I’m sure you all are very concerned. In fact, I’m sure you’re tired of the public outcry about yet another hijacking, and this time by the copilot of the aircraft.
I’m not talking about Malaysia Flight 370. I’m talking about an Ethiopian Airlines Flight 702, bound for Rome, that was hijacked in February 2014 and diverted by the co-pilot to Geneva, where the pilot requested asylum. The c0-pilot took control of the aircraft when the pilot stepped out to go to the rest room. No one was hurt and the man surrendered to authorities upon landing in Geneva.
Or maybe you’re upset about an attempted hijacking on January 4, 2014, in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui, China, where a man suspected of being mentally disabled attempted to rush the cockpit. Or maybe you are upset about active shooter attacks on December 20, 2013 at the airport at Manila in the Philippines, that killed the Mayor of Labangan-Zamboanga, along with his wife and two others, including an 18-month old baby. Or another active shooter attack Ndjili International Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo that killed 16 people.
Maybe you are also upset about an improvised explosive device detonated at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Kenya, or a vehicle-born improvised explosive device at the airport in Mogadishu, Somalia.
What about the attempted hijacking of a flight from Ukraine to Istanbul, where the hijacker demanded it be flown to the Olympics, claiming he had at a bomb on board? Ring a bell?
Maybe the April 1 hijacking of Lufthansa flight by a man who was being deported, where he forced the flight attendant into a toilet and held her there using a broken razor blade until the aircraft landed in Munich has got you hot under the collar? What about when two missiles were fired at Tripoli International Airport on March 21st, and a bomb detonating on the runway?
So you’re not familiar with these? Why not? I just listed several hijackings and attempted hijackings, along with active shooters at airports within the past 7 months. Maybe, you say “but these things did not happen in the my country, or in a war zone or 3rd world country, so why should it affect me?” Well, what about on March 2 on a 47-year-old man was arrested for stealing a Cessna 208 Caravan from the Boulder City Airport while drunk? That happened here in the States but you missed that one also that you say?
Or are you more familiar with New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, who was reported to have been removed from a Virgin America flight for refusing to put his headphones away for takeoff. Or former Miami Dolphins receiver Davone Bess who was arrested at the Fort Lauderdale Hollywood international Airport due to bizarre behavior in the terminal. Maybe you are more familiar with these last two since football players in the States are typically considered celebrities and since I’m convinced high school never ends, whenever the popular kids get into trouble, its news.
But what about the other ones? Why are we so much less familiar with these issues?
Also, think for a moment what has been carrying the news related to aviation security here in the United States for the past few months. Besides the Malaysia flight, and the stowaway fence jumper, most of the talk has been about Risk Base Screening. But what do you think the international community is talking about when it comes to aviation security?
Taking a look at the last two issues of Aviation Security International magazine, an outstanding publication and an excellent way to keep up on what is going on in the aviation security industry beyond what is covered in the mainstream media, the hot topics this month our: well the Malaysian Airlines flight of course, they are not going to miss obvious stories, but they also include articles on biometrics, and aircraft blast containment. Last month’s issue covered web-based data mining, the limitations of x-ray equipment and aircrew security training, plus tightening security for the Sochi international Airport for the Olympics.
What I cannot even begin to discuss is the tremendous amount of For Official Use Only (FOUO) material, and Law Sensitive Enforcement information, plus classified material all the way up to the Secret level that can be shared with Airport Security Coordinators. Some of the intelligence reports at that level are so scary people who read them have trouble sleeping at night. Keep in mind that ASC’s and some others have been approved such access, plus airport and airline security personnel are eligible to become Terrorism Liaison Officers, through their local fusion center.
For those of you that do not have access to such information, do not be fooled that just because many of these incidents are not covered in the mainstream media, or they seem like they are in another country with different circumstances, that none of this has anything to do with you. Those were the dangerous assumptions we made prior to 9/11. Become informed. If you do not have any sort of security clearance one of the best ways to stay informed is a subscription to Aviation Security International. There are also a few databases out there they can provide you intelligence reports, and at the very minimum you should be logged onto AAAE’s Smart Brief, a daily email blast of the most current stories related to aviation and airport security.
If you do have the ability to obtain a clearance, do so and start reading the intel that comes across your desk. Unfortunately, access to that doesn’t always mean that that intelligence information, open source or otherwise will still make it to you. Many times just trolling through the pages of ASI, or other sources I have found plenty of other incidents that have occurred that have not made it to the mainstream media, or even our own intelligence sources. Not saying that our intel folks didn’t see it, they just may not of decided to disseminate it to you. You need to decide what’s important to the extent possible – its your airport or facility that is at stake.
One of the things I’ve noticed in studying aviation security for the past couple of decades, is that attacks leave clues and foreshadow future attacks. Make sure you are reading writing on the wall. The U.S. and other countries have cast huge intelligence webs all over the world – take advantage – the airport or airplane you save may be your own.