How safe is air travel?


Do you feel that air travel will be safer now that the U.S., Canada and other countries have instituted further and more stringent security measures since the Christmas Day attempted bombing of an aircraft headed for Detroit?

Did you feel safe before that?

Following the events of 9/11, the world’s airlines moved quickly to tighten their security on all aircraft, especially those heading into the U.S. That was understandable. Four aircraft were hijacked to be used as weapons.

Then there were the alleged terrorists who tried to smuggle explosive material in liquid form on board aircraft with the intent of blowing them up. Following this action, we all were made to give up our toothpaste, bottled water, body cream and other necessities as the authorities moved to block further similar events. Many of us shook our heads in disbelief at the large containers of banned items that were collected by airport security, items which seemed to our untrained eyes as just safe, everyday household products. Who knew?

Then, there was this guy who tried to blow up an aircraft with explosives hidden in his shoe. Alert passengers denied him the opportunity. However, since then travelers have had to take off their shoes to have them scanned by airport security.

Some have complained that it is unnecessary to scan everyone’s shoes because it should be quite obvious that some people – maybe even most people – such as little old ladies would not be terrorists. The response has been that to not check everyone and to single out certain individuals who fit a certain profile will be, well, profiling. And we wouldn’t want that.

On Christmas Day, this young Nigerian fellow was caught by passengers on an aircraft bound for the U.S. trying to light something attached to his underwear. It turned out that he had explosive material in his underwear which he allegedly wanted to use to blow up the plane. Now, the authorities are confiscating matches and lighters. And they want to start checking underwear.

Two trends seem to be emerging here. One is that passengers seem to be doing what all that increased security has failed to do – protecting airline passengers. The other is that those folks responsible for our security seem to be always reacting after the fact. First, the liquids were banned after the plot was foiled, then the shoe scanning began after the so-called shoe bomber was stopped. Now, we will have to undergo more intrusive searches and soon expose ourselves completely on new full body scanning devices which would leave nothing to the imagination after the Christmas Day event.

We are sure that there have been many other attempts of terrorism which were blocked, of which we might not have been told, but that is of little comfort when we learn that some people are still getting through by using new methods for which airport security were not prepared.

Then again, these methods are not really new to people in drug enforcement. Maybe Homeland Security in the U.S. and our Border Security Agency should talk to the folks in drug enforcement about how to spot and find contraband hidden on the person without us having to have all our business exposed to some guy in a room at the airport.

The other concern, of course, is the exposure to radiation from the x-ray machines. The “experts” have already started telling us that the radiation from these machines will be low-level and not harmful. What about the frequent traveler?

A recent report has suggested that radiation from x-rays and CT scans may be responsible for an increase in cancer deaths.

Are our security people saving us from one kind of death only to expose us to another?

We put up with the inconvenience we experience at the airports since 9/11 because we believe it is for our safety. But, how safe are we really?



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