For the last few years, I have had the pleasure of serving as sub-editor of Aviation Security International, editing the vast range of articles that have been written by individuals from a variety of different backgrounds, from airline and airport employees to regulators, police, academics, technology providers, and everything in between. I initially ‘fell into’ the aviation security industry five years ago via my editorial work and research for Green Light (the training and consultancy company that produces the content for ASI), and if there is one thing I have learned in this role, it’s that aviation security has evolved and thrived due to the collaboration of a whole host of disciplines, which bring with them their own unique cultures and perspectives. Therefore, even those who ‘fall in’ are enthusiastically welcomed and encouraged to contribute.
In this issue’s main feature, the journal’s editor-in-chief, Philip Baum, embarks on the extraordinary challenge of summarising 24 years’ worth of ASI highlights (a task, which, as per usual, he executes with enviable intellectual acuity, refinement and warmth). And now, rather like a support act following the star of the show, I have been tasked with producing the final word of the last issue of ASI…
So, while Philip looks back on the events that have informed and shaped the journal from his unique position as editor and general aviation security guru, I will bring ASI to a conclusion (in its current format) by taking a brief look forwards from my perspective as a researcher/journalist and, well, linguist.
The obvious place to start is to highlight the greater than usual optimism ushered in by the New Year. While the social impacts of the approved vaccines will in no way be immediate, over the next year the introduction of vaccination programmes around the world certainly provides light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully, by the middle of 2021, individuals and businesses will have finally started flying again (in both the literal and metaphorical senses!), allowing the initiation of new relationships, the reinvigoration of existing ones that were held in stasis over 2020, and the simple enjoyment of the freedom of life without restrictions on movement. We can therefore reasonably expect the aviation industry to not only recover but to experience unparalleled growth as the world makes up for the lost year that was 2020.
As the aviation industry enjoys a post-COVID renaissance, it goes without saying that operations will need to expand rapidly while maintaining, if not enhancing, their focus on security. It is at this point that I reiterate a point made by Jim Marriott in his own opinion piece of this issue addressing how we move forward “to the future of aviation security”. As a linguist, I was gratified to see communication being emphasised in Marriott’s article as a key aspect of how this is to be achieved (as a side note, ‘a linguist’ is not always ‘one who speaks many languages’, but rather ‘one who studies how language and communication function in various social settings’).
Robust aviation security is absolutely dependent on effective communication, whether you’re talking about threat analysis, reporting procedures, or interactions between industry figures and the public, such as directives issued by security personnel during pre-flight screening and disruptive passenger de-escalation by crew. While working on ‘Air Watch’ for each issue of ASI, I have often wondered how many incidents could have been avoided – or reduced in severity – if more effective communication had been implemented by the individuals involved.
But communication is vital to security on the macro level, too. Take intelligence sharing, for example. The New Year marked especially significant change for the UK, which finds itself simultaneously reeling from the impact of COVID-19 and navigating the final, crucial aspects of its journey out of the European Union. Despite a trade agreement having been reached at the 11th hour, the UK now has diminished access to vital data, e.g. the Schengen Information System, necessitating a change in how the UK communicates with Europe and the rest of the world, and potentially having a major impact on security. Establishing new and effective forms of communication must therefore be an absolute priority for the UK.
To conclude this short opinion piece (and Aviation Security International in general), despite the fact that the only avsec-focused trade journal is coming to an end, we must ensure we keep talking in order to ensure transparency and the efficiency and effectiveness of security operations. To this end, as the industry recovers, we must emphasise communication skills in recruitment and training. Also, incidentally, do continue to be open-minded about those who, like myself, ‘fall in’ from other fields, as they often bring with them new perspectives on old problems. After all, let’s not forget that X-ray and CT were initially developed for the medical world, and CCTV was invented to remotely monitor the first ballistic missile launches.
Alexandra James is the sub-editor of Aviation Security International. She completed her MA in Forensic Linguistics at Cardiff University in 2020 and takes up the position of aviation security analyst at Osprey Flight Solutions in January 2021. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.