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Air Travel Security: The Future

By yuri in Culture
Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 02:11:24 PM EST
Tags: Security (all tags)

The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon mark a significant departure from common practises of airplane hijackers. This is the first time (to my knowledge), that a hijacked plane has been directly used as weapon! I think todays events will markedly change the future of airplane hijacking techniques. It will also change airport/airplane security measures.

Now that everybody connected to the TV/radio/internet world is aware of the todays events, discussions (and criticism) of US Airline security measures have begun.

1. The first point I would like to raise is that these attacks represent a change in the modus operandi of hijackers (who usually try to stay alive), and introduce the frightening concept of suicide hijackers. Thus far, it has been common wisdom that if your Airplane is hijacked, you should sit tight and not try to be a hero. I predict that, given todays events and statistical probability, all future hijackers will have to change their techniques.

No longer will passengers sit quietly, enduring hijacker abuse. Instead, a statistical few will readily take action against the attackers, at loss of life and limb. These passengers will readily risk blowing it all and escalating the situation, knowing full well that the mob of passengers will take action to back them up...martyrdom in reverse. If people believe they are doomed to die, drastic actions are much more likely. This alone dramatically changes the landscape for hijackers, who usually have a complient group of passengers to deal with.

2. We need to do something about airline security for travel within the US. So what do we do?

Airport security alone can only go so far. We cannot guarantee that all passengers are weapon free. From early reports it sounds as though todays hijackers used prison style weapons. How do you stop a passenger with a plastic/razor blade knife, short of a strip search for all passengers? We need to change our on flight security procedures!

So how should we do this?

Could we further separate pilot from passengers....separate entries, impenetrable barrier, no pilot passenger/crew contact after boarding?

Could we station security personnel on every flight? (I personally dislike this)

Could we add additional controls to the cockpit allowing the pilots to enable exclusive remote control of the plane by the FAA after a certain button is pushed? (not ideal, all additional remote controls can potentially be hacked ;-)

3. How do you think air travel in the US will change in response to todays events?


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Air Travel Security: The Future | 42 comments (42 topical, editorial, 0 hidden)
Elsewhere (4.50 / 6) (#1)
by J'raxis on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 03:07:54 AM EST

Someone else posted a comment in another story in the Queue (sorry I can’t find it to attribute it now). Bulletproof cockpit doors locked from the inside, weapons stored in the cockpit for defense. By the time the terrorists break through they’d be staring down the barrel of a loaded gun.

Keeping all the security on the ground such that once someone sneaks through they’re in the clear is patently stupid.

— The Raxis

[ J’raxis·Com | Liberty in your lifetime ]

It's the first time it worked (4.00 / 1) (#2)
by thunderbee on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 03:35:33 AM EST

I believe a hijacked plane in 1994 in France was intended to hit Paris (France). Lack of kerosene forced the plane to land in Marseilles. Police special units raided the plane there while it awaited refueling and thus prevented the attack.

Not that I recommend this, but... (4.66 / 3) (#3)
by snowlion on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 03:38:06 AM EST

...you asked!

Make carry-on illegal. You aren't allowed to carry anything on board, save clothes.

About those clothes-

You'll be x-rayed as you come in.

Beyond that, I don't think there's much you can do.

I think there's a basic thing to remember: The World Isn't A Safe Place.

Let's not lose our heads trying to make it something that it isn't.

Map Your Thoughts
more weapons, not fewer (none / 0) (#4)
by Delirium on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 03:42:53 AM EST

I think the problem is you need to have armed, at least with knives, small-caliber plane-safe guns, or training, or all three, crew. A hijacker will always be able to get *something* on board - a wooden knife, something they can use as a sharp object, or even just really good martial arts training. I mean they hijacked these planes with box knives. There shouldn't be a situation in which the plane is so disarmed that a terrorist needs nothing more than a glorified razor blade to hijack an entire plane.

[ Parent ]
Arm and train crew and passengers (4.00 / 3) (#9)
by billstclair on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 05:12:57 PM EST

You've got the right idea, but don't go far enough.

