It’s Personal
Lead Editorial

It’s Personal

Last year in our autumn issue I used the opportunity of publishing right around September 11th to introduce myself as the new editor of this publication. It was the 20th anniversary of 9/11 (and of course this year marks 21st anniversary). For those of us who were working in aviation at that time, I guess we will always have a visceral reaction to that date and the memories of that time.

I take every opportunity to publicly reminisce about my college friend, David Charlebois, who was one of the pilots on American Airlines Flight 77 that was hijacked and crashed into the Pentagon on that fateful day. So, I want to mention him again here. David was a super smart, motivated guy, pursuing his dream of becoming a captain for a major legacy airline.

But, when I knew him, he was a friend with like interests — mostly flying. We shared that love of the sky and a passion for slipping the surly bonds of earth, traveling, adventure and the idea of a non-routine job that didn’t require sitting at a desk all week. David was motivated to get his ratings, build flight time and get hired by a legacy airline.

He was also a planner. He had a very defined plan for his path to achieve that goal. Talking to him about that plan gave me my own ideas and helped me formulate what I hoped would come next in my path after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University where we were studying and training. He was also a person with a sharp sense of humor and I remember laughing about some of his very specific and unique ideas.

David was a son, a brother and an uncle. On the Pentagon Memorial page, his write up says, “He will be remembered fondly by many friends for his kindness, loyalty and positive attitude.” I can confirm that is how I remember him: kind, funny, loyal, hard-working, motivated.

As I sit and write this, it’s September 11, 2022. Twenty-one years ago, American Airlines flight 77, along with three other airline flights, was hijacked by terrorists and deliberately crashed into the Pentagon as part of the September 11 attacks. Here is a brief recap of what happened on that flight as written by Patricia Bauer in the Brittanica entry, “American Airlines flight 77” (edited for length).

“The Boeing 757-200 took off at 8:20 am. There were six crewmembers and 58 passengers. Unbeknownst to all, five hijackers boarded the flight. One of the hijackers was a trained pilot. Approximately half an hour after takeoff, the hijackers took control of the aircraft. At 8:54 the westbound plane turned to the south, deviating from flight plan. Two minutes later the airplane’s transponder was turned off. Radar contact was also lost. An air traffic controller at the Indianapolis Air Traffic Control Center tried repeatedly to make contact with the pilot; receiving no response, he contacted American Airlines, but was also unsuccessful. Unaware of the earlier hijackings, the air traffic controllers began notifying other agencies that the plane might have crashed. At 9:09 the Indianapolis ATC notified the FAA that it had lost contact with the flight. At 9:12 one of the flight attendants, Renee May, used her cell phone to call her mother; she asked her mother to tell American Airlines that the flight had been hijacked. Another passengers, Barbara Olson, a Washington pundit phoned her husband, a politician to tell him that the plane had been hijacked and that all the people aboard had been herded to the back of the plane. Shortly after, Indianapolis ATC learned from American Airlines that other planes had been hijacked. A discussion ensued between the FAA command center and Indianapolis, and another confused conversation took place between the FAA and the Northeast Air Defense Sector. During that time, flight 77 traveled undetected back toward Washington for 36 minutes. At 9:32 air traffic controllers at Dulles found an unidentified aircraft traveling east at a high rate of speed and notified their compatriots at Reagan National Airport. FAA officials at both airports notified the Secret Service and controllers at Reagan ordered a National Guard aircraft that was already airborne to find and follow the (as yet) unidentified aircraft. At 9:34 flight 77 was 5 miles (8 km) west-southwest of the Pentagon; it executed a sharp turn and quick descent and dove toward the Pentagon, crashing into it at 9:37.

The plane hit the outer wall between the first and second floors and smashed through three of the Pentagon’s five concentric rings. The jet fuel exploded into a fireball, and about half an hour later a section of the building above where the plane hit collapsed. By that time, most people working there had been evacuated. However, 125 people working in the building were killed, as were the 64 crew, passengers, and hijackers on the plane. The impact, fire, and collapse of the affected part of the building destroyed most of the aircraft, leaving only a few pieces of wreckage.”

I think of my friend David, how aviation and travel changed after September 11 and where we are now, every year at this time. For some, security is nothing more than a pain and an inconvenience they experience when flying somewhere. But for me, it’s personal. Never forget.

Breast Milk of All Things
Lead Editorial

Breast Milk of All Things

This week a woman named Emily Calandrelli tried to go through TSA security screening at Los Angeles Intl. Airport in Los Angeles Calif. She was told by two male TSA agents that she couldn’t bring two ice packs through security because they were not frozen solid (one was, one was not). Worried that she wouldn’t be able to keep her breast milk, which she was going to pump prior to her flight, from going bad, she asked to speak to someone else.

I’ll let Emily tell the story — here is a partial transcript of her tweet thread: “Yesterday was my 1st trip away from my 10wk old son, who I’m currently breastfeeding. I’m going through security at LAX. I brought my pump and 2 ice packs – only 1 of which was cold (I won’t need the other until I come home, when I’ll have more milk).”

She didn’t have milk with her as it was the beginning of her trip but she was planning to pump at the airport prior to her flight and throughout her trip. “I was planning to get a last second pump sesh in before my 5 hour flight,” her tweet said. Two male TSA agents told her she would not be able to bring the ice packs through because there were not frozen solid. The ice packs are absolutely necessary to store the pumped breast milk safely, for later consumption.

When she was told she couldn’t bring the ice packs through, she asked to speak to someone else hoping they might have a better understanding of the rules and allow the gel packs, which can be frozen and thawed many times, to go through. The supervisor came over and told her the same — the gel packs could not go through. “He said ‘if you had milk on you, this wouldn’t be a problem.’ He asked (‘multiple times’) ‘well WHERE is the baby.’ He said if my child was with me, it wouldn’t be an issue,” she recounted in her tweet.

She then asked several times to speak with a female agent, who might understand the nuances of the issue better. They did not allow that. They escorted her out of the line and made her check the ice packs. Without them, she could not pump before the flight as the milk would spoil. She was flustered, upset and worried about both her baby’s food supply and her own health. She was worried about getting mastitis, which is an inflammation of breast tissue that often involves an infection. The inflammation results in breast pain, swelling, warmth and redness accompanied by fever and chills. Mastitis most commonly affects women who are breast-feeding and can result from engorged breasts that have not been expressed of milk.

Turns out those three men were pretty clueless, not only about breastfeeding, breast milk storage and female anatomy, they were also wrong about the very rules they work by. TSA rules specifically state that you’re allowed to have gel ice packs, whether they are frozen or not, for medically necessary purposes. Here is the exact wording on the TSA website: “Ice packs, freezer packs, frozen gel packs and other accessories required to cool formula, breast milk and juice — regardless of the presence of breast milk — are allowed in carry-on. If these accessories are partially frozen or slushy, they are subject to the same screening as described above. You may also bring gel or liquid-filled teethers, canned, jarred and processed baby food in carry-on baggage. These items may be subject to additional screening.”

And as Calandrelli tweeted, “Emptying my breasts on a regular schedule and providing food for my child IS medically necessary.” The TSA’s website also states: “Frozen liquid items are allowed through the checkpoint as long as they are frozen solid when presented for screening. If frozen liquid items are partially melted, slushy, or have any liquid at the bottom of the container, they must meet 3-1-1 liquids requirements. Note that medically necessary gel ice packs in reasonable quantities are allowed regardless of their physical state of matter (e.g., melted or slushy) with or without the presence of breast milk. Please notify the TSA officer at the checkpoint for inspection.”

