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Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.

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Roles and Responsibilities

Many factors affect the performance and effectiveness of security systems, including physical location, operator training, and the presence of law enforcement personnel. Although the FAA has the overall responsibility for the effectiveness of aviation security, the buy-in of other stakeholders is critical for funding security equipment and for implementing a long-term security strategy, such as the TAAS (total architecture for aviation security) described in Chapter 2. In this chapter, the roles and responsibilities of the FAA, the air carriers, airports, and independent security contractors are discussed (see Figure 3-1).

The U.S. civil aviation security program today is a combination of laws, regulations, and resources for protecting the industry and the traveling public against terrorism and other criminal acts. The program is a system of shared and complementary responsibilities involving the federal government, airport operators, air carriers, and passengers. The FAA sets standards and guidelines, and airports and air carriers implement them. Airline passengers and the users of air cargo, who are the ultimate beneficiaries of the program, pay for the program through security surcharges included in the prices of airline tickets and cargo shipments. Although


Figure 3-1
Responsibilities for civil aviation security.

Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.

Page 18

authority can be delegated or shared (e.g., a private security contractor might operate explosives-detection equipment), the ultimate responsibility for the safety and security of civil aviation rests with the state, in this case the FAA.

Federal Aviation Administration

The FAA has existed in various forms and under various names since 1926 when Congress passed the first of many federal aviation laws. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 created an independent Federal Aviation Agency with the responsibility of establishing air safety regulations and certification requirements. In 1967, the agency was renamed the Federal Aviation Administration and transferred to the newly created U.S. Department of Transportation.

FAA headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. Nine regional and three international offices administer the field elements located in their geographical areas of responsibility. The FAA administrator makes policies, issues regulations, and provides overall direction for the FAA's functional programs. Field elements perform operational functions and enforce aviation regulations. The associate administrator for civil aviation security is responsible for assessing and addressing the threat to civil aviation security.

Aviation Security Research and Development Program

The mission of the Aviation Security Research and Development Program is to generate and disseminate expertise and knowledge in technologies relevant to the security of the civil aviation industry and to provide technical support services for the associate administrator for civil aviation security. All agency research and development projects are consolidated into the Office of Aviation Research headed by the associate administrator for research and acquisitions.

Deployment of Equipment

In 1997, Congress mandated that the FAA deploy commercially available explosives-detection equipment in U.S. airports. Given the nature of the government mandate, the FAA was the logical organization to evaluate, certify, and deploy the initial explosives-detection equipment. The urgency of placing security equipment in U.S. airports, combined with the congressional mandate that the FAA administer the process, placed the FAA in the unique position of being both project manager and systems integrator.

The FAA administrator, through the headquarters staff, initially deployed explosives-detection equipment to selected air carriers serving the Atlanta and San Francisco airports; subsequently equipment was deployed to air carriers at other large U.S. airports. The FAA worked closely with the manufacturers of explosives-detection equipment to select, test, and install equipment and provide operator training for the new hardware. The FAA had the primary responsibility for all aspects of the initial deployment. Other stakeholders, including the installation-site air carriers and airport operators, played only consulting and supporting roles.


More than 25 years ago, in 1971, the FAA issued Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 107, which gave airport operators the responsibility of protecting against unauthorized access to the air-operation areas of airports. Numerous changes have been made to this FAR over time to keep pace with changing security needs. Basically, FAR Part 107 prescribes aviation security rules governing the operation of each airport that regularly serves scheduled passenger operations. FAA security rules apply to 458 of the 667 certified U.S. airports, which are divided into six categories (Table 3-1).

The airport operator is the administrator and manager of an airport that regularly serves scheduled passengers of a certificate holder (air carrier) or a foreign air carrier subject to the security program described in FAR Part 108. Ownership and operation of domestic airports vary considerably; airports may be publicly or privately owned; they can be operated by a city, a county, a state, or a specialized airport authority. For example, the New York Port Authority, a bistate commission, owns and operates John F. Kennedy International, LaGuardia, and Newark International airports; in Chicago, the largest commercial airports are city owned and operated; Baltimore-Washington International Airport is state owned; McCarren International Airport in Las Vegas is county owned.