Change the equation from airport security to airplane security. Train and arm all airline crews. Encourage qualified passengers to carry concealed on the plane. Require the use of frangible (airplane safe) ammo and sell it in airports. Make sure hijackers know that they will not accomplish their goals. They will die as soon as they reveal themselves as hijackers.

For more on why this is a good idea, see "If it saves just one life....." by Hunter at Sierra Times.

[ Parent ]

Oh, yes, this is a wonderful idea (3.75 / 4) (#17)
by ZanThrax on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 07:54:41 PM EST

lets arm the people who more and more frequently get drunk and disorderly to the point of injuring crew and putting planes at risk at it is.

No witty sig today. Even I have respect for the dead.

[ Parent ]
Works for me (5.00 / 1) (#35)
by dennis on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 04:18:05 PM EST

The rate of violent crime among people who legally carry concealed weapons is extraordinarily low, almost nonexistent. They also have a better rate than cops of making correct shoot/noshoot decisions, and hitting their targets instead of bystanders. I personally would feel a heck of a lot safer if airport security responded to a guntoting passenger by inspecting his carry license and ammo (frangible only), and waving him through.

[ Parent ]
Danger of X-Rays (4.33 / 3) (#15)
by shook on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 06:59:46 PM EST

OK, being "x-rayed as you come in" is NOT a good idea, simply for safety reasons. I am assuming you are talking about something similar to a standard airport x-ray. Real-time motion picture x-ray devices are also known as fluoroscopes. I'm sure you have heard that multiple still picture x-rays can expose you to harmful levels of radiation. Now imagine that radiation hitting your body continuously.

Do you remember the controversy in the 50's over fluoroscopes used to fit shoes on children? Well, no, neither do I. But many people were exposed to LARGE amounts of radiation and probably got cancer due to this frivolous use. Non-medical use of fluoroscopy is now banned. And medical use is generally limited in favor of still images. Read all about it at the FDA.

I can imagine someone going through a metal detector, then having to stand in front of a x-ray for a few minutes while he is searched, and then promptly suing.

So we are probably going to have to stick with just metal detectors.

[ Parent ]

Bah. (5.00 / 3) (#16)
by physicsgod on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 07:49:05 PM EST

Look at the numbers. The "Most powerful X-ray source" from Golden Engineering produces 2.5mR, equivalent to flying 2500 miles by jet, or living in Denver for about a week. Just look here for a list of yearly radiation exposures. Flouroscopes used in the 50's used direct flourescence, requiring large doses to make things visible. Modern flouroscopes use electronic image inhancement, greatly reducing the luminosity required.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
Why do you dislike the idea of security personnel? (5.00 / 6) (#5)
by Erbo on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 04:16:20 AM EST

The Israelis have stationed armed plainclothes security men on all of their planes for years.

These men are trained to shoot whenever they see a "hijack" situation, regardless of any hostage issues.

Nobody hijacks Israeli planes anymore.

Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org

Remote command override (3.00 / 1) (#6)
by cthugha on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 08:08:52 AM EST

This'll have to be progressively implemented, given the abundance of "legacy tech" in commercial aviation, but new aircraft with the benefits of sophisticated communications/navigation systems and computer control (as opposed to traditional mechanical control) of the aircraft should implement some sort of command override which ground control or the owner could use which would slave control of the aircraft to a remote authority.

Of course, this requires knowledge of the hijacker's intentions, and all the problems with trying to second-guess a hijacker. But it should eventually become pretty obvious what's going on, before it's too late (i.e. when the aircraft lines up on its final approach to the target).

There is also the problem of having someone zorch the transceiver used to relay command signals. Presumably you could program the aircraft's computer to 'zombie' the craft (shut everything down) after a given time interval for the pilot to enter a confirmation code (in case of transceiver malfunction). The plane'll ditch, but with any luck it'll ditch somewhere away from anything important on the ground, instead of almost certainly striking its target.

