Outlook: Aviation Security in 2016

February 02, 2016

We wrapped up 2015 attending a few aviation industry conferences, one of which was the AAAE 15th Annual Aviation Security Summit. At this particular event, we joined industry and government leaders to hear their prospective on what they believe is in store for aviation security in 2016. Hint: aviation security will remain an important challenge for regulators as well as airport operators this year.

Key discussions revolved around measures that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is taking to secure our airports and enhance airport security. We have highlighted a few of them below:

Modifications to passenger checkpoints - The TSA will be looking at changes for passenger checkpoints, particularly in light of the recent Office of Inspector General (OIG) findings. Their focus will be on detection first, followed by operational efficiency and passenger experience. They have recently undergone a reassessment of transportation security officer training ensuring that the officers operate the checkpoint screening technologies to maximize the detection capabilities of the equipment.

Increase in pre-check programs for passengers - While the focus has been shifted back to detection at the passenger checkpoint the TSA is aware that operational efficiency and passenger experience cannot be overlooked. In light of this, the TSA is hoping to move more passengers through the pre-check program, which allows for expedited screening. The TSA is also looking at bringing more automation to the passenger checkpoints and bringing improved walk-through metal detectors, all to move passengers through the process as effectively and quickly as possible.

Increase in airport personnel screening – Currently, there are no regulations that require physical screening/inspection of individuals who have valid airport ID badges to access the Security Identification Display Area (SIDA). Currently, when airport workers apply for an airport badge a process is begun that authenticates the worker’s identification and runs a criminal history records check as well as a security threat assessment of each applicant. Due to recent events at US and international airports, the attention has turned to how to best inspect airport workers who have access to the sterile and secure areas of an airport. For more information on airport personnel screening and our thoughts on the topic, check out our previous blog post.

Checked baggage screening will remain a costly and difficult issue – The current process by which technologies are certified for detection and then qualified for operational effectiveness has proven to be a long and costly process. The only explosive detection system (EDS) operating in US airports are medium speed machines. To date no high speed EDS has been placed on TSA’s qualified product list. At a time when US airports are seeing more traffic than ever, high speed scanning allows more than 900 bags per hour (and in the case of Rapiscan’s RTT110, up to 1,800 bags per hour) to be screened.  With US airports not having the option to implement a high speed screening system many feel that they are not able to stay competitive with foreign airports and they are forced to have large systems with more machines to be able to meet capacity requirements. 

With more than 2,000 passenger screening checkpoints, and responsibility for screening baggage at more than 450 airports, the TSA has a daunting and unenviable task. They are responsible for keeping our skies safe and all of the above initiatives are being carried out while the TSA is simultaneously deciding the best way to operationalize risk-based security. Airports, TSA and original equipment manufacturers – responsible for bringing technologies to market that can meet the growing needs of airport security – face a persistent and evolving enemy. However, by working together and supporting TSA in these initiatives, we are confident in the collective ability of this group to protect the safety of our borders and nation.

Filed Under: Security Roundup | Technology & Screening Solutions | Airports/Aviation Security