Airport ownership also determines the law enforcement structure at an airport. The primary organizations providing this support service are state and local police forces and special airport-authority police. Regardless of the organization providing the law enforcement, the FAA requires that certain criteria be met to ensure a consistent level of service. Most airport operators also employ security forces for physical security in the airport. In some cases, this service is provided by private contractors.

Physical security at many airports is further subdivided, by exclusive-use agreements, between the airport operator and the air carriers serving the airport. Exclusive-use agreements transfer to the air carrier the responsibility for physical security in operational areas leased from the airport, including air-operations areas, cargo buildings, and airline spaces in the terminal buildings.

Airport operators are conscientious about their security responsibilities and knowledgeable of the specific security needs of their airports. Security can always be tighter, of course, but many trade-offs must be made to maintain adequate security without overly restricting the efficient movement of passengers through airports. Turning airports into armed camps with military-style security would certainly

Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.

Page 19

TABLE 3-1 Airport Categories in the United States





Largest and most complex airports according to any one of three criteria:



• 25 million or more persons screened annually


• 1 million or more international enplanements annually


• special considerations (e.g., serves a large political community or faces possible threats based on local conditions)



Screens between 2 million and 25 million persons annually



Screens between 500,000 and 2 million persons annually



Screens fewer than 500,000 persons annually and serves aircraft with seating configurations for 61 or more passengers



Serves operations where screening is performed and passengers are deplaned into a sterile area of the airport or that screen pursuant to company policies and serves aircraft with 60 seats or less



Serves aircraft that seat more than 30 but less than 61 passengers where screening is not conducted and passengers are not deplaned into a sterile area


decrease their vulnerability to criminal or terrorist acts, but the economic and social effects could be detrimental.

During normal airport operations, the level of security is commensurate with the perceived threat and the movement of people, cargo, vehicles, and aircraft. To minimize disruptions, airport operators rely on contingency plans to upgrade security quickly in response to new intelligence or in emergency situations. Airport operators, air carriers, and other airport tenants must be capable of reacting immediately, and in a coordinated way, to an increased threat that requires a higher level of security.

Airport Security Programs

Airports rely on exclusively developed security programs that are approved by the FAA. These programs are primarily designed to provide a secure environment for airplane operations, control the movement of people and ground vehicles, and prevent unauthorized access to the air-operation areas. The plan must also include measures for protecting both air-operation areas and the publicly accessible land side (i.e., close-in public parking and terminal roadways) of the airport.

The terminal building presents unique security problems because public areas, restricted areas, and air-operation areas must be kept separate. Ultimately, the security plan for the terminal and ramps must allow passengers access to unrestricted areas while keeping unauthorized individuals from gaining access to restricted areas.

Security of Parked Aircraft

Airport operators must have facilities and procedures to prevent or deter persons and vehicles from gaining unauthorized access to air-operation areas. Air carriers are required to prohibit unauthorized access to their aircraft and to conduct a security inspection of an airplane if it has been left unattended and before it is placed in service.

Law Enforcement Support

The presence of law enforcement officers (e.g., police officers) is required at airports. In addition, most airlines contract guard agencies to provide personnel to perform predeparture screening. Both contract security guards and law enforcement officers may be stationed at screening checkpoints.

Official law enforcement officers must be authorized to carry and use firearms, vested with arrest authority, readily identifiable by uniform and badge or other indicia of authority, and must have completed a training program defined in the airport security program. There are almost as many approaches to satisfying these requirements as there are airports. Providing law enforcement officers is the responsibility of the airport operator, not the air carrier. Even though the cost of law enforcement is borne indirectly by the carriers, they have no power over whether airports employ city or state police officers or specially empowered guards.

