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Aviation security

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Aviation security

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    This article is a travel topic
Aviation security refers to measures taken to keep aircraft and their passengers and crew safe. Aviation security has existed throughout most of the history of aviation. But various events throughout history have led to heightened security for those traveling on board aircraft. During the 1970s, modern airport security was first introduced. Following the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, security was heightened worldwide. A ban on carrying liquids was introduced in 2006. Over the years, experts have tried best to determine the best ways to conduct security of air travel, and what items to permit and ban.

Airport design

Each commercial airport contains a sterile area where passengers must be screened prior to entry. The screening process includes examination of the passengers and their carry-on luggage. Luggage is generally x-rayed as it passes along a conveyor belt. Passengers have traditionally passed through a metal detector, though in recent years, airports in some places x-ray passengers with a millimeter wave scanner. Those who cannot be accurately examined with these devices may be subject to a patdown.

Screening process

The common screening process for passengers is as follows:

  • ID/boarding pass check: Passengers are required to display their boarding pass, together with a government-issues photo ID, to an agent. The agent will then compare the name on the ID to that on the boarding pass, and the picture on the ID to the actual person. The agent may also ask questions as a method of providing additional security. These may be simple questions, such as one's name, date of birth, or where one is going.
  • Body/luggage screening: This is a two part stage of screening. At this point, all passengers must pass through either a metal detector or a millimeter wave scanner. The metal detector simply detects metal objects on the body. The millimeter wave scanner can display any objects on the body. Due to controversy, newer models only display objects on a generic outline of the body. Those who do not wish to be scanned in this manner can opt for a patdown. Some passengers may be forced involuntarily to a patdown.
The luggage is placed on a conveyor belt, and it passes through an X-ray scanner. An agent can then see on a monitor an image of all the contents of the luggage. Agents reserve the right to open an search any luggage if they are suspicious of any items that show up on the scanner.

Forbidden items

In all countries, it is forbidden to carry various items onto the cabin of an aircraft that are believed to have the potential to do harm to passengers and crew. The restrictions vary by country, but some items are universally banned. In addition, some items are also banned in checked luggage.

Commonly banned items include, but are not limited to:

  • Firearms
  • Knives (some countries may allow knives with small blades)
  • Scissors (some countries may allow short or blunt scissors)
  • Explosives
  • Flammable liquids
  • Matches and lighters
  • Large sports equipment (e.g. Baseball bats, hockey sticks, golf clubs)
  • Tools (e.g. Hammers, saws, axes, box cutters)


Since 2006, when a test run was made of peroxide bombs, airport security worldwide first banned carrying on any liquids, gels, aerosols, and items with similar consistencies. The ban was later revised to allow small containers of up to a 3.4 fl oz or 100 ml capacity. These include the "travel size" items sold in many stores.

But there are still limits. The collection of liquids one is carrying on must be placed in a gallon-sized bag. Each passenger is allowed one such bag of these. During the screening process, the bag should be placed in a conspicuous location for the screener to see.

Common items that fall into this category include:

  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Deoderant
  • Sunblock lotion
  • Moisturizing cream

How to successfully pass security

  • Obey the law: That's what they are making sure you are doing, so if you do, you are complying with their guidelines. If you are not breaking any laws, they cannot hold anything against you.
  • Don't try to smuggle on any banned items: Scanners used for screening luggage are very high tech and can detect anything that has been banned. Chances of getting away with a smuggle are extremely low. Even if you are not planning on harming anyone, you are still breaking the law by carrying them on and will get caught. Don't try to disguise a banned item as something permitted or hide it between items, hoping the scanner will not see between them. It simply will not work.
  • Be honest: It is hard for most to lie straight-faced, and agents are looking out for the signs of lying. It is easy to tell the truth instantly, but if you lie, you will unknowingly hesitate in your answers.
  • Have nothing to hide: You may draw unwanted suspicion to yourself if you are trying to keep a secret, even if legal
  • Cooperate: If you fail to cooperate without a fight, you will draw further unwanted scrutiny
  • Have the required documents ready: This shows that you are willing to allow the agents to see them
  • Carry the full list of forbidden items: Print out a copy with the printer showing a date as close as possible to your day of travel. This way, if you are questioned about an item you are carrying, and falsely told it is not permitted, you can show it is permitted. You can either have a printout or have a window for the page of the site of that country already open on your smartphone.
  • Do not tell jokes about anything bad: Under no circumstances should you joke about carrying a bomb or planning an attack. Agents will take this seriously!!!! Even though you intend no harm, you will be treated as if you are carrying out the next 9/11. It'll be hard to clear your name. And in all likelihood, you will miss your flight.

No-fly list

The United States maintains a no-fly list of individuals who are banned from boarding an aircraft in the country due to their ties to terrorism. The list originally contained just the names and aliases of those who were banned from flying. But with criticism that the list caused innocent people with common first and last names to be hassled when flying, the list has expanded to include the date of birth as well, thereby reducing the likelihood of a false positive.

Air travel security sites of various countries

  • Canada: [1]
  • Italy: [2]
  • Mexico (Mexico City): [3]
  • United Kingdom: (Heathrow Airport) - [4]
  • USA: Transportation Security Administration (TSA) - [5]