The Importance of Security in Aviation

Aviation security is a combination of human and material measures and resources designed to protect passengers, staff, aircraft, and airport property against acts of unlawful interference, such as terrorism, crime, and other threats. Although aviation security has existed throughout the history of aviation, various catastrophic events have led to heightened security worldwide for those involved in the aviation industry.

Security measures can vary from country to country. Although general standards for minimum security measures exist, those standards are not always met and even if they are, the technology and resources available in some countries is lacking. Over the years, aviation experts worldwide have worked together to determine the most significant ways to enhance the security of air travel.

Security Threats

The importance of airlines and the aviation industry to travel and the economy has made it an attractive target for terrorists, militant groups and extremists. A wide variety of potential attacks aboard aircraft such as hijackings, the use of make-shift weapons, and the use of explosives create heightened tensions for all security personnel.

Outside of the aircraft, there are also concerns of potential attacks with anti-aircraft missiles, drones disrupting air travel, and vehicle collisions or vehicle explosions in loading zones.

Terrorists are able to continuously adapt their planning, techniques and attack intensity as security improvements are implemented worldwide and can target the airports and countries where the security is weakest.

The aviation industry, continually upgrades the technology needed to connect its vast array of networks and systems for things such as ATC communications, ticketing and reservation systems, airport screening equipment, website access, Wi-Fi connectivity, and many other important systems. These systems could potentially be vulnerable to hacking, cyber-attacks or system-wide failures that could disable airlines and create interruptions or unsafe conditions for airline passengers.

Almost every week, there appear to be social media accounts of disturbances in the aircraft cabins during flights. Arguments with flight attendants, infighting between passengers, drunken misconduct and other disturbances create a potentially dangerous situation for all passengers.

In some areas, airline employees can easily be processed through security checkpoints and can obtain access to secure or restricted areas around aircraft. Employees can be involved in smuggling dangerous items within the cargo, maliciously cause maintenance failures or other actions that could lead to disastrous incidents during aircraft operation.

Security Improvements

Most airports have implemented thorough screening procedures for passengers and their carry-on or checked luggage. Passengers are now required to first show their boarding pass and government-issued photo ID to security agents and then must pass through either a metal detector or a millimeter-wave scanner for further inspections. Carry-on bags are also x-rayed, and checked baggage is either x-rayed or in some airports, pass through explosive detection systems. Certain items have been banned from being carried into the aircraft that can cause harm to passengers and aircraft crew.

There has been a heightened police presence inside and outside of airports, including increased patrols of airport properties and perimeters and a renewed cooperation between airlines, local police and security officials.

New security improvements have also been implemented within the aircraft. Stronger cockpit doors, use of the Federal Air Marshals program and armed pilots on flights, have helped increase the presence of security measures.

Another important change in aviation security is passenger awareness. Passengers are more active and watchful for anything that appears to be out of the ordinary and will readily report the issue to airline employees.

Future Security Improvements

Originally developed as a medical technology, CT scanning has started to be used in airport security systems to improve both the effectiveness and efficiency of the screening process. Instead of a 2-dimensional image produced in X-rays, CT scans produce a 3-dimensional image that can be viewed and rotated 360 degrees for a thorough analysis.

Biometric screening enables instant identity verification throughout a passenger’s trip. Biometric identification removes the need for physical documents and credentials at checkpoints, promoting a paperless and swift journey.

Risk-based screening or behavior pattern recognition (BPR), is based on using visual techniques and targeted interviews to identify suspicious behaviors that could indicate potentially dangerous passengers during screening.

Should aircraft tools be calibrated in an accredited calibration lab?
Find out in our guide.