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The High Cost of Unsafe Skies

January 19, 2002

I read with great interest "Air Marshals' Future Full of Questions" (Jan. 14) and was dismayed, but not surprised, by the airline industry's attitude as represented by Douglas Laird, a former security director for Northwest Airlines. Laird seems to think air marshals are too expensive, bad for the industry's image and that passengers can defend themselves.

As for the expense, ask the U.S. government how much money is being set aside to help the families of those who died on Sept. 11. Ask those families how much their loved ones' lives were worth. Ask the over 2.5 million people who are projected to lose their jobs as a direct result of those terrorist attacks if the cost of maintaining an Air Marshal Corps is too high. As for passengers defending themselves, ask the heroes of United Airlines Flight 93 if they would have rather had air marshals on board to protect them . . . oops, never mind.

Mark Rettberg

Orange

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I have a simple (but not cheap) three-part suggestion for airport security:

1. Offer and require a real training program (including a GED, where necessary). A 40-page handbook is not going to cut it.

2. Pay them a living wage. Minimum wage will never buy a lot of loyalty and concern, and people have families to care for.

3. Put them into professional-looking, well-fitting uniforms that will command respect--as one sees in many British and European airports.

The people who don't want the training program can move on; the people who do will be able to do a better job. It couldn't hurt.

Carol Skinner

Los Angeles

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