Landside and Terminal Security Systems at Airports


The design of an airport security system is a very sensitive process that requires a lot of considerations. The main purpose of this paper is to compare the major primary considerations in the design of both landside and terminal security systems. The system reliability and security of the airport are the two major primary considerations in the design of airport security systems (Zellan, 2003). There are various elements of airport security system design that are very fundamental in the planning of an airport security system. Security parameters such as airport size, passenger throughput, secure operations and access to some designated areas are very important in designing the security system of an airport. Those in charge of designing airport security systems should consider both biological and machine elements in their design (Ashford, 1998). The space required for terminals is essential in determining how tight the security of the airport can be (Salter, 2008). The public access area that is commonly referred to as the landside area should be well equipped with security personnel and equipment since travelling passengers and other people who are not travelling have access to this area. The landside area is very threatened in terms of security because it is accessed by the public (Zellan, 2003). The cost of implementing security systems in the landside and terminal areas is very high considering type of security equipment that are supposed to be used. The need to have expensive security devices can be a major hindrance in establishing a tight airport security system. The designers of airport security systems should use minimum space for security systems so that the operational areas within the airport are not interfered with. The design of the landslide area should comply with both international and local government standards. Since the security of the airport is very important, it should be given the first priority regardless of the costs involved.

Main body

The airport terminal is a very sensitive area in terms of security because it is where passengers waiting to take their flights receive accommodation services. It is always very difficult to access the ground because of the high level of operations within the airport (Ashford, 1998). Elaborate screening equipment must be put in place as a major security precaution in both terminal and landslide areas. The airport security planners should be aware of the different types of terminals in their course of designing airport security systems. The major problem that most airport planners face is in deciding which type of security system is appropriate for a particular place. It is therefore very important for airport security planners to establish the exact locations within the airport that actually require screening facilities. The reliability of security systems within the airport is therefore a major primary consideration in the design and planning of both landside and terminal security systems (Salter, 2008). The security of the airport can be enhanced by introducing security screening equipment in terminals and landside areas to assist the screening staff in their investigative duties. All suspicious items should be thoroughly screened with the help of bomb-sniffing security dogs. To ensure that the security system is fully reliable, airport planners must ensure that all terminals and landside areas have electronic surveillance equipment to make the security system more reliable. Depending on human surveillance alone can be very dangerous at times. Full body scanners and chemical sniffing machines are essential in fostering maximum security within an airport (Salter, 2008).

The airport personnel and patrons are always at a great risk when dealing with improvised explosive devices and vehicle-born improvised explosive devices. These devices pose a major security threat in airport terminals and landside areas (Salter, 2008). This vulnerability calls for various means of mitigating the risks brought about by (IEDs) and (VBIEDs). There are three basic approaches that can be used to mitigate this kind of risks. To begin with, the security checks within the airport should be randomized as way of taking maximum precaution. All vehicles should be thoroughly screened in the airport parking areas as well as terminal roadways. All vehicle occupants should be thoroughly screened regardless of whether they are taking a flight or not. The second approach of mitigating the risks of improvised explosive devices is by putting in place a facial recognition system in strategic areas within the landside and terminal areas. A facial recognition system is essential in helping the airport security personnel to detect the presence of known or suspected terrorists within the airport. The facial recognition system also helps in detecting other criminals within the airport apart from terror suspects (Abeyratne, 2010). The third explosives risk mitigation strategy is putting random checkpoints in strategic areas within the airport to screen arriving passengers. In order to maintain vigilance, it is important to have other security checkpoints on the runway. Implementing these recommendations is always a great challenge for busy airports because of the huge volumes of arriving passengers and vehicles. Incoming vehicles can be used by terrorist to bring explosives to the airport and it is therefore very important for the airport security personnel to be very vigilant when checking incoming vehicles (Fay, 2007).

