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Traveling? Be ready for tight security
FAA confronts more intense scrutiny, work load
November 25, 1996
Web posted at: 11:10 p.m. EST

Editor's Note: This is the second of a three-part series looking at airline oversight in the wake of fatal airline crashes this year.

From Correspondent Al Hinman

ATLANTA (CNN) -- If you're flying somewhere for Thanksgiving, be prepared for packed airplanes and new, tougher security procedures. The heightened security is prompted by the still-unexplained explosion that brought down TWA Flight 800.

Be prepared for a security-related slowdown. As you stand in long, slow-moving lines, remember -- the changes are aimed at making the skies safer.


Some things, though, are quite familiar. Bags still go through the X-ray machine, and passengers still go through the metal detector. "I think it's OK," said one traveler, "but at some airports I think there should be a little more security."

Other things are different. If you haven't traveled recently, you may not be aware that you need a photo ID to get on the plane. Be prepared to show such an ID, and answer some security questions -- or miss your flight.

Security is tighter at all U.S. airports than it was this time last year. Every major airport will have to add more sophisticated passenger- and baggage-screening systems. The upgrade will cost taxpayers at least $144 million.

The final tab could run into the billions as airports are encouraged to install new baggage scanners. Just such a million-dollar machine, the CTX 5000, is in use in the Atlanta, New York, and San Francisco airports.


The machine is sensitive enough to detect plastic explosives, relying on the same kind of advanced, CAT scan technology used in the best medical centers.

Don't be surprised if a dog at the airport sniffs you and your bags. Hundreds of new bomb-sniffing dogs will join beefed-up security teams in coming months.

And airlines may start making sure that bags don't travel if the person who checked them in does not. The procedure is routine already on international flights, but it and the other, tougher security checks will likely become standard practice on domestic flights as well.

Coming soon, a system called "profiling," already in use on some international flights. "Prior to the passenger arriving, there will be a scale of his profile threat, given by how he purchased the ticket," said security consultant Paul Bellamy. "Is he a frequent flyer," or "if he's never flown before, and paid cash the day before."

Those and many other potential clues to passenger threats will be monitored by computers.

However, security experts say no current systems are foolproof. Except, perhaps, "to strip-search all the passengers, take away all their clothes, and don't let them fly," said Frank Baldwin, a security consultant.

Surveys show the majority of flyers are willing to pay for increased security in slightly higher ticket costs and longer waits on the way to the gate. The government, and the airlines, say they will continue to tighten the net on those who would threaten air safety.


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