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Richard Doty

Clint Oster Jr.

Last modified: Monday, October 28, 2002

Seminar for freshmen explores terrorism and aviation safety

"Terrorism and Aviation Safety" is the topic of a new seminar for freshmen now under way at Indiana University.

Clint Oster Jr., a professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs and a worldwide consultant on aviation safety, is directing the course for 25 freshmen. "We are examining the related issues of aviation terrorism and aviation safety with the goal of having the students think objectively about what caused the problem of Sept. 11 and what can be done to reduce the future risk," Oster said.

Oster, who has authored four books on the airline industry and aviation safety over the past 20 years, said it is useful to examine Sept. 11, 2001, in the context of previous aviation terrorism and the policies that resulted from these earlier incidents. "The focus is on understanding the inherent difficulties in protecting the commercial aviation system from terrorism and looking at the effectiveness of policies such as passenger bag matching; passenger screening and the potential role for passenger profiling; explosives detection in the cabin, checked baggage, mail and cargo; and onboard security, including sky marshals and arming flight and cabin crews," he said. The students also are studying how other countries approach terrorism.

Under the topic of airline safety, the class is examining the principal causes of airline crashes and steps that have been taken to improve airline safety. "We'll also examine some of the policy trade-offs that must be faced," he said. "In a world of limited resources, the steps we take to combat terrorism may mean that fewer steps are taken to improve aviation safety."

Oster said if the events of Sept. 11 had not occurred, the class would probably devote 60 percent of the time to aviation safety and 40 percent to terrorism. Because of the terrorist attacks, the ratio is closer to 90 percent on terrorism and 10 percent on safety.

Upcoming class topics include why airplanes crash, trade-offs and financial impacts involved in anti-terrorism measures, and emerging air safety issues. Topics already covered include airport security, explosives detection and onboard security.

For more details, contact Oster at 812-855-0563 or