Very bad idea... (4.00 / 1) (#11)
by gmuslera on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 05:28:28 PM EST

If you can control remotelly the plane, then terrorists (or script kiddies, or virus/worms/whatever) could can also. You don' t need to be in the plane to take it down. Not sure how safe can be done that, but it sounds like a very bad idea.

If you want a worst scenary case, think in terrorists or vandals taking control of the computer that control all the planes :)

[ Parent ]

A variation? (4.00 / 1) (#20)
by zkiwi on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 08:51:50 PM EST

Well, rather than remote control would it not be feasible for a kind of black box variation. First, I think I've read that a more or less safe landing can be be done totally on auto-pilot, correct me if I'm hopelessy clueless on this? Ok, bravely or whatever on with the idea... Maybe an addition to the black box so that upon a trigger being activated it would send out an appropriate alarm, and go into an automatic auto-pilot programmed to land it at some predetermined location (determined maybe by the route it is has). This could be verified as an authentic black box as part of pre-takeoff procedure where the emergency landing program would be checked against the "tower" expectation for the particular plane. Also, as far as I know the black box cannot be accessed at all while the plane is flying, which seems helpful with this idea. Well, my 2c worth...
Poetry is more fun...
[ Parent ]
Re: Re: Very bad idea... (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by cthugha on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 11:17:52 PM EST

If you can control remotelly the plane, then terrorists (or script kiddies, or virus/worms/whatever) could can also. You don' t need to be in the plane to take it down. Not sure how safe can be done that, but it sounds like a very bad idea.

I see no reason why private, secure communication between ground and aircraft with full authentication couldn't be achieved in this day and age.

If you want a worst scenary case, think in terrorists or vandals taking control of the computer that control all the planes :)

Ouch. Still, the security problems with these kinds of facilities are diminished by the fact that you don't have random members of the public moving through them (unlike, say, passenger aircraft). There are already plenty of sensitive installations where letting terrorists in would have very negative consequences for everybody. And there are ways of securing the ground systems to allow access only by authorized personnel under appropriate circumstances.

[ Parent ]
How to stop most hijacking cold (3.50 / 4) (#7)
by Anonymous 242 on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 01:30:06 PM EST

(1) Train all airline personel (including pilots, stewards and stewardesses) in combat and heavily arm the cockpit crew.

(2) Add heavily armed guards to each flight. Station at least one to guard access to the cockipit. Have the others patrol the aisles.

The question I have is: "is the trade-off worth it?"

I don't know. I tend toward the direction of a negative answer. I could make my house virtually burglar-proof, but I'd have to trade off quite a few freedoms to do so. I don't know that better airline security is worth turning airlines into miniature police states.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

Arms inside airplanes (5.00 / 1) (#10)
by bunsen on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 05:17:56 PM EST

Heavily arming aircrews sounds good at first, until you think about what happens if there's a gunfight at 30,000 feet. Commercial aircraft skins are not bulletproof, and there are plenty of things for terrorists to hide behind (passengers, mostly).

Does anyone have authoritative information about what size hole an airliner could withstand without cabin depressurization? I know they have to have some ability to compensate for leaks, but I wonder how many bullet holes and shattered windows the system could compensate for. If the pressurization system is more robust than I expected, then the problem of shooting the terrorists and missing the passengers still remains. Erbo's comment about Israeli aircraft security offers one solution (i.e. screw the passengers, just kill the terrorists), but somehow I don't think many Americans would go for it.

Do you want your possessions identified? [ynq] (n)
[ Parent ]

Doesn't have to be guns. (4.00 / 1) (#24)
by locke baron on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 01:09:07 AM EST

You can arm the crew with knives, stunguns, tazers, swords, just about any sort of non-firearm weapon you can think of. There was a device designed not long ago that works by using a laser to ionize the air, creating a conductive path to its target, and running a charge through this, creating basically a wireless tazer. This sort of thing would be ideal (but I think it should be backed up with a lethal weapon like a knife just in case the target doesn't drop)

Micro$oft uses Quake clannies to wage war on Iraq! - explodingheadboy
[ Parent ]
That's the direction I was headed (none / 0) (#31)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:13:32 AM EST

