HOUSE AVIATION SUBCOMMITTEE HEARING FOCUSES ON SECURITY
Lawmakers and aviation industry leaders stressed that airport security is essential to repair the injured status of the American airport system.
Federal Aviation Administrator Jane Garvey and Isaac Yeffet, former director general of El-Al Airlines, said cargo and luggage, as well as passengers, should be subject to security clearance, during testimony before the House Aviation Subcommittee Friday.
“With respect to cargo-only flights, we have allowed them to resume operations after thorough searches of all aircraft and cargo containers,” said Garvey. “Carriers must verify the identification of and search crew members as well as guard and secure planes overnight.”
Yeffet, former director general of security for El-Al airlines, suggested that America follow El-Al’s security measures. He said that American airports would be more secure if they would hire more reliable security personnel, in addition to deploying high technology for screening of passengers and luggage.
“New technologies for screening passengers and luggage in airports could be more effective by integrating the human operator more fully into the security system,” he said. Yeffet and others in the hearing said the United States needs to support an air marshal program, which would put armed officials on board flights to quell passenger disturbances.
Garvey mentioned new safety measures pertaining to cargo that have been implemented since the Sept. 11 tragedy, in which four planes were hijacked in terrorist attacks.
“Although initially no cargo or mail was permitted on passenger flights, we have now allowed a carrier to accept cargo from shipping companies with well-documented, established relationships with the air carrier, or from freight forwarders with FAA-approved security programs,” Garvey said.
Almost all lawmakers who offered opening statements said that luggage and passengers should be screened with high-resolution technology. Stressing that point, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Calif., said, “As far as I am concerned, I want scanners in the airport that would be good enough to detect a tumor in my mother’s breast.”
Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., who chairs the committee, said last Tuesday’s terrorist attacks not only killed thousands of people and left many Americans bereft, it had many lasting implications on the economy. “That is probably one target that has been hit the hardest, our economy.”
While lawmakers discussed new measures however, others saw room for criticism. “Air cargo security measures have been lacking, and in some ways the FAA has been very complacent,” said Mark Davis, principle of Mercury Aviation. Davis said that, while it is good that Congress is addressing aviation security more recently, there exists an oversight that eludes cargo issues and focuses primarily on passenger security. “I think they are more concerned about reinforcing that side of the business,” he said. He added that security in the U.S. aviation system was not a problem that occurred only recently. “There has always been room for improvement (in aviation security) as far back as the early '90s.”
Rep. William Lipinski, D, Ill., said that Americans will most likely fund these new security measures without question. “It seems to me that the American public will gladly pay a tax that they know will help them stay safe.”
The United States is a target for terrorists, and that all security measures should be used, Yeffet said. “Since the U.S. is the most powerful country in the world, it has also become a target for terrorism.”