By: Patricia Malone, Interim Director of Aviation
The alleged attempted terrorist bombing Christmas Day 2009 by a Nigerian passenger on an overseas flight has once again brought focus to the challenges the airline industry faces in providing safe air travel for the flying public. As the government investigation continues to try to identify the breakdown in the security process overseas, whatever changes are made to screening there will most likely affect every passenger sooner or later.
Most of the immediate revisions in screening are focused on international travel, however screening for domestic travel will see some changes as well. Many airports are now using the millimeter wave machines with a pat-down option. Currently, there are 19 airports where millimeter wave machines have been deployed. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recently purchased 150 backscatter machines and has secured funding for an additional 300 imaging technology units. A total of 300 units are slated for deployment during 2010. There has been some reluctance on the part of many travelers to accept this new technology. However, it seems the American public is beginning to soften its objection to what some deem privacy issues that the use of this type of equipment has been accused of violating. In testing this technology at six airports where it is in the primary position, more than 98 percent of passengers chose millimeter wave technology screening over other options. Imaging technology safely screens passengers for metallic and nonmetallic threats including weapons, explosives and other objects concealed under layers of clothing without physical contact and is optional to all passengers. The privacy-filtered backscatter image looks like a chalk outline of a person’s body. A millimeter wave image looks much like a fuzzy negative and the images are viewed by screeners on monitors at a closed location. In a recent USA Today Gallup Poll, 78% of respondents approved of the use of full-body scanners at airport security checkpoints.
At Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the safety of our passengers, employees and surrounding communities is our first priority. Working with the Jefferson and St. Charles Parishes’ Sheriff Departments, L&R Security and the TSA, the New Orleans Aviation Board takes the steps necessary to ensure a safe environment. We also request the assistance of our passengers. If anything that a passenger might deem as suspicious at Armstrong International Airport is seen, they may use one of the white courtesy phones located throughout the terminal to alert airport personnel. They may also contact an airport employee for assistance. Anticipating any threat and acting on it before it leads to accidents is vital to safety.
Zero accidents is the ultimate goal for every airport. Air transport may not be 100% riskfree, but it is the mode of travel closest to it. The New Orleans Aviation Board will continue to focus its efforts on providing a safe environment at Armstrong International.