Does anyone have authoritative information about what size hole an airliner could withstand without cabin depressurization?
Doesn't matter. If terrorists understand that there is not even the remotest of chances of taking over an aircraft, the only aircrafts that will be targeted are the ones that terrorists want to crash or explode (as opposed to using the aircraft for a bomb or for transportation to a 'friendly' country).
Erbo's comment about Israeli aircraft security offers one solution (i.e. screw the passengers, just kill the terrorists), but somehow I don't think many Americans would go for it.
And that was precisely my point. Recall that I also stated that the trade-offs weren't likely to be worth it.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

NY Times has some info (none / 0) (#42)
by dennis on Tue Sep 25, 2001 at 03:31:35 PM EST

Does anyone have authoritative information about what size hole an airliner could withstand without cabin depressurization?

Here's something from today's NYTimes:

Despite the popular conception that firing a gun in an airplane poses a strong risk of making it crash, aviation experts say that with special bullets, serious damage to the plane is unlikely. The government already covertly places armed guards on select commercial flights. These sky marshals, experts say, carry ammunition that has a smaller charge, so the bullet travels with less force, and that is "frangible," so it breaks up on impact. Such bullets will break the skin and could kill a person hit in the eye, say, but would not penetrate the skull, according to the experts.

Further, even if a bullet penetrated an aircraft's aluminum skin, most planes are designed to prevent any such hole from developing into a tear. And the hole made by even a large-caliber ordinary lead bullet would not be big enough to cause decompression; the engines repressurize the cabin faster than a hole could let air out.

Even windows will withstand bullets, experts say. "Those windows can take the pointy end of a fire ax swung by a beefy fireman with all his might," said one aviation structures expert.

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[ Parent ]

Arms... (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by Znork on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 02:35:03 AM EST

And you'd pit surprised airplane personell with a 4 week self-defense class and who have some care about human life against terrorists with multi-year terrorist/war experience who have no regard for life at all?

Weapons or no weapons, that would be like trying to stop a bullet with a paper tissue. Heck, most people obey someone with a loud authoritative voice without hesitation.

Id be more inclined to go with separate cabin space for the pilots and even one way communications between the pilots and the passengers. If the only available form of communication is a few alarm buttons it's kind of hard to blackmail the pilots to do anything special.

[ Parent ]
Not quite what I had in mind (none / 0) (#30)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 09:07:53 AM EST

And you'd pit surprised airplane personell with a 4 week self-defense class and who have some care about human life against terrorists with multi-year terrorist/war experience who have no regard for life at all?
Apparently, you and I have differing notions on just what combat training involves.

A four week self-defense class for airline crews would only be likely to get the crew killed unless the self-defense was of the variety of fall down and play dead.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

What we wish... (none / 0) (#32)
by Znork on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 10:13:04 AM EST

Well, I think we have pretty similar notions of what real combat training would involve, but perhaps I have a more cynical view of what the airline companies would view as combat training.

Many pilots already have combat training, due to being ex-airforce. But the airline companies are unlikely to add the huge extra costs of military training for most of the personell... and when you add the element of surprise and the callousness disregard for life of this kind of people, I doubt even weapons and training could make a serious difference. The way such a fight goes it's probably over in less than 30 seconds, which wouldnt even be enough time for the personell to remove the weapons from a safe place (unless you're suggesting they go around armed, which in my opinion would be even more dangerous).

Armed 'undercover' security might stand a better chance, since they wont be subject to the same kind of surprise element unless the terrorists kill all the passengers on the spot using gas or something.

But I think securing the pilot part of the cabin is a more cost effective measure, even tho that has its own problems.

[ Parent ]
Plane Enhancements (3.50 / 2) (#8)
by Elkor on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 02:42:55 PM EST

My personal thoughts are to design/retrofit planes with "sealed cabin" concepts. The objective isn't to prevent terrorists from getting on the plane with weapons (that is impossible). The objective is to prevent them from gaining direct control of the plane.

1) The pilot's cabin has their own snacks and toilet.

