Contemporary issues in aviation security Essay - Part 2

Contemporary issues in aviation security


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Security is a big issue in the modern aviation industry and deserves to be seriously looked into (Choi, 1994) - Contemporary issues in aviation security Essay introduction. The escalating incidences of terrorism and crime during air travel are further proof to this issue. The incidences of terrorism and crime are especially rampant in international flights (Clutterbuck, 1994).

This essay describes the many ways that passengers in aircrafts are vulnerable to either terrorism or crime as a result of travelling in aircrafts. It then describes the various measures taken by aircrafts to counter both the terrorism and crime.

Terrorism and crime

Airline passengers are today faced with a myriad of security risks such as crime and acts of terrorism (Wilkinson, 2007). They are faced with the reality of the ever-increasing cases of terrorism and crime in aircrafts. Moreover, the complexity of these criminal and terrorism acts has made it difficult to detect and counter them. What with the rapid technological advancements, especially in the information and communications technology (Harmon and Wilkinson, 1993).

The passengers are presented with security and safety risks as a result of human fatigue factors. This becomes more pronounced when the aircraft pilots and crew travel for many hours without adequate rest. This can be very disastrous when the pilot is affected and is fatigued as a result. This will reduce his or her concentration in his or her work, which could be fatal.

Airline passengers are also faced with the risk of their aircrafts getting involved in ground collisions and airport runway incursions. Depending on the gravity of such collisions and incursions, the consequences range from minor injuries to the death of the passengers. This is especially as a result of poor planning and scheduling of aircrafts in the airports.

Poor training among crew members means that they cannot handle emergencies appropriately. Such emergencies may include minor cases of fire and technical mishaps. Since it is the crew that is charged with the responsibility of guiding the passengers on the appropriate course of action in case of emergencies, inadequate training among them may mean haphazard handling of the situation. This is because the crew may not have the necessary skills and experience to handle emergency situations.

The aircrafts may carry passengers carrying deadly weapons who may pose a great danger to other passengers. These weapons may have escaped detection by the security system or brought in by mistake. These weapons may be used to cause harm to the passengers or even carry out terrorist acts.

Unchecked luggage in the aircrafts may present a great risk to the passengers since it may carry dangerous weapons and other substances like explosives and drugs. The explosives may enter the aircraft in order to carry out acts of terrorism. These explosives and dangerous weapons can cause great disaster to both the passengers and the aircraft (Nesi, 2006). Unchecked baggage could also be carrying substances that can end up giving poisonous emissions or leakage that can cause harm to the passengers or cause damage to the aircraft.

Airline passengers are faced with the risk of their luggage getting lost. This can be as a result of passengers mistakenly taking the luggage of other passengers. Worse still, it could be as a result of people intentionally stealing the luggage of others. This is a very serious risk since a passenger could be carrying valuable items in the luggage. Another common risk faced by the passengers is damage to their luggage, which could lead to a great loss for them.

Poor airport designs pose a great risk to both the passengers and crew of airlines. It could cause accidents among the aircrafts due to ground collisions and airport incursions. Moreover, a number of these airports are not designed to meet modern security levels. As a result, it is almost not possible to carry out up-to-date security checks and inspections, leading to increased cases of crime and acts of terrorism.

The old air traffic control networks in a number of airports world over is a big risk to the security and safety of passengers and crew. This is because these networks fail to properly coordinate and schedule the landing and taking off of aircrafts. Consequently, these aircrafts are exposed to the risk of accidents.

Airline security measures

The airlines have taken a number of measures aimed at countering the acts of terrorism and other forms of crime during air travel (Steven and Gunaratna, 2004). This is after reports of increased cases of such acts, especially after the September 11 attacks in the United States.

The airlines ensure that its pilots and crew have adequate rest before any flight. This aimed at reducing or altogether eliminating cases of fatigue among the pilots and crew during a flight. Consequently, the level of alertness and concentration among them will increase, hence ensure greater safety.

Airlines are partnering with airports to ensure proper planning and scheduling of flights in order to reduce cases of accidents such as ground collisions and airport runway incursions. This will also go a long way in ensuring the safety of passengers and crew of aircrafts.

