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How 9/11 changed aviation

9/11 graphic, Clare Nicholas
 © Clare Nicholas

On the morning of 12 September 2001, the USA and the rest of the world woke up a very different place. The modern era's worst terrorist attack on the previous day, which destroyed New York's World Trade Center and resulted in almost 3,000 dead, changed the way Americans, and the West, regarded Islamic extremism. It prompted a 10-year manhunt for Osama Bin Laden and President George Bush's wider War on Terror, leading to lengthy campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. But, it also significantly altered the way we fly.

While terrorism had been an ever-present threat in the West and politically-motivated hijackings occasionally made the headlines around the world, checking in for and boarding an airliner was, for most of us, a reasonably benign experience. The way terrorists overpowered crew and turned airliners into giant deadly missiles on 9/11 ended that. Those events and subsequent, unsuccessful aviation-related terrorist incidents ushered in an era of body scanners, lengthy queues, shoe removal, liquid bans and sometimes ill-tempered exchanges between fraught officials and those passing through security.

The way we behave on board is different, too. Cockpit doors are locked, armed air marshals sometimes accompany flights and, most importantly, passengers and crew accept they are potentially the only defence against determined, suicidal terrorists, having overpowered individuals intent on destroying aircraft at least twice since 9/11. In the following special feature, Flight International's journalists look at how the events of a decade ago changed aviation, on the ground and in the air. The events of 9/11 did not stop us flying, and we have certainly not defeated terrorism. But - unpopular though many of the security measures are - they have arguably made aviation safer than it was before 2001.

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