2) The door between the pilot's cabin and the passenger cabin is locked during flight (with locks that are active as long as the air speed is above some number of 5mph)

3) The door is further made out of something really hard. I don't know what they are made out of presently, but something like solid fiberglass would be reasonably light but strong enough to resist most attempts at forcing.

That would be for retrofits of existing aircraft. If they can't have their own toilets, then a double door between the pilots and the rest of the cabin, set up so that only one door can be open at a time.

New aircraft designs could have a completely sealed cabin, with a second door by which the pilots directly enter the cabin.

As I said, this wouldn't prevent terrorists from taking hostages and demanding the plane be taken somewhere. But it would prevent the plane from being deliberately flown into buildings, other planes, or anything else. As a last resort, the pilot can crash the plane themselves somewhere where minimal damage will be done.

Just my thoughts.


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
Re: Stronger doors (5.00 / 1) (#13)
by ScrO on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 06:19:10 PM EST

An aeronautics engineer informed me that you can't just stick up a stronger door. The door has to be flimsy so in the event of sudden cabin depressurization the door can collapse and equalize pressure, and the plane doesn't get ripped apart (which has actually happened in the past).

Which is too bad, because that was my first reaction -- Duh, impenetrable doors.


[ Parent ]

Who says the doors have to be airtight? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
by roystgnr on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 06:28:00 PM EST

As long as the vents didn't allow a straight bullet shot through the door (and a couple kinks in a vent would ensure that) it should be possible to design doors that allow air through but not people.

[ Parent ]
Maybe we should look at what failed already ... (4.50 / 4) (#12)
by nogardnep on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 05:31:32 PM EST

This "negative feedback" idea of the emergency code having to be entered only when something is going wrong is ridiculous.

It assumes that the qualified personel will be there to send the "mayday".

Instead it should be part of the standard procedures to send a "NO-mayday" from the transponder every, say, 15 minutes.

Not only will that keep at least one of the pilots awake at all times, it will prevent any hijacker from even guessing what is about to happen:

1. If no "NO-mayday" is received after, say, 20 minutes then Air-Traffic-Control can be on alert (perhaps subtly contacting and asking in the standard way what the status of the airplane is).

2. If after, say, 30 minutes (despite answers to any verbal query) the "No-mayday" is still not entered by the correct person then ATC can assume a suicidal "situation" is in progress, or a extreme/unresolved air-rage.

3. If before the 30 minutes one of the pilots enters their own code for the "No-mayday", and did not mention the initial procedural error to the ATC, we have only an apparent non-suicidal hijacking, or resolved air-rage incident.

4. If at any time, after the 20 minutes, one of the other flight-crew enters their own code for the "No-mayday" we have a suicidal hijacker (who somewhat understands this system and forces the crew member to enter/divulge their code), or a "down" pilot-crew. Alternately if any of the other members enter their codes 2 times in a row (even if there are no previous indication of trouble) then the same assumptions will be made by ATC.

How do you achieve the above?

a) You tell the pilots that one or the other of them must enter their code every 15 minutes. If they do not but remember sufficiently soon then they can cancel out by entering the code and contacting/answering ATC with an apology.

b) They are advised to re-enter their code ASAP if the schedule has gone past the 30 minute point, but only if they feel that the hijacker is not about to use the plane as a weapon. If the hijacker asks what is being done (if they notice) then the pilot can be honest and state that every few minutes the code must be entered in order to not set off "alarms" (the exact result of which should not be known to the pilot either).

c) The pilot and co-pilot should enter their codes alternately. This sequence not being maintained should also ring an alert. If the sequence ends up being 4 times in a row by one pilot/co-pilot then this should also be an indication that the relatively-peaceable demeanor of the hijacker has deterorated, or if this is the first indication that anything is going wrong, that a hijack is started but cannot be evaluated yet. In that case if the one-person pattern continues for another "hour" then we are back to the suicidal hijacker situation.

d) The pilot-level crew each must know one of the cabin crews' codes (but not each other's, nor tell theirs to any of the cabin crew): Just in case they feel they can send out an immediate "mayday".

e)The cabin crew members must just be given their own codes, be told to give it out to either, or both, of the pilot-level crew and feel free to use it if forced.