Reasonable quantities of gel packs are allowed — she had two — regardless of their state of matter. With or without the presence of breast milk. “Yesterday I was humiliated that I had to explain to 3 grown men that my breasts still produce milk when I’m not with my child. Yesterday I was embarrassed telling them about my fear of mastitis if I didn’t pump. Today I’m furious.”

To add insult to injury, the TSA agent, as he was escorting her back towards the screening area said, “…and don’t try to sneak it back through a second time. We’ll just make you toss it out,” Calandrelli tweeted.

The TSA guidelines go on to say: “Formula, breast milk, juice in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. Remove these items from your carry-on bag to be screened separately from the rest of your belongings. You do not need to travel with your child to bring breast milk. Breast milk and formula are considered medically necessary liquids. This also applies to breast milk pumping equipment (regardless of presence of breast milk).”

Breastfeeding is more important and necessary than ever, and yes, it is medically necessary — medically necessary to keep tiny babies alive. Pumping and storing breast milk is part and parcel of the process of feeding most babies. Moms refer to breast milk as liquid gold. The nutrients in breastmilk are better absorbed and used by babies. Science has found that breastmilk has the nutrients that are best for a baby’s brain growth and nervous system development. If a mother must be away from her child during this time, the best option is to pump and store the milk for later use.

But in case you are oblivious and haven’t read the news recently (I’m talking to you TSA), there is a massive formula shortage in the United States right now. This severe shortage of infant formula is a result of the global supply chain problems and has been compounded by a huge product recall after two babies allegedly died after consuming a specific type of infant formula. That company closed the factory in which that formula was produced shortly thereafter, further exacerbating the shortage. It is causing stress for mothers who may have low milk supply and need to supplement with formula, were unable to breast feed for any number of reasons or who have a premature baby that cannot suck yet. Across the nation mothers are searching for formula in networks set up on social media to find specific types that are needed due to medical reasons.

Talk about adding insult to injury…women who are able to breastfeed and want to do so, are now faced with ignorant, poorly trained screeners who do not understand human female anatomy, not to mention the very rules they are supposed to enforce. As Calandrelli said, “The lack of training at TSA is unfairly punishing and harming women.” Do better TSA. Do better.

Danger Close
Lead Editorial

Danger Close

Danger close is a military phrase used in battle when forward and directing fire onto an enemy. As we come into this new year, the term has never been more relevant in the world at large than now in so much that is happening around the world.

We are faced with a pandemic disease that doesn’t play fair — leading to inexplicable deaths for some and cold symptoms for others — that is also mutating. Fortunately, we have good vaccines that are working — as long as people choose to get them. We are faced with a continued threat of this illness but many are moving on regardless of the status of the disease’s progress. For most it is a matter of survival: jobs, work, earning a living must continue, especially for those at the financial edge.

We now have a madman invading a sovereign country with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. What can he be thinking? The lives of the 44 million people of Ukraine have been turned upside down with the chaos of war for no reason. And this aggression is surely causing ripple effect worries for other former members of the Soviet bloc.

As in all times of uncertainty, transportation is playing a key role. As Ukrainian women, children and elderly flee the country, trains, planes and automobiles are the key to their escape. Neighboring nations such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and others are receiving thousands of refugees daily. Poland’s Prime Ministry tweeted: “Attack civilians, inflict suffering on women and children, undermine democratic freedom: that is Putin’s policy. We’re fighting it on every front. Today I spoke about humanitarian aid with EEA ambassadors in Poland and fighting RU disinformation with Google CEO.”

Images of Ukrainian refugees pouring into rail stations, airports and bus stations are everywhere — and thank goodness these modes of transport are bringing people to safety.

One clear ripple effect that is causing pain around the globe is rising fuel prices. The economic sanctions put in place against Russia have led to increased pain at the pump, even for those on the other side of the world from where the madness is happening.

Just as we began to see light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, this conflict, less than a month old, has already caused multiple problems in transportation and supply chain with aviation shipping, rail and road all impacted.

As we prepared to send this issue to the printer, we took a look at some key areas to see what is happening. Let me highlight a few of the stories. Safe parking for trucks is sorely lacking all over the world and it is needed now more than ever. We are pushing drivers harder and further as the supply chain bends and breaks under the intense pressure it has been put under during the pandemic. These drivers need rest and a safe place to do that. Maneuvering a massive vehicle is not easy especially in areas that are not built to receive them. With heightened security concerns over the safety of the drivers and their cargo, more needs to be done to solve this dilemma. There are some companies working on it – learn more in our cover story on safe truck parking on page 36.

We take a look at the advancement of X-ray technology for airport luggage and people screening. Advancements have been made and they include software-driven artificial intelligence along with its focused self-improvement process, machine learning (AI/ML). We see how this technology is supercharging airport screening systems in this piece by James Careless.

We are grateful to former ASI Editor Philip Baum, who is back in this issue with a look at what really matters in avsec as the world seemingly tumbles out of control. He shows how being influenced by primary-recency, such as a 9/11 or a shoe bomber event, can make us in the security industry succumb to considering the most recent news we have heard as being indicative of the preeminent threats. But, Baum says, we need to focus on the next thing coming, the unknown. How? Training will be crucial. See more of his thoughts and suggestions starting on page 20.

We continue our two-part story on coastal surveillance by Mario Pierobon. This second of the two-part series looks at the increasing use of unmanned systems for this purpose. Big data and artificial intelligence will also play a larger role, as they do for so many areas of technological development. Learn how in this story starting on page 28.

And finally, let me call your attention to our story on the cyber challenges in the rail transportation industry. Experts call cyberattacks on the rail system “relentless.” How are they coping? What have we learned from the attacks on other areas of critical national infrastructure? The hackers have shifted from a ransomware tactic — corrupting a computer network’s code to lock out vital components like file servers, then demanding a substantial payment from the network’s owner to unlock those components — to a “double extortion” scheme of demanding payment for unlocking and then a second payoff demand to refrain from publicly releasing confidential information. Learn more in Jim McKenna’s fascinating look at the cyberthreats facing rail systems.

Stay safe everyone, even as danger comes closer and closer in so many different forms.

Decorum: The Continuing Saga
Lead Editorial

Decorum: The Continuing Saga

Federal Aviation Regulations 91.11, 121.580 and 135.120 state that “no person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember in the performance of the crewmember’s duties aboard an aircraft being operated.”

Interfering with the duties of a crewmember violates federal law. And yet, weekly we see and hear reports about yet another unruly passenger outburst, clash or assault — some sexual in nature and others merely physical — occurring on aircraft or at the gate.

The repercussions for passengers who engage in unruly behavior can be substantial. Fines can be imposed by the FAA or the offenders can be prosecuted on criminal charges. FAA can propose up to $37,000 per violation for unruly passenger cases.

Under the new zero tolerance policy, the FAA says it will not address unruly passenger cases with warnings or counseling. The agency will pursue legal enforcement action against any passenger who assaults, threatens, intimidates, or interferes with airline crew members.

But still, it doesn’t seem to be enough to deter people from acting out in such negative and outrageous ways which compromises the safety of everyone. Can anything else be done?

