The Toronto airport again has played a role in aviation security. It was 134years ago, June 23, 1985, when the deadliest airline bombing in history took down Air India Flight 182. The flight had departed from Vancouver, made a stopover in Canada en route to London, but all 329 on board were killed by a terrorist bomb as the plane approached the coast of Ireland.

The most recent aviation security incident out of Toronto, is a passenger being behind left on an Air Canada flight, that was left on the ramp for overnight parking. . While this does represent a threat to aviation security, it might not be the threat you think.

It is normal for an aircraft that is going out of service for the day to be parked on a remote area of the airport, or at least pushed back away from the boarding gate, and then buttoned up for the night. This process is known as Remain Overnight parking, or  RON. It’s a security procedure that makes it more difficult for someone to get on board the aircraft when it’s parked and unoccupied. But it’s also standard procedure for the flight crew, typically a flight attendant, to walk to the back of the aircraft and ensure that everybody is off the plane and that there are no items that have been left behind.

It is difficult to stow away on board a passenger aircraft in this manner as the flight attendants are very likely to spot you – there’s really not a lot of places to hide, and yes, they check the lavatory’s as well. However, these incidents do occasionally occur and has even happened to me once.

My wife and I were returning from a trip to Pensacola with our first child, who was an infant at the time. We were waiting for everybody else to deplane so we weren’t holding people up while we tried to get the kid, her car seat and all of the gear that sherpa-mom and sherpa-dad have to haul to support a youngling these days.

Then suddenly, the plane was empty and the lights went out.

Fortunately, they left the door open and the stairs in place, and I had a light on my cell phone. It was a regional jet, so once outside we were on directly on ramp area, not inside the building. It was later in the evening and no one was around. The flight crew had already vanished inside of the terminal building. Fortunately, since I was at one time the assistant director of security at this airport I knew which doors I could access. I led my family inside and went to the nearest phone to notify airport authorities who responded and tracked down the responsible flight crew.

It would be highly unusual for someone with intent to leave themselves on an airplane as a potential method of attack. However, when no one is paying attention to security anymore it can be quite easy to leave something behind such as a suitcase with an improvised explosive device in it.

What this really represents is that we are doing what we always do. We are becoming lackadaisical about aviation security and when we start doing that, we suffer severe consequences. Everyone needs to remember that security is just important as safety in getting you to your destination. And often times it is the day-to-day diligence by airport and airline workers that keeps the security layers intact. The failure of just one person to do their job can make the difference between the success or failure of an attack.

What can you personally do in your role to ensure that the layers of security you have influence or control over or effective? ­Even if you are a passenger, you should accept personal responsibility for your own safety and security by continuing to use report suspicious activity and when you see aviation workers not doing their job, let someone know (and don’t give them a hard time when they are just trying to do their job). The life you save may be your own.


Jeff Price

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