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AIR TRAVEL SECURITY: Let’s EL AL it.

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In the aftermath of what appears to be the worst terrorist act in US history, the question that hasn’t yet reached the American population but will eventually is ” How did this happen?”. Without looking at the political aspects of our crisis and only looking at it from a mechanical logical process, only leads me to believe that the way in which we allowed the government to handle Airport Security is at the forefront.   Not that the terrorists would not have found some other way, but what I am ticked off about is the easy way we handed them this one on a silver platter.

Like a lot of citizens of Coral Springs I do my fair share of traveling. The events of this week will not stop me from flying or from visiting New York.  In fact, I will not change the way I enjoy life one iota. I could only say that I will be a little more nervous in my flying experience. If I was able to change things for my future benefit and safety what would I do to make our Air travel more secure?

Our air travel security should be up to the standards of EL AL the Israeli airline. Everyone in the industry will tell you that EL AL security is the ‘Top of the Line”.

I am sure that you can agree with me that the people who handle security at airports are not the top line security agents. In fact many times I used to laugh at just how lax they were. One of my friends indicated that he once had to wake up the security agent watching the TV Screen attached to that x-ray machine checking to see if any hidden devices, knives, guns etc. were in a bag. She was in fact snoring as he would describe.  I asked him what did he do about it. He said he laughed. Now, he said that he would do what I would, and call over her superintendent and demand that security be checked.  After all we are paying for the security at the airports and we should get our moneys worth. Or are we?

“EL AL” Sky Marshals.

EL AL has between 2-4 specially trained security people on every flight that they fly. They use retired Shein Bet officers which is the equivalent of our FBI. These officers under the cover of airline staff are also attached to the traffic counter at the airport to scrutinize the travel documents of the passengers and study their psychological profile. Those responsible for in-flight security duties are issued with weapons with specially-designed low-intensity, low-impact bullets, which would enter the human body, but not exit. To prevent damage to the aircraft in cross-fire, the fuselage is amour-plated.

These security measures have ensured the 100 per cent security of El Al flights. While El Al’s airport and off-airport facilities have been subject to frequent terrorist attacks, an El Al flight was successfully hijacked only once in 1968.

Their Sky Marshals are not in uniform and no one knows who they are. But they are there on every airplane ready to protect the passengers and crew.  Suppose I told you that every airplane taking off in the United States can be manned by a least one EL AL style Sky Marshal. There are plenty of retired FBI , NSA, and CIA agents out there that have the necessary training and intelligence to carryout this task.  All any airline would have to charge us $10 more per ticket. Think about it. With the average plane holding 100 people the airline collects $1000 and pays the Sky Marshall. They still have money left over for other security measures. I would be willing to pay the extra $10.00 per ticket to guarantee more safety for my family and me. You would too.

EL AL Style  Security Before Boarding the Aircraft

All the airlines in the United States and traveling to the united States follow the FAA guidelines for security. They rely on the airports to hire the right company to perform the security function.  They farm out the security to the lowest bidder who pays their employees the minimum wage. What we end up with is minimum security performed by minimum wage personnel. Even the farm workers that pick fruits and vegetables in our fields get paid more money. They probably could do the job better. This week the FAA announced that the security at airports will be performing random checks on luggage. You mean to tell me that luggage hasn’t been checked before? EL AL security people check every bag that goes onto their plane. No exceptions. They check every person prior to boarding. No exceptions.  Nothing gets on without them checking it. The Boarding pass is only a privilege given to you by EL AL. If they do not like something they will not let it pass. Better be safe then sorry. Our current security is based on how fast they can get the aircraft boarded and on to the destination. We need properly trained personnel military style that can pass the EL AL security fitness test.

Replace Black Box with Constant Streaming Communications

EL AL airplanes have well-concealable transmitting sets to discreetly transmit to the ground all the happenings in the cabin if the plane is hijacked. The plane has concealed cameras in the cockpit, cabin and toilets. We should have constant streaming communication link to the ground . There would be no need for a “Black Box” that has to be recovered to determine what happened, as the uplink to ground is constant. Given our level of technology, certainly this would be an easy feat, considering that the passengers aboard all of the high jacked aircraft were able to use cellular phones to communicate their status. It would not be expensive to implement and it would save lives in the future. 

None of these concepts are new to the Airline industry and the FAA. They have been studying them for years.  The reasons why they haven’t been implemented are numerous and without merit. Most involve the perceived unwillingness of the United States citizen to put up with the delays and the searches. Others involve the unwillingness of the FAA to force our airlines to bring up their security measures, and government red tape.

Now that this disaster has happened, I believe that in order for the airlines to survive in future, they must take measures to guarantee survival of their passengers. We should demand that our Airline industry involve the “El AL” standard for security. Any Airline that should put into place these standards should get all of our business no matter if their ticket prices are higher.  How much is the security of your family worth? Certainly not the cheapest seat on the worst secure airline.

Think about it: If we only spent a few more dollars on Air Travel security, like EL AL, the New York / D.C disaster may have been averted. Even if we are a target for terrorism why make it easy for them?

Other Links of interest:

http://www.sacbee.com/news/projects/terror/airline.html

http://www.orientaviation.com/pages/back_issues/00_07_08/OA_V7N9_BidHaltFAASafe.html

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-091301security.story

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Howard Melamed

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