Journal of Transportation Security

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 143–159 | Cite as

A risk and cost-benefit assessment of United States aviation security measures

  • Mark G. StewartEmail author
  • John Mueller


This paper seeks to discover whether aviation security measures are cost-effective by considering their effectiveness, their cost and expected lives saved as a result of such expenditure. An assessment of the Federal Air Marshal Service suggests that the annual cost is $180 million per life saved. This is greatly in excess of the regulatory safety goal (societal willingness to pay to save a life) of $1–$10 million per life saved. As such, the air marshal program fails a cost-benefit analysis. In addition, the opportunity cost of these expenditures is considerable, and it is highly likely that far more lives would have been saved if the money had been invested instead in a wide range of more cost-effective risk mitigation programs. On the other hand, hardening of cockpit doors has an annual cost of only $800,00 per life saved, showing that this is a cost-effective security measure.


Terrorism Security Risk Cost-benefit analysis Aviation 



Part of this work was undertaken while the first author was a visiting scholar at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies at Ohio State University. He greatly appreciates the assistance and financial support of the Mershon Center. The first author also appreciates the financial support of the Australian Research Council.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Infrastructure Performance and ReliabilityThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.Mershon Center for International Security Studies and Department of Political ScienceOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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