The above may sound complicated but if the procedure is followed by the crew (usually they are very good at this type of check-list thinking) then it could deter incidents like those that occurred yesterday.

The only way the above could fail is if the hijacker knows the exact procedures, forces both codes out of the pilots, and knows the exact timings (even though they might be different, subtly, for each flight).

Of course, organizations like the one that planned this most recent series of incidents would know all of this, BUT imagine how complicated it would have been to ensure that this "active" procedure was kept going while trying to steer a plane hundreds of miles off course, controlling any living passengers an hitting a pin-point target?

It would be like doing twice as much Mission-Impossible-like work at the same time. It might have required 2 more hijackers per plane!

Mayday Code (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by Steve B on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:16:20 PM EST

The obvious companion is to have a few other codes in the same format which do indicate trouble. That introduces a great deal of uncertainty into any attempt to force a crew member to give up the "all's well" code.

[ Parent ]
The idea is to NOT have a single "all's well& (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by nogardnep on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 02:11:16 PM EST

It is unreasonable to expect EVERY cabin crew member to think well on their feet/no crack under direct violent pressure.

Therefore, depending on the circustances, their only known code is effectively an immediate, or eventual, "mayday". They do not have to think. I.e. if forced, used the code; if forced not to, do not use the code; if given a clear opportunity, use the code - even if wrong the worst case scenario is a F16 pilot waving the plane down from 50 feet away.

Only the pilots can be given the responsibility to say "maybe things are not so bad" and even then both would have to co-operate. It is easier to do nothing than to slip-in an unnoticed code-entry.

The overall system would be unlikely to be breached no matter what the threats or screaming came from hijackers. As long as the pilots were trained sufficiently to make sure that "false positives" did not show up more than once-a-week, let us say, then these mistakes would just be fodder for good, but unplanned, drills.

Even if the transponder was fried the hijackers would not get any positive result out of it.

If each transmission was encrypted by a different key then unless the hijackers had hacked the transponder-servicer's systems, and forced the specific transponder months before onto that plan, there just would be no way of breaking "the system".

It might even be a good idea to publicize the general idea, without stating which parameters would actually vary, this would give pause to any hijackers because although they would perhaps know where to attack the system they would realize also just how much more difficult a hijacking would be and thus be detered.

If even 90% of keep-it-secret hijackings could be detered this way maybe the odds of anything ever actually happenning would decrease to effectively 0 in the next N years.

At the very least no-one would attempt 4 simultaneous attacks again.

Human nature, and training, up-to-now dictated that everyone would walk to the back of the plane like sheep, when any weapon was leveled.

With a scheme like this human nature would be very unpredictable. There is no way that the hijacker could know if the "all clear code" was actually entered/divulged by both pilots. Even immediately after it is done. It would also keep the pilots alive, just in case they could provide more information/codes.

[ Parent ]
Re: pilot/passenger seperation... (4.50 / 2) (#18)
by Kasreyn on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 08:37:11 PM EST

I was going to suggest there be a door which is locked from the pilots' side, but this won't work. What will happen is the hijackers will commandeer one of the stewardesses' microphones and let the pilots listen to a passenger being executed every minute until they open the door. So there clearly can't be a door there!

An idea I came up with, which is possibly too drastic: Have airlines come with a supply of a powerful sleeping gas prepared so it can be rapidly mixed in with the oxygen in the cabin, and have the controls be handled by the pilots. In a worst case scenario, they can hopefully knock out all the passengers. And airport security will have a lot easier time catching gas masks than knives...

Just a thought, comments are welcome because I just came up with it and I'm sure I've not seen all the angles yet.


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Won't work =( (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by mold on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:33:46 AM EST

Oxygen masks are standard safety equipment.

Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
[ Parent ]
that doesn't really matter (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by boxed on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 03:34:21 AM EST

In a hostage situation you'd rather get sedated than jump up for the oxygen masks with the risk of the hijackers thinking you're trying to get to a weapon. The hijackers will probably not be sedated but the great thing about this idea is that the passengers are unconcious and therefor can't be tortured, and there will be no screams so the hijackers can't prove they're killing people.

