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Thoughts on Aiding Aviation Security Professionals in Doing Their Jobs

By Kelly Hoggan

Human performance in aviation security can be improved through a variety of measures, including consistent training.

Human performance is crucial to transportation security, and technology plays a key role in helping improve it. Humans also design and maintain the security technologies they operate and, more importantly, people are required to make the final decisions whenever potential security issues are identified by those technologies. Therefore, ensuring that aviation security professionals and technology work well together is vital to the traveling public’s safety. Here’s a very brief examination of the general improvement in aviation security technology coupled with a look at how human factors come into play.

Centralized Image Processing


People make mistakes all the time and this is no different in the security world. To help eliminate human error in aviation security screening, for example, government security agencies around the world have invested heavily in technology to assist security personnel in doing their jobs. New screening devices and techniques include Centralized Image Processing, or CIP, for screening of passengers’ carryon luggage.

This form of CIP – which is also known as cabin baggage screening -- involves groups of human screeners remotely assessing networked X-ray images of carryon luggage from travelers going through a security checkpoint somewhere in the airport. Being remotely located away from the checkpoint, screeners can fully concentrate on the X-ray images of carryon luggage rather than be potentially distracted by other activities taking place at that checkpoint. Studies indicate that CIP is a more efficient and effective method for mass screening of carryon luggage as it already is for checked luggage, which has been remotely screened in many U.S. airports for more than a decade now.

Factoring in the Human Component

People get tired or hungry or may become angry or sad or happy or distracted or experience any number of potentially distracting conditions at any time. It’s just human nature, after all. However, when it comes to keeping the traveling public safe, security professionals must be always be at their best. Making sure these professionals operate at high efficiency, though, requires first considering human nature – or “human performance factors” – and designing the security jobs they hold accordingly.

After designing a security job or task and testing it out before it becomes a formalized position, it’s important to put the right person in that role. Factors that enhance security professionals’ performance include correctly assessing everyone in the first place by ensuring a strong match between their aptitude and the jobs they’ll be performing.

Once the right people are identified it’s very important to train them appropriately and develop their knowledge and skill sets, always keeping in mind they’re humans and not automatons. In this regard, managers and other leaders need to provide quality feedback to security professionals and recognize performance – whether good or bad – as soon as possible after it occurs.

Matching Humans to Technology

Human performance in operating the security technologies which help to keep billions of travelers per year safe can be improved through training or by changing the equipment’s design or operating procedures, or by doing all three at the same time. For example, a passenger baggage screening device that appears to be too complex or difficult for its operator to calibrate or operate may come down to making a few simple changes to the operator training program or even just to the machine’s computer touchscreen. Or it may be more complicated and a completely new training program, as well as the system for feeding luggage to that device, might be called for.

The above is why it’s so vitally important that a wide range of human performance factors be considered whenever any new security technology is being designed and which people are expected to operate and maintain. The safety of billions of travelers depends on it.

Kelly Hoggan, Founder and CEO of H4 Solutions, previously served as assistant administrator for operations at the Transportation Security Administration. In that role, he was responsible for aircraft and checkpoint security operations at the nation's 400-plus commercial airports.

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