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Chapter 2

Crime and Terrorism in Aviation:
A Retrospective

This chapter introduces the significant incidents, crimes, and forms of terrorism committed in the history of aviation. These cases are shown to have had significant affects on the evolution of aviation security. The chapter also describes the motives for various forms of hijackings and terrorism from the days of early flight to modern times. Historically, aircraft have been a prime target for attack with airports enduring less risk. Studying the history of these attacks on aircraft and airports is an essential task for improving the effectiveness of aviation security. Lessons learned from attacks are presented in this chapter and should be examined thoroughly by the aviation security practitioner or student.
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Introduction

3 Fundamental strategies for attacking aviation:
 
Hijackings
Bombings
Airport Assaults

3 Fundamental strategies for attacking aviation:
 
Hijackings
Bombings
Airport Assaults
 
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The fundamental mission of aviation security remains the same – to prevent or deter hijackings or attacks from occurring.

Methods, motivations, and purpose for attacking aviation have changed.
 
The traditional objective for past hijackings was to “land and negotiate.”
The 9/11 attacks were, fundamentally, aircraft hijackings, however the purpose was significantly different.
 
The fundamental mission of aviation security remains the same – to prevent or deter hijackings or attacks from occurring.
One of the difficulties of aviation security is that acts to mitigate threats often create the next challenge.
*

The ensuing sections are intended to provide aviation security practitioners with:
A basic overview of aviation security incidents
Explanations of the impacts of aviation security’s watershed events
The relevance of lessons learned

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Introduction

Criminals and terrorists become more creative, more daring, and more deadly as new technologies and strategies, such as baggage screening and air marshals, are introduced to prevent certain avenues of attack.
 
Closing vulnerabilities in the security system may reduce the number of criminal or terrorist attacks, yet it also increases the potential severity of future attacks.
 
In the spirit of trying to learn from the past and not repeat mistakes in the future, the ensuing sections are intended to provide aviation security practitioners with:
1. a basic overview of aviation security incidents,
2. explanations of the impacts of aviation security’s watershed events, and
3. the relevance of lessons learned.
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Historical Context on Acts of Terror
 
1931 – First hijacking
1933 – First airline bombing

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The eras of attacks on aviation:
1930-1979
1980-1990
1990-2001
Post 9-11

The eras of attacks on aviation can be subdivided into four basic periods:
1930-1979,
1980-1990,
1990-2001,
Post 9-11
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Before the 1960s, desire to escape from persecution or prosecution, or a hostage taking to extort money.
 
By the 1960s, hijackings turned deadly and soon became standard operating procedure for Middle Eastern terrorist groups.
Hijackings became a dangerous
endeavor.
Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Historical Context on Acts of Terror

Before the 1960s, a desire to escape from some form of persecution or prosecution, or a hostage taking to extort money, characterized most hijacker motives. Bombings were rare and when they occurred were usually the result of insurance fraud.
 
By the 1960s, hijackings were turning deadly and soon became standard operating procedure for Middle Eastern terrorist groups who often used the tactic to leverage hostages for the release of political prisoners and to call attention to their cause.
Hijackings became a dangerous endeavor—more so for the hijackers than the hostages. For a period of time, at the rate of about 10 hijackings per year, the majority of hijackings ended with the shooting deaths of the hijackers by airline security officers, local police, FBI agents, and military personnel.
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Air India Flight 182
Pan Am Flight 103

By the 1980s, U.S. airlines routinely became targets of hijackings and terrorism from various factions in the Middle East. Two airline bombings made significant headlines because of their high death toll: the bombing of Air India Flight 182 and Pan Am Flight 103.
 
Throughout the 1990s, hijackings and bombings continued primarily overseas.
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Hijackings have been the preferred method of air terror

The terrorist attacks on 9-11 would signify the first major aviation security incident in more than 10 years.
 
Subsequent to 9-11, there have been other forms of attack on aviation, such as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) and suicide bombings.
 
Hijackings have been the preferred method of air terror (90% of attacks), yet, except for the 9-11 attacks, airline bombings have taken more lives.
 
Only about 5% of all attacks on aviation have been on or at an airport.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Historical Context on Acts of Terror
Effectiveness of aviation security measures – little effect.
Average hijacker – 81% chance of actually seizing control of an airliner
Success rate of bombing – 76%
Problems included:
lack of foresight and limitations of getting actionable intelligence to airport and aircraft operators

A study conducted by Ariel Merari, professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University and one of Israel’s leading academic experts on terrorism, concluded:
The effectiveness of aviation security measures had little effect.
The average hijacker had an 81% chance of actually seizing control of an airliner
The success rate of bombing an airliner was 76%
Problems included:
a lack of foresight and limitations of getting actionable intelligence to airport and aircraft operators
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Nonterrorist small scale events should cause security practitioners to take notice.

Nonterrorist small scale events should cause security practitioners to take notice.
In two separate incidents, criminals shot passengers waiting in ticket lines in the Los Angeles International Airport and the New Orleans International Airport.
Practitioners should focus on the tactics and strategies that will mitigate similar future attacks. Security professionals should expand the implications and outcomes of such an attack if perpetrated by an organized, trained, and heavily armed group.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Historical Context on Acts of Terror
Aviation security industry often doesn’t learn from close calls or near tragedies.
Most dangerous forms of attacks from individuals working inside the system.

