The attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, dramatically reshaped America’s aviation industry.
In the days following, speculation also spread over where the pilots involved were trained to fly.
Nineteen militants associated with the Islamic extremist group Al-Qaeda hijacked four airplanes on 9/11, carrying out attacks that killed 3,000 Americans. Early reports indicated that one of the hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11, Waleed al-Shehri, learned how to fly at Embry Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach.
It turned out to be one of many cases of mistaken identity. A flight school graduate with the same name did attend the school, but had no connection to Al-Qaeda.
″Every large flight school in Florida was accused at one time or another of training one of the 9/11 hijackers,” explained News4Jax aviation analyst Ed Booth.
Booth said accurately identifying domestic terrorists and investigating their radicalization is just one of the many things federal officials have improved upon following 9/11. Booth said it was a wakeup call for the aviation industry -- one that called for immediate changes.
One of the most important innovations made to ever commercial airplane -- bulletproof cockpit doors, impenetrable with even a high-powered handgun. American pilots are ordered not to open the door under any circumstance.
″Hypothetical: Flight attendant calls the cockpit through the inner phone and says there’s a man with a gun back here who will start killing passengers if you don’t open the cockpit door. And the response is, we will not open the cockpit door because the objective is to protect the airplane,” Booth said.
In the year following 9/11, the federal government reorganized the agency tasked to handle federal security, creating the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Administration.
Select pilots were also allowed to carry firearms through what’s called the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program.
The U.S. reinstituted the federal marshal program, putting plainclothes marshals on planes at random.
The TSA also created the No Fly List, banning passengers who may present a threat on board.
And, as we learned from United Airlines Flight 93, a plane’s last line of defense is the other passengers on the plane.
“Something else that’s significant is intervention by the passengers,” Booth said. “It demonstrated passengers won’t sit back and go to their deaths at the hands of hijackers. They are going to fight back.”
Booth says all these precautionary measures together have worked, pointing out that there hasn’t been a hijacking of an American plane since 9/11.
“The system works, there may be a little overkill, criticisms of people taking nail clippers away from old ladies, but it’s proven to be a reliable system that works well,” he said.
America’s major commercial airliners also screen 100% of all the checked baggage. Then, all carry-on baggage was screened and checked baggage was scanned at random.
Booth also says a myriad of programs are now in place at airports at the country that are designed to identify who is in a sterile and secure airport area, with particular attention paid to the airport ramps and hangars.