Noticeably absent from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Future of Aviation Advisory Committee‘s roster is an aviation security representative. The Advisory Committee, named yesterday, has been charged by the Secretary “to provide information, advice, and recommendations to the Secretary on ensuring the competitiveness of the U.S. aviation industry and its capability to address the evolving transportation needs, challenges and opportunities of the U.S. and global economy.”

An omission of a security expert fails to heed the lessons learned after 9/11, the most catastrophic human and economic event in aviation history. The industry suffered billions of dollars in asset losses and capital. On top of that, no one wanted to fly. The airlines’ economic recovery struggled under the perception that air travel wasn’t secure. In the world of risk management, perception is often reality, as irrational as that perception may be.

The industry has barely recovered since 9/11. The aviation industry must embrace that its economic vitality is tied to the security of its product. Every attempted airliner attack since 9/11 is a reminder of the vulnerability that passengers face. The effects of these reminders only perpetuate those harmful perceptions.

It will be the Advisory Committee’s task to identify and recommend solutions to the ills plaguing the industry. Security will certainly be discussed. Without a security expert on the Advisory Committee, however, reasonable, necessary security solutions are likely to be overlooked.
Years ago, the industry embraced safety as one of those variables affecting its bottom line and public perception. It integrated safety into key design, construction and operational decisions. The industry must do the same with security or its future may be the victim of its past.

Jeff Sural serves as counsel in the Legislative & Public Policy Group at Alston & Bird, LLP. He will focus his practice on homeland security and transportation matters on Capitol Hill and in federal government agencies. Read More