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Safeguarding the Aviation Industry: A Global Effort

Rhylee Suyom has hopped in three different worlds: the academe, the corporate, and the media. He enjoys being with nature and his family.

Possible solutions to the current status of aviation industry

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Safeguarding the Aviation Industry: A Global Effort

The aviation industry has worked wonders for the global community. It paved the way for people to travel to various parts of the globe in just a matter of hours. Imagine not having the means for air transport, wasting all the hours away travelling by sea when one person can be in the desired location in less than a day via an aircraft? Gone are the times when people have to endure weeks or even months to get around from one destination to another. One can reach the farthest places around the world as long as there is enough money to spend for the airfare. Majestic places beyond anyone’s wildest dreams are within reach and the possibilities for travel are quite endless. Aviation does not only provide us leisure and relaxation. In a world where families are separately living from each other due to the demand for better jobs and more comfortable lives, air travel is the swiftest way to be with loved ones and relatives. During the holidays, the airports are abuzz with voices of glee and happiness when families are finally re-united and celebrations even livelier with the presence of loved ones. People can also avail various services in other countries. For instance, when a person has to undergo a critical medical procedure to cure a grave illness, he or she can fly to the country where the medical care is at its best. Distance is never a problem with air travel.

What Needs to be Done?

The benefits of the development in aviation encompass personal needs. The Uniting Aviation website stated that aviation connects people, cultures and businesses across continents (“Aviation Benefits: Contributing to Global Economic Prosperity”, 2018). Moreover, air transport has expanded significantly through the years. By 2016, air companies transport 3.8 billion people every year. Dating back to the first aircraft who took flight on a 34-kilometer expedition, the industry flourished to nearly 2,000 airlines and close to 4,000 airports around the world. It is said that it will still grow exponentially in the future, with volume of air travel forecast to double by year 2032. (“Aviation Benefits”, 2017). Aviation has contributed significantly to propagating global economic prosperity. In fact, it generated a total of 62.7 million jobs worldwide. Some roles were directly part of the aviation industry while some jobs were triggered by aviation functions and tourism activities. Additionally, the aviation industry strongly encouraged global trade and e-commerce, where distance and time are lesser concerns of business owners and industry leaders. Swift delivery services and transport of time-sensitive items were made possible through air travel (“Aviation Benefits: Contributing to Global Economic Prosperity”, 2018). Business owners can sell their products and services to more customers, regardless of their location. The ordered products can be delivered to the clients in its best state, avoiding the risk of items losing its freshness. Food specialties and delicacies only available in certain places can be tasted by individuals from other countries, all thanks to the air parcel services that enable same-day or next-day delivery turnaround time. Homesickness is lessened when one can taste a small taste of home sent by loved ones and family members

The world is stricken with various disasters and natural calamities. Some countries suffer extreme devastation from these catastrophes. Humanitarian aid can be sent by other capable nations to the calamity survivors via air travel in an instant. Other countries can lend a hand and provide financial assistance to these devastated places immediately. They can also send troops and medical staff to help distribute food supplies and provide medical treatment to those injured and hurt by the calamity. When a place suffers mayhem and war where the lives of innocents are placed in great danger, other countries can also provide refuge to these civilians. They can make use of air travel to reach safer places where they can build their new homes, away from the horrors of war.

With these remarkable benefits to unifying the global community, different issues and events threaten the aviation industry. The world witnessed five aircraft disasters this 2018 beginning with a Russian plane crashing into a village located in the south-east of Moscow last February 11. There were 71 people on board with no reported survivors. The next unfortunate incident came seven days after the first air tragedy with a passenger plane carrying 66 people diving into the Zagros Mountain in Iran. Barely a month has passed, an aircraft with 71 passengers crashed while landing at Kathmandu Airport. This accident led to the loss of 49 lives. Last April 11 of the same year, a military plane smashed into the ground which killed 257 passengers. The last tragedy occurred last May 18 when a Boeing 737 crashed which brought the demise of 112 people with 1 lone survivor (“Air disasters timeline”, 2018).