Airport Consortia

In response to a recommendation by the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security (1997), the FAA directed parties responsible for aviation security to form consortia at 41 major U.S. airports. By mid-December 1997, 39 consortia had completed vulnerability assessments and developed action plans incorporating FAA-recommended procedural changes and requirements for advanced security technology. Voluntary security consortia are planned for more than 250 additional airports.

Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.

Page 20

Air Carriers

Air carriers are responsible for maintaining the security of passengers, baggage, and cargo entering the airplane in accordance with the FAA's standards and guidelines. FAR Part 108 requires that each U.S. air carrier adopt and carry out a security program for scheduled and public charter-passenger operations. The sole purpose of the air-carrier security program is to protect the traveling public from hijacking, sabotage, and other criminal acts. The FAA must approve all air-carrier security programs.

FAR Part 108 requires that each certificate holder designate a ground-security coordinator and an in-flight security coordinator to carry out the duties specified in the approved security program for each international and domestic flight. The pilot in command of each flight serves as the in-flight security coordinator.

Organizational Structure of U.S. Air Carriers

The organizational placement of the security function varies with the corporate structure of the airline. Among U.S. air carriers, security is a staff function with a reporting relationship to senior airline officials generally below the level of chief executive officer. Because security requirements can have a substantial impact on operations—including flight schedules and passenger processing times—security personnel work very closely with airline-operations officials. The responsibilities of an airline security office include interpreting FAA security regulations, setting policies and procedures for compliance by the airline, auditing and inspecting security operations, and representing the carrier in security-related matters. The airline security officer is also responsible for other security matters, such as theft and fraud.

The air carrier's local station manager is typically responsible for all operational activities at an individual airport and the day-to-day activities of the security contractor. Airline security at domestic airports is typically contracted out to private firms that provide trained personnel to operate the passenger screening checkpoints. Because of high costs, the air carriers encourage competition among security firms through a bidding process. However, even the lowest bidder must meet the minimum requirements. In cases where several airlines use the same security checkpoint at a concourse (as opposed to at the gate), one airline manages the checkpoint. The costs of operating and managing the checkpoint, however, are shared among the air carriers.

Predeparture Screening

The most visible aspect of domestic airline security is the screening of passengers and carry-on baggage, which was mandated by the FAA almost 30 years ago. The primary purpose of the procedures for domestic flights was to deter hijackers. Approximately 15,000 preboarding passenger screeners work in the United States for domestic and foreign air carriers. In 1995, they screened approximately 1.3 billion persons1 at some 700 screening checkpoints. Three general arrangements of screening facilities at airports have been developed: the sterile concourse, the sterile boarding area, and departure-gate screening. The sterile concourse approach has proven to be the most attractive because it controls access by the inspection of persons and property at selected choke points and represents an exceptional cost savings for both air carriers and the airport. Instead of having to bear the cost of a workforce sufficient to search passengers at each gate and posting law enforcement officers at each gate, a central screening point at the entrance to a concourse can serve all of the gates on the concourse. Central screening checkpoints include x-ray machines, metal detectors, and security personnel.

The next best alternative for predeparture screening is the sterile boarding or holding area. In this arrangement, a sterile area is created at the flight check-in point, usually by securing the boarding lounge from the concourse or other adjacent terminal areas, to isolate passengers who have been screened from physical contact with unscreened persons.

The third, and least desirable, arrangement is departure-gate screening. In this scenario, security personnel must be available in large numbers to screen passengers at individual gates, and airport operators must provide law enforcement officers at each gate. The disadvantages of this arrangement include high personnel costs and significant delays if the aircraft arrives late because passenger screening cannot begin until the aircraft is available for boarding. This arrangement is mostly used at small airports that handle few flights.