Trucks carrying things like heating oil and manure should be thoroughly checked to ascertain whether the cargo is legitimate and safe to access airport terminals. An airport should have a system dedicated to identifying both suspected and known terrorists. This ensures that the system retrieves necessary images for detecting terror suspects. The facial detection system helps the airport security personnel to quickly search through a large volume of passengers (Fay, 2007). This enables the security personnel to initiate the necessary actions to handle any security threat before take off. The facial recognition system is the best method of mitigating the risk of terrorism in commercial aviation. Most terrorists tend to avoid the facial identification software and therefore the security team should put in place other reinforcements to enhance the use of a facial recognition system. The enhancement of the facial identification software ensures that only terrorists are captured by the system. Images of all persons arriving at the airport terminal are captured and marched against the images of known and suspected terrorists present at the airport’s security database. In case of any positive information, the airport security personnel uses all the available legal means to ensure that the terror threat is averted as soon as possible (Deflem, 2008). Prompt action should always be taken before the suspected person enters the airport terminal. Suspects detected by the facial recognition system are normally isolated from the rest of the passengers and are not allowed to board any flight. Random security checks enable the airport security personnel to phase out suspect passengers through running their faces in facial recognition systems. Body checks are also done to ensure that no weapon enters the airport (Fay, 2007).

The large number of passengers in airports is a major hindrance to passenger screening due to the elaborate logistics involved. It is therefore very important to reduce the passenger through-put time in order to improve the effectiveness of passenger screening. An increase in the through-put time poses a great logistical challenge to the airport security personnel. An increase in the number of passenger throughput time is a major cause of congestion in airports especially for commonly used airlines (Deflem, 2008). A lot of manual screening has its negative economic impacts because it can lead to delayed flights in addition to the large number of security personnel required. The use of portal technologies is an appropriate method of decreasing passenger throughput time for an effective security system. In order to reduce the passenger wait-time, the airport security personnel can employ the use of explosives detection systems in order increase the speed of passenger screening and at the same time increasing the efficiency of security systems (Fay, 2007). The use of weapon detection machines is normally applied on passengers who have been selected for secondary screening to ensure that the passenger throughput time is reduced as much as possible (Deflem, 2008). The use of additional screening lanes is another effective approach that can be used to reduce passenger throughput time. In order to maximize security effectiveness, the use of additional lanes ensures that a large volume of passengers are screened simultaneously and in the process helping to reduce congestion in the airport. A single screening lane leads to increased throughput time which might render the security system ineffective. Inadequate space to set up additional screening lanes is the major challenge facing the implementation of this method of enhancing passenger throughput time.

Passengers are forced to wait for long periods of time before being screamed because many airports have inadequate screening lanes. The situation becomes very desperate during peak hours when long queues are normally experienced. Additional screening personnel will be compulsory in the near future because of the ever increasing passenger volumes (Sweet, 2002). Additional screening lanes make it possible for behavioral detection officers to interact freely with passengers as they search for suspicious characters. The passenger throughput time also depends on how fast the air cargo screening operations are. It is important to have an organized system of inspecting air cargo in order to reduce the waiting time of travelling passengers. The cargo information should be provided in advance in order to facilitate faster air cargo clearance. Airport security personnel and other inspection agents should use both operational initiatives with technology in order to maximize the security at the airport. Biometric systems should be used to identify air cargo (Sweet, 2002). The facilities containing air cargo should have a controlled access in order to prevent unauthorized access. Appropriate actions should be put in place in order to reduce the number of bags to be searched by the security personnel. To begin with, the ex-ray personnel should be used to do both identification and searching duties in order to reduce system throughput time. It is more appropriate to bring in additional search personnel than wait to manage long queues. The security personnel should try as much as possible to avoid queues because it is always difficult to reduce them. It is therefore very important to increase the screening personnel in order to make the security system at the airport more effective (Sweet, 2002).

