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Airport Security Personnel

History

The use of screening and onboard security personnel is not a recent invention. The presence of guards on airplanes originated in the 1960s as a result of a number of hijackings of U.S. planes flying to and from Cuba. These guards, referred to as Sky Marshals, grew in number during the 1970s and then declined in later years with the lower occurrences of airplane hijackings. Airplane security staffing reached several thousand workers at the peak of this hijacking scare, and then dropped to fewer than 100 workers nationwide during its quietest times.

The 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon spurred many changes in the realm of airport security. Most notably, a new federal agency was born: The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), responsible for overseeing all security at the nation's airports. This agency made airport and airline security a federal responsibility, and as a result, all airport security personnel became federal employees. This was no small task. Previously, security screening in airports was handled by private security firms. These firms were inconsistent in their hiring and training methods and paid relatively low wages—resulting in high job turnover rates and inadequate screening of potentially dangerous objects and materials. With the shift of responsibility into the government's hands, standard training and hiring requirements were put in place. In addition to better screening, hiring, and training methods, the technology for screening bags and passengers has improved, increasing the chances that dangerous cargo and on-person threats can be located and prevented from boarding a plane.