Air Cargo Security In Focus

The C-12 Huron, a twin turboprop passenger and cargo aircraft, is the military version of the Beachcraft Super King Air. The C-12 aircraft, manufactured by Raytheon Aircraft Company (RAC) (formerly Beech Aircraft Corporation), is a high-performance, fixed-wing, T-tail, pressurized, twin engine turboprop that accommodates places for a pilot, co-pilot, and passengers.
These days air travelers are subject to extensive searches to protect against a terrorist attack. But what about the cargo loaded into the belly of the aircraft everyday in the United States?

What is the TSA?

The Transportation Security Administration, TSA, was formed following the September 11, 2001 attacks. The agency is a component of the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for security of the nation's transportation systems.

With its state, local and regional partners, the TSA oversees security for the highways, railroads, buses, mass transit systems, ports and the 450 U.S. airports. It employs approximately 50,000 people.

How much cargo is transported?

About 50,000 pounds of air cargo are loaded each year into the belly of an aircraft around the world... only 15 percent, at most, of which is inspected, CBS News reports.

What is the new directive for screening air cargo?

TSA is issuing a directive to the airlines today, which tightens the requirements for the screening of air cargo on passenger airline flights, but stops far short of screening all cargo for explosives.

A TSA spokesperson told CBS News, "All air cargo transported on passenger planes will be screened or submitted to robust layered security measures for domestic and international air cargo."

This directive applies to cargo that is shipped by freight companies on passenger airline flights. It follows a directive issued last month which required screening for all "counter-to-counter" air cargo -- packages checked at airline ticket counters by individuals for shipment aboard passenger flights.

What are some of the regulations for air cargo?

With TSA's new air cargo regulation, TSA will be doing 100,000 more background checks, specifically on cargo employees. The rule requires more robust checks and more visibility on the shipping companies and their employees. Additionally, they have extended security areas at the airport to include air cargo areas.

What is an indirect carrier?

An Indirect Air Carrier (IAC) means any person or entity within the United States not in possession of an Federal Aviation Administration air carrier operating certificate, that undertakes to engage indirectly in air transportation of property and uses for all or any part of such transportation the services of a passenger air carrier. Each Indirect Air Carrier must adopt and carry out a security program that meets our requirements.

How does the TSA inspect air cargo?

The TSA-certified explosives detection canine teams are readily deployable and cost effective, serve as deterrents to would-be terrorists, and provide proven detection of explosives.

In the airport environment, TSA uses explosives detection canine teams to search aircraft, cargo, vehicles, terminals, warehouses, and luggage. Currently, there are 425 explosive detection canine teams working at over 75 airports nationwide, conducting random screening of cargo and surveillance of cargo facilities.

To learn more about TSA regulations:

• Click here to read more about cargo regulations from the TSA.

• Click here to register for and to check the online Known Shipper database.

• Click here for a list of prohibited carry on items.