Airlines are striving to improve their passenger and luggage checking system to make sure that no illegal substances and weapons get into the aircraft. This will greatly help in reducing the safety and security risk to both the passengers and crew of these aircrafts. The airlines are also partnering with the airports to ensure that only the right passengers pick the right luggage to keep cases of luggage theft at bay. They are working towards improving luggage and passenger identification systems in order to get to this end.

Airlines are currently in the process of complementing their technology with CAPS, or the computer automatic passenger screening to counter the acts of terrorism (National Research Council, 1996). The airlines are in the process of further developing the CAPS system to allow the maximization of its potential and enable its adoption by the major airlines (Harmon and Wilkinson, 1993).

This system basically involves the use of information from the existing computerized databases. Such databases are already available to all major airlines as well as credit card companies. They are used in separating the passengers into two major security risk groups. These categories include the low risk group and the high risk group, with the low risk group being larger than the high risk group.

The basis of this approach is the fact that about 98 per cent or even more of passengers in airlines do not present any threat to the airlines. They mainly consist of frequent travellers such as people on vacation and business travellers. These passengers mainly purchase their tickets using their credit cards as opposed to cash.

Their details can usually be found in a number of databases in the various airlines. It is very unlikely for someone who uses false identification and plans to inflict harm on other passengers appears in the same manner as a tourist or business traveller to the automated profiling system.

In the Unites States, airlines are currently working hand in hand with ATF, CIA and FBI in refining and expanding their ongoing research into potential and known bombers, hijackers and terrorists to assist in the development of a database to be used together with the usual screening of the passengers. The various agencies have helped in notifying the airlines about certain risks and recommended the adoption of certain practices.

The airlines believe that the partnership with these security agencies will go a long way in countering the acts of terrorism. These security agencies are of the belief that some of the hijackers involved in the September 11 had been under close surveillance previously. They had also been closely linked to a number of terrorist organizations.

The airlines further argue that had the profiling system been in place at the time, it would not have been possible for these terrorists to carry out their practices. This is because intelligence information would have been readily available to the airlines, which would have used it in checking these individuals in. This would have helped in alerting the airlines on what was happening along the way.

In addition to the above measures by the airline companies, they have also come up with numerous guidelines aimed at improving the security of its passengers. They have a requirement where passengers are required to count the number of rows between their seats and the row of exit. This is to ensure easy and quick exit in case of an emergency.

The airlines encourage their passengers to take their time in reading the safety card and paying attention during briefing. During emergency landing, airlines advise their passengers to brace themselves well for it by crossing their hands on the front seat, their heads against their hands, and staying in the same position until the stoppage of the plane. They further advice their passengers vacate the crash scene soonest possible.

The airlines also encourage their passengers to know their surroundings; where their emergency exits are located. They encourage them to dress correctly; they discourage them from dressing in skimpy attire even where the climate is hot. The reason they give for this is the danger it posses should fire erupt. They encourage the passengers to wear heavy pants and long-sleeved shirts in order to be better protected. They discourage the wearing of skirts, T-shirts and shorts, which they claim will not offer adequate protection in the event of emergencies.

The airlines encourage their passengers to ensure they are in proper footwear. They discourage the use of flip-flops and sandals although pass the security and safety test. They are of the view that such footwear is not appropriate during the evacuation process. They encourage the use of heavier footwear in order to protect them against debris, metal, glass and to protect them against the elements.

The airlines stress the importance of staying awake even when the flights are long. They encourage the taking of sleeping pills or alcohols in order to induce sleep, hence ensure alertness during flight.


Passengers in aircrafts are vulnerable to either terrorism or crime as a result of travelling in aircrafts. Appropriate measures are to counter these acts are therefore in order.


Clutterbuck, R (1994) Terrorism in an Unstable World, Routledge

Harmon, C and Wilkinson, P (1993) Technology and Terrorism, Routledge

National Research Council (1996) Airline passenger security screening: new technologies and implementation issues, National Academies Press

Nesi, G (2006) International Cooperation in Counter-terrorism, Ashgate Publishing Limited

Steven, G and Gunaratna, R (2004) Counterterrorism: a reference handbook, ABC-CLIO

Wilkinson, P (2007) Aviation Terrorism and Security, Routledge

Choi, J (1994) Aviation Terrorism, St. Martin’s Press


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