Armed guards at major airports, closer scrutiny of passengers and bags, air marshals, and cockpit door reinforcments are making airplanes and airports safer than they were a month ago, but aviation officials and experts say security lapses remain.
Today the Department of Transportation's inspector general released a report on the use of high-tech equipment at the nation's airports to scan checked bags for explosives. Airlines are now required to use these machines continuously, but the inspector general found that isn't happening.
A survey of seven major airports in the past week found a majority of the machines were not being used continuously. Some were turned off, others were staffed with screeners but no baggage was going through them, and at others baggage was going through only sporadically.
Rep. John Mica, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Aviation said, "The public would be shocked to find out how few of the new … detection machines have been operating at our nation's airports."
The inspector general also found that nearly two dozen of the machines were sitting in storage. The Federal Aviation Administration promised those would be up and running within 90 days.
The FAA has limited the number of bags a passenger can carry onto a plane. This is, in part, to allow screeners more time to carefully check each carry-on. But banned items, including small knives and box-cutters, continue to slip through the security checkpoints.
There is also concern about security checks of airport workers, who have access to the tarmac and airplanes. After the attacks, the FAA required that the identification badges of all workers be revalidated. But these employees — everyone from baggage handlers to caterers — are not required to go through metal detectors.
FAA to Announce New Measures
The FAA told ABCNEWS it plans to announce new security measures for airport workers in the near future.
In addition, airlines are beginning to reinforce cockpit doors. All of the major carriers except America West say they have already started to add devices to make the doors more secure. Northwest appears to be the furthest along — with 140 planes completed so far. Most of the major carriers expect to be finished by the beginning of November.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey told ABCNEWS that any continued security lapses show "that we have to have multiple layers. There must be multiple layers of safety. You cannot rely on any one single, one single solution."
Garvey also said: "I think every day we need to ask ourselves, as we do, are there more measures we should put in place. Are there additional steps we should take?
"Every time we learn more, every time there is an additional threat, we are putting additional measures in place," she said.
Aviation security expert Brian Jenkins, who served on the Gore Commission on Aviation Security and is now a senior adviser to the president of the Rand Corporation, says there must be a complete overhaul of security. "Congress failed to require, the airlines failed to provide, the government failed to enforce and the public failed to demand adequate aviation security," Jenkins said. "And we've paid a terrible price for that."