Transportation

  • Would real-time tracking have helped missing flight MH370?

    By Geoffrey Dell

    The introduction of constant tracking of commercial aircraft during the whole journey has been raised by Malaysian authorities in a preliminary report into missing flight MH370. There have now been two occasions during the last five years when large commercial air transport aircraft have gone missing and their last position was not accurately known. There is little doubt that as the search for MH370 continues without finding evidence of the actual site of the wreckage, and the associated search costs continue to rise, changes to air safety will be made. Already there is a suggestion to increase the duration of the recording time of the cockpit voice recorders from two to twenty hours. The emphasis on looking for alternate means of tracking transport aircraft, and the interest in establishing systems for routine transmission and remote storage of flight data, will also grow within governments globally.

  • More crude oil shipments by rail mean more accidents, but security measures lag

    American rail companies have long operated under federal laws, making it difficult for local officials to gather information on cargo and how rail companies select their routes. An increase in the number of trains transporting crude oil, accompanied by a series of derailments and explosions, has highlighted the dangers of transporting hazardous substances by rail.In February, the Department of Transportation announced that railroads had voluntarily agreed to apply the same routing rules to oil trains that they currently apply to other hazardous materials. Critics say more needs to be done.

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  • New scanning technique may end on-board liquid restrictions

    A new machine which can identify the chemical composition of liquids sealed within non-metallic containers without opening them is one of three candidates announced Monday to be in the running to win the U.K.’s premier engineering prize, the MacRobert Award. Already being deployed in sixty-five airports across Europe, this innovation can protect travelers by screening for liquid explosives and could spell the end of the ban on liquids in hand luggage.

  • The Nigerian bus terminal attack: Public transport is a lucrative terror target

    During the morning rush hour on 14 April, a car bomb containing an estimated 500-800 pounds of explosives blew up at the Nyanya District bus station on the outskirts of Abuja, Nigeria. Terrorism experts from the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) say we should note the significance of the attack for the rest of the world and put the facts into a larger perspective. Looking at all attacks on public surface transportation systems worldwide since 1970, the Abuja bombing was the twelfth most lethal attack. When comparing similar attack methods, it was the ninth most lethal attack.

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  • Human behavior studies offer helpful insights to airport security officers

    A recent Sandia National Laboratories study offers insight into how a federal transportation security officer’s thought process can influence decisions made during airport baggage screening, findings which are helping the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) improve the performance of its security officers. The TSA-funded project focused on the impacts on threat detection when transportation security officers are asked to switch between the pre-check and standard passenger lanes.

  • Conventional theories about Titanic disaster are flawed

    Previously it had been suggested that the seas which sank the famous cruise ship — which set off on its maiden voyage 102 years last week (Thursday 10 April 2014) — had an exceptional number of icebergs caused by lunar or solar effects. A new study finds, however, that the Titanic not unlucky for sailing in a year with an unusually high number of icebergs. In fact, the risk of icebergs higher now than it was in 1912.

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  • Growing questions about TSA’s behavioral detection program

    TSA has spent roughly $1 billion training thousands of “behavior detection officers” as part of theScreening of Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) program. The purpose of SPOT is to identify facial and body expressions that signals terrorist activity. Psychologists – and the GAO – question the effectiveness of the program.“The common-sense notion that liars betray themselves through body language appears to be little more than a cultural fiction,” says one psychologist.

  • Costs of securing airports far outweigh the benefits: study

    A recently published research paperconcludes that the funds allocated to secure the world’s major airports far outweigh the benefits. The authors write that “many of the assessed security measures would only begin to be cost-effective if the current rate of attack at airports in the U.S., Europe, and the Asia-Pacific increases by a factor of 10-20.”

  • U.S. lags behind other countries in commercial use of drones

    As the United States continues to explore regulations and safety guidelines for commercial UAVs, other countries have already adopted their use. Photographers, real estate agents, filmmakers, and news agencies in the United States want to use drones in their operations, but the FAA insists that rules addressing safety challenges associated with drones need to be in place before drones can share the sky with manned aircrafts.

  • The global passport security loophole: how serious is it?

    By David Beirman

    More than one billion people are estimated to have travelled internationally in 2013, according to the UN’s World Tourism Organization. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body that regulates air transport worldwide, reported that around 3.1 billion people travelled by airplane in 2013. The numbers are immense. As a result, so too are the security challenges for airlines, immigration, and airport security agencies. The ICAO expects all of its 192 member countries to introduce machine-readable passports by 2015, but there is still no international deadline for the introduction of biometric passports. This means some people could be using old-fashioned passports until 2025. Even then, there is no absolute guarantee biometric passports are any more tamper-proof than a host of other computer-based security measures which apply to credit cards and customer databases.

  • TSA suspends program aiming to screen passenger online info

    The TSA has stopped testing a technology which reviews passengers’ online data as part of background checks for passengers who apply for the voluntary “Pre✓”program. The TSA had wanted to evaluate paper proposals, examine models, and test the proposed systems in real-world situations before issuing a contract, but now the TSA intends to explore other means of improving the background check process.

  • Remote explosives detection may see the end of full-body scanners

    Standing in a full-body scanner at an airport is not fun, and the process adds time and stress to a journey. It also raises privacy concerns. Researchers now report a more precise and direct method for using terahertz (THz) technology to detect explosives from greater distances. The advance could ultimately lead to detectors that survey a wider area of an airport without the need for full-body scanners.

  • Testing vibration caused by high-speed trains

    New high-speed train lines are likely to be built as cities grow, and one problem planners have foreseen is vibrations in the ground caused by trains passing at speed. While these vibrations would probably be too small to damage buildings, they could disrupt the work of buildings such as a hospital by affecting sensitive equipment. Scientists have developed a new model to predict how much a new high-speed railway would shake the ground around it, and the effect this could have on those living near the line.

  • DHS warns airlines of renewed shoe-bomb risk

    DHS has alerted airlines flying to the United States to the possibility that terrorists might try to bring explosives n board in their shoes. The airlines were told that there were no specific plots, and that the information was based on information collected in the United States and abroad that bomb makers affiliated with terrorist groups were working on a shoe-bomb design. Hiding explosives in shoes is not new. In December 2001, passengers aboard an American Airlines flight from Paris to Miami prevented a U.K. citizen, Richard Reid, from detonating explosives hidden in his sneakers.

  • FAA vetoes Valentine flower-delivery drone

    Detroit-area florist Flower Delivery Express wanted to use drones to deliver flowers to customers on Valentine Day. The FAA rejected the request, dryly noting that “A commercial flight requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot, and operating approval.” The florist is not giving up yet, cryptically saying it is testing “other guarded secret methods” for flower delivery.