The effectiveness of air cargo security can only be achieved if proper measures are designed and put in place. The increasing number of terror attacks across the world calls for tight aviation security measures. Air cargo side screening operations should ensure that air cargo is thoroughly screened in all places right away from manufacturing plants to the distribution centers (Wells, 2004). It is important for each airport to have independent cargo screening facilities for process legality and cost effectiveness. Distributed screening operations are very essential in increasing the quantity of air cargo screened per day for loading. The cargo side screening operations should be incorporated with technology to facility quick screening. The use of blast resistant cargo containers and restricting access to facilities used to handle air cargo are among the many technological methods that can be used to improve the effectiveness of air cargo side screening operations (Wells, 2004). The use of biometric systems is also a recommended technological approach of identifying workers. All security operations involved should be enhanced by offering some special training to those in charge of handling air cargo. Only certified cargo screening programs should be implemented to improve the effectiveness of cargo side screening operations. The airport security personnel should ensure that all the air cargo entering both commercial and passenger aircrafts is thoroughly screened. It is important to allow authorized people alone to access the facilities where air cargo is stored prepared and most importantly screened. All employees and contractors should be screened on a regular basis before accessing the air cargo handling facilities. Physical barriers should be erected as a way of protecting air cargo handling facilities from any intruders (Wells, 2004).

In order to ensure maximum security and effectiveness in air cargo handling and storage, it is important for airports to allow only known and established shippers to facilitate the shipment of air cargo (Bragdon, 2008). In cases of high volume cargo, canine teams are normally used to detect explosives that might be hidden in the air cargo. The multi-layered approach also allows random screening of a substantial amount of the air cargo at a time in cases where known shippers are involved in cargo delivery. In is normally a great challenge to handle large volumes of cargo using manual means because the logistics involved requires a lot of time. It is therefore necessary to adopt the use of more advanced cargo screening technologies to facilitate the screening of large cargo pallets without having to unpack the entire consignment. The issue of unpacking is very risky because the cargo is exposed to theft (Bragdon, 2008). The air cargo side screening operation can further be enhanced by conducting covert tests on large volume cargo (Wells, 2004). The other strategy is to conduct impromptu inspections of the air cargo without giving any prior notice to the shipment companies. Having to unpack an entire consignment is challenging in terms of space and personnel needed and it is therefore not economical by all means. Most airports do not have the facilities for manual handling and screening of air cargo because of the limited amount of space. From the observations made, it is important to note that it is inevitable to have effective air cargo side screening operations without employing the use of advanced technology. The throughput time of the airport system can only be reduced by the use of modern security systems (Bragdon, 2008).

The man –portable air defense systems (MANPADS) have become a serious security threat to the aviation industry in recent years. Both civilian and military airliners are exposed to this threat because the MANPADS are readily available in the black market and one does not need any specialized training in order to use them (Coogan, 2010). Many countries across the world have continued to manufacture MANPADS in large quantities and it is therefore very important to put in place various security systems to mitigate the risk caused by MANPADS. Since there are more than half a million MANPADS across the world, many terrorists are able to access the MANPADS from the black market. Terrorists and insurgents prefer to use MANPADS because they are portable, cheap and very lethal (Coogan, 2010). The aviation industry faces a serious security threat and if no efficient systems are put in place to mitigate this threat, then serious catastrophes are on the way. There are various options that can be used to mitigate the risk of MANPADS. Vulnerability, susceptibility and proliferation reduction are the three basic ways of mitigating the risks of MANPADS. When an aircraft is hit by MANPADS, its chances of survival are high if its vulnerability is reduced. In order to prevent terrorists and other criminals from accessing and acquiring MANPADS, it is important to focus on non-proliferation. Preventive measures should be put in place to reduce the susceptibility of aircrafts from attack by MANPADS (Coogan, 2010). It is important to note that nonproliferation; vulnerability reduction and susceptibility reduction are not in any way mutually exclusive to each other. The combination of all the three strategies is important for comprehensive mitigation of security risks brought about by MANPADS (Wells, 2004).

