Since 9/11, the U.S. has spent $6 billion a year on aviation security to prevent a similar attack. The two most direct efforts to prevent airliner hijackings have been the hardening of cockpit doors and increased presence of air marshals on flights. These measures alone have cost the government and airlines $1 billion a year. Is that money well spent?
Levitt has wondered about the costs and benefits of airline security before. Now Mark Stewart, a civil engineer at the University of Newcastle and John Mueller, a political science professor at Ohio State University, have run some numbers.
Their study, which considered the lives of airborne passengers and potential victims on the ground, found that hardened cockpit doors cost roughly $800,000 per life saved. At the same time, they calculate the air marshal program to cost roughly $180 million per life saved (assuming, that is, the marshals aren’t grounded when their names come up on the terrorist no-fly list, a problem the Washington Times reported on earlier this year).
The Federal Aviation Administration considers any innovation which costs less than $3 million per life saved to be cost-effective. By that metric, hardening cockpit doors seems to be cost effective, while the air marshals program is not.
(HT: Bruce Schneier)