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In the Crossfire

Is airport security moving in right direction?

(CNN) -- Security precautions at the nation's airports once again take center stage as travelers head off to celebrate the July Fourth holiday.

At issue is whether added security measures are having an impact and if they are a costly burden to U.S. airlines.

In addition, new safety concerns were raised this week with the arrest of two pilots, who were accused of being drunk as their jet prepared for takeoff in Miami, Florida.

Aviation consultants Michael Boyd and Jim Tilmon step into the "Crossfire" with hosts James Carville and Robert Novak.

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CARVILLE: I want to talk to Mr. Boyd about Don Carty, the chairman of American Airlines, who said that they're losing money hand over fist and said enhanced security measures are really killing these airlines, in particular, the majors.

Is this is a problem? And how bad is business for major airlines in America today?

BOYD: Well, Mr. Carty, that took a lot of courage for him to do that.

The fact is these aren't enhanced security measures in many cases; they're crackpot. Last-minute random checks of people at the gate where they pick out the first first-class passenger who boards regardless or somebody carrying a diaper bag or something. Mr. Carty was right: We need focused security, not this random scattershot approach.

Last week we had a workshop -- a security workshop with airport managers from around the country, and the stories were the same: We don't have focus at this Transportation Security Administration. We don't have real good policy. We don't have real good follow-through.

So people aren't flying. A certain segment doesn't want to fly, and that's hurting airlines and airline employees around the country.

CARVILLE: I mean, how much danger are the major carriers in right now of going under?

BOYD: Well, I think right now not a lot at the moment. But as we get toward this December deadline to put in bomb-sniffing machines that don't work very well [and] that are really going to choke our airports, I think airlines are looking at -- down the barrel -- of some very tough financial times.

Because if you have to come to an airport and check your bag two, three, four hours ahead of time -- which is what it's going to look like by December -- fewer people are going to fly.

We really don't have the policies out there and the right kind of equipment. And for crying out loud, we do not have the leadership we need to do what we need to do to get our airports secure.

NOVAK: Mr. Boyd, I just want to backtrack to the drinking pilots once more. Do you agree with Mr. Tilmon that this is not really a problem?

BOYD: ... I grew up with a pilot. My father was vice president of American Airlines and chief pilot. I saw the professionalism among pilots. I've worked with pilots' unions.

You have a better chance of having Ed McMahon showing up at your door with that sweepstakes check than finding a drunken pilot.

NOVAK: All right, Mr. Tilmon, Mr. Boyd gave a very tough appraisal of the transportation safety agency's new organization established after 9/11. Do you agree with him?

TILMON: No I don't.

Let's put it this way: On the 11th of September, we all woke up. Everybody found out there was a brand new world out there. A lot of things changed. And it was mandated that we're going to do some dramatic things with our airport security and our aviation security program.

It is literally impossible to take the program, shut it down and replace it overnight with competent people. You just can't do it. There are not enough people to do that with it and not enough time. Security is a matter of time and money, and we need some of both.

No, we're not where we should be right now. I agree with Mr. Boyd: There are a lot of things wrong with where we are right now.

However, I've had enough opportunity to see some of the things they're doing, and they're doing some good things.

NOVAK: Mr. Boyd?

BOYD: I disagree entirely.

First of all, the bomb-sniffing machines they're buying don't work very well. No. 2, not one [Federal Aviation Administration] official or [Department of Transportation] official has ever lost their job over what happened at 9/11.

As a matter of fact, the person in charge of FAA security at Boston's Logan International Airport, where two airplanes were hijacked, was promoted.

So what we have is a system that really needs to be cleaned out. And until we clean out that -- get some accountability at the top -- we're not going to get to where we need to go.

And airports we work with totally agree with us on this -- that we need to clean up this mess. ...

What we have here is a bureaucracy that's growing by leaps and bounds. And I agree with some people in Congress that say it's chaos.

We do need to move in the right direction. And some things have been done, such as cockpit doors being strengthened, flight attendants being trained in some self-protection. That's very good.

But in terms of the people running the show, this system is out of control right now. We're not going in the right direction.




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