A traditional mistake the aviation security industry seems to make is that it often does not learn from close calls or near tragedies.
 
Threats from individuals working inside the aviation system represent one of the most dangerous forms of attacks on aviation.
 
The possibility that an airport or airline employee will be the primary or supporting actor in an attack on aviation is frightening from several perspectives:
 
1. Aviation employees are entrusted with protecting passengers from both safety and security risks.
2. Aviation employees have greater knowledge about how the aviation security system operates and in some cases may have 3. detailed knowledge of how law enforcement handles hijackings, bombings, and other attacks.
4. Aviation employees have approved access to airports and aircraft and thus may bypass many of the airport’s security layers.
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TWA Flight 847
PSA Flight 1771
Pan Am Flight 103

Some of the most significant aviation security incidents:
 
the hijacking of TWA Flight 847,
the downing of PSA Flight 1771, and
the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
Involved individuals working within the airport system.
Although these events occurred in the 1980s, some of the very first hijackings also involved airport and airline employees, either as a facilitator or as the assailant.
*

Reinforcement
3 Fundamental strategies for attacking aviation: Hijackings, Bombings, Airport Assaults
The fundamental mission of aviation security remains to prevent or deter hijackings or attacks from occurring.
One of the difficulties of aviation security is that acts to mitigate threats often create the next challenge.
Most dangerous forms of attacks from individuals working inside the system.
Some of the most significant aviation security incidents: TWA Flight 847, PSA Flight 1771 and Pan Am Flight 103

1930 – 1960:
The First 30 Years
First recorded hijacking February 21, 1931
Arequipa, Peru

The first recorded hijacking occurred on February 21, 1931, in Arequipa, Peru.
The hijacking demonstrated a fundamental precept in aviation security—criminals and terrorists will assess new technologies and determine if those technologies can improve their chances for success.
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1930 – 1960:
The First 30 Years
First airline bombing
1933

The first airline bombing occurred in 1933.
Investigators determined that a nitro-glycerin based explosive detonated by a timing device destroyed the aircraft.
At the time of the 1931 hijacking in Arequipa, Peru, and the aforementioned Boeing 247 bombing, there were no passenger or baggage screening requirements. Passengers arrived at the airport and boarded the aircraft without any security screening.
Regulations addressing these types of aviation security concerns would not begin until 1971, nearly 40 years later.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1930 – 1960: The First 30 Years
1949, a pilot and hijacker hijack a Hungarian airline flight.
1958, airline flight crewmembers hijacked two aircraft.
1966, hijacker – aircraft’s flight engineer.

In 1949, a pilot and hijacker worked together to hijack a Hungarian airline flight.
In 1958, airline flight crewmembers hijacked two aircraft and flew the planes to the United States.
In 1966, a hijacker on a flight en route from Santiago de Cuba to Havana turned out to be the aircraft’s flight engineer.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1930 – 1960: The First 30 Years
Jack Graham
November 1, 1955
1st bombing commercial US airliner
Graham planted bomb in mother’s luggage to collect insurance money

In the 1940s and 1950s, commercial aviation was still in its infancy and crashes, while not frequent, still occurred. Airports installed insurance kiosks inside their terminal buildings so that passengers could purchase insurance on themselves before departure.
The kiosks were however used to commit insurance fraud, when in 1955, John Gilbert Graham placed dynamite inside his mother’s luggage, destroying Flight 629 from Denver’s Stapleton International Airport, killing all 44 onboard, to collect $37,000 in life insurance money.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1930 – 1960: The First 30 Years
Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry an item on this flight?
Have any of the items you are
traveling with been out of your immediate control since the time you
packed them?

Insurance-related attacks can also be construed as “passenger dupe” scenarios, where a passenger unknowingly brings explosives onto an airplane in their luggage. This resulted in the “first-level” passenger profiling:
Asking passenger prior to boarding an aircraft:
Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry an item on this flight?
Have any of the items you are traveling with been out of your immediate control since the time you packed them?
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Between 1947 and 1953, there were 23 hijackings worldwide.
Between 1930 and 1967, there were 12 hijackings in the US.

Between 1947 and 1953, there were 23 hijackings worldwide. Europeans seeking various forms of political asylum committed most of these hijackings.
In the United States, between 1930 and 1967, 12 hijackings were attempted. Seven of these attempts resulted in successful hijackings.
Providing firearms and related training to airline pilots in the United States became an additional layer of security designed to prevent hijackings.
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1960 – 1980:
The Early “Jet Age”

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1960 – 1980: The Early “Jet Age”
Fidel Castro’s rise to power, more than 240 hijackings or attempted hijackings.
Anti-Hijacking Act of 1974

In the 1960s and early 1970s, Fidel Castro’s rise to power, coupled with a lack of passenger or baggage screening requirements resulted in more than 240 hijackings or attempted hijackings.
 
