View Full Version : Airport security - Daily Telegraph

7th Oct 2001, 15:46
Revealed: shocking lapses in security at British airports
By David Harrison, Transport Correspondent
(Filed: 07/10/2001)

AN urgent investigation was ordered by the Government last night after The Telegraph exposed shocking lapses in airport security which allowed a nine-inch knife to be taken on to a British Airways flight from Gatwick to America.

Security staff also failed to stop other "banned implements" being taken aboard the flight to Orlando, and an Air France flight from Heathrow to Miami. The objects included a 12-inch knitting needle and a sharp metal nail file.

The biggest concern centres on how a "Leatherman" multi-purpose tool, which converts into a deadly nine-inch knife, passed through security checks that were supposed to have been tightened after the terrorist attacks on America.

Even more disturbingly, the knife was picked up by an airport X-ray but allowed through by an official. When told the tool was "needed for work" the official said he would "turn a blind eye".

Stephen Byers, the Transport Secretary, said that he was "very concerned" by the security lapse and ordered an immediate investigation. "We are taking this very seriously. We have ordered airport security to be tightened since the terrorist attacks and we want to find out exactly why this was allowed to happen."

British Airways and the British Airports Authority took the security breaches "very seriously". BAA's head of security last night began trying to identify the staff responsible, particularly the official who found the knife and failed to confiscate it.

A spokesman for Air France said: "We are very concerned that this has happened because we saw the consequences of people taking knives on board airliners on September 11."

Eric Pickles, the Tory transport spokesman, said it was "vital" that security was tightened. "What is the point of announcing new security measures if they are not being enforced?" he said. Mr Pickles was "particularly alarmed" by the fact that the knife was allowed on board after it had been spotted by security staff. "They could have been putting the passengers' lives at risk.

"Staff are under pressure but they have to remember that not every terrorist looks like a member of the Taliban. They have to be extremely vigilant and very unforgiving."

Thousands of Westerners have converted to Islam, some of whom potentially could be recruited by extremists.

The Telegraph can also reveal that extra departure gate checks ordered by the Government are being carried out on only one in five passengers. A BAA official said the checks were being done on 20 per cent of passengers while BA said they were being carried out "on a random basis".

Asked about the small proportion of secondary checks at Gatwick and Heathrow, the BAA spokesman said: "Security has been upgraded in line with Department of Transport guidelines."

A spokesman for the department said: "The perceived threat goes up and down and the level of security will reflect that." Asked if that meant the threat had dropped by 80 per cent since September 11, he declined to comment.

British security appears to be inferior to that in some countries. While The Telegraph could take a number of potentially lethal implements on planes bound for America, a woman from East Sussex said she had nail scissors confiscated before a flight from Barcelona to Gatwick.

Air France has been criticised for asking passengers to arrive three hours before flights when there are no check-in staff available until the normal time. Last week many passengers arrived at 3.55am for the 6.55am flight from Heathrow to Paris when the check-in team did not arrive until 5.35am.

Diana Unwin, from Dorking, Surrey, who drove a friend to the airport said: "By the time they reached the gate any opportunity for prolonged searches had passed."

(9 inch Leatherman???)

The Guvnor
7th Oct 2001, 16:29
Schedule 4 of the Direction to Aircraft Operators, Aerodrome Managers, Security Approved Air Cargo Agents and Catering Undertakings Relating to Heightened Security Measures 2001 states that the following are banned from a passenger's person and hand baggage:

- Knives with blades of any length, including letter openers, made of metal or any other material eg polycarbonate or ceramic, strong enough to be used as a potential weapon

- Razor blades (both open bladed and safety razors)

- Tradesmen's tools which would have the potential to be used as an effective weapon.

Darts, knitting needles, hypodermic syringes (unless required for genuine medical reasons), billiard, snooker or pool cues and large sporting bats and clubs are also specifically banned. Nail files are not mentioned.

Seems like the airports messed up!!

7th Oct 2001, 17:31
"Seems like the airports messed up"

Anyone who has passed through a UK airport since 11 Spetember can tell you that this is no surprise. Security never was good enough to thwart actions like those hijackings, and it still isn't.

The main action is to increase the amount of time passengers have to hang around by making them turn up early. Airports aren't actually doing anything much extra during this time. How dumb do you think we are?

If you want to increase this passengers confidence, here are 2 suggestions:

Double the salaries of the people checking passengers and carry on luggage. Would I pay extra for this? - you bet.

Then, guarantee that if there is a hijacking, the security checkers and everyone up to the airport manager, the head of the airport authority and the minister of transport (or whoever) gets fired without compensation. As an industry you're asking the public and aircrew to rely on your security for their lives, how about making the same bet with your jobs and mortgages?

If you won't, why not?

Carnage Matey!
7th Oct 2001, 20:53
Ok, well let me be the first to stick my head above the parapet and be non-PC. What is it that these people from the press want? Is it absolute security, because we can't make airports 100% secure without making them 100% unusable. Perhaps they want to have very tight security, like El-Al operate? Fine, here's two points for the DT journalists to consider (and that tw*t from the News of the World):

1. You can have that security if you like but you are going to have to pay for it. Despite your bleating you, dont want to pay for it, nor are you genuinely prepared to tolerate three hour delays before every flight.

2. Profiling. There, I said it. It's not-PC, but I've no doubt at all that airport security staff are weighing up every passenger and making a personal assessment of their risk level. I'll bet the man from the DT got through with his knife because he was white, middle class, well spoken and claimed he worked in computers. If an arab had tried that, it wouldn't have worked. Fact is, in the current times the greatest threat is going to come from fanatics of middle eastern origin. The likelihood of a suicide attack from a westerner is extremely remote. I would hazard a guess that if you're Jewish in Israel you can probably get that tool through Ben Gurion security, but you won't if you're an arab, and the man from the DT got through because he is most unlikely to be a threat.

I think all these latest 'exposes' demonstrate considerable naivety of the workings of airport security and the origins of the threats to air transport. They are not pursued to improve security but to sell papers. IMHO the people responsible for these stunts should be presecuted for the offences they have committed and hopefully this will deter future scaremongering.

The Guvnor
7th Oct 2001, 21:49
Carnage Matey - I think I would go beyond your post to point out that it is of course an offence under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act to knowingly take, or attempt to take, on board an aircraft any prohibited items.

Therefore the journos concerned should be thanked for their public spiritedness, arrested and hauled off down to the local magistrates court for a hearing in front of the local beak.