[ Parent ]
Gas has very large safety problems (none / 0) (#37)
by Anonymous 242 on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 11:43:04 AM EST

Given the significant number of people that would have adverse (and quite possibly life-threatening) reactions to gas due to alergies, asthma, or other medical condition, dropping gas on a full flight of a mid-sized passenger plane is likely to be much more dangerous than going after a terrorist with a gun (with chances of hitting innocents and other associated risks).

There is absolutely to way to guarantee against this type of orchestrated attack. We can make it highly unlikely through a large force of arms or entirely restraining all passengers through the entire flight, but it seems to me that the trade-offs involved are not worth it.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

How about cutting oxygen suppy? (none / 0) (#38)
by panum on Sat Sep 15, 2001 at 05:22:58 AM EST

How about an sysem that cuts down the oxygen supply in the cabin? There are oxygen masks, but they could be overriden as well. After a while, everyone would fall unconsious well before they suffocate. True, some passengers might suffer injuries from this technique, but it might be lesser of the two evils.


-- I hate people who quote .sigs
[ Parent ]
How long would that take? (none / 0) (#40)
by Anonymous 242 on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 11:14:21 AM EST

How about an sysem that cuts down the oxygen supply in the cabin?
I'm pretty certain that such would take too long. Passenger airlines are pretty large on the insides.

Restraining every single passenger for the entire duration of the flight would be far more effective and less dangerous.

Unless a hijacker escaped from the restraints, that is.


Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

In-flight Security (5.00 / 1) (#19)
by Daemosthenes on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 08:45:19 PM EST

I think one aspect which really should be focused on is in-flight security. The FAA has already instituted programs such as the Sky Marshals in the early 70's, as well as the Air Marshals in the mid eighties. These are an elite force of highly trained plainclothes security officers who board flights everyday to protect against hijackings.

Unfortunately this elite force cannot board every flight, so they tend to focus more on flights to and from "problem-spots" for terrorism. Obviously, this would of had no effect on the flights of Sept. 11; all of them were domestic flights flying between cities with no or very little terrorist activity.

We obviously can't have sky marshals riding each plane. This means that there are pretty much two ways we could go about increasing in-flight security. Firstly, we could put soldiers of some kind on every flight, such as the Israeli forces mentioned below. They might not be the elite Air Marshals, but an army officer with a Colt M4 is definitely going to dissuade hijackers armed with box cutters. Of course, this solution might be uneededly draconian, and assault rifles tend to do bad things to a plane flying at 40,000 feet. The other solution I can see is to institute some kind of security training for the flight crew. If we give the flight crew basic training on self defense, and we give them access to some kind of security shutoff of access to the cockpit I feel it would be quite a bit safer. We wouldn't necessarily have to put in airtight titanium unbreakable etc. cockpit to cabin doors for all the time; if there was just some way for the pilots to secure the doors to give them enough time to mayday, it would serve its purpose. Also, if the pilots were roughly trained in self defense/personal combat, they might just have a chance to disarm terrorists with knives or other weapons.

All this doesn't mean giving every stewardess a gun; I'm not ESR. I just think some type of better in flight security is really necessary in addition to airport and ground security.

Another idea. Bear me out on it. (4.00 / 2) (#22)
by Apuleius on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 12:30:58 AM EST

America's trains were once the envy of the world. Given 5 years and a decision in that direction and America's trains will once again be the envy of the world. Trains are not invulnerable. They can be hijacked, turned runaway, bombed, and derailed, but they can't be slammed into buildings, and in each of the 4 cases above the staff and passengers have better options for saving themselves than air travelers. Remote-controlled emergency brakes can be made unreachable on the train itself, which takes care of runaways and makes hijackings less likely. Derailments already take some skill because of sensors. Luggage bombs are less useful because the luggage car rides in back and can be detached for a getaway, automatically, even. Bombs brought aboard with a passenger are a problem the Europeans have learned to deal with.