Let’s look at the numbers. There have been 5,664 unruly passenger reports as of the writing of this column so far in the year 2021. In addition, 4,072 incidents have been mask-related. According to the FAA, 76% of passenger incidents reported during the first five months of 2021 were over masks.

At a Senate hearing December 15, 2021 Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said he thinks the mask mandate for airline passengers should be lifted. “I think the case is very strong that masks don’t add very much, if anything, in the air cabin environment,” Kelly said. “It is very safe and very high quality compared to any other indoor setting.” Keep in mind that only a year ago Gary Kelly said, “If people would wear the mask — please wear the mask — we can defeat this pandemic.”

At this same hearing American Airlines CEO Doug Parker said he agreed. “I concur,” Parker said. “An aircraft is the safest place you can be. It’s true of all of our aircraft ­— they all have the same HEPA filters and airflow.” That may be true for American Airlines aircraft but not all aircraft have HEPA filters and that doesn’t even address the airport terminal where passengers must congregate and stand shoulder to shoulder while boarding a flight. Or the point that some people are vaccinated and some are not, like children under five years old.

Right now the Transportation Security Administration’s mask mandate has been extended to March 2022.

Outspoken flight attendant union leader Sara Nelson had this to say about the mask mandate: “I believe that the government has taken a very responsible approach to this. We believe it should continue to stay in place. [It’s a] workplace safety issue,” she said at the hearing. “We do need a consistent message though. I hope we are going to stay on the same messages and follow the medical experts, and do what’s necessary to keep everybody safe.” She also concluded that it is the medical community that should make the decision about whether to mandate mask use on airline flights.

For the record, studies have shown that masks significantly decrease the chances of transmitting or contracting the coronavirus, depending upon the type of mask used. The N95 is the gold standard, experts say.

Mandating the wearing of masks only seems to incense some people and that has clearly led to an uptick in unruly passenger incidents.

Oh Demon Alcohol

The FAA has also proposed $161,823 in civil penalties against eight airline passengers for alleged unruly behavior involving alcohol. Since Jan. 1, 2021, the FAA says it has received nearly 300 reports of passenger disturbances due to alcohol and intoxication.

Federal law prohibits passengers from consuming alcohol aboard a flight that is not served by a flight attendant. Airport bars frequently offer “to-go” cups for passengers awaiting their flights but in August this year, FAA Administrator Steve Dickson sent a letter to airports requesting that they work to prevent passengers from bringing to-go cups of alcohol aboard the aircraft.

Flight attendant leader Sara Nelson also called for airports to limit passenger access to alcohol before flights, saying it sent the wrong message to push access right up to boarding and then allowing more to be carried onto the aircraft. Currently, both Southwest and American have banned alcohol sales in economy class through January 2022.

What has happened to good old decorum, being ashamed of outrageous behavior and common decency? The rate of unruly passenger incidents on commercial flights has dropped since the FAA launched its Zero Tolerance campaign but incidents continue to occur. Clearly it is not enough.

Perhaps we need to rethink booking levels and dividing the aircraft accordingly. Instead of first class and economy, let’s have partitians and extra-high fares for maskless fliers and those who want to drink onboard and place them in the back.

And for non-alcohol imbibing, mask-wearing, pleasant and kind passengers, I suggest your cheapest fare, widest seats and extra legroom.

TWENTY YEARS ON
Lead Editorial

TWENTY YEARS ON

As we close our third issue of this freshly rebranded magazine, we are taking a look back at the 20 years that have passed since 9/11 – please read Philip Baum’s comprehensive look back at the past 20 years in avsec. Since taking over from Philip earlier this year and shifting our focus from solely avsec to covering security in all modes of transport, we hit the ground running. I haven’t taken a moment to introduce myself. Let me do that now so you may understand my background.

I like to call myself an accidental editor. I came into the magazine editorial business shortly after 9/11 happened. Let me go back even further and put it all together for you.

When I was 15 and in school, I read a book about flying airplanes and became fascinated by the idea. I couldn’t stop thinking about it and wondering what it must be like to slip the surly bonds of earth, as the poem says. I told my father about my curiosity about flying. He was immediate and swift. He said to me, “If you want to learn to fly let’s go down to the local airport and look into flight lessons.” How amazing it was to get that kind of support. We headed to the local airport and I took a Cessna Discovery Flight a program that made that first flight fun and affordable.

I was hooked. I came back from that flight and told my father I definitely wanted to get my pilot’s license. I began taking regular flight lessons at that local airport. I soloed an airplane before I had my driver’s license – I had to call home to have my mom come and pick me up from the airport afterwards. I started working at the from desk of that small FBO to earn more money for flight lessons.

My flight instructor was great but worked only on the weekends and with weather and other schedule challenges, I was eager to go faster with my training. I wanted to progress and get more ratings and was thinking about flying professionally by this point. That flight instructor told me if I really wanted to pursue flying as a career, I should look at studying at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). It was the only university I applied to.

I pursued flying with gusto. I got my commercial ticket as well as my certified flight instructor certificates and then became a flight instructor there. I was just taking off from the airport with a student in Daytona Beach as the Challenger space shuttle lifted off one January morning. We watched in awe and then in horror as the shuttle exploded right before our eyes as it succumbed that day.

A friend from Embry-Riddle, David Charlebois, and I shared our dreams of crisscrossing the globe someday as airline pilots.

I continued to pursue flying as a career after leaving ERAU. I did all the things civilian pilots do to build time and experience to become airline pilots – I instructed, I flew a jump plane for skydive outfit, I flew charter flights, I was a night freight pilot flying car parts to keep assembly lines moving. Then I was hired by a regional airline. Along the way, I got married and had a couple of kids. I also took a two-year opportunity to live abroad with my husband in Spain when he was given a work assignment there. When I had built enough time, I acheived my airline transport pilot certificate.

I was eventually hired by a start-up airline that was modeled around an all first class service flying DC-9s with only 56 seats out of Dallas Love Field. The 56 seats was a unique way that company was able to maneuver around the Wright Amendment that limited operations from Dallas Love in hopes that the larger, newer DFW airport would thrive. In any case, being part of a start up airline was exciting and fun, if a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

Then 9/11 happened. It was a terrible time in aviation. The startup airline I worked for didn’t make it. I mentioned my college friend David earlier…he was the first officer of the American Airlines airplane that crashed into the Pentagon. He was smart, kind, funny and driven to succeed. He was one of the first of our cohort to make it to the legacy airlines. We were all so thrilled for his success. On top of the horror of the U. S. being attacked, I was shocked to learn of the loss of my friend.

Pilot hiring ground to a halt. I took some time off and then looked for another way to make a living and happened to meet the editor of an aviation publication at the 100th Anniversary of Flight that was taking place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 2003. He offered me a job saying he would rather teach me how to run a magazine than to try and teach a journalism major about aviation. I am so grateful for that chance meeting. I have been doing this work ever since.

All of that to say, that for me, aviation security and security in all modes of transport, is personal. I have been in the cockpit, in the airport, on the crew bus, transferring into the city on the metro/underground/subway/train and known a friend who died at the hands of terrorists.

I see the interconnected nature of these modes of transport and what is at risk. Real people. Real lives. I feel the ripple effects of catastrophic events like 9/11. So for me, covering security events is something I am passionate about. Connecting the dots between the various transport modes is not only fascinating but essential.

Please let us know your thoughts about our coverage and what ideas you may have for stories. We would love to hear from you. I can be reached at jfinnegan@aerospace-media.com.