This increase in hijackings resulted in the U.S. Congress passing the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1974, mandating passenger and carry-on baggage screening.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1960 – 1980: The Early “Jet Age”
The majority of hijackings throughout this period were for one of three reasons:
Political asylum
Release of prisoners
Financial gain

The years between 1968 and 1973 marked the peak of hijackings and use of antihijacking measures. During that time, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimated that 364 total hijackings occurred worldwide.
 
The majority of hijackings throughout this period were for one of three reasons:
Political asylum
Release of prisoners
Financial gain.
The high rate of hijackings caused the FAA to create a task force to study methods to deter future hijackings. Resulting in the first hijacker profile, and limited use of metal detectors to screen passengers.
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March 17, 1970
Eastern Airlines Flight 1320
Passenger John DiVivo

Three attempted hijackings occurred in the early 1970s that are eerily reminiscent of the motivation and tactics of the 9-11 hijackers:
 
March 17, 1970, Eastern Airlines Flight 1320, passenger John DiVivo entered the cockpit with a gun ordering the crew to continue flying until the plane ran out of fuel and crashed.
The flight crew fought back, and First Officer James Hartley, who was mortally wounded during the altercation, managed to disarm DiVivo and then shot him. Captain Robert Wilbur was injured during the fight but still managed to safely land the plane.
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1972
Three alleged rapists
Southern Airways DC-9

1972, three alleged rapists (including one escaped convict) took over a Southern Airways DC-9. The hijackers demanded $10 million dollars and directed the plane back and forth over the country. At one point, threatening to crash into a nuclear facility.
The 31 passengers were held for 29 hours. The first officer was shot and wounded before the ordeal ended
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1974
Samuel Byck
White House

1974, another individual would attempt to hijack an aircraft—this time with the intent to crash it into the White House.
Samuel Byck, using a stolen pistol, shot and killed Maryland airport police officer Neal Ramsburg at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Byck then boarded a Delta Airlines DC-9 and ordered the pilots to take off and fly low toward Washington, D.C. Byck intended to crash the plane into the White House in an attempt to assassinate President Richard Nixon.
When the pilots refused to take off, Byck shot both pilots, killing the first officer, and then ordered a passenger to help the pilot fly the plane.
An FBI agent, using the fallen police officer’s .357 caliber pistol, fired through a window in the aircraft’s door and killed Byck.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1960 – 1980: The Early “Jet Age”
A key lesson learned:
Keep hijacked aircraft on the ground

Another characteristic of hijackings during the 1960s and 1970s was that there were often only one or two hijackers who used guns, grenades, bombs, and in some occasions simply the threat of having a bomb in order to take over the flight.
 
A key lesson that U.S. law enforcement agencies learned from numerous hijackings was to keep hijacked aircraft on the ground. Once a hijacked aircraft is airborne, the crisis is more ephemeral and risky.
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Reinforcement
First hijacking – 1931, first bombing – 1933
John Graham – 1955, bomb in mother’s luggage
Between 1947 and 1953, 23 hijackings worldwide
Between 1930 and 1967, 12 hijackings in the US
1960s and early 1970s, more than 240 hijackings or attempted hijackings.
1968 to 1973, 364 total hijackings occurred worldwide.

Reinforcement
The majority of hijackings throughout this period were for one of three reasons: Political asylum, Release of prisoners, Financial gain
March 17, 1970, Eastern Airlines Flight 1320, passenger John DiVivo
1972, three alleged rapists took over a Southern Airways DC-9
1974, Delta Airlines DC-9, Samuel Byck
Lesson learned: Keep hijacked aircraft on the ground.

The Middle East and Asia

Hijackings focused on extorting the release of prisoners or on delivering a political message.

Hijackings in the Middle East occurred less frequently than what was experienced in the United States, yet they resulted in greater loss of life and overall destruction.
 
Middle Eastern hijackings focused on extorting the release of prisoners or on delivering a political message.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
The Middle East and Asia
July 23, 1968
El Al Israel Airlines, flight from Rome to Tel Aviv, Israel
Popular Front for the Liberation
of Palestine(PFLP).
Only Successful Hijacking of an El Al flight

July 23, 1968 – El Al Flight 426 experienced the first hijacking of a commercial flight in the Middle East
The gunmen claimed to be members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
The aircraft was forced to land in Algiers, where negotiations began with the hijackers demanding the release of certain Arab passengers
As a result of this hijacking, Israel implemented the strictest security measures on El Al of any air carrier and also adopted a retaliation policy toward those groups who seek to harm Israeli citizens
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
The Middle East and Asia
El Al began implementing practice of escorting taxiing flights with armed personnel in vehicles.

6 months after the El Al flight 426 hijacking, two terrorists armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades boarded an El Al Flight while on the ground in Athens, Greece.
 
Because of these attacks and hijackings, El Al began implementing the practice of escorting taxiing flights with armed personnel in vehicles.
In retaliation for the attack, Israeli commandoes raided the airport in Beirut, Lebanon, and destroyed a dozen Lebanese registered aircraft.
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1969 to 1970 few hijackings in Middle East
More in the United States

From 1969 to 1970, there were a few other Middle East–related hijackings, mostly for extortion or transportation, along with a couple of airline bombings, but nowhere near the rate of hijackings that were occurring in the United States during the same period.
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Dawson’s Field
September 6, 1970
PFLP hijacked 3 planes
El Al Flight 219
Pan Am Flight 93

September 6, 1970 – teams of Palestinian hijackers departed from three separate airports with the intent to hijack three aircraft en route from Europe to the United States.
 