Dealing with the Challenges

There were several smaller mishaps in the airline industry this year when a Southwest Airlines passenger perished after a freak mid-flight explosion last April 17. There were reported unscheduled stops and delays decided upon by pilots. Airline officials cancelled a few of their planned flights for safety inspections (Cummins, 2018). These inconvenient instances make the customers wary and cautious of air travel. But if one would reflect on these delays and air travel cancellations, people should also be grateful that aviation authorities conduct precautionary measures to avoid air disasters from occurring. It is a million times better to have a delayed flight rather than end up praying for dear life aboard on a malfunctioning aircraft. But passengers also worry about something else. Their anxiety and fear are more heightened due to terrorism threats in the aviation industry.

From the horrific September 9/11 tragedy that shook the world to the 2017 terrorist attack in Zaventem, Belgium, the air transit system has this magnetic appeal to terrorists. It is with good reason that terrorists target an airplane filled with passengers because it does not only hold hostage a mass of people. It also guarantees a huge media coverage (Steward, 2017). The first attack to air travel safety is the hijacking incident of El Al Flight 426 last July 1968. The plane’s route is from Rome to Tel Aviv. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine assumed responsibility for this terrible act. After several years, terror attacks have evolved from hijackings to bomb attacks. The first act of terrorists to use bombs in crashing planes began with the Pan Am Flight 103 last December 21, 1988. The perpetrators of the violent act covered up the bomb in a luggage which annihilated 270 passengers (The Security Series: Securing the public side of airports, 2016). This became a popular attack method for all terror groups, with the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers as its most horrific act to date.

Gradually, terror groups have shifted their strategy from creating deadly havoc not only in aircraft but focusing their violent acts to airports. The first airport terminal attack happened last 1972 when the Japanese Red Army assailed people in the Lod Airport in Israel. During this atrocious incident, 26 people perished with 80 individuals hurt in the attack. A string of attacks followed suit with three major incidents happening in 1985. The unfortunate locations of the attack were the Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicion Airport in Rome, Vienna’s Schwechat Airport and the Narita International Airport in Tokyo, Japan (The Security Series: Securing the public side of airports, 2016). Due to the emerging threat of terrorism in air travel, people clamored for a more significant focus on aviation security. It is imperative that air travel remains safe and passengers were not made susceptible to terrorism or disaster. The global community demanded for better safety measures to protect human life when travelling via airplanes. Aviation officers and world leaders have responded to the people’s call.

Aviation officials have established frameworks to tighten the aviation security systems on their watch. These frameworks were multi-layered approaches to hinder and respond to numerous threats. The security measures visibly start at airports. The airport operators are tasked to conduct heavy screening procedures on their passengers and their baggage. They conduct pre-board screening of travelers and their carry-on items and observe hold-baggage screening. The employees and crew are also included in the screening process (Airport attacks: The critical role airports can play in combating terrorism, 2017).

The screening process also relates to the practice of restricting the amount of liquid items that a person can carry inside an aircraft. There were many attacks that used liquid substances for their bombs which prompted officials to be wary of these items. Stationary security checkpoints were also thought to be not sufficient. Airport security personnel resorted to protective surveillance methods (Stewart, 2017). This decision came about with the argument that it is best to avert the attack during its earlier phase than have it on a full-blown incident.

Technology plays a critical role in implementing aviation security measures. Airport officials and government units responsible for air travel security utilize various devices for their surveillance activities and communication. Apart from technology, information-sharing is also significant in the governments’ counterattack to threats. Accurate information should be shared in a timely manner to the correct receiving end.

Many years ago, world leaders inked a joint declaration on civil aviation security. High-level officials from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, United States, Mexico, Panama and the Dominican Republic agreed to a unified statement with the Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization of various measures to improve air travel safety. Apart from making the most of modern technologies and sharing the best aviation security practices, there were talks about research and development. This portion of the joint declaration focused on the need to conduct international research on the detection of weapons and all materials that will put passengers’ lives in peril. The research initiative also tackled interpreting and analyzing human behavior in airports and airplanes, specifically the proper identification of individuals who can endanger lives and property (Joint Declaration on Civil Aviation Security. (2018).

Furthermore, the European Commission has been working hand in hand with the Member States on enhancing the current civil aviation security policy. Some identified steps are the authorized use of security scanners at European Union (EU) airports and assessing the correct alternative to the ban on liquids, aerosols and gels. They also looked into the development of security procedures involving EU bound cargo and mail (Aviation Security Policy, 2018).

