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Since 2 November 2001, all commercial airlines have installed steel bars such that cockpit doors can be locked from the pilot's side.

This step alone could have prevented the WTC bombing. In fact a yet stronger barrier would be the best single defense against aircraft hijacking.

The North American air-traffic-control system was found to be quite effective—once the threat was identified. It is being further strengthened.

Congress passed legislation that the Federal Government shall play a role in hiring and training airport security personnel. Ordinarily private enterprise is more efficient than government, but in airport security, bidding competition combined with lack of uniform enforced standards led to poor or nonexistent security. It remains to be seen if government management and personnel, being phased in, can do better over the long run.

Flight personnel awareness has been markedly enhanced. Flight crews may soon carry guns.

In-flight procedures have changed to make it harder for a terrorist to commandeer a commercial aircraft.

Airport security continues to strengthen via improved facilities and personnel vigilance over check-in procedures.

How to manage a long-term fix for air travel security has still not been finally resolved but a good start has been made.

Passenger awareness has also been enhanced by all the media reports.

Air travel safety is about more than just the efficacy of pieces of equipment. It is also about the system. For example, passengers in Los Angeles, Seattle and other places have had to evacuate entire airports because of one individual slip. This happened because passenger screening is done at the main gate such that once through it, an intruder can be anywhere inside. Better would be to screen passengers by concourse or pod such that the recovery operation does not shut down the entire airport, just the local part of it. There are other means by which to accomplish this; the point is a mosaic of devices (and techniques) is more effective than a dense cluster. See Homeland Security for more.

Both space shuttle disasters were system failures , as were Apollo 1, the loss of the nuclear submarine USS Thresher (SSN-593), and the Mars Explorer. 9/11 was also a system failure. In each case, ignorance and arrogance combined to open the door to fatal conditions. System failures are a bane of modern quality control and assurance. They are also the bane of governments that have bureaucracies and vested interests foremost in mind.

Meanwhile, we offer sites for research:

Aircraft safety is a highly-specialized area and it gets a lot of press. The excellent record American carriers have established sets the world standard today. Considering that some 30,000 - 40,000 deaths per year occur on US highways, the safety record for air travel seems excellent, relatively speaking.

From 1982 - 2004, 2794 died while 2540 survived airline accidents. Over the same period more than 700,000 people died in highway accidents. Airline accidents typically do not kill everyone; nearly half can expect to survive.

Like terrorism, airline safety appears all out of proportion in media reportng. What these events share is the number dying at once. Is this a proper perspective? Maybe, maybe not, you be the judge.


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