First Freedom of the Air
Lead Editorial

First Freedom of the Air

On 23 May, Ryanair flight 4978, traveling from Athens, Greece to Vilnius, Lithuania, was intercepted by the Belarussian Air Force and forced to land due to what they said was “a potential security threat on board,” as well as being told there was “the threat of a bomb on board.”

What choice did they have? It is a required that pilots follow the commands of any military intercept aircraft under threat of being shot down. Certainly, these rules are more seriously understood as we know the lengths that some terrorists will go to and have seen the results of using aircraft as bombs on 9/11.

Here are the rules pilots are required to follow during an interception. “Do not adjust your altitude, heading, or airspeed until directed to by the intercepting aircraft. An intercepted aircraft must, without delay:

1. Adhere to instructions relayed through the use of visual devices, visual signals, and radio communications from the intercepting aircraft.

2. Attempt to establish radio communications with the intercepting aircraft or with the appropriate ATC facility by making a general call on guard (121.5 MHz), giving the identity, position, and nature of the flight.

3. If transponder equipped, squawk 7700 unless otherwise instructed by ATC.

4. The crew of the intercepted aircraft must continue to comply with interceptor aircraft signals and instructions until positively released.

They were ordered to land in Minsk, Belarus. The Ryanair pilots had no choice but to land as they were told to do. Once on the ground the aircraft was searched but the key to all was the arrest and detention of one Ryanair passenger, Roman Protasevich (and his Russian girlfriend, Sofia Sapega).

A large movement is happening in that country and Protasevich was among those leading the movement. He organized a messaging app channel that was used to great success during the huge protests against Belarus’ president Alexander Lukashenko. It focused on opposition to the current leader, who some have called “Europe’s last dictator.” Protestors in the movement have demanded new democratic leadership and reform.

The protestors and some Western authorities have said that Lukashenko rigged the countries last election in August. Tight controls by police have kept protests under control. Some opposition leaders have been sent to prison or have gone into exile. Protasevich was living in exile. Now he is unable to leave Belarus, initially being kept in jail and now being kept under “house arrest.” Protasevich has been shown on state television expressing regret for his activities. The opposition has said he spoke under duress and showed signs of physical abuse.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary called Belarus plane diversion and forced landing “state-sponsored hijacking … state-sponsored piracy.” The United States called it a “forced diversion.”

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said via Twitter shortly after it happened that the “outrageous and illegal behaviour of the regime in Belarus will have consequences,” adding those responsible “must be sanctioned.”

The International Federation of Air Line Pilots’ Associations (IFALPA) and the European Cockpit Association (ECA) released a statement saysing they “fully share the concerns expressed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) regarding the forced landing of Ryanair Flight 4978 in Minsk, Belarus, on 23 May. Pilots are concerned that the intervention of the Belarussian Air Force was enacted for political reasons, in contravention of the Chicago Convention, and amounts to an act of unlawful interference, bearing all the hallmarks of state-sponsored hijacking.”

The groups called for an independent enquiry into the occurrence and appropriate immediate response by safety and security authorities. They said the event was an “unprecedented act of unlawful interference” that could potentially change assumptions about the safest response to bomb threats on flight and interceptions. “Without trust and reliable information from States and Air Navigation Service Providers, handling both types of events becomes much riskier to manage,” the two groups said in their statement. “Any military intervention against a civilian aircraft constitutes a wilful hazard to the safety of passengers and crew. IFALPA and ECA urge States and the International Aviation Community to investigate and take swift measures against similar occurrences,” their statement went on to say.

The U. S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, also made a statement condemning the action. “The United States strongly condemns the forced diversion of a flight between two EU member states and the subsequent removal and arrest of journalist Raman Pratasevich in Minsk. We demand his immediate release. This shocking act perpetrated by the Lukashenka regime endangered the lives of more than 120 passengers, including U.S. citizens. Initial reports suggesting the involvement of the Belarusian security services and the use of Belarusian military aircraft to escort the plane are deeply concerning and require full investigation.”

He went on to say that indications were that the forced landing was based on false pretenses. “We support the earliest possible meeting of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization to review these events.”

NATO made this statement about the occurrence: “The North Atlantic Council strongly condemns the forced diversion to Minsk, Belarus of a Ryanair flight between Athens and Vilnius on 23 May, as well as the removal from the diverted aircraft and arrest of Raman Pratasevich, a prominent Belarusian journalist travelling on board, and Sofia Sapega. This unacceptable act seriously violated the norms governing civil aviation and endangered the lives of the passengers and crew.” The statement went on to say, “We support calls for an urgent independent investigation, including by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). We support measures taken by Allies individually and collectively in response to this incident. The detention of Mr. Pratasevich is an affront to the principles of political dissent and freedom of the press. Belarus must immediately and unconditionally release Mr. Pratasevich and Ms. Sapega. NATO Allies call on Belarus to respect fundamental human rights and freedoms, and to abide by the rules-based international order. Allies stand in solidarity with Latvia following the unjustified expulsion of Latvian diplomats.”

Was this event piracy? Hijacking? A misunderstanding? A ruse? Whatever it may be called it certainly violated the ICAO First Freedom Right. First Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to fly across its territory without landing (also known as a First Freedom Right).

Diplomacy, statements and regulation aside, after the Ryanair aircraft, crew and passengers were allowed to continue on their way, Protasevich and his girlfriend were detained. He was shown recently on television looking worn. He concluded a 90-minute interview rambling on saying, “I am cooperating absolutely fully and openly…and live an ordinary, calm life, have a family, children, stop running away from something.” After which he buried his face in his hands and cried.

Welcome to the Inaugural Issue of TSI
Lead Editorial

Welcome to the Inaugural Issue of TSI

As a longtime reader of Aviation Security Intl. you have surely seen the note from previous editor, Philip Baum, announcing his departure. I want to take this moment to acknowledge Philip’s long, stellar tenure as editor-in-chief of the former iteration of this publication and to thank him for his passion and dedication during the past two decades. Philip’s expertise in avsec is undisputed and remarkable. He is already missed and his loss is palpable. As I said to him in the transition, there is only one Philip Baum and no one can replace him.

Still, here we are, at a crossroads, with a new mission and direction. So, while I don’t imagine replacing anyone, I do look forward to forging ahead in pursuit of something new. Our new mission is coverage of security in all modes of transportation.

Of course, aviation security will still be at the forefront of our coverage and we are grateful to have the catalogue of previous issues for reference, foundation and the standard. But we are looking forward to creating a new publication with new ideas, new readers and new coverage. Although I will mention that we do have Philip Baum’s guidance going forward, at least for a while, for which we are grateful.

The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects is the definition of synergy. We believe that there is much to learn from the different sectors of transportation security and that shared knowledge begets greater understanding — synergy. So we are off in pursuit of that greater sum.

Some may say that our expanded coverage of other modes of transportation will have nothing to do with one another. I beg to disagree. There is a proverb that says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” Tech great Steve Jobs knew collaboration was key as well. He often looked to design aspects of his business that would lead to collaboration. He was a big believer in the power of accidental mingling. Creative thinking is not always meant to be a solo process.