Meanwhile, Australia’s method in ensuring aviation security in their territory is also through a multi-layered procedure. The country calls it “security in depth”. This means that more layers of security, the smaller the probability of an attack. Their security screening standards heavily depend on the extensive training required for screening officers. Their aviation officers ascertain that their screening personnel hold a certificate in Security Operations and that they are competent with fulfilling their duties. Qualified screening officers are also tasked to supervise new screening personnel, prohibiting new officers to conduct screening on their own. (Australian Government Department of Home Affairs [APA], n.d.).

Additionally, much has been said about the airports perimeter defense. In 2018, there were reported incidents of vehicles entering the restricted runways. This series of incidents occur in Lyon Airport, France, Teterboro Airport in USA and in Sokoto Airport, Nigeria. These instances show the poor surveillance measures of some airport officials. There is a nagging demand to compel the airport officials to detect and react right away when something untoward happens. They need to manage the vehicles entering the airport premises, strengthen the capacity to block and stop vehicles from causing harm and damage to people and property and to supervise the activity of vehicles in all areas of the airport (Tidhar, 2018). Aviation authorities must also pay attention to the frailties of their cyber security systems and devices. System glitches can cause extreme chaos to passengers when these are not resolved immediately. It is a sound idea that airports or transport hubs have a designated cyber security operation facility tasked to work on their cyber safety requirements.

As for the prevention of aviation catastrophes, it is important that air traffic controllers are trained perfectly. Controllers are unsung heroes of the aviation industry. They are positioned in the backseat of the more popular pilots and flight attendants. But in times of impending disaster or technical malfunction in an aircraft, the controllers can provide valuable help and guidance to the pilots. If the controller remains calm, it is more likely that the pilot will mimic the same air of calmness that the controller exudes. Since they also play a major role in ensuring passengers land safely, every air traffic controller is trained extensively.

Moreover, they should possess superb decision making skills and data analysis capability. In addition, controllers must have a temperament that enables them to be flexible to a variety of situations in order to make sound decisions. The work of an air traffic controller is not for the faint of heart. It takes three types of controllers for one aircraft to be led safely to its desired landing spot. First, a controller guides the plane from the tarmac to the point of departure. Next, the controller helps the pilot in navigating the airspace around the airport. And finally, the controller helps the pilot in the third stage when the plane moves to its altitude. These steps are implemented in reverse when the aircraft is about to land (Cummins, 2018).

Aside from the extensive training, controllers are effective in their role when they work as a team. A single transport hub can have 300 to 400 controllers. These controllers have their own chosen expertise and some were more skilled due to experience. The experts provide technical know-how to the new ones. They also cover each other’s tasks as the need arises. Team work is very important in the air traffic control center.

With all of these cited security measures, how come disasters and terrorist attacks still happen around us? Why can’t government leaders and aviation officers prevent terrorists from disseminating fear and terror? Why aviation disasters still take place with most of the incidents lacking survivors?

‘One Best Way’ to Solving the Problems?

There should be a movement within the aviation industry to analyze and dissect the current initiatives established to uphold air travel safety. Investments should be studied further. Additionally, the assessment must not only be dictated by what the experts say or believe. It should be founded on meticulous and thorough risk assessments. Aviation authorities can also make use of gap surveys. The processes and procedures can be successfully upgraded if the industry utilized scientific methodologies backed up with evidence and sufficient data.

Risk assessment of passengers should be conducted at all times and in all flights. No exceptions should be made when conducting this procedure. Any lax move can result to large-scale mishaps in aviation. Since terrorists are becoming smarter by studying intently the approaches applied by the aviation industry, tried and tested actions must continue at all cost. Consistency is key in averting disasters.

Risk assessment of passengers may probably affect the operational timetables and deliverable within the transport hubs. It is advisable to avail training from process improvement experts. They may find ways to mitigate the delays caused by screening activities. But it is important to recognize that this practice is non-negotiable. Although it may result to inconveniences to an extent, the benefits definitely outweigh the drawbacks.