Members of the PFLP intended to land the aircraft at a remote airfield and hold the passenger’s hostage in an attempt to negotiate the release of other PFLP members held in jails throughout Europe and in Israel.
The first hijack attempt was conducted on board El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York
Before takeoff, the El Al security chief and airline station manager identified four suspicious passengers. The date of ticket purchase, last-minute arrival times at the airport, sequential numbering of two of the passports, and other anomalies (not expanded upon in reference) caused suspicion.
The captain of the flight was consulted about the suspicious passengers and decided to allow Khaled and Arguello on board but denied boarding for the other two.
The two hijackers bought tickets and boarded Pan Am Flight 93, from Amsterdam to New York
The Captain On the Pan Am Flight, also found the passengers suspicious and conducted a pat down search but did not find their grenades and pistols, which were hidden in their groins
Twenty minutes into the flight, Khaled and Arguello initiated a hijacking using grenades and pistols. They threatened the flight attendants in an attempt to get the flight crew to open the cockpit door.
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Dawson’s Field
707 and DC-8 flown to Dawson’s Field
747 flown to Cairo, Egypt

A hijacked 707, and DC-8 were flown to an abandoned airstrip at Dawson’s Field, Jordan. The hijacked 747 was flown to Cairo, Egypt, where it was wired with explosives while still in flight. All of the passengers and crew evacuated immediately upon landing, and within minutes the aircraft exploded.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Dawson’s Field
September 9 – a BOAC VC-10 hijacked as leverage to negotiate the release of Leila Khaled
The VC-10 brought to Dawson’s Field, all 500 passengers confined inside the aircraft for several days.
Authorities released Khaled about a month after the BOAC VC-10 hijacking.

September 9 – a BOAC VC-10 was hijacked as leverage to negotiate the release of Leila Khaled, the hijacker was caught on September 7 during an attempt at hijacking the El Al Flight.
The VC-10 was brought to Dawson’s Field, all 500 passengers were confined inside the aircraft for several days.
Six days later, the passengers were deplaned and the terrorists used explosives to destroy the three aircraft while TV cameras recorded the event.
Authorities released Khaled about a month after the BOAC VC-10 hijacking in a hostage trade for passengers on the VC-10. This was characteristic of the type of hijack response strategy used in the United States.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Dawson’s Field
Hijackers used hostages and aircraft as bargaining tools.
Hijackers interested in an outside cause.
Before 9-11 the goal of flight crews during a hijacking was to land the aircraft.

A premise in hijackings before 9-11 was that hijackers used hostages and aircraft as bargaining tools. The assumption was that hijackers were more interested in an outside cause (escape, extortion, political message) than in using the aircraft as a guided missile. Thus, before 9-11 the goal of flight crews during a hijacking was to land the aircraft so authorities on the ground could take over negotiations.
*

Reinforcement
Hijackings in the Middle East occurred less frequently than the US, yet they resulted in greater loss of life and overall destruction.
July 23, 1968 – El Al Flight 426 experienced the first hijacking of a commercial flight in the Middle East
September 6, 1970 – teams of Palestinian hijackers intend to hijack three aircraft en route from Europe to the US.
The first hijack attempt was conducted on board El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York, flown to Cairo, Egypt
A hijacked 707, and DC-8 were flown to an abandoned airstrip at Dawson’s Field, Jordan.

Airport Attacks
Airport attacks are the third major form of attack against the global aviation system.

Airport attacks are the third major form of attack against the global aviation system.
The security of airports has not received as much attention.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Airport Attacks
Most common form of airport attacks:
Individual or group armed with automatic weapons and explosives
Bombs placed in airport public use lockers

The most common form of airport attack has largely been an individual or group armed with automatic weapons and explosives (usually hand grenades) storming the public area of an airport terminal or in some cases the airfield.
Another form of airport attack is the use of bombs placed in airport public use lockers.
The use of public locker facilities was discouraged for several years before authorities permanently discontinued their use in the mid-1990s.
Lockers in the Sterile Area are routinely used but are usually restricted to individuals with higher Department of Homeland Security (DHS) security levels.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Other Notable Lessons from the 1970s
November 15, 1979
American Airlines Flight 444
First bomb as air cargo

November 15, 1979 – a mail parcel containing a bomb exploded in the cargo hold of American Airlines Flight 444.
The bomb was later traced to Ted Kaczynski and was the first time in the US that a bomb was placed on board an aircraft as air cargo
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Other Notable Lessons from the 1970s
Dan Cooper
$200,000 cash
Parachutes
Boeing’s Cooper Vane

1971 – D. B. Cooper parachuted out of an airplane he had hijacked and held for ransom, resulting in Boeing installing the “Cooper Vane,” preventing the rear air-stairs from being lowered in flight.
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Improvements in passenger and baggage screening resulted in alternative methods for smuggling weapons on board an aircraft.

