On 5 Dec. 1972, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) promulgated Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 121.538, requiring that effective 5 Jan. 1973, all commercial airlines implement a system to screen all passengers and their carryon items to insure that no weapons, explosives, or incendiary devices were boarded in the cabin of aircraft. This regulation was issued as a direct response to the increased number of acts of air piracy, as well as the increased severity and danger resulting from these criminal acts. This afforded the air carriers only 30 days to implement the requirements of the FAR at over 500 airports of various sizes across the country. Initially, all inspections of hand carried items were conducted by individuals physically opening and checking the contents of each item carried by passengers before they boarded their flight. While this procedure could be used effectively at smaller airports boarding only a few passengers, it was obviously not a cost-effective or efficient method of fulfilling the requirements of the regulation at larger airports. Soon after the implementation of the screening program, the FAA approved the use of cabinet X-rays to meet the search requirements; sterile concourses were created to centralize the screening process and eliminate the need to conduct passenger inspections at each boarding gate. By the use of the sterile concourse concept, cabinet X-rays could be effectively used and the number of persons conducting searches drastically reduced. An individual conducting a hand search of carryon items took an average of 45 s to 1 min to conduct a thorough search of a carryon item; where the X-ray could reduce the amount of time required to an average of 5 to 7 s. From the beginning of the screening program to the present time, the number of passengers carried in commerical air transportation has steadily increased each year necessitating corresponding advances in the sophistication of the system and the equipment. The image quality of the X-ray, passenger flow patterns, and compatibility of the X-ray systems with the metal detectors are all necessary ingredients to a successful and cost-effective program.
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