Monday, January 09, 2006

Airport Security.

Airport security

Bags are scanned by X-ray machine, people are scanned by metal detectorsAirport security refers to the techniques and methods used in protecting airports and by extension aircraft from crime and terrorism.

Large numbers of people pass through airports every day. Such a large gathering of people presents a natural target for terrorism and other forms of crime due to the number of people located in a small area. Similarly, the high concentration of people on larger airliners and the potental high lethality rate of attacks on aircraft provide an alluring target for terrorism. Airport security provides a first line of defence by attempting to stop would-be attackers from bringing weapons or bombs into the airport. If they can succeed in this, then the chances of these devices getting on to aircraft is greatly reduced. As such, airport security serves two purposes: To protect the airport from attacks and crime and to protect the aircraft from attack.

Contents [hide]
1 Airport enforcement authority
2 Process and equipment
3 Notable incidents
4 Airport Security by Country
4.1 Canada
4.2 France
4.3 India
4.4 Singapore
4.5 United Kingdom
4.6 United States
5 See also
6 External links

Airport enforcement authority

While some countries may have uniform protection at all of their airports, in other countries like the US, the protection is controlled at the state or local level. The primary personnel will vary and can include:

A police force hired and dedicated to the airport
A branch (substation) of the local police department stationed at the airport
Members of the local police department assigned to the airport as their normal patrol area
Members of a country's military
Members of a country's airport protection service
K-9 services for explosive detection, drug detection and other purposes
When additional personnel are required, then several of the groups listed above can be used and as required supplemented by other resources that include:

Officers from the normal agency, but in larger numbers using personnel not normally assigned to the airport
Security guards
Paramilitary forces
Reserve military forces

Process and equipment

Many past tragedies were the result of travelers allowed or able to carry either weapons or items that could be used as weapons on board aircraft so that they can hijack the plane. Travelers are quickly but efficiently screened by a metal detector. More advanced explosive detection machines are being used in screening passengers. Baggage must be screened to prevent the carrying of bombs aboard an aircraft. X-ray machines are often used to speed this process. Explosive detection machines can also used for both carry on and checked baggage.

Generally people are screened through airport security into the concourse{s}, where the gates are all located. This area is often called a secure or sterile area. Passengers are discharged from airliners into the sterile area so that they usually will not have to be rescreened if boarding a domestic flight, however they are still subject to search at any time. For those airports that have sit down eating establishments, a common feature is that they will use plastic cutlery and paper cups rather than metal cutlery and glasses made out of glass, lest they be used as a weapon.

In some countries, specially trained individuals may engage passengers in a conversation to detect threats rather then relying on equipment to find threats.

Notable incidents

The world's most lethal failure of airport security to date was the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center and The Pentagon using hijacked jetliners which killed nearly 3000 people. The deadliest airline catastrophe resulting from an onboard bomb was Air India Flight 182, which killed 329 people.

Another notable failure was the 1994 bombing of Philippine Airlines Flight 434, which turned out to be a test run for a planned terrorist attack called Operation Bojinka. The explosion was small, killing one person, and the plane made an emergency landing. Operation Bojinka was discovered and foiled by Manila police in 1995.

On May 30, 1972 three members of the Japanese Red Army undertook a terrorist attack, popularily called the Lod Airport massacre, at the Lod Airport, now known as the Ben Gurion International Airport, in Tel Aviv. Firing indiscriminately with automatic firearms and throwing grenades, they managed to kill 24 people and injure 78 others before being neutralized (one of them through suicide). One of the three terrorists, Kozo Okamoto, survived the incident.

The Rome and Vienna airport attacks in December 1985 were two more instances of airport security failures. The attacks left 20 people dead when gunmen threw grenades and opened fire on travelers at El Al ticket counters.

Airport Security by Country


All restrictions involving airport security are determined by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA). Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, airport security has tightened in Canada in order to prevent any attacks on Canadian soil.


French security has been stepped up since the terrorist attacks in France in 1986. In response France established the Vigipirate program. After a brief drop of the program it was reinstated in 1991. The program involves using troops to reinforce local security. The program increases requirements in screenings and ID checks.


India stepped up its airport security after the 1999 Kandahar hijacking. The Central Industrial Security Force, a paramilitary organisation is in charge of airport security. Terrorist threats and narcotics are the main threats in Indian airports. Another problem that some airports face is the profilaration of slums around the airport boundaries in places like Mumbai. Before you board the aeroplane, there is liable to be a hand-search of your hand-luggage.