In the category of susceptibility reduction, there are quite a number of measures that need to be considered during the design of aircraft security system. To begin with, the airport security perimeter should be improved to facilitate constant patrols (Wells, 2004). The airport security personnel should conduct regular patrols around the airport for them to be able to detect and prevent potential MANPADS attacks. The patrols should cover the maximum range of MANPADS for easy detection and prevention of MANPADS attacks. Patrols should be intensified in airports that are not surrounded by water and other physical features. Altering air traffic procedures time and again can help a great deal in confusing the terrorists in the course of the attack. By altering the traffic procedures, the range of modern MADPADS is reduced and therefore making it difficult for terrorists to attack commercial airlines (Kirshner, 2006). Spiral descends and rapid climb outs are commonly used by pilots to reduce the time an airline takes to fly in a given MANPADS range. Susceptibility reduction can also be achieved by the use of technical measures. There are various aircraft protective systems that can be used to reduce the risk of MANPADS attacks. The Infrared Decoy Flares are commonly used to release false but identical Infrared signatures that confuse MANPADS. The directed infrared countermeasure devices are used to divert the missile‘s seeker from the targeted aircraft. The missile warning system is used to warn the security personnel about an impending missile attack so that proper prevention measures can be taken. These measures help a great deal in making an airline less susceptible to MANPADS attacks. It is always easy to prevent a disaster than to deal with it (Price, 2009).

Airport planning is essential in minimizing the threat posed by MANPADS. Since MANPADS are increasingly becoming a major security threat, a future airport should consider the threat caused by MANPADS (Price, 2009). The process of planning and designing security systems in modern airports is complex and elaborate because of the many security threats that come each and everyday. Since MANPADS are widely proliferated, state of the art surveillance systems are necessary in planning for future airports. It is therefore necessary to incorporate surveillance systems in modern airport plans as a way of mitigating security risks. MANPADS operate in such a way that the takeoff and landing periods are the most appropriate periods for attack (Price, 2009). Installing elaborate surveillance systems will help a great deal in identifying and averting any threat inside or outside the airport. The modern surveillance technologies include remote sensors and ground radar systems that perform infra-red aerial patrols around the airport. The threat of MANPADS can also be countered by the use of anti-missile systems. For security purposes, it is important to avoid constructing future airports near settlements. The construction of an airport near human settlement is a major hindrance to effective security planning (Price, 2009). The use of some security measures such as flares becomes very difficult if the airport is near human settlement. A considerable distance should be left around the airport for easy surveillance activities. Over water takeoff and landing is another design strategy that can be used to mitigate the security risks caused by MADPADS. This strategy keeps the attackers away from planes that may be landing or taking off. Once the proximity has been reduced, it is always difficult for terrorists to hit their targets. Early warning systems are very important in modern security plans for airports. Early warning systems ensure that necessary action is taken to avert any threat of a MANPAD attack (Kirshner, 2006). The airport security personnel are able to react to an attack as fast as possible because of the warning received from security systems. If both the airport and aircrafts have elaborate and strategic warning systems, it is normally very difficult to launch a MANPAD attack before the airport security personnel are ready to counter it.


All the procedures within the airport should be tightened as a way of mitigating all forms of security threats. Future airports should have ground –based systems that are able to deflect missiles. Technological advancements have led to some sophisticated counter-measure technologies such as aerial vehicles (Kirshner, 2006). Aerial vehicles deflect missiles using laser jammers and have been regarded to as the future of airport security technology. There has been a lot of debate on whether security systems should be built into new designs or not. Basing this argument on the amount of cost involved in modifying existing systems, it more economical to just come up with new systems. Building systems into new designs is very expensive especially for civilian airlines. The cost of coming up with new systems is not very high considering the fact that some systems such as light beams and flare dispensers are already imbedded in the majority of modern planes. The process of modifying existing airport systems is more expensive than setting up new security systems to mitigate the risk of MANPADS (Kirshner, 2006).


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