Improvements in passenger and baggage screening have resulted in alternative methods for smuggling weapons on board an aircraft. Strategies such as positive passenger bag matching have prevented bombers from checking a bag with a bomb hidden inside without personally boarding the aircraft.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Other Notable Lessons from the 1970s
September 5, 1986
Pan Am Flight 73
17 people died

Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, drug traffickers used aviation to transport narcotics.
September 5, 1986 – 17 people died on Pan Am Flight 73, a 747, during an attempted hijacking by terrorists dressed to resemble airport security guards.
The aircraft sat on the tarmac of a Karachi airport, when the terrorists fired the first shots. The captain and his flight crew used the emergency escape ropes to leave the aircraft, a practice concurrent with FAA recommendations meant to essentially “disable” the aircraft.
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1980 – 1990:
Aviation Security Policies Are Set

Airline bombings occurred at unprecedented levels of frequency and fatalities

Several devastating attacks on aviation characterized the decade of 1980-1990. These attacks resulted in significant changes to security policies and practices both in the United States and around the world.
Airline bombings occurred at unprecedented levels of frequency and fatalities. Hijackings turned even deadlier, and there were several more attacks on airports.
*

Individuals threaten to have an explosive but don’t.

A popular and rather effective technique, many of the hijackings in 1980 were implemented by individuals who threatened to have an explosive but did not actually have one.
 
Hijackers began bluffing, pretending to have certain items, but substituting other items (e.g., liquids for flammable liquid) that were overlooked during the screening process at that time.
Hijackings in the U.S. hit a peak in 1983, and ended in 1985 when the FAA restarted the air marshal program.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1980 – 1990: Aviation Security Policies Are Set
May 3, 1986
Bomb destroyed Sri Lanka Lockheed L1011
Airport Customs officer arrested

May 3, 1986 – bomb destroyed Sri Lanka Lockheed L1011 while on the ground at Colombo Airport. Authorities arrested an airport customs officer, sympathetic to a separatist movement and later charged with sabotaging the aircraft.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
1980 – 1990: Aviation Security Policies Are Set
September 5, 1986
Pan Am Flight 73, a 747
Terrorists dressed as security guards

September 5, 1986 – Pan Am 747, Flight 73, terrorists dressed as security guards attempted to hijack the aircraft.
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December 27, 1985
Rome and Vienna attacked simultaneously
El Al ticket counter

December 27, 1985 – armed gunmen attacked 2 airports simultaneously in the public terminal areas of the Rome and Vienna airports on passengers waiting at the El Al ticket counter.
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1986
Anne Marie Murphy
Explosives in suitcase

1986 – Anne Marie Murphy was traveling to meet the parents of her fiancé who, she did not know, was secretly a Syrian intelligence agent and had placed a plastic explosives hidden in the lining of her suitcase.
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Reinforcement
Airport attacks are the third major form of attack against the global aviation system.
November 15, 1979 – American Airlines Flight 444.
1971 – D. B. Cooper, Cooper Vane
September 5, 1986 – 17 people died on Pan Am Flight 73
May 3, 1986 – bomb destroyed Sri Lanka Lockheed L1011
September 5, 1986 – Pan Am Flight 73
December 27, 1985 – Rome and Vienna airports
1986 – Anne Marie Murphy

Flight 847

June 14, 1985
TWA Flight 847
Athens to Rome

June 14, 1985 – Shiite Muslim terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847, a Boeing 727 en route from Athens to Rome.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight 847
 
The hijacking became an event on the evening news for several weeks. At its conclusion, this hostage crisis:
spanned thousands of miles of airspace
involved several governments
directly affected operations at three major airports
turned a flight attendant into a folk hero
resulted in the death of a U.S. serviceman
gave rise to Hezbollah

The hijacking became an event on the evening news for several weeks. At its conclusion, this hostage crisis:
spanned thousands of miles of airspace,
involved several governments,
directly affected the operations at three major airports,
turned a flight attendant into a folk hero,
resulted in the death of a U.S. serviceman, and
gave rise to Hezbollah
*

Two hijackers armed with guns and grenades stormed cockpit, demanding to travel to Algiers.

While in flight, hijackers pounded on the cockpit door and started kicking out the lower panel of the door. The flight crew finally opened the door after being informed by flight attendant Uli Derickson that the hijackers were now beating several passengers.
 
Two hijackers, Ahmed Gayala and All Younes, demanded to travel to Algiers. The assailants kept control by running up and down the aisles, yelling and punching passengers at random. When the hijackers left Captain Testrake and his crew alone in the cockpit for a few moments, the crew notified air traffic control of their situation and then tried to find a map and compute fuel requirements for the detour to Algiers.
 
Hijackers spoke Arabic, crew spoke English.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight 847
 
Interesting points regarding this hijacking:
The hijacking occurred very quickly and violently.

2. The hijackers inflicted physical pain and mental fear on passengers as a successful strategy for gaining access to the flight deck.
3. The flight crew made an initial decision not to fight and, as a potential weapon, hid the fire ax in the cockpit.
4. The flight attendant was immediately involved in the hijacking, both as a reluctant advocate for the hijackers’ requests to enter the flight deck and as the chief communicator.
5. The pilots knew the safest place for the aircraft was on the ground.