An Aetos auxiliary police officer stationed outside the Departure Hall of Terminal 2, Singapore Changi AirportSecurity for the country's two international passenger airports, comes under the purview of the Airport Police Division of the Singapore Police Force, although resources are concentrated at Singapore Changi Airport where scheduled passenger traffic dominate. Seletar Airport, which specialises in handling non-scheduled and training flights, is seen as posing less of a security issue. Since the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the naming of Changi Airport as a terrorism target by the Jemaah Islamiyah, the airport's security has been stepped up. Roving patrol teams comprising of two soldiers and a police officer armed with machine guns patrol the terminals at random.

Assisting the state organisations, are the security services provided by the ground handlers, namely that of the Singapore Airport Terminal Services's SATS Security Services, and the Aetos Security Management Private Limited, formed from a merger of the Changi International Airport Services's airport security unit and that of other companies to become a single island-wide auxiliary police company. These officers man check-in counters to screen luggage, control movements into restricted areas, and so forth.

Since 2005, an upgrade in screening technology and rising security concerns led to all luggage-screening processes to be conducted behind closed-doors. Plans are also in place to install over 400 cameras around the airport to monitor passenger activity around the clock and to check on suspicious parcels and activity to prevent bomb attacks similar to the 2005 Songkhla bombings in Southern Thailand where Hat Yai International Airport was targeted. Tenders to incorporate such a system was called in late September 2005 [1].

United Kingdom

The Department for Transport (DfT) is the heart of airport security in the United Kingdom. Along with the Home Office in September 2004, it started an initiative called the Multi Agency Threat and Risk Assessment (MATRA), which was initially piloted at five of the United Kingdom's major airports - Heathrow, Birmingham, East Midlands, Newcastle and Glasgow. Following successful trials, the scheme has now been rolled out across 44 airports. [2]

Since the September 11th attacks in New York, the United Kingdom has been assessed as a high risk country due to its support of the United States both in its invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Currently there are limits as to the weight of hand luggage (regardless of what it contains), and the amount of hand luggage that can be taken on board. All bags are screened via X-ray before being put on the plane. All passengers must walk through metal detectors. Human airport security has also been increased. There are also the usual checks of passports.

There are a number of routes being considered to further improve airport security:

Biometrics - The use of bodily features to identify a person (fingerprints, eye scans, face scans).
Advanced CCTV cameras - Programmed to detect "odd behaviour", for example, someone running through usually calm areas of an airport or jumping over barriers.
Advanced X-Ray machines - Further developments in X-ray technology have meant that an entire 360 degree X-ray can be done of a person and can see under clothes, right down to the skin and bones.
Various criticisms have been brought up about these methods. Biometrics is extremely unreliable and, in some cases, easily faked, and biometrics incorporated into CCTV cameras which detect odd behaviour have raised the question "What exactly is odd behaviour?" Many people run in an airport, and excited children display what may be considered odd behaviour. The latest X-Ray machines (Backscatters) are planned to be tested in several U.S. airports through 2005 and at London's Heathrow Airport (ext. link). Due to their accuracy in looking under someone's clothes — genitalia have been displayed during tests, meaning it would be equal to that of a strip search — they will have to be carried out by someone of the same sex in accordance with strict rules. It is unlikely that everyone going through an airport would be liable to such a search.

United States

Prior to the 1970s American airports had minimal security arrangements to prevent aircraft hijackings. Screening measures were introduced starting in the late 1960s after several high-profile hijackings.

Sky marshals were introduced in 1970 but there were insufficient numbers to protect every flight and hijackings continued to take place. Consequently in late 1972, the FAA required that all airlines begin screening passengers and their carry-on baggage by January 5, 1973. This screening was generally contracted to private security companies.

The September 11, 2001 attacks prompted even tougher regulations, such as limiting the number of items passengers could carry onboard aircraft and generally requiring all passengers to present a government issued photo ID.

The Aviation and Transportation Security Act generally required that by 19 November 2002 all passenger screening must be conducted by Federal employees. As a result, passenger and baggage screening is now provided by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), part of the Department of Homeland Security.

See also

Airline security
Airport security repercussions due to the September 11, 2001 attacks
Category:Airliner bombings
Category:Deliberate airliner crashes
Category:Airliner hijackings


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