Our concept is to share information between security professionals in all modes of transportation in an effort to help spark those collaborations and the creative flow of improvement, even if by small increments. Small changes can add up to a large impact. Ideas get better when they are fueled by other ideas. Ideas are meant to be shared and discussed; redefined and molded as blacksmiths work over a flame. All alone ideas can become stale, old. So we hope to spark that flame of creativity, of continuous improvement and of knowledge. Perhaps an avsec professional reading about changes or trends in rail security will lead to new ideas. Maybe a maritime security professional reading about ground transport security breaches will see a trend that tips them off to necessary changes in their work. This is our hope and goal. No siloes. A joint, collaborative source for transport security information.

In our first issue, we start right in with a look at the cybersecurity challenges facing the maritime shipping industry. After June 2017 NotPetya attack on Ukrainian targets that spread and hit international companies costing hundreds of millions in lost revenue and data, most shipping companies got a wake-up call about this type of breach on their IT systems. But what about operational technology (OT) environments? Our writer Andrew Reilly spoke with experts in the cybersecurity world that offer insights into what can happen with OT environments and how to protect these systems. Read that story on page 28.

Next, we take a look at how things have changed in various modes of mass transit like rail, subway and bussing. For example, attacks of bus drivers has only gotten worse over time. Our writer, James Careless says this state of affairs was bad enough before COVID-19 occurred, but since then matters have only gotten worse. Careless takes look around the globe at mass transit systems and how they are working to improve security at stations, depots and onboard. That story starts on page 36.

Kathryn Creedy examines a horrific trend in terrorism: the use of road vehicles — trucks, cars, vans — as weapons. The first vehicle ramming attack (VRA) was reported in the 1970s and have been on the rise ever since due to their accessibility and relative low-cost to fund. Creedy looks at numerous incidents and what can be learned from them as a whole, to plan and prevent them from occurring. Or if they do happen, how to minimize the damage. Throughout the piece is guidance from Homeland Security Vehicle Ramming – Action Guide. See that story on page 48.

And last, but not least, we have two pieces in our aviation security sector. The first is a look at the impact of the US elections and resulting fallout such as the January 6th Capitol breach and how these things are impacting passengers and airline security. It is written by former ASI sub-editor, Alexandra James and we are grateful to have her clear-eyed view of the struggles we face in the US. No one is immune, however, as we return to a truly global economy once the COVID crisis subsides. See her story on page 16. Our second avsec feature is a look at airport policing during the last 40 years — the changes and challenges written by Robert Raffel, a law enforcement professional with firsthand knowledge of the chinks in the armor at airports. You’ll find Raffel’s look back on page 22.

Thank you for joining us and reading this inaugural issue of TSI. We look forward to your feedback and ideas. Please reach out to me at jfinnegan@aerospace-media.com and share your thoughts.

Lead Editorial

SEE IT, SAY IT, SORTED: OR SEE IT, REPORT IT, BUT ACT IF NECESSARY

This is my 138th, and final, lead editorial for Aviation Security International. Every two months, aside from those issues which have been published in the immediate aftermath of an atrocity or failed plot, I have tried to conjure up something slightly provocative or a tad controversial to stimulate industry debate. So, what topic should I choose for this final column?

Philip Baum

It’s been ten months since I have been on an aircraft, or even visited an airport, and my life, like that of so many others has, despite Zoom and the online world, become somewhat more insular. Yet I have always argued that we should think outside the box.

“…2021 did not start promisingly either with more than 100 people being killed in a simultaneous attack on the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye in Niger…”

2021 starts with the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the industry, stealing innocent lives and causing lockdowns detrimental to the economy and mental health, so plenty of scope there for comment. Historical events, such as Pan Am 103, are still able to make the news headlines, as we saw this December with the recent charges being brought against Abu Agila Mohammad Masud, the alleged bomb-maker, on the 32nd anniversary of the disaster. A repeat of a 9/11-style hijacking is clearly still the objective of some as evidenced by the extradition from the Philippines to the US of an alleged al-Shabaab terrorist, Cholo Abdi Abdullah, accused of conspiring to hijack an aircraft and fly it into buildings in the US. Adequate material for a lead editorial.

Al-Shabaab’s atrocities plague the African continent and take place with alarming frequency, often escaping the western media’s attention, especially given its recent focus on COVID-19, Brexit and a US election that has made the nation the laughing stock of the civilised world. In Somalia, 2021 started in the same way that 2020 ended, with al-Shabaab mortar attacks against aviation interests. IS-sponsored terrorism, and Boko Haram actions, killed thousands of people in Africa last year – from Mozambique to Kenya and from Ethiopia to Nigeria – by suicide bombings, mass public beheadings and summary executions. And 2021 did not start promisingly either with more than 100 people being killed in a simultaneous attack on the villages of Tchombangou and Zaroumdareye in Niger on 2 January. All these groups, and their actions, warrant analysis.

We have almost become immune to actively listening to reports about the number of militants queuing up to die in their suicidal attacks in the Middle East and Africa. Just another bombing or ten. Even when aviation interests are targeted, as they were in Yemen as 2020 drew to a close, in our desperation to resume vacation and business travel, we don’t truly recognise the significance of these events. Drone attacks against Saudi airfields? Interesting, but not riveting.

“…does the security operative simply tell their team leader, who tells their supervisor, who tells the duty manager, who tells the airport manager, who may, or may not, call the police controller, who, in turn, then has to find an officer nearby able to respond? And if the subject of concern were that suicide bomber or marauding firearms terrorist…”

Likewise, the litany of unruly passenger incidents caused by selfish individuals claiming that being forced to wear a mask is an infringement of their civil liberties, insider crimes perpetrated for financial gain, airport perimeters breached by intoxicated motorists and sexually depraved acts performed by passengers, crewmembers and officials abusing their positions of power. You can read ‘Air Watch’.

No. I have elected to sign off from my editorial duties by responding to the security services’ request that, should we see something of concern we should, ‘See It. Say It. Sorted’. So, I am. Arguably my greatest concern about aviation security is that, whilst we have the staff and we have the technology, I question whether we truly have the right mindset and defined protocols to respond to the terrorist attacks, which, let’s face it, are the prime justification for our security spend.

Seemingly alien acts of violence perpetrated in climes distant from the developed world’s transportation hubs are very relevant. We didn’t respond to the threat of suicidal individuals on board aircraft after the downing of Alas Chiricanas flight 901 in Panama in 1994; we waited for 9/11. We didn’t respond to the threat of liquid explosives after the Bojinka Plot, and bombing of Philippine Airlines flight 434 (also in 1994); we waited for flights from the UK to become the target. We didn’t respond to the threat of suicidal pilots after LAM Mozambique Airlines flight 470 was intentionally crashed in Namibia by its captain in 2013; we waited for Germanwings in 2015. So, we cannot disregard the fact that suicide bombing and marauding firearms attacks are still a threat to civil aviation worldwide.

Yet how do we respond to the threat? Yes, we have great technology that can detect an ever-increasing range of dangerous explosive compounds and concealed weapons; we have certainly significantly reduced the vulnerability of aircraft being targeted once airborne. And, yes, the industry is finally starting to recognise that behaviour detection ought to be part of the screening process. But how do we respond when we do have concerns? When we ‘see it’, do we ‘say it’, and is it ‘sorted’?

I always ask my clients wishing to incorporate behavioural analysis into their security regime what they would like their staff to do if they do see something that doesn’t seem right. The answer is almost always, “Tell them to report it”! But to who? And does the reporting process simply enter an interminable chain where no individual assumes responsibility or does actually ‘sort it’? Does the security operative simply tell their team leader, who tells their supervisor, who tells the duty manager, who tells the airport manager, who may, or may not, call the police controller, who, in turn, then has to find an officer nearby able to respond? And if the subject of concern were that suicide bomber or marauding firearms terrorist, where would they be by then? Waiting patiently to be spoken to?

