- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 25, 2011

BRUSSELS | The suicide attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport may prompt a re-evaluation of how to protect airport terminals but is unlikely to result in tougher security measures, pilots and aviation security experts said Tuesday.

Analysts warned that the crowds that gather in airport public areas are an easy target for terrorists. But it’s impossible to screen them because many airports have been turned into commercial centers, with shops, food courts, train stations and other facilities.

“Airport security needs to be thorough but it also needs to be rational, and the truth is that we can never make any airport totally impervious to attack,” said Patrick Smith, a commercial airline pilot and aviation author.

“Like any crowded public space, be it a subway station or a shopping mall or a football stadium, an airport will always have inherent vulnerabilities.”

Monday’s attack in Domodedovo’s international arrivals area killed 35 people and wounded 180.

Most airports in the West don’t restrict access to the terminals, which are considered public areas. Security screening is carried out when passengers enter the departure areas.

But in some countries, like Israel, Jordan and Pakistan, police roadblocks situated several miles from the airport parking lots screen arriving passengers and others, before allowing them to proceed.

Analysts said the Domodedovo attack appeared to be the first time terrorists have tried to exploit unrestricted public access to the terminals since the failed bombing of the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2007. Attackers there tried to crash a Jeep loaded with explosives through the entrance doors, but the bomb did not go off.

Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, a London-based publication dedicated to security issues, said expanding the airport’s security perimeter as in Tel Aviv was desirable but would be difficult to replicate in Europe or America.

“So many of our airports now are commercial enterprises which have to maximize their earnings,” he said. “They have food courts, shopping centers, train stations all located together, and any effort to control access would have a major impact on the airport’s bottom line.”

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