Airline security starts in terminals

Tim Paluch

Interesting thing happened yesterday. There I was, taking a break from plotting another diabolical scheme to infiltrate my extreme left-wing agenda onto a newspaper with an already liberal bias, when I read about Dubya’s new $500 million airport security proposal. And for the most part, to my surprise, I agreed with our fearless leader.

I know, I know. I was just as shocked as you are.

Now before you go and toss a pig out the window to see if they’ve picked up flying skills, allow me to emphasize the “for the most part” in my previous statement.

In his proposal, Dubya pledged to upgrade security features on airplanes and in airports in hopes of preventing future hijackings.

The plan will include expanding the use of federal marshals aboard commercial airliners, spending $500 million on plane modifications – restricting the opening of cockpit doors, making the doors virtually indestructible, making the cockpit more aware of activity in the cabin.

More importantly, the Dubya plan will put the federal government in charge of airport security and screening. This will include the purchasing and maintenance of all equipment, plus the duty to supervise passenger and baggage security.

But does the Dubya plan go far enough? Dubya said implementing the proposal may take up to four to six months, during which time Congress could shoot down the measure to make airport security a branch of federal law enforcement, something some members will undoubtedly consider too costly and invasive.

The day when airport security is taken seriously is long overdue. Airport security being sub-contracted by airline industries is and never was the answer.

It’s a wage job with an extremely high turnover that is a great deal more important to this country than they are being treated like.

You don’t put the safety of millions of travelers in the hands of unskilled workers making six bucks an hour.

And airline companies interested only in profit aren’t going to dish out the cash to get skilled workers that will do their job competently.

This is where the federal government steps in. Putting airline security under governmental control may sound like a bad idea to right-wingers who think the government is too involved as it is, but people have to realize this problem starts in the airport, not the airplane.

Dubya said he isn’t in favor of arming pilots, but is in favor of putting armed marshals on planes and upgrading security doors.

These are definitely pluses and will undoubtedly increase safety on the plane once it’s in the air, but how will an armed guard stop a bomb stuffed away in a suitcase from going off?

If an assailant somehow gets a gun on the plane and holds it to the head of a passenger or flight attendant and threatens to shoot unless the marshal drops his gun, what’s going to happen?

And if we’re in the position where we need a security door so strong that in order to get through it you’d need a bomb powerful enough to destroy the plane, we’re having some security issues in the terminal.

Security on the ground is the root of the problem.

There’s no denying it – there will be a price, a hefty price, to making these adjustments. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said a total federal takeover could cost up to $1.8 billion.

Co-sponsors of a plan proposed by a bipartisan group from the Senate Commerce Committee said a ticket surcharge of up to $4 could be added to your bill if such a plan was to be implemented.

Is that too much for an added sense of security that goes beyond the Band-Aid-on-a-flesh-wound solutions of arming pilots or making doors stronger?

Some would say yes; I’d say no.

Tim Paluch is a junior in journalism and mass communication from Orland Park, Ill. He is opinion editor of the Daily.