“…I’d have no objection to security staff being provided with krav maga, or similar, training. Even instruction in basic questioning techniques or evac/invac decision-making would be a step in the right direction…”

We are, of course, dealing with a highly unlikely scenario, but security is there to address the needle in the haystack. 9/11-style hijackers, underpants bombers, shoe bombers and acts of pilot-assisted suicide are not daily occurrences, but they exemplify exactly what we are supposed to prevent.

Every airport should have procedures specifying how security staff should respond if they do believe that they are facing an imminent attack. Of course, reporting concerns is part of that response. But there may be times when that is simply not enough.

Senior managers baulk at the idea of more prescriptive instruction. “We can’t expect them to physically engage a suspect. They would claim they are not paid enough to do that.” Or, maybe, “We can’t have staff taking unauthorised unilateral action that could result in litigation.” There will always be excuses, many of them valid, but the reality is that we are simply not training our staff to be able to make educated judgements and cannot, therefore, trust them to respond appropriately. That’s irresponsible.

Responses do not have to be physical, although I’d have no objection to security staff being provided with krav maga, or similar, training. Even instruction in basic questioning techniques or evac/invac decision-making would be a step in the right direction. Or simply reminding staff that they can call the police themselves, without entering the in-house reporting chain, if they feel the situation warrants it.

I urge readers to watch the disturbing testimony (available on YouTube) of the security staff at the Manchester Arena Inquiry into the suicidal bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in 2017. The bomber, Salman Abedi, was identified by members of the general public as being suspicious. One of them, Christopher Wild, even went to speak to Abedi and asked him what he was doing sitting, with a backpack, out of sight of everyone. Not satisfied with the response, he then reported his concerns to one of the security staff, Mohammad Agha.

Agha had already identified Abedi as being a concern however, he did not have any means to communicate with his seniors (aside from his own mobile phone) and he was reluctant to leave his position to tell anybody. Eventually Agha did manage to relate his own, and Wild’s, concerns to another member of staff, Kyle Lawler, who was walking past. Lawler and Agha discussed Abedi and even ‘joked’ about attacking him if he took out a knife. Lawler’s testimony illustrates his fear that, had he taken action and been wrong, he would have been accused of racial profiling.

“…Wild had ‘seen’ something and ‘said’ something, but Abedi remained unchallenged by security…”

Lawler did have the means to radio in his concerns to ‘control’, as per procedure, but he could not get through. Eventually he left Agha and exited the building and continued with his duties. Wild had ‘seen’ something and ‘said’ something, but Abedi remained unchallenged by security; the staff on duty had certainly not sorted it. Abedi detonated his device a few minutes later.

The inquiry also demonstrates the exceptionally scant nature of training afforded the staff and their use of a well-known video used to increase security awareness in the UK – Eyes Wide Open. In the video, the examples of concern depicted are resolved by the security staff engaging the suspects in conversation. The staff on duty at the Manchester Arena that night were neither trained to question staff nor even encouraged to engage with suspects. They were to report it. The perils of reliance on generic videos not in keeping with company procedures.

“…our frontline staff need to be capable first responders. Our screeners need to be effective decision-makers. Our guards need to be empowered and educated…”

At present, our airport checkpoints are not exactly chock-a-block with passengers, but once this pandemic is consigned to the history books, they will be. And when they are, throughput rates will, once again, become a key performance indicator. That’s all well and good but when a member of staff expresses concern about a given individual, at that moment, security – the very reason we are there – must come first.

If the person causing the concern is sufficiently suspicious, waiting for the response from other members of the team may not be the right option and unilateral action may be more appropriate. Our frontline staff need to be capable first responders. Our screeners need to be effective decision-makers. Our guards need to be empowered and educated to help prevent the atrocities we see taking place around the world occurring at an airport near you.

I’ve said it. Not sure I’ve sorted it. That’s down to you as, sadly, all I have done is report it one final time.

Lead Editorial

PANDEMIC BLUES: KEEPING OUR EYES ON THE TARGET by Philip Baum

The year 2020 has been defined by the coronavirus pandemic. Sadly, even if a vaccine emerges in the next few months, in all likelihood 2021 will also be blighted by COVID-19. This will either be – and this would be the best-case scenario – just down to the economic impact of damage caused to the industry to date, or, and arguably more realistically, if the virus cannot be supressed to the point where normal air transport operations can resume, as a result of a worsening situation with an ongoing decline in demand for seats.

Philip Baum

Much has been written about how we can make aviation safe and many claims have been made regarding innovative measures introduced by airlines and airports to better protect passengers and staff alike. Yet, whether or not we start to see a global decline in infection rates, there are some serious security challenges resulting from the pandemic that we have to address.
These are six areas that concern me the most:

1. Mental Ill Health & Passenger Angst

We will be reading academic papers and the results of medical research relating to the 2020 pandemic for many years, if not decades, to come. The negative toll on the mental health of swathes of mankind is going to influence every aspect of our lives. Social distancing, long periods of isolation, ill health (COVID, long-COVID or non-COVID related), loss of income, changes in family dynamics, excessive online activity and loss of traditional cultural stimuli derived from the arts are just a few factors, which will impact employee performance as and when they return to the workplace. Passengers, a significant percentage of whom already have a latent fear of flying, will be returning to the skies, but to a different flying experience where, for now, they are perceived by crew and fellow passengers as being potential virus transmitters. Add to that the new set of rules we are required to follow, such as mask wearing, early arrival at airports and following defined routes through terminals, and one can understand why, for some people, flying may be a necessity but may also cause additional angst; this, in turn, will impact passenger behaviour.

2. Insider Threats

In many parts of the world, the number of people employed by the aviation industry, and in services peripheral to it, has declined dramatically. Many long-standing employees have been laid off or put on government-backed furlough schemes. It is usually standard practice for employers to recover ID cards and keys and to change passwords to computer networks when staff leave. However, the sheer number of people being made redundant has made standard practice difficult to perform. It is also not deemed a necessity for furloughed staff, who may be earning a fraction of their already minimum wage salaries with the same rent and bills to pay. Meanwhile, with many of those losing their jobs feeling resentful towards their former employers or those maintaining their roles earning less as a result of furlough schemes or lack of overtime opportunities, we can see the potential for insider criminal activity to flourish. Financial gain is, after all, the prime motivating factor for insider crime.

3. Stand-off Detection & Masks

One would hope that the way in which we screen passengers will be at least as robust post-pandemic as it was pre-pandemic. Yet already we can see calls for a more hands-off approach to screening operations – and for very understandable reasons. Clearly screeners will be concerned about close contact with passengers, especially when they are, as we hope, once again streaming through the checkpoints. Yet the checkpoint has its limitations. Sure, we can resolve alarms, but for years we have been arguing that communication with passengers is advantageous from a screening perspective, especially if we are aiming to detect a host of criminal activities that do not involve infiltrating explosive devices onto aircraft. And then there are the masks – and remember some states have tried to limit certain religious groups from covering their faces citing security reasons – which not only negatively impact our ability to utilise facial recognition biometric systems, but also make the detection of expressions of stress far more difficult, whilst also providing an additional cause for beads of sweat to appear on a passenger’s forehead.

