Security is essential in every aspect of life. For everything to run smoothly, there must be a secure and serene environment. Likewise, in airports, security is required to safeguard the passengers, staffs, cargo, and planes from malicious crime, harm, and other threats. Airport security comprises human and material resources in protecting civil aviation from illegal interferences. Airport security measures are in two types; standardized screening techniques, where all the passengers undergo metal scan detection, baggage x-rays, and risk elevation screening which includes pat-downs and strip searches (Singh and Singh, 2003). The Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-screening Systems (CAPPS II) selects the level of risk on an individual and screening is done in the search for explosives and bombs (Dempsey, 2002). There has been an increase in the recent years the use of high-risk screening which has led to more safety of commercial planes worldwide, like most, 71% of the Americans support the use of continued profiling in airport safety (Singh and Singh, 2003). In the recent past, airport security has numerously improved resulting in safer and secure airports all across the world mainly due to the rise of terrorism. However, there are many complaints from passengers due to the long waiting time causing inconveniences (Dempsey, 2002). 

Airport security instruments 

The technology used in security processes

Screening is done to identify illegal substances in the luggage carried by the passengers and non-passengers when in sterile areas in the airport possess illegal substances (Dempsey, 2002). Airport security also incorporates hand searches as well as the use of technical devices which maintain a speed of services and comfort making the aviation industry different from other means of transportation. Passengers, carry-on baggage and checked baggage are screened using security systems technology. (McLay et al. 2006).  

X-ray is the most commonly used for screening baggage where computer-aided or conventional smart x-ray is used. If there is any potential threat risk, the smart aided computer x-rays detect and also give the location of the risk. The risk is evaluated by the personnel after it has been highlighted in the screen by the x-ray (Dempsey, 2002). Nowadays, due to the rise of terrorisms, EDS (Explosive Detection Systems) and ETD (Explosive Trace Device) are used in detecting any trace of explosives in baggage (McLay et al. 2006). EDS is currently being used in the U.S where there is also the incorporation of tomography, which generates images of risks in the baggage and displays in on the screen for proper scrutinizing.  The ETD is useful when it comes to detection of explosives by use chemical analysis in the baggage. The computer tomography (CT) scanners are used in cases where there is suspicion of any kind in the luggage. CT scanners are although slower and therefore able to identify the slightest possibility of explosive (Singh and Singh, 2003). However, the CT scanners in the US are not used in scanning the entire luggage but rather a portion of it due to its slowness. 

 When it comes to the case of the passenger screening, there is the use of hand-held metal detectors and walk-through x-rays scanners. The x-rays used is of low intensity, and although its criticism, the U.S in August 2012 started full-body screening (Singh and Singh, 2003). X-rays are not used when it comes to items such as films. Films can be damaged when passed through x-rays, and thus the passenger is allowed to have them instead of leaving them to pass through the x-ray scanners (McLay et al. 2006). It is relatively difficult to determine the presence of a bomb in electronic devices such as laptops. In this aspect, the bearer is supposed to turn on the electronic gadget (Sahin, 2009). Although there are skilled criminals who can implant a bomb in a working laptop, there are more stiff ways of identifying those bombs. The use of chemical sniffers is common in many airports. The chemical sniffer work in a manner that it analyzes any chemical that may be used in making an explosive (Sahin, 2009). The sniffers also work in hand in determining narcotics.      

Because these processes of screening take much time, there is pressure to implement procedures that are more efficient and effective (Sahin, 2009). Therefore there is the integration of biometric technologies which recognize, encode and keep a person’s information regarding physical traits such as hand geometry, face, and fingerprints.  The technology stores this information through the help of computer hardware and software in order to identify in the future, the level of risk levels of an individual. Biometrics makes it very fast and minimizes personal prejudices and therefore its an efficient application in aviation security maintenance (Sahin, 2009). Apart from the use of biometrics, there are other methods used to maintain the safety of baggage like the use of sniffer dogs in detecting drugs and explosives and also letting the passengers carry with them their baggage (Price and Forrest, 2016). The special dogs (K-9 units) are trained to sniff any odors emitted by bomb-making chemicals as well as those from drugs (Price and Forrest, 2016). A K-9 which is accurate and incredibly fast, barks at any suspicious package or bag alerting the security personnel.

Profiling in security processes.

Profiling is another method used to enhance the security of airports. Profiling is generally used in defining and determining terrorist attacks and capturing money launderers, illegal immigrants, petty thieves, and drug smugglers. This is done by detecting unusual behavior or abnormal behavior in the document verification process (Price and Forrest, 2016). Profiling was considered one of the best ways of identifying hijackers due to the rise of hijacking between 1968 to 1972 (McLay et al. 2006), where the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) used profiling to curb such events. However, profiling was abandoned in the mid-1970s due to its ineffectiveness and replaced with x-ray technology. The x-ray technology has led to a decrease in aircraft hijackings (Price and Forrest, 2016).  

The human factor in airport security

Security personnel are vital in aviation security as the use the technologies and procedures involves them significantly. As technology reduces human error that comes from fatigue, stress, monotony, and boredom and allowing mass production, human efforts are indispensable in regard to the quality used of the technology (McLay et al. 2006). Many employees working in airports are involved directly or indirectly in security procedures, either working on the ground or as a flight crew. While many people tend to think that keeping people who are flying away from the check-in would reduce instances of passengers bringing guns, this cannot be possible as there is no way one can restrain those flying from saying goodbye to their loved ones (Price and Forrest, 2016). However, constructing airports where the passengers do not enter the terminal would require massive infrastructure. One of the best ways that are being incorporated nowadays is the use military in the airports. Having military-style security would instill fear in an individual trying to have malicious acts in the presence of the crowd (Sahin, 2009).

