Can Airport Security Be Improved? April 15, 2012Posted by Peter Varhol in Technology and Culture, Uncategorized.
I fly a fair amount, perhaps a dozen or so times a year, and usually to distant locales. I’ve been to Europe five times in just over a year, and have two more such trips queued up. I know people who travel much more. My friend Jim, an application performance management architect, has been home for only two weeks since mid-January.
Unlike many people, I’m generally okay with airport security. I usually get through pretty quickly and with a minimum of hassle. I’ve committed the occasional faux paux (most recently, a 5-franc coin at the bottom of my pocket at the checkpoint in Zurich), but the response from security personnel has invariably been polite and exacting.
Clearly that hasn’t been everyone’s experience. The problem is that we are all unique in our travel needs and expectations, but inspecting thousands of people a day tends to make everyone pretty much the same.
To be fair, the security people don’t like it any more than we do. It’s a boring, monotonous job that few people respect. Kip Hawley should know; he headed the TSA for almost four years. And he’s written about how it is broken, as well as how to improve it.
His primary point is that we are striving for complete safety, when we should be looking at how to manage risk. There is no catastrophic risk in letting people bring knives on board a plane, as long as they can’t get into the cockpit. And X-ray machines today can tell if any liquid is a potential bomb, but our security masters don’t want to change a process that is just barely functional to begin with.
There’s no big revelations in his article, but it is a shift to start thinking about how we can adapt airport security to be both functional and level-headed. Part of the problem is political, of course. But in a world where we would rather inconvenience all for the sake of past offenses, his words are a welcome change of pace.