancer from a single backscatter check is probably low, the cumulative risk of repeated exposure to radiation is a threat to public health, especially for people working in the airline industry and frequent travellers. A technology released in Israel in early 2008 allows passengers to pass through metal detectors without removing their shoes, a process required as walk-though gate detectors are not reliable in detecting metal in shoes or on the lower body extremities. Alternately, the passengers step fully shod onto a device which scans in under 1.2 seconds for objects as small as a razor blade.

Generally people are screened through airport security into areas where the exit gates to the aircraft are located. These areas are often called "secure", "sterile" and airside. Passengers are discharged from airliners into the sterile area so that they usually will not have to be re-screened if disembarking from a domestic flight; however they are still subject to search at any time. Airport food outlets have started using plastic glasses and utensils as opposed to glasses made out of glass and utensils made out of metal to reduce the usefulness of such items as weapons.

In the United States non-passengers were once allowed on the concourses to meet arriving friends or relatives at their gates, but this is greatly restricted now in the United States. Non-passengers must obtain a gate pass to enter the secure area of the airport. The most common reasons that a non-passenger may obtain a gate pass is to assist children and the elderly as well as for attending business meetings that take place in the secure area of the airport. In the United States, at least 24 hours notice is generally required for those planning to attend a business meeting inside the secure area of the airport] Other countries, such as Australia do not yet restrict non-travellers from accessing the airside area, however non-travellers are typically subject to the same security scans as travellers

Sensitive areas in airports, including airport ramps and operational spaces, are restricted from the general public. Called a SIDA (Security Identification Display Area), these spaces require special qualifications to enter.

In some countries, specially trained individuals may engage passengers in a conversation to detect threats rather than solely relying on equipment to find threats. In the United States the TSA has run several dummy tests in several major airports to measure the success of catching people with bombs. In 2002, the TSA reported that roughly 60% of fake bombs or component parts to bombs were missed by covert screeners. In 2007, that percentage rose to 75%, although this increase alone is misleading[8]. The tests are done by using undercover agents to carry fake bombs/parts in their carry on luggage and counting how many are successful with getting through security checkpoints. The TSA runs covert tests every day and when a screener misses an undercover agent carrying dangerous items, they are immediately sent to remedial training[citation needed].

Throughout the world, there have been a few dozen airports that have instituted a version of a "trusted traveler program". Proponents argue that security screening can be made more efficient by detecting the people that are threats, and then searching them. They argue that searching trusted, verified individuals should not take the amount of time it does. Critics argue that such programs decrease security by providing an easier path to carry contraband through.