There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Great idea but... (5.00 / 1) (#26)
by physicsgod on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 03:16:57 AM EST

I love the idea of increasing train traffic, especially for freight. But there's going to be a need for high speed transcontinental travel, and unless you want to develop the ballistic continent jumper (and you think noise complaints about airports are bad) we'll need jet planes.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
always a weakest link (5.00 / 4) (#28)
by ant on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 03:54:40 AM EST

From the place I watch the world, I see this as a situation of there being countless possible tools of attack (airplanes-as-missiles being one of them), with people focusing on eliminating one of them (airplanes) as a practical tool.

It is like a person who thinks he is invulnerable, but is then stabbed in the hand by someone with a knife. Shocked, but still thinking he is invulnerable everywhere else, he devises a thick protective covering for his hand. It's very restrictive, but it keeps his hand from being stabbed. He doesn't realize that the person with the knife still has an vast number of other places to stab him. "weakest link" "lowest-hanging fruit" "front door bolted but the back door wide open" also come to mind.

Airplane-as-missile was likely one of more efficient means of attack available (as far as result yielded from effort). Make airlines ironclad secure and you just make the next-best tool attractive to an attacker. Going back to the person with the knife model, it seems like the best solution is to find out why the person with the knife is stabbing you (which requires listening sincerely, something politicians have trouble doing, let alone talking sincerely).

Find the problem at the source, that way you avoid chasing all the fan-out of its effects.

Well, that's what things look like in my little world.

Absolutely (none / 0) (#29)
by pranshu on Thu Sep 13, 2001 at 06:30:19 AM EST

What a concept! Making things work properly rather than devising ever cleverer ways to fix them when they break

[ Parent ]
It seems the DOT/FAA have chosen the wrong path (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by yuri on Fri Sep 14, 2001 at 02:56:25 AM EST

Although even the FAA and DOT web sites do not list the details of the new security measures, it has been widely reported that they are enforcing the following new security measures:

-no curbside/hotel check-in
-all passengers must go to ticket counter
-you are no longer allowed to carry pocket knives on planes!!!!!! ;-)
-federal marshals will be stationed on (some?) flights
-no more steak knives with your meal
-planes will be searched between flights

I have to say that these new regulations are pretty silly. Not only will they hurt the economy by slowing airline travel needlessly, they do little towards stopping the type of terrorist attacks we saw this week.

The details of the new security are scant, if anyone is travelling this week, please give us first hand accounts of what you observe. Are the marshals uniformed? Are you allowed carry-on? Was your carry-on searched? Was the cockpit accessible during boarding? Was there an additional delay for a sweep of the plane? Does anyone looking like a pilot or airline employee automatically get past security/onto the plane without a check? Do you see any other silly security procedures?

From the comments thus far, I guess I like the no-carry-on idea, federal marshals (not in uniform) I gladly accept. It seems the separation of pilots from crew/passengers is a popular concept, but hard to implement on current planes.

One idea that has not received much mention yet, but one that I believe will be powerful, is to require passports of all people on domestic flights and to run an automatic security check on all passengers (by photo and name/passport) against a terrorist database. Sure it would cost a bundle and take a while to implement correctly, but many of the hi-jackers names and photo's were known to the fbi/cia/nsa before they attacked and could have been stopped. I would gladly give a finger print/voice match/photo match if I could curb-side check and carry-on my shaving kit.

What do you say?

Pattern recognition technology (none / 0) (#39)
by darekana on Sun Sep 16, 2001 at 10:49:23 AM EST

Couldn't it be put to use identifying possible knives or blades... and put a red box around it for the bored person checking the xray? Doesn't have to be 100% accurate, but it would probably help. Maybe with spiffy FFX glowing effects to help keep em awake.

naked, drugged and strapped to your seat. (4.00 / 1) (#41)
by belial on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 10:56:37 PM EST

no worries though, you'll be safe.

Air Travel Security: The Future | 42 comments (42 topical, 0 editorial, 0 hidden)
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