Since 1999 I have been involved in aviation security and since that time one of the names of the most wanted terrorists has been Osama Bin Laden. After the terrible attacks of 11 September 2001, he and his network have attracted not only the attention of the world’s intelligence services, but also of aviation security experts around the globe.
When I remember how the aviation world was before 9/11 we have seen many significant changes. Just to mention some: reinforced cockpit doors, in-flight security officers, body scanners, liquid scanners, passenger behaviour recognition, etc. – all designed to protect the aviation sector and the travelling public from terrorist attacks. Now that Osama Bin Laden is dead, does it mean we will not need them anymore? Is the aviation more secure now and can we go back to a “normal” situation?
Unfortunately not. Many terrorist groups in the world, related to or inspired by El Qaeda still see transport networks – and in particular aviation – as the main target to cause maximum harm and generate maximum attention. Since 9/11, the world has irreversibly changed, so we have to remain vigilant and continue to protect ourselves against terrorism.
Another thing that strikes me as strange is that in aviation security we seem to strive for 100% security. No security-related incidents or accidents are allowed and no one should die because of any. How different this is in aviation safety. Here it looks as if we can accept a certain amount of incidents or accidents. The problem is that we observe that safety margins are stretched further and further – all too often apparently based on the commercial interest of the airlines or other industry players.
An example of this is pilot training, where standards are under constant strain from commercial interests – with potentially harmful consequences for future aviation safety. As you can read elsewhere in this edition, pilots are concerned about this trend. In response they have now defined an international pilot training standards (IPTS) that should guide operators, regulators and political decision-makers in Europe and elsewhere. Another example where safety does not seem to be Europe’s first priority is pilot fatigue and the new proposal by EASA on Flight Time Limitations.
But on aviation security no compromises are allowed. Here everything is done to prevent any possible accident and incident. No exceptions allowed, even if the measure is absurd, like not allowing pilots to take potentially dangerous tools into the cockpit while being trusted to fly the aircraft – and fly it safely from A to B.
I wish you all safe and secure flights!