'Take note of airline terror incidents'
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'Take note of airline terror incidents'

Attacks on airlines could be terrorists' ways of testing airlines, airport security, say strategic experts.

india Updated: Sep 17, 2006 21:05 IST

Strategic experts have warned that some of the recent security incidents in different parts of the world involving aircraft and airports could be "testers" by terrorists.

Though some of these airline security incidents could be results of "genuine innocence" of first-time travellers, experts have asked the airlines and aviation authorities not to ignore them as some of them could be terrorist probes with actual imminent threats.

They have also pointed out that there have been about two dozen incidents since August, leading to flight diversions, emergency landings, escorting of civil aircraft by air force fighters and arrests of some people.

Even as new measures were being introduced worldwide to check the emerging threats, the number of such incidents since August was much more than recorded in the past, these experts, who declined to be identified, said.

The incidents have ranged from alarms being triggered off by disruptive passenger behaviour, bomb threats, misuse of mobile phones in-flight and even an odd smell in the aircraft.

While most countries including India have put in place measures and systems to prevent any terror strike on airports or aircraft, a body of US and Canadian pilots has also come out with a series of recommendations for governments to put in place as, according to them, "serious gaps" still remain.

The Air Line Pilots Association International (ALPA), which is the largest pilots union in the world, recently came out with a report providing their perspectives on aviation security issues.

ALPA president Duane Woerth, while releasing the report titled 'Aviation Security: Five years After 9/11 Attacks', said the attack had "dramatically altered" the perception of aviation terrorism.

An ALPA statement quoted him as saying that the security systems currently in place have remained "too focussed on finding objects rather than the intent to do harm".

Pointing out that less attention was paid to detecting those with destructive intent and more emphasis laid on identifying possible threat objects, ALPA recommended implementation of non-intrusive individual risk assessment.

As security experts pointed out that in some of these incidents, the sky marshals deployed in the aircraft for security were drawn out of their places and exposed, it recommended that trusted airline or airport employees be trained and used as "eyes and ears" of the security apparatus. Flight-deck and crew members should also be trained in self-defence.

It stressed the need for improving the verification and identification of those having access to airport and aircraft and suggested putting a second cockpit barrier in place to enhance security of the flight deck.

Recommending taking aviation security to the next level, ALPA asked the governments to "deploy a proactive, human-centred and threat-driven security system which harnesses the expertise and experience of all parties—regulators, airlines, airports and labour".

The pilots' body also suggested a number of steps to enhance security at the airports and cargo operations.

First Published: Sep 17, 2006 14:43 IST