The tragic plane crash on Monday of American Airlines flight 587 has left us all uneasy and worried about terrorist attacks, bringing back memories of September 11th. That feeling alone marks a major difference in how we view the world right now, because we are all worried about loved ones who might be flying over the holidays. And stalled in congressional conference committee are the House and Senate versions of an airline security bill.
Both bills call for more air marshals, fortified cockpit doors and more training for baggage screeners and flight crews. At issue is whether to continue to rely on private companies to hire screeners or to federalize the process. Also at issue is a time line for screening all checked bags. There is no question that Congress needs to move quickly to restore the public's faith in the safety of air travel.
Our feeling is that security screeners should not be minimum wage employees; the demands of the job have changed since September 11th. European countries are far ahead of us in providing security for flyers, and we need to look toward their tough security standards that mandate inspection of all bags, and then matches checked bags to boarded passengers. We also need to look at new computer technology that could screen all passengers through a terrorist data base upon entering airport security checkpoints. It may be inconvenient, it may take more time, but we believe that such tough steps are the only way to bring people back to flying.