Protecting the Airlines
The protection of commercial airliners and their passengers may be feasible, or at least may seem to be so, because, although there are many airports, their number is at least somewhat limited. For example, there are only some 27 major ones (along with a few thousand smaller ones) in the United States, numbers that are vastly lower than, for example, the number of highway overpasses, fast-food restaurants, or places of congregation like stadiums, theaters, churches, and assembly halls. Although there are a very large number of commercial flights—nearly 30,000 daily in the United States alone1—the protection of airliners may be a comparatively manageable problem using the relatively small number of airports as key bases for protection.
In this chapter, we consider this problem from several angles and bring up a number of issues we feel should be given more systematic attention. In addition, we specifically assess the cost-effectiveness of measures designed to prevent a direct replication of a 9/11-type hijacking and of the full-body scanners that are designed to deal with the problem of smuggled plastic explosives.
The protection of airliners may be particularly important because, unlike the destruction of other modes of transportation, the downing of an airliner (or, especially, of two or three in succession) does seem to carry with it the special dangers of a widespread and at least somewhat lingering