Interesting points regarding this hijacking:
The hijacking occurred very quickly and violently.
The hijackers inflicted physical pain and mental fear on passengers as a successful strategy for gaining access to the flight deck.
The flight crew made an initial decision not to fight and, as a potential weapon, hid the fire ax in the cockpit.
The flight attendant was immediately involved in the hijacking, both as a reluctant advocate for the hijackers’ requests to enter the flight deck and as the chief communicator.
The pilots knew the safest place for the aircraft was on the ground.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight 847
 
Beirut tower controllers closed airport and refused permission to land.
Hijackers beat Robert Stethem,
member of the U.S. Navy when
fuel trucks didn’t arrive quickly.
19 women and children released.
 

The hijackers kept themselves busy by beating passengers.
 
Approaching Beirut, the tower controllers closed the airport and refused Testrake permission to land. ICAO did not classify a hijacked aircraft as an “aircraft in distress.”
 
Only after repeated pleas by Testrake, who declared that his aircraft was in distress, did controllers allow the plane to land. When fuel trucks did not arrive quickly, the hijackers resumed beating Robert Stethem, a passenger who was a member of the U.S. Navy. 19 women and children were released to Beirut authorities.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight 847
 
Algiers tower controllers refused landing permission.
Allowed 21 passengers to go free.
Loaded with fuel headed back to Beirut, but they wouldn’t let them land.
Once on ground, hijackers shot Stethem and threw his body to the tarmac.

The plane headed to Algiers, but Algerian flight controllers temporarily refused landing permission. They eventually relented, and Algerian military forces quickly surrounded the plane. The hijackers negotiated for hours with Algerian officials over the radio about the need for more fuel. When negotiations were failing, the hijackers beat more passengers until finally a fuel truck arrived.

In Algiers, the hijackers continued beating passenger Stethem, but allowed 21 more passengers to go free for “humanitarian reasons.” Loaded with fuel, the plane headed back to Beirut. Approaching Beirut, the tower controllers turned off the runway lights and wouldn’t let them land. This time the hijackers threatened to crash the plane into the presidential palace unless granted permission to land. Once on the ground in Beirut, one of the hijackers shot Stethem and threw his body to the tarmac.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight 847
 
Terrorists released remaining women, children and male hostages.
Flight attendants released.
Flight crew shut down engines.
Continued 18 more days.

The terrorists released the remaining women, children, and male hostages from countries other than Israel and the flight attendants were also released in Algiers. Upon landing in Beirut, the flight crew secretly shut down two of the aircraft’s engines and convinced the hijackers that the aircraft could no longer fly. The standoff continued for 18 more days, upon which all hostages were released.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight 847
 
Lessons learned:
Keep aircraft on ground
Crew trained – emergency and safety operations
Crew trained in crisis management
Crew are hostages, cannot decide actions to take
Crews take all information into account

Authorities learned several lessons from the hijacking of TWA Flight 847:
All attempts should be made to keep the hijacked aircraft on the ground.
Flight crew should be trained in emergency safety and security operations.
Flight crew should be trained in crisis management during a hostage or security incident.
Despite Captain Testrake’s desire that a rescue not be attempted, flight crews must understand that during a hijacking situation they are effectively hostages, and as such with the duress involved and the lack of other information, they cannot be counted on to decide what actions regarding a rescue should be taken. However, flight crews or passengers should attempt to provide information to law enforcement agencies that may assist in the decision-making process.
Flight crews should take all available information into account when making decisions throughout the entire event. Although standard operating procedures should be trained, it is the flight crew that must make numerous decisions about whether to follow the SOP or decide if it is safer to deviate from policy.
*

Reinforcement
June 14, 1985 – Shiite Muslim terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847, a Boeing 727 en route from Athens to Rome.
Captain John Testrake
Flight Attendant Uli Derickson
Passenger Robert Stethem, US Navy
Lesson learned: Keep hijacked aircraft on the ground

Air India Flight 182

Two bombings – international flights departing Canada
June 23, 1985
Boeing 747
Exploded 31,000 feet

Air India Flight 182 – two bombings committed simultaneously on two international flights departing Canada.
 
June 23, 1985 – Boeing 747, exploded at 31,000 ft off the southern tip of Ireland
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Air India Flight 182
 
Two baggage handlers at Tokyo Narita Airport were killed, four wounded
Canadian Pacific Flight 003 to Air India Flight 301
Significant changes – checked baggage in Canada

Around the same time, two baggage handlers at the Tokyo Narita Airport were killed and four other wounded as they transferred baggage from Canadian Pacific Flight 003 to Air India Flight 301 bound for Thailand.
 