A number of situations during predeparture screening may require the presence or intervention of a law enforcement officer. However, the final decision and the legal responsibility for boarding a passenger rest with the air carrier. If a passenger is arrested for a violation, the air carrier has no further responsibility. If a passenger is cleared for boarding by a law enforcement officer, the air carrier may still decide not to allow the passenger to board.

Role of Aviation Industry Trade Associations

The Air Transport Association (ATA), founded in 1936, is the first and only trade association for the principal U.S. airlines. The ATA represents the industry before Congress, federal agencies, state legislatures, and other governmental bodies and serves as the focal point for industry efforts to standardize practices and enhance the efficiency of the air transport system. Several other aviation trade associations play important roles in maintaining aviation security (Table 3-2).

1 This number includes passengers, airline crews, airport employees and people entering to meet or greet arriving or departing passengers.

Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.

Page 21

TABLE 3-2 Aviation Industry Trade Associations

Trade Association


International Air Transport Association (IATA)

IATA is the world trade organization of 250 scheduled airlines. Its members carry more than 95 percent of scheduled international air traffic under the flags of 135 independent nations. IATA produced a security manual to provide airline personnel with reference material, guidelines, and information to carry out their duties.

Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA)

ACI-NA provides a forum for the exchange of ideas and information to promote cooperation between all elements of the North American civil aviation industry. The primary goal of ACI-NA is the development and improvement of safe, efficient, and economical airport facilities and services and the enhancement of airport capacity. ACI-NA presents members' views and recommendations to governments, industry, and the general public.

Airports Council International (ACI)

ACI, a federation of six regions headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland, consists of some 460 international airports and airport authorities operating 1,250 airports in more than 150 countries and territories. Global issues are addressed through the integrated ACI structure; each region responds to the needs and concerns of airport operators in that region. ACI represents the world's airports in interactions with ICAO, with which it has observer status, and other world bodies.

American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE)

AAAE, the largest professional organization for airport executives in the world, was founded in 1928. The AAAE represents thousands of airport management personnel at public-use airports, which enplane 99 percent of the airline passengers in the United States.

Regional Airline Association (RAA)

RAA represents U.S. regional airlines, as well as suppliers of products and services that support the industry, before the U.S. Congress, Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, and other federal and state agencies. Founded in 1975 (as the Commuter Airline Association of America), RAA member airlines transport between 90 and 95 percent of all regional airline passengers.

International Civil Aviation Organization

In 1944, representatives of 52 nations gathered in Chicago to create the framework for world civil aviation. On December 7, 1944, the Convention on International Civil Aviation (the Chicago Convention) was signed. Its objective was to ensure the safe and orderly growth of international civil aviation and to promote safety. Today, 183 nations have ratified the Chicago Convention and have thus become contracting states.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) was established by the Chicago Convention as a vehicle for international cooperation in all aspects of aviation. In 1947, the ICAO became a specialized United Nations agency, headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, with regional offices in Bangkok, Cairo, Dakar, Lima, Mexico City, Nairobi, and Paris. The ICAO consists of an assembly, a council, and a secretariat. The assembly, which is composed of representatives of all contracting states, is the sovereign body of the organization. It meets every three years, reviews the work of the organization, sets policy, and votes on a triennial budget. The council, composed of 33 contracting states elected by the assembly for a three-year term, is ICAO's governing body. The council adopts standards and recommended practices and incorporates them as annexes to the Chicago Convention. The secretariat, headed by a secretary general, consists of professional personnel recruited on a broad geographical basis to conduct the technical work of the organization.

Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.
Page 17
Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.
Page 18
Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.
Page 19
Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.
Page 20
Suggested Citation:"3 Roles and Responsibilities." National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of Technologies Deployed to Improve Aviation Security: First Report. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/9726.
Page 21
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This report assesses the operational performance of explosives-detection equipment and hardened unit-loading devices (HULDs) in airports and compares their operational performance to their laboratory performance, with a focus on improving aviation security.

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