Protection From Intentional Harm (Security) FLT241


  • Safety-refers to measures taken against the threat of an accident.
  • Security- refers to protection from threats motivated by hostility or malice.

Attacks on Civil Aviation

  • Bombings, shootings, and miscellaneous attacks at airports.
  • Bombings, shootings, hijacking, and miscellaneous attacks on aircraft on the ground or in flight.
  • General Aviation and Charter Aviation aircraft attacks.
  • Off-airport facility attacks.
  • Shootings (from the ground) at aircraft during takeoff and landing.

Review of Attacks on Civil Aviation

The very first recorded act of hijacking was in 1930 when Peruvian revolutionaries seized an F7 Fokker aircraft. This marked the beginning of an era for this new crime, but it was not until the post-war period with the huge growth in air passenger transport that hijacking came to international prominence.

Attacks against civil aviation rose rapidly in the 1967-1976 decade. While there were only 32 worldwide hijackings from 1961 to 1967, there were 290 hijackings attempts worldwide during the following 4 years after 1968.

The climax occurred in 1969 when 33 regularly scheduled U.S. airliners were hijacked. By 1969, the number of U.S. passengers and crew members who were being detoured to Cuba totaled 1359. This led to a great deal of money being spent on security by the air carriers and the FAA on x-ray systems, magnetometers, training programs for screening personnel and air marshals, after which the relative level of security immediately rose.

The decade of the 1980s was a disastrous one for aviation. This period confirmed the existence of a dangerous trend toward greater violence against air transportation. Overall, 25 planes were sabotaged by explosives, causing 1237 casualties.

Infamous Accidents

Air India bombings in June 1985 in which 329 people perished off the coast of Ireland.

Korean air disaster in 1987 cost the lives of 155 people to lose their lives.

Midair explosion in 1989 of the French UTA flight over Niger Desert in which 171 people were killed.

Bombing of Colombian Avianca in 1989 near Bogota in which 107 people died.

The Regulatory Movement

The terrorist events of September 11, 2001 have indeed changed the Aviation Security (AVSEC) landscape on a global basis. There have been significant regulatory developments in the international arena and in the U.S. policy along the way.

International Response to Terrorism

  1. Tokyo Convention- on offenses and certain other acts committed on board aircraft, recognized the issues and authorized the airline captain to take appropriate action to restrain persons interfering with safety of flight.
  2. Hague Convention- for the suppression of unlawful seizure of aircraft, adopted 114 articles relating to hijacking and provided guidelines to governments dealing with this problem.
  3. Annex 17- Security Safeguarding International Civil Aviation against Acts of Unlawful Interference.
  4. ICAO Security Manual- primary document providing member States with guidance material to assist with the implementation of international security measures.

Evolution of Aviation Security in the United States

Similar to ICAO, the FAA response to aviation security has slowly evolved. This section will discuss the history of aviation security in the United States and the changes brought about by the events of September 11, 2001.

The Hijacking Era (1968-1979)

In response to the major increase in hijackings during this era, the FAA began to beef up the Federal Aviation Regulations. Initially, airport security matters were governed under FAR Part 139, Subpart 335 (Public Protection) and Subpart 337 (Wildlife Hazard Management).

Air Carrier Security

On January 31, 1972, Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) 121.538 was issued to cover the air carrier community. Within this rule, air carriers were required to adopt and implement a screening system that would detect weapons and explosives on carry-on baggage or worn by passengers. The carrier's security program was required to do the following:

  • Prevent or deter unauthorized access to its aircraft.
  • Ensure that a responsible agent or representative of the airline would check in baggage.
  • Prevent cargo and checked baggage from being loaded aboard its aircraft unless they were handled in accoradance with the certificate holder's security procedures.

Anti- Hijacking or Air Transportation Security Act of 1974

Provided the statutory basis for the rules requiring carriers to institute 100% screening of passenger and carry on items and for airport operators to station at least one law enforcement officer at each passenger checkpoint during boarding and pre-boarding.

The Air Marshal Program

The mission of the Air MArshall program is to detect, deter, and defeat hostile acts targeting U.S. Air Carriers, airports, passengers, and crews. The Air MArshall program gained importance, however, after the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in June 1985 when two lebanese hijacked a Boeing 727 departing from Athens and diverted it to Beirut, where they were joined by additional hijackers. During an excrutiating 2 week confrontation, the hijackers demanded the release of prisoners held by Israel and murdered Robert Stethem, a U.S. Navy diver who was a passenger aboard the plane. In response to this hostage nightmare and the rapid surge in the Middle East terrorism, President Ronald Reagan directed the Secretary of Transportation to immediately explore expansion of the FAA's armed Air MArshal Program aboard international flights.

The Formation of TSA

Because of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 congresses established the Transportation Security Administration on November 19, 2001. The mission of TSA is to protect the nation's transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce. Security screening is at the heart of the TSA, which now numbers approximately well over 50,000 employees. The TSA conducts 100% passenger screening and handles 708 million people in 2015.

Layers of TSA

  • Airport document checkers.
  • Behavior detection officers.
  • Secure flight- the behind the scenes watch list which matches passenger names to government lists of suspeted terrorists.
  • Federal Air Marshals
  • Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs) who are pilots armed and trained by the Federal Air Marshal Service on the use of firearms and other tactics.
  • Crew member self defense training programs.
  • Mobile dog explosive detection teams.

TSA Blog Hidden Items

The Four Distinct Threat Levels

Level 1 Threat

Definition: Disruptive behavior- suspicious or threatening.

Examples: Irrational behavior that creates the potential for physical conflict, nonviolent threatening behavior, verbal harassment, inebriation, and threats ( both verbal and written)- does not include battery or possible medical conditions.

Level 2 Threat

Definition: Physically abusive behavior.

Examples: Pushing, kicking, hitting, tripping, or inappropriate touching.

Level 3 Threat

Definition: Life threatening behavior.

Examples: Weapon displayed/ used, credible terrorist threats, credible bomb threats, or actual use of bombs, sabotage of aircraft systems, credible threats of hijacking, and deadly hand- to-hand techniques such as choking or eye gouging.

Level 4 Threat

Definition: Attempted or actual breach of the flight deck.

Examples: Mentally disturbed individuals, goal-oriented hijackers, and suicidal hijackers.

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