Ultimately, these bombings caused significant changes in the way checked baggage would eventually be handled in Canada. The events also changed Canada’s view of its role in aviation security.
*

Canada implemented sustainable and affordable five-level screening process.
All checked bags screened by conventional X-ray equipment

After the Air India bombings, Canada implemented a sustainable and affordable five-level screening process.
All checked bags are first screened by conventional X-ray equipment, which can automatically clear about 60% of the bags and are then loaded on the aircraft.
The remaining bags continue to be examined through the use of additional X-ray machines, visual inspection, and the use of explosive trace and computerized tomography technologies until security personnel are satisfied that the bags contain no hazardous items or explosives.
*

PSA Flight 1771
PSA Flight 1771
1987
US Air employee David Burke
Smuggles Gun On Board
Kills his Supervisor
Kills Flight Crew
44 die in the Crash
Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2

1987 – U.S. Air employee David Burke, on unpaid leave pending an investigation into his alleged theft of $68 from the flight attendant’s on-board liquor fund, bypassed screening using his employee ID and boarded a flight his supervisor would be on, carrying a .44 magnum pistol. Burke killed his supervisor and then entered the cockpit, killing the flight crew and then himself. All 44 people on board died in the ensuing crash.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
PSA Flight 1771
 
Lesson Learned
Seize Airport Access Credentials
Employees undergo screening

Following this incident, rule changes made included requiring airport and airline employees who have been suspended or terminated from employment to have their airport access immediately confiscated. Also mandated was that airport and airline employees undergo the screening process to gain access to the Sterile Area.
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Pan Am Flight 103

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Pan Am 103
 
December 21, 1988
Boeing 747
Aircraft Bombed
Lockerbie, Scotland
270 killed

On December 21, 1988, the tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103 was the deadliest act of aviation terrorism ever committed, until 9-11.
 
Leading up to the disaster, Pan Am airline officials and U.S. authorities knew that bombs intended for use against aircraft had been manufactured, and a specific bomb threat was made against Pan Am.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Pan Am 103
Specific bomb threat made against Pan Am
Threat gave details – perpetrators and the method
Authorities did not warn passengers of the threat
Authorities should not broadcast bomb threats against airlines to the public

Leading up to the disaster, Pan Am airline officials and U.S. authorities knew that bombs intended for use against aircraft had been manufactured, and a specific bomb threat was made against Pan Am.
 
The threat gave details as to the perpetrators and the method. Although Finnish authorities decided that the threat was a hoax, the FAA passed along the warning to Pan Am and other U.S. airlines. Authorities did not warn passengers of the threat. This is a considerable point of contention with the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
A long-standing policy in aviation security is that authorities should not broadcast bomb threats against airlines to the public. The rationale is that if bomb threats were made available to the public, passengers would cancel their reservations on that flight.
 
Therefore, the act of making a threat, particularly on a widespread basis, could theoretically shut down the national airspace system. Making bomb threats public provides perpetrators with the publicity they are seeking and causes financial harm to the airline.
*

Late 1970’s to early 1980’s
10,000 bomb threats
No bomb found
PPBM

A study of bomb threats conducted between the late 1970s and early 1980s showed that in more than 10,000 cases of bomb threats, an actual bomb was never found.
 
The positive passenger bag match procedure may have caught the bag containing the bomb, as the bag did not have a passenger on board to match
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Barometric pressure trigger

The use of the barometric pressure trigger is also significant in the Pan Am 103 attack. In this case, the barometric trigger was a tool known to exist in the aviation terrorist bomber arsenal. Some airports used pressure chambers to predetonate any explosives using barometric pressure triggers.
 
Terrorists quickly learned of this technology, and in the case of Pan Am Flight 103, the barometric trigger was intended to work in conjunction with the timed triggering device.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Pan Am 103
Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism
In the United States, the commission concluded the following:
1. The U.S. civil aviation security system is seriously flawed.

2. The Federal Aviation Administration is a reactive agency.
3. Pan Am’s apparent security lapses and the failure of the FAA to enforce its own regulations followed a pattern that existed for months before and after the tragedy.
4. The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 was preventable had stricter baggage reconciliation measures been in place to stop any unaccompanied checked bags from boarding the flight in Frankfurt.

In the United States, newly elected President George H. Bush established a Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism. As a practical matter, the commission focused on the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103. In Scotland, the country held a fatal accident inquiry (FAI). Both the presidential commission’s findings and the findings of the fatal accident inquiry were particularly damning to the aviation security system in the 1980s.
 
In the United States, the commission concluded the following:
The U.S. civil aviation security system is seriously flawed.
The Federal Aviation Administration is a reactive agency.
Pan Am’s apparent security lapses and the failure of the FAA to enforce its own regulations followed a pattern that existed for months before and after the tragedy.
The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 was preventable had stricter baggage reconciliation measures been in place to stop any unaccompanied checked bags from boarding the flight in Frankfurt.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Pan Am 103
Pan Am Flight 103 taught authorities the following lessons:
Known threat information must be distributed.

2. New threat against aviation, policies and procedures must be reviewed.
3. Security policies and procedures should be adhered to.
4. Government regulators should have an understanding of airport and airline operations.
5. There was a pattern of the FAA, which was charged with protecting aviation from sabotage, not enforcing the regulations consistently.

Pan Am Flight 103 taught authorities the following lessons:
Known threat information must be distributed to those who can act upon the information, and those who have the ability to act have the responsibility to act, regardless of government regulations.

2. When a new threat against aviation occurs, regardless of its location, policies and procedures must be reviewed throughout the aviation community, with the understanding that certain locations and airlines will have higher risk levels because of various geopolitical factors. Higher-risk flights should incorporate additional security measures such as the use of additional screening.
Security policies and procedures should be adhered to, such as the practice of positive passenger bag matching.

