Joe Shortsleeve / WBZ TV – CBS | July 17, 2008

BOSTON (WBZ) ― You can almost touch the planes as they roar over Point Shirley in Winthrop on their way to Logan Airport. The passengers were checked for explosives before they got on, however, a growing concern is what could happen away from the airport: Terrorist firing a shoulder launched-missile just outside the airport’s property. The light weight weapons are becoming and more available on the black market, as many as 150,000 are believed to be in circulation and can easily bring down a plane.

But now American Airlines is flying with new defensive technology on some of its New York to Los Angeles flights.

Developed in New Hampshire by defense contractor, BAE Systems, the cross country passenger jets are now equipped with a laser deterrent system mounted on the plane’s belly. It can identify and misdirect an incoming missile. It’s being tested for Homeland Security.

Laurie Nuzzo is the Program manager for BAE Systems in Nashua New Hampshire where technology was developed. “Over several years we have been testing and validating the system. So now it is really great to see us now at this point on an in service passenger aircraft.”

American Airlines is not using the technology on any Boston-based flights. At $1 million per plane, the missile defense system is expensive. Nonetheless passenger we spoke to like the idea.

“No one is going to catch you by surprise now, maybe it will save lives,” said one traveler.

BAE Systems is one of two defense contractors hoping to win a government contract. Congress will decide the future of this technology before next summer.

Experts say as many as 27 different terrorists organizations have the shoulder missile weapons. They sell for as little as $10,000.

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