Securing Our Nation: Technology Front and Center in Airports
Passengers today run a security gamut at airports. An identity check, a baggage and carry-on
screen, and a barefooted walk though the magnetometer begin many air transportation journeys
nowadays. While most air travelers want and value the added security in our post 9/11 world, others
feel that the current system could be less intrusive. And additional security means extra airport
time for every trip - sometimes two hours or more in line.
Work is underway, however, to improve air transportation security so it is more efficient and
transparent to the traveler.
Last fall, the Transportation Security Administration deployed new "sniffer" technology at three
major airports. The technology analyzes samples collected by swiping the surface of a document, such
as a boarding pass or driver's license, over a collection disc and alerting the screener if
explosives residue is detected.
According to TSA, this pilot is one in a series of next-generation tools being tested, including
explosives trace detection portals, which are being tested in four airports with nearly a dozen more
to come online in the next year. Also, the Registered Traveler Pilot Program, in place at five
airports, is another innovative instrument to improve security through identity verification. And in
the air cargo arena, six airports are trying out bulk Explosives Detection Systems (EDS) to screen
elevated risk cargo.
Technology is a huge part of the security equation, but not all of it. TSA continues to refine
its screening process. In December, it issued new rules regarding "pat downs" after passengers
complained about overly intrusive screening procedures.
The long-term view on security is one of the "transformation strategies" of the Next Generation Air
Transportation System. According to the Integrated National Plan, released last month by Secretary
of Transportation Norman Mineta, "the future air transportation system will be designed with
security measures embedded and interwoven throughout the system. Security systems will operate
seamlessly across all aspects of air transportation. Airport security screening will be
non-intrusive and integrated with other airport-based processes such as check-in, customs,
immigration, agriculture screening, manifest processing and load planning."
Network enabled operations, or NEO, will be a major component of security in the future. NEO
systems will link communications across the federal agencies that handle aviation to provide a "big
picture" on air transportation information.
According the Federal Aviation Administrator Marion C. Blakey, "In terms of security, [NEO
systems will give] a shared situational awareness that we don't have, but one that's needed." She
noted that the FAA, NASA, DOD and the Department of Homeland Security are putting together a
demonstration project using NEO concepts to enhance air travel security. "The goal is to freely
share information for decision-making. By networking communications systems together, we can make a
difference right away." And making a big difference both now and in the future is what the JPDO is
Ready for the Next Giant Leap: FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference Set
What's next in commercial space in the wake of the X Prize? How will air
traffic management handle future commercial space endeavors? And what will be the "right stuff" for
tomorrow's engineers? Find out at "Ready for the Next Giant Leap," the 8th Annual Federal Aviation
Administration Commercial Space Transportation Conference, scheduled for February 10-11 in
Washington, D.C. For conference information or to register, visit
It's Not Just Another Plan, FAA Head Blakey Tells Airport Executives
When you hear Federal Aviation Administrator Marion C. Blakey talk about the Next Generation Air
Transportation System, you realize that this is not just another government plan. It's a vision
backed with existing technology and creative approaches that will change the way we fly today and in
And as she told the American Association of Airport Executives at its annual conference in Kona,
Hawaii earlier this month, everything is on the table: after all, it's about transformation.
She referred to the Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) as a "test bed for new ideas",
while making a difference operationally. One example is an upcoming demonstration project using
network enabled operations, or NEO, to provide a shared picture of the air transportation system to
all parties, including FAA, DOD and Homeland Security.
Future initiatives could be cost-effective concepts that translate into comprehensive air traffic
services at small airports. Those without radar could use inexpensive surveillance at the airport
and network that information to an air traffic controller located miles away.
JPDO is paying close attention to airports. Its airport integrated product team portfolio includes
determining which airports will need additional capacity in the future, and where demand for air
cargo activity will occur. Another topic is how airports can handle unmanned aerial vehicles or
fractional ownership of very light jets.
Administrator Blakey closed by saying that the Next Generation Air Transportation System Integrated
National Plan is an investment "we can't afford not to make."
Coordination the Key to Creating the Next Generation Air Transportation System, Says DoT Under Sec'y
Jeffery N. Shane, Under Secretary for Policy for the Department of Transportation, told the
Washington Chapter of the Transportation Research Forum that the Next Generation Air Transportation System
is about cooperation.
The major interagency, multi-year effort to transform the air transportation system requires
unprecedented cooperation among the participating agencies, he said.
The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO), which is jointly managed by the FAA and NASA and
supported by staff from all the agencies involved, now serves as a focal point for coordinating the
research related to air transportation for all of the participating agencies.
"A successful transformation will also require a close partnership with the research community,
industry and other stakeholders, and the JPDO is working to establish a formal structure within
which to manage those relationships to ensure a full public-private partnership as we move forward,"
Under Secretary Shane commented.
He added that while some have suggested that creating a Next Generation system might be "a
budget-buster and therefore a non-starter in these challenging fiscal times," nothing could be
farther from the truth. "On the contrary, we are using the JPDO process as a way to ensure full
coordination of research across agency lines, and between the government and private sector, in ways
that simply have not been done in the past. A lot of money is already being spent each year on air
transportation-related research. By better coordinating our actions and tying them to a long-term
integrated, national plan, we can maximize the benefits of those public and private investments, get
a much bigger bang for our buck, and actually save money," he said.
To read the entire speech, go to: www.dot.gov/affairs/shane011105.htm.