“…excessive online activity and loss of traditional cultural stimuli derived from the arts are just a few factors, which will impact employee performance as and when they return to the workplace…”

4. Radicalisation

For months now, there has been little mainstream news coverage of many issues which would, and should, normally be taking centre stage. US election and the scant attention being paid to Brexit deliberations and climate change aside, it’s all about coronavirus. Meanwhile poverty, famine and civil wars rage and, for many, the sense of injustice flourishes. In the developed world, youths and young adults find themselves increasingly alienated, as the job market diminishes and society becomes more insular. Hidden away from sight at home, the online world can tempt the more vulnerable members of society to embrace extremist ideologies. With an absence of crowded places and few aircraft taking to the skies, patience is the game. The security services have already made it known that they are concerned about the increased chatter indicating the potential of attacks just as soon as the economy starts to regain its feet. With the aviation industry already suffering, just because the media narrative is all about health, we simply cannot afford to be complacent about security.

“…many of those losing their jobs feeling resentful towards their former employers or those maintaining their roles earning less as a result of furlough schemes or lack of overtime opportunities…”

5. Finance

We cannot afford to be complacent, but equally we cannot necessarily afford the high cost of security countermeasures. We normally turn to government, but so will everybody else. From social services to the arts, the education sector to the charities we have come to rely on, budgets are being slashed as governments bail out those companies they can and support employees in an unprecedented manner. We see constant cries for additional injections of finance to help industries such as hospitality and transportation survive the crisis, but the money has to come from somewhere. Long-term that might mean increased taxation, be it on income, inheritance or capital gains, but in the short-term we are going to have to make some really tough decisions as to whether we tolerate increased exposure to risk. Security directors are going to be forced to make do with less when they already needed more. Achieving the right balance will depend upon ensuring that security departments ensure that their financiers are kept fully abreast of the security threats we continue to face.

6. Training

Security often comes well down the pecking order for additional investment when times are hard. Yet training, and especially security training, can be relegated to the bottom of the list. Training not only maintains established skillsets, but it also serves to identify potential insider disharmony (especially in classroom courses) and enables us to keep our focus on the target. Many courses will be coronavirus-related, but the virus is a health problem and not, in itself, a security threat. If the training becomes fixated on preventing virus transmission then screener focus will also drift towards identifying those passengers and staff who may be showing signs of infection rather than those with negative intent. With passengers masked, and social distancing the norm, and in the knowledge that there are greater numbers of radicalised individuals accessing our airports, we have to find a way to up our game.

“…security directors are going to be forced to make do with less when they already needed more…”

Overall, we can – and must – remain positive. In 2021, it is highly likely a vaccine will be discovered. Innovative technologies are emerging to assist our endeavours. There is an incredible amount of goodwill and understanding that can be leveraged in the workplace. The post-pandemic opportunities will be both exciting and lucrative. Aviation will serve as a remedy to many of the woes we may be experiencing. We just need to avoid applying plasters that might stem the financial bleed of 2020 without addressing security cancers which, if left unaddressed, could be terminal…and not the airport kind!

Lead Editorial

EASING LOCKDOWN’S EASEMENT: THE LESSON FROM AVIATION SECURITY HISTORY by Philip Baum

This September marks the 50th anniversary of the multiple hijacking of aircraft to Dawson’s Field in Jordan by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The atrocity provided one of the most iconic and renowned images from aviation security history, the PFLP having ensured the world’s media were on hand to record the simultaneous destruction of the TWA, Swissair and BOAC aircraft on, what they called, their ‘Revolutionary Airstrip’.

Philip Baum

As Jonathan Zimmerli points out in his more detailed analysis of the incident in this issue of Aviation Security International (ASI), one of the reasons behind the successful hijacking of these three aircraft, and a Pan Am aircraft that was flown to Cairo, can be attributed to airlines’ “strong resistance towards extended and upgraded security controls” which had been recommended. The Israeli airline, El Al, had adopted a more stringent security stance and, as a result, the hijackers were unsuccessful in their attempt to seize their flight from Amsterdam to New York that same day.

The industry has long been branded ‘reactive’ and resistant to bringing in proactive measures to counter known vulnerabilities. Rather than assessing risk based on intelligence analysis, the bean counters often opt to determine the appropriate response to a given threat based on post-disaster media imagery – of the aircraft at Dawson’s Field, of Captain John Testrake with a gun against his head on TWA flight 847, of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie, and of aircraft flying into the World Trade Center. Only with such photographic ‘proof’ of threat will they embrace meaningful change, in part because they need the general public’s buy-in prior to enhancing security measures. The problem with the reliance on disaster footage to ‘sell’ the need for security is that, by definition, a tragedy has had to have occurred; unsuccessful plots do not generate emotionally powerful visual statements. This can be a frustration for airlines’ security management teams keen to better mitigate threats and vulnerabilities they know exist.

“…the bean counters often opt to determine the appropriate response to a given threat based on post-disaster media imagery – of the aircraft at Dawson’s Field, of Captain John Testrake with a gun against his head on TWA flight 847, of the wreckage of Pan Am Flight 103 at Lockerbie, and of aircraft flying into the World Trade Center…”

Even then, as the years pass after an attack, there is often a desire to water down the more stringent changes initially recommended. Following the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, the US Presidential Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism found the system to be “seriously flawed” and in need of “major reform”. The airlines, however, were resistant to many of the recommendations, citing cost. They then embarked on lobbying campaigns which cost eyewatering sums of money, many of which were opposing security measures. After the loss of TWA Flight 800 in 1996 (allegedly due to a spark in the fuel tank), the Gore Commission was established, also with a remit to look at aviation security. Many of their findings replicated those of the previous commission.

But lessons were not learned. According to Andrew Thomas, in his book Aviation Insecurity, “of the fifty recommendations made by the [Gore] Commission, nearly all were eventually watered down, delayed or simply never considered by the FAA”. Thomas provides an excellent example of this: “The Gore Commission recommended several ways that the performance of airport screening companies could be improved, including establishing a national job grade structure for screeners”, as well as, “not hiring screening companies on the sole basis of being the lowest bidder.” Thomas highlights that the FAA response, “was to maintain the current system of allowing cost, not performance, to be the final determinant as to which screening company would be used by the airlines.” Similarly shocking, finance-based objections were cited in opposition to recommendations relating to employee background checks.

And then came 9/11…and another commission. Aside from the human tragedy, and the sudden global realisation as to the depths certain elements of society could sink, the attacks once again served to demonstrate, as the 9/11 Commission points out, “the 9/11 attacks revealed four kinds of failures: in imagination, policy, capabilities, and management.” On a single day, as in 1970, attempts had been made to hijack four aircraft. Despite all the evidence that suicidal terrorism was in existence prior to 11th September 2001, and that aviation was an intended target, scant attention had been directed towards America’s woeful domestic aviation security capability.

Eight years on, and in the aftermath of the attempted destruction of a Northwest Airlines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit by the ‘Underpants Bomber’, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, in 2009, we found that many of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations had either been abandoned or were still a work in progress. And, in terms of risk assessment, President Obama himself famously stated that, despite the prevalence of a multitude of suspicious signs, we had “failed to connect those dots.” It was, he said, “not a failure to collect intelligence; it was a failure to integrate and understand the intelligence that we already had.”

