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February 2, 2010

Making Safer Skies a Reality: Ideas From the Aerospace Industries Association

Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association

Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association

Marion C. Blakey, president and CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association, recently shared her ideas about strengthening aviation security with attendees of the ABA Forum on Air & Space Law’s Washington Update Conference, a one-day program packed with speakers who addressed the business and policy challenges confronting airlines management, lawmakers and attorneys.

Blakey, who previously served a five-year term as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, focused on three ways in which the aviation community can enhance security to help prevent future terrorist attacks.

She said there must be “international leadership on common security standards,” use of “existing U.S. legislation to protect the developers of new technology” and a revision of “our export control regime to enable greater sharing of useful security measures.”

Blakey said that now, more than ever, “there needs to be greater emphasis on global aviation security.”

In particular, she described her hope for the leadership of the International Civil Aviation Organization, the United Nations agency charged with the secure development of civil aviation around the globe, to guide strategic improvements.

Blakey said she would like ICAO to set standards for “international screening measures and guidelines for airlines and airports.”  She supports standardized screening, but said that while countries agree on the need for enhanced security, they can’t agree on certain issues, such as the use of body scanners to screen passengers.

Blakey addressed liability concerns as they relate to anti-terrorism innovations, and pointed out that there is precedent for protection in the Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of  2002 .

“We need to encourage more companies to invest in development of new anti-terrorism technology without fear of lawsuits after an attack occurs, said Blakey.

She would like to see the United States work with foreign governments so that other countries can develop similar rules or legislation.

The third prong of Blakey’s plan to enhance global aviation safety calls for a re-examination of export control mechanisms.  These rules are put in place to prevent sensitive technologies from going rogue.  Blakely said that sometimes the amount of time that agencies take to debate the merits of sharing certain technologies—such as an 18-month debate on how to control body imaging technology—or  inconsistencies—such as the denial of export of an aircraft system that is “not weaponized”—can needlessly restrict the flow of technology that could enhance safety.

“The point is to be clear what technologies we need to protect, and be open to the idea of not holding back technologies that benefit us all,” said Blakey.

Learn More About:  Aviation and Space Law