next time a terrorist aims a jet at building, maybe the plane
should say no.
computers that could steer airliners away from skyscrapers to
face-recognition devices already used to spot card counters in
casinos, technology could provide ways to make the skies safer,
but at a cost, experts said.
technology, which focuses on weapons searches, was bested by
terrorists armed with knives and box cutters who crashed
hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
this week. To prevent this, new security systems could be
buttressed with devices that look for terrorists before boarding
and ones that keep the plane safe, experts said.
could be linked to terrain warning systems, which the Federal
Aviation Administration already requires in new U.S. aircraft,
that show pilots what is below and recognize major landmark
buildings, for instance.
only a small step to take that, link it into the flight control
system, and voila, you have something that you can stop things
flying into buildings," said Ian Sheppard, of British
airline consultant Air Claims.
putting that technological fix into service would require
extensive testing and raise questions about taking control from
pilots, said Ron Crotty, a spokesman for Honeywell
International, which makes the terrain systems.
it is possible," he said. But it would take expensive
certification as well as modification of the systems, which sell
for around $70,000.
time you take control of the plane away from the pilot, it is a
major problem," Crotty said.
spokesman Les Dorr said his agency took a different approach:
"We really don't think that that sort of technology would
be the solution to the hijacking issue. Where technology can be
brought to bear is keeping those kinds of individuals and any
weapons off the aircraft."
FAA is already rolling out new technology, including
million-dollar, three-dimensional scanners that probe checked
baggage for bombs, comparing the density of items inside to
those of explosives. The scanners are made by InVision
Technologies, a security device maker based in Newark, Calif.
single out suitcases for scrutiny with an FAA computer system
that winnows out better-known passengers. Experts say that
probably means allowing frequent flyers to pass, for instance,
although the FAA declined to give details.
X-ray machines for carry-on luggage also will be phased in over
the next year, in which software will randomly generate images
of fake weapons to keep security staff who watch machines on
their toes, the FAA said.
stay in business they are going to have to screeners got that
meet our standards," FAA spokeswoman Rebecca Trexler said.
new machines will tell workers when they've caught fakes without
requiring packages to be opened and allow the FAA to monitor how
contract security firms are performing. The agency is seeking
other ways to improve security as well, Trexler said.
augmented X-ray machine addresses a main concern--the low level
of training for many airport workers.
can either work for McDonald's or be screeners," said Bob
Monetti, an air security advocate whose son died on Pan Am
flight 103, which exploded in December 1988 over Lockerbie,
Scotland. Monetti has since become a member of the FAA's
Aviation Security Advisory Committee.
face a tougher task now that the FAA has banned knives in the
aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks.
carries a little pocket knife," Monetti said. "To say
we will not allow anybody to carry one is somewhere between
really silly and unenforceable."
solution would be to check the people in addition to what they
are carrying, said Monetti and Francois Mesqui, chief technology
officer of InVision.
it is true that you could hijack a plane with a small knife,
there must be another security feature that we are using to make
sure that passengers going on a plane (are) offering a certain
guarantee, by themselves, that they are not dangerous
people," he said.
have already found a way to even the odds in their business.
More than 100 casinos--and two European airports--have bought
face-recognition systems from Littleton, Mass.-based Viisage
use it to filter players and suspicious people," said Derk
Boss, who uses the system to find card counters and cheats at
the Stratosphere casino in Las Vegas. He expected it would catch
terrorists, if the computer had a good database to use.
use different colored glasses and mustaches and things like
that. They'll grow a beard. And it certainly worked on
that," he said.
major airport could outfit itself with cameras and computer
systems at all the gates for hundreds of thousands of dollars,
said Tom Colatosi, Viisage CEO.
software takes 128 readings of each face and compares the result
to a database.
would mean searching for individuals, rather than using
computers to find unknowns, which some civil libertarians object
to as intrusive. But Colatosi said those concerns have faded
since the World Trade Center bombing.
see the airports here in Boston are saying no more curbside
check-in, you can't drive within 300 feet of the door, and all
those types of things," he said. "They are all going
to increase the inconvenience for the traveling public, and none
of them would have prevented the hijacking at Logan."