The fear of flying
I have never been afraid of flying before. But I haven’t flown since Sept. 11. You may think that I am afraid of terrorism (I am), but the fear that I must face now is airport security.
The International Wireless Communications Expo is usually my first trip of the year. In making travel arrangements this year, it hit me that I will have to go through the increased security — for good reason. But it still scares me.
I don’t have anything to hide. It’s just that I’ve heard stories of people having to take off their shoes and empty their bags and go through pat-downs. But that probably is the best way right now to prevent further incidents on planes.
It could be better, though. By increasing efficiency in airport security operations, flying can be safer. How do we do that? Through better communications, of course.
Aiports have always used radio communications, from portables to pagers. New technologies and products are on the horizon, however, that will affect the efficiency of security, thus increasing passenger convenience.
We have to be careful, though. We could go too far, increasing passenger inconvenience. Biometrics, the digital analysis of biological characteristics such as facial features, irises or fingerprints, could consume time and space in airports (according to aviation experts). And there’s always the privacy issue. Although when it comes to getting on a plane, I don’t know that we have much privacy as it is. I’m sure terrorists would love more privacy.
Other solutions are coming down the pike, though. Aether Systems is testing its software at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Massachusetts state troopers are carrying Blackberries equipped with software such as Aether’s PocketBlue. It allows officers patrolling the airport’s parking lots to check license plates and track taxi drivers’ registration. The officers also randomly talk with passengers, using the devices to check the National Crime Information Center for outstanding warrants.
ARINC and Motorola have launched a nationwide dispatch system at Newark International, Miami International and Los Angeles International. The system combines IDEN with ARINC’s communications networks. A baggage handler on one coast can speak to a customer service representative on another coast at the push of a button. The service is supposed to lead to increased operating efficiency and reduced turn-time at the gates. The handsets used in the system combine a digital wireless phone with Internet access, text messaging, two-way radio and data access.
We all know that radio improves efficiency and safety in any job. Airports must make passenger safety their first priority while weighing the importance of convenience and smooth operations. After all, people can choose not to fly.