It's time to adjust our flying habits

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport is looking a little different these days.

Instead of just trusting people not to leave their unattended cars parked near the front of the terminal, a solid barrier keeps them 300 feet from the entrance.

An armed officer is there to greet flights that come and go.

Other security measures are a little different, too, although TransWorld Express, an airline with regular stops in Cape Girardeau, properly is keeping mum on exactly what those measures are for their flights.

What's happening at our little airport certainly is taking place on a grander scale elsewhere. A Cape Girardeau man reported showing his photo identification twice to armed guards at Chicago Midway and being asked to produce his itinerary before he could catch his Monday flight home.

There are bans on nail clippers and plastic knives. Family members can't have joyful reunions as their loved ones exit the planes -- that now must happen at the terminal entrance before the security checkpoint. The Federal Aviation Administration wants armed guards, called sky marshals, on airplanes again.

Of course, all of this is because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, when men armed with knives turned passenger planes into weapons of mass destruction, ramming them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the ground outside Pittsburgh. The last plane would have taken even more lives if it weren't for brave passengers who overpowered their captors and forced it down in a rural area.

We know the security problems lie more with people able to get on the tarmacs instead of inside the planes as passengers. Security measures taken in the terminal aren't going to solve every problem, but certainly they will help.

Americans aren't used to seeing armed guards everywhere and constantly being asked to produce identification. They generally go where they want, when they want with no questions asked.

On the other hand, airport security personnel aren't accustomed to being serious about regulations. Michael Barr, director of the University of Southern California Safety Program, says it's going to take time to change mindsets and make people realize this isn't just a knee-jerk reaction to a problem, it's what's got to happen every day of every year from here on.

We now know that, when airport security fails, the results can be deadly. It's better that we work the extra time into our schedules and realize the changes are for a good reason.