“…we must not fail to connect the dots. We cannot work in silos. We need to ensure that future generations do not accuse us of having a failure of imagination…”

Readers would be justified in accusing me of exclusively focusing on the US response to attacks. The problem is that the global aviation community only changes when America does, and America only acts when its interests are demonstrably targeted. Where, for example, was the global response to the meatgrinder plot against an Etihad flight out of Sydney in 2017? Where was the industry-wide change in flight deck security protocols in the aftermath of the Germanwings disaster caused by suicidal pilot, Andreas Lubitz, in 2015? How often have attacks against aviation interests in China or Russia led to global change? Yes, from time to time some countries introduce new countermeasures, but we only witness wholesale revamping of our security protocols if the US says so. Why, for example, are powders (and associated powders, liquids, aerosols and gels – ‘PLAGs’ – restrictions) only regional? Given its history of being reactive, maybe it is high time for others to call the shots and the US be forced to comply?

“…it is abundantly clear that this is one area where we should not be following America’s lead as their pandemic management has been a case study in malpractice rather than best practice…”

And here we are today, in 2020, living in uncertain times, with the global economy in freefall, job losses stacking up, companies going to the wall and, worst of all, people dying in their hundreds of thousands. Coronavirus. It’s not a security threat, but its impact on the aviation industry dwarfs that of 9/11. Yet, whilst it may not be a security challenge, we do need to learn the security lessons of the past. And it is abundantly clear that this is one area where we should not be following America’s lead as their pandemic management has been a case study in malpractice rather than best practice.

We cannot allow ourselves to be driven by the bean counters, however worthy their attempts may be to save jobs, or even airlines themselves, in the short term. We must not fail to connect the dots. We cannot work in silos. We need to ensure that future generations do not accuse us of having a failure of imagination.

My own business is completely dependent on the prosperity of the aviation industry and, as such, we have been knocked for six by the impact of the pandemic. As specialists in behavioural analysis for the enhancement of security for the transport industry and in other crowded places, such as tourist attractions, sports stadia and beaches, there is little surprise that we are not being inundated with orders for classroom training courses. There are no crowded places! Yet, despite my wanting to see aircraft filled to capacity and beaches heaving with sun worshippers, I’m actually opposed to the resumption of charter flights to resorts and feel that those who book them are behaving selfishly. But, if governments sanction them – and they are due to the lobbying efforts going on behind the scenes – people will go.

Airlines themselves may be able to create relatively safe environments for their passengers, but they are also facilitating the spread of a virus; not intentionally, but by the very nature of their operations. States that have managed to reduce infection rates have done so by trying to limit travel, even between suburbs, let alone between countries, to an absolute minimum. Many of us live in ‘bubbles’ where there is no indication of the virus spreading, but we are also seeing that, as lockdowns ease, virus transmission is increasing. Within our own communities, the virus is manageable, but as soon as we allow, or even encourage, cross-mingling we lose such control.

So, yes, airlines are to be applauded for their efforts to ensure a sanitised environment for us to be transported in, but they only provide the vehicle, not the complete experience. Passengers still have to move through airports and, as we see from social media output, many of the smaller airports simply cannot ensure social distancing; nor can the ground transportation networks, and nor can many of the resorts themselves. By definition, we go on vacation in order to get away from our normal lives and home environment. We meet new people. We burst the bubble.

Whilst I empathise with the plight of the airlines, hotels and other facets of the tourist economy – and of course their staff – we do not exist in a silo. The longer the pandemic has a grip on society, the longer the economic impact. Smaller businesses cannot survive the yo-yo impact of lockdown-easement-lockdown-easement and all the uncertainty that goes along with that approach. Some airlines may indeed collapse as a result of a more prolonged, yet effective, lockdown, but if we look at the big picture more jobs, and more lives, will be saved.

We are keen – no, desperate – for a return to normality but we cannot pretend that international travel is as safe as we are claiming. Flights need to operate, but for necessary reasons. Not vacations. Travellers who can’t resist the overseas beach have only themselves to blame if quarantine measures are introduced should pandemic infection rates demand a change in regulation. And insurers should certainly not have to pay out for interrupted vacation plans – disruption was predictable and there is no reason why future premiums should be further inflated by the actions of irresponsible travellers.

From a British perspective, I am fed up with politicians applauding the British public for their efforts and relying on their common sense rather than on an effective enforcement regime. What common sense? And, in the UK, what enforcement regime? I see little sign of either. I’ve just nipped out to a local shop to buy my lunchtime meal deal – five other customers in the store and only one with a face mask, despite it being the law to do so! And not a single person I know who has travelled has been checked on during their mandatory quarantine period. Many colleagues overseas can attest to far more frequent and vigorous controls being in place. If we are going to have rules, let’s make sure they are effective – if we don’t, the law-abiding citizens will suffer, along with the economy as a whole, whilst the selfish will party at everyone else’s expense.

I have long advocated for common-sense security – making intelligent decisions based on the circumstances one faces. Yet, there has been so much about the management of this pandemic that had defied logic. In the UK, that started with – as the Home Affairs Select Committee confirmed as this issue of ASI was going to press – the delayed introduction of quarantine measures in the early days of the pandemic when we could see the virus was accelerating. We can see now that the trend is going in the wrong direction, yet we continue to ease the lockdown. That might be essential locally for people’s mental health, but not to the point of encouraging people to enter the melting pot of humanity that exists at airports and on board international flights.

“…with all our loved ones lives at stake, perhaps the best lesson the past has taught us is that risk management is about taking decisions that may not be commercially welcome in the short-term, but preserve lives in the long-term…

There are a multitude of reasons why people do need to fly and I have no wish to see states become prisons with no means of escape. Our citizens do need to travel to see relatives and loved ones overseas, especially if they are elderly or frail; they may have to participate in business meetings which cannot be achieved via Zoom yet which are essential to the viability of their company going forward; and, some may even be fortunate enough to have second homes which need tending to (and where social distancing is as easy as at home). But the traditional city break, or overseas or inter-state beach vacation is not essential travel in 2020. And nor is any mass gathering event that brings together people from different communities, be it a sports tournament, music festival, trade show, protest, carnival or parade.

Yes, I’m frustrated. Yes, our business is suffering. Yes, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But yes, I have had COVID-19 and it is not a pleasant experience and, consequently, yes I believe that those fortunate enough to be able to afford an overseas holiday this year ought to be ‘staycationers’ and holiday at home. For those readers in the UK, we have an abundance of historic sites, golden beaches, visitor attractions and beauty spots. A new one I’ve only recently heard of is a place called Barnard Castle!

Business is about money, but throughout history many lives have been lost due to putting finance above safety and security. Blinkered, protectionist viewpoints may save jobs within a certain sector, but with all our loved ones’ lives at stake, perhaps the best lesson the past has taught us is that risk management is about taking decisions that may not be commercially welcome in the short-term, but preserve lives in the long-term. The powerful imagery associated with the current pandemic – of PPE-wearing nurses caring for those struggling to breath in intensive care units, of mass funerals, and of deserted city centres – may not specifically relate to aviation, but if we fail to recognise that strict physical distancing is a necessity today, the impact on airlines, airports and the travel industry will be all the more bleak for the future.

“…the traditional city break, or overseas or inter-state beach vacation is not essential travel in 2020. And nor is any mass gathering event that brings together people from different communities, be it a sports tournament, music festival, trade show, protest, carnival or parade…”