These is no such thing as one size fits all for security measures. An airport in Europe is different from an airport in Asia. When creating a cyber-security system, it is a smart move to study first the unique attributes of one’s airport or airline. A transport hub may have the most advanced cyber security devices but if these devices are not suitable to the over-all needs of the airport, it will not bring in the best results. Customization of cyber security systems is key to effectively detect and stop threats in airports and airplanes.

Technology alone cannot guarantee the security and safety of human life in airports, terminals and aircraft. It always boils down to how effective the aviation security staff and personnel are in their roles and duties. The human factor plays the most important role in utilizing the most advanced and sophisticated technology. Manpower is the key ingredient in carrying out the most specialized security programs and methods. Security personnel must be well-trained. They should be highly motivated to fulfill their duties and responsibilities. The aviation safety staff should understand the accountability of their roles to human life.

One of the best model for aviation security is the standards observed in Israel’s airports. They owe the safety in their travel hubs to the utilization of behavior detection in their security measures. They trained their airport staff to this skill. The US aviation officials aimed to integrate Israel’s behavior detection program particularly the Massachusetts State Police at Boston Logan International Airport. But the authorities identified several obstacles to this concept. First, Israel uses an individual’s nationality, ethnicity and religion in calculating the risk level of a personality. However, US follows laws that treating a person with a specific nationality, ethnicity and religion differently is unlawful. The other hindrance is scalability. Airports and airlines personnel in Israel allocate a vast amount of manpower to this program. Israeli authorities allot hours and hours of interview and interrogation of their passengers. This large requirement for manpower and resources entails huge expenses (The Security Series: Securing the public side of airports, 2016).

Due to these factors and probability of immense spending, the Massachusetts Police designed their behavior detection program inspired by Israel’s aviation security practices. They called the program Behavior Assessment Screening System (BASS) which was developed in 2002. The race, ethnicity or religion are not factored in when sensing threats from people in transport hubs. They actually included in their training the dangers of unconscious bias against these personality factors. The concept solely utilized scientific methodologies on determining deception and non-verbal communication. Compared to Israel’s one-hour interviews, passengers are interviewed with an average of 90 seconds. Aviation authorities ask questions to passengers in a manner where customer service is prioritized. Boasting a non-discriminatory approach, the U.S Transportation Security Administration (TSA) incorporated this concept from the Massachusetts State Police into their own screening process. They called it the Screening of Passengers by Observation Techniques or SPOT. Moreover, the British Transport Police acknowledged the program’s merit. They also adopted the concept for their railway system in their country last 2006 (The Security Series: Securing the public side of airports, 2016).

Conclusion

Considering all these, one final approach that can be adopted by the entire world is the global community mindset. Technology, information, aviation safety measures and best practices should be shared with each other. It is through global unity that nations can successfully combat and win over the threats from different terror groups. With this unified approach, terror attacks can be averted and air travel mishaps can also be prevented. The world has better chances to safeguard air travel and protect human life.

References:

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from https://www.henrystewartpublications.com/sites/default/files/JAMLanglois.pdf

Aviation Benefits: Contributing to Global Economic Prosperity. (2018). Retrieved from

https://www.unitingaviation.com/strategic-objective/economic-development/aviation-benefits-for-a-better-future/

Aviation Benefits. (2017). Retrieved from

https://www.iata.org/policy/Documents/aviation-benefits-%20web.pdf

Air Disasters Timeline. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-10785301

Aviation Security Policy. (2018). Retrieved from

https://ec.europa.eu/transport/modes/air/security/aviation-security-policy_en

Australian Government Department of Home Affairs. (n.d.). Aviation Security. Retrieved from

https://www.homeaffairs.gov.au/about/transport-security/aviation-security

Cummins, E. (2018). Plane travel only feels like it’s dangerous. Retrieved from

https://www.popsci.com/plane-risk-safest-travel

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from https://www.popsci.com/air-traffic-control-training-emergencies

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https://www.dhs.gov/joint-declaration-civil-aviation-security

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https://sm.asisonline.org/Pages/The-Evolution-of-Airport-Attacks.aspx

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https://www.asi-mag.com/trends-and-directions-in-aviation-security-by-roni-tidhar/

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http://www.airportsolutions.com/security-series-securing-public-side-airports