The TSA (Transport Security Administration) is always on the front line in the country to ensure that what happened in 9/11 hijacking where box cutter blades and knives were used, does not have a place in the modern world. The publication of reviews of everything confiscated at checkpoints is an effort giving assurance to the public that they are still saving lives and stopping terrorism (Price and Forrest, 2016). In 2016 TSA was able to confiscate 2815 loaded guns at checkpoints (Zheng et al. 2017). Still, in 2016, a number of attacks were carried out by terrorist here in the US and other countries. For instances; Istanbul, Moscow, Mogadishu, and Karachi there were attacks that left nearly 200 lives taken out as well as injuring hundreds of others. On (Zheng et al. 2017). August 2017 at JFK airport, there was mass evacuation from the terminal as people were clouded at a bar watching an athletic event on TV (Zheng et al. 2017). Such places where there is overcrowding offers a target for a terrorist to do his magic.

The first line of defense.

It is not possible for a terrorist to by-pass the metal detectors, sniffing dogs and the luggage if possible passes undetected, and therefore the terrorist would think the best ways to get into the plane is by use of fences or driving a truck to an area that is more sensitive in an airport. However, this it is not even near possible as the first line of defense starts from the obvious: barriers fences and walls. There is regular scanning of the perimeter trying to identify any cases of interferences with the fence. The sensitive parts like the terminals, fuel depots and baggage handling facilities are heavily guarded through constant monitoring and more fences with security points (Zheng et al. 2017). The gates are monitored by use of either surveillance cameras or guard stations or both.  Also, there are substantial concrete barriers used for restricting any large moving trucks for easy scanning. This is done to reduce the instances of any malicious person to drive past the gates to parking areas (Zheng et al. 2017). Another necessity that is put in place is by not allowing any vehicle parked close to the terminals. 

Through the gates, there is tight security as there is confirmation of the identity of travelers through checking of photo ID and driver’s license and a passport. However, this is not thorough. Therefore the use of biometrics is inevitable. Checking of fingerprints, facial patterns by use complex software in order of determining any facial correlation to a potential terrorist and retina scans are used (Sahin, 2009). There are continuous developments of better and smarter computer software that exceedingly monitor the passengers. The development of CAPPS II (Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) hope to aid in enhancing security as it supposed to collect more data from the passenger when they apply for their passports. The Homeland Security Department predicts that CAPPS II will have faster check-in for the average travelers (Sahin, 2009). 

After the 9/11 attack, a month later the President signed a new law that majored on the aviation security. TSA (Transport Security Administration) was established under the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Sahin, 2009). The work of TSA was to prevent airport attacks, preventing accidents and deaths which may be caused by the transportation of hazardous materials and ensuring passengers safety and security. When boarding, security is also very tight as one cannot carry any explosives, knives or guns. 

Air Marshals 

The last line of defense is the air marshal. Air marshals are federal agents made to look like a regular passenger and allowed to carry guns. If a terrorist still finds a way to get onto the plane with a weapon, it is the duty of the air marshal to take control of the situation. However, not every flight has an air marshal because they are few (Dampsey, 2002). However, there is no precise figure of how many are they and which flight has one. Nowadays the cockpits are locked to keep off any unauthorized personnel in case of hijacking.

A report made in March 2004 by the GAO (Government Accountability Office) stated that still there was a problem of hiring, training and deploying screener workforce (Price and Forrest, 2016). Shortage of staffing and TSA’s process of hiring go on hindering its ability to screenings its staff at checkpoints. There were also delays in implementing of CAPPS II where the date of completion is unknown (Price and Forrest, 2016). The report also indicated the need to increase the number of air marshals. Also, a recent investigation by the Homeland Security Department found that some marshals were associated with misconduct like getting drunk and sleeping while on duty (Price and Forrest, 2016). The report finalized citing fear with the security experts, baggage handlers, technicians, and mechanics as they are not screened and may be agents of terrorism (Price and Forrest, 2016).


Airport security is paramount in the modern world. There must be enough safety measure that needs to be put in place in order to ensure that flights are safer than any other form of transportation. However, this sometimes is not the case as terrorist always find a way to outsmart the security personnel and end up hijacking the planes where in results they leave hundreds of passenger dead. The use of trained airport staffs who have the knowledge of determining the slightest change of behavior in a passenger is essential. The modern use of technology like CCTV, electric fences, and body scanners is airport is paramount. There should be a proper screening of the personnel who work at the airport to minimize cases of air attack. The number of air marshals should also be increased from the current to ensure that at least every flight has more one air marshal. This will go hand in hand in reducing the number of hijackings. As these screening equipment are used, there should be a consideration of time spent when undergoing the screening process. In future, faster and more secure machines should be considered for customer satisfaction. 


McLay, L. A., Jacobson, S. H., & Kobza, J. E. (2006). A multilevel passenger screening problem for aviation security. Naval Research Logistics (NRL)53(3), 183-197.

Dempsey, P. S. (2002). Aviation security: the role of law in the war against terrorism. Colum. J. Transnat’l L.41, 649.

Singh, S., & Singh, M. (2003). Explosives detection systems (EDS) for aviation security. Signal processing83(1), 31-55.

Price, J., & Forrest, J. (2016). Practical aviation security: predicting and preventing future threats. Butterworth-Heinemann.

Sahin, H. (2009). A mathematical framework for sequential passenger and baggage screening to enhance aviation security. Computers & Industrial Engineering57(1), 148-155.

Zheng, Y. J., Sheng, W. G., Sun, X. M., & Chen, S. Y. (2017). Airline passenger profiling based on fuzzy deep machine learning. IEEE transactions on neural networks and learning systems28(12), 2911-2923.

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