4. Government regulators, in a position of both providing guidance on adhering to regulations and advising on security policies and procedures, should have an understanding of airport and airline operations and, further, should focus on providing specific information that is clearly worded and enforceable.
5. There was a pattern of the FAA, which was charged with protecting aviation from sabotage, not enforcing the regulations consistently.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Pan Am 103
Pan Am Flight 103 taught authorities the following lessons:
6. Good security is part of fiscal responsibility and results in cost savings for the company.
7. Policies and procedures can become relaxed over time.
8. Security measures must be evaluated to determine if they are intended to actually reduce risk or to reduce the public’s anxiety about flying.
9. Technologies in place to detect weapons and explosives should actually detect the threats that are prevalent at the time.
10. Warnings should be heeded and given careful consideration.

6. Good security is part of fiscal responsibility and results in cost savings for the company. Although the Pan Am bombing was a huge tragedy in the loss of life, the failure of the airline to provide a secure aircraft for its passengers, just as it has the responsibility to provide a safe aircraft, ended up costing the airline billions of dollars. Considering insurance companies paid the lawsuits, insurance for aircraft operations also increased substantially, thereby increasing the operating cost for all other airlines.
7. Policies and procedures can become relaxed over time when there is not an apparent threat.
8. Security measures must be evaluated to determine if they are intended to actually reduce risk or to reduce the public’s anxiety about flying.
9. Technologies in place to detect weapons and explosives should actually detect the threats that are prevalent at the time (i.e., conventional X-ray machines used to detect explosives could not detect the type of plastic explosives that were becoming more common in aviation sabotage).
10. There were numerous warnings of a potential bomb being placed aboard a commercial aircraft, even specifying the airline and the type of device. Warnings should be heeded and given careful consideration.
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The last lesson, and an appropriate closure to our discussion of the tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103, was highlighted by Omar Malik

The last lesson, and an appropriate closure to our discussion of the tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103, was highlighted by Omar Malik in the following narrative:
 
Finally, aviation’s long tradition of safety consciousness had not, in 1988, been extended to security consciousness and commitment . . . given the remoteness of the probability of a terrorist attack on any specific flight, many of [the pilots] adjusted their priorities accordingly. Responsibility for these attitudes rested not with such managers but with the senior managers of the airline who determine corporate culture . . . staff attitudes to security are as important as security regulations and procedures. Regulations and procedures are the building blocks of security; personnel attitudes are the cement . . . which holds the blocks together.” (Wilkinson & Jenkins, 1999, p. 121)
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Reinforcement
June 23, 1985, Air India Flight 182 exploded at 31,000 ft off the southern tip of Ireland
Two baggage handlers at the Tokyo Narita Airport killed
1987 – U.S. Air employee David Burke, PSA Flight 1771
December 21, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103
Positive passenger bag match (PPBM)

1990 – 2001: A False Sense of Security

TWA Flight 800
World Trade Center 1993
Murrah Federal

The 1990s brought a period of more than 10 years where there was a relative calm in global aviation security.
 
The mid-1990s did bring a few notable attacks and incidents, some on aviation and some that were not directly related to aviation but still affected aviation policy. Examples include the crash of TWA Flight 800, the bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC) in 1993, and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in
1995.
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300 Foot Rule

The attack on the WTC, Murrah Federal Building, and a similar vehicle bomb attack on the U.S. Air Force Khobar Tower barracks in Saudi Arabia acted as the catalysts for the “300-foot Rule,” which was put into place at U.S. airports in 1995.
 
The 300-foot rule creates a clear zone around airport terminals and air traffic control facilities where vehicles were not allowed to park or be unattended and was based on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BAFN) blast analysis.
*

FedEx Flight 705
April 7, 1994 – Auburn Calloway

April 7, 1994 – Auburn Calloway, a pilot for FedEx, attempted to hijack a flight from his own airline.
 
Practitioners can learn several lessons from this attempt, in terms of the reactions of the flight crew and the importance of employee security measures including background checks, workplace violence education, and early-intervention programs.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Fed Ex Flight 705
There are several important points to this incident:
1. Calloway was serving as a flight crewmember after notified of a discrepancy that could result in his termination from employment.

2. Calloway was a martial arts expert and had the advantage of surprise.
3. Calloway used weapons and tools that he hoped would not have caused investigators to suspect foul play.
4. The first officer used the aircraft and extreme maneuvering to keep control of the situation.
5. A violent blow to the head with a hammer does not necessarily end the fight.
6. Commercial aircraft are constructed so that during an emergency it is easy to get out, but not as easy to get in without a boarding bridge or air stairs.

There are several important points to this incident:
Calloway was serving as a flight crewmember after he had been notified of a discrepancy that could result in his termination from employment.

2. Calloway was a martial arts expert and had the advantage of surprise and the ability to strike his victims several times before they could fight back; however, the three men were still able to fight and subdue him. No matter how bad their injuries, they never gave up the fight.
3. Calloway used weapons and tools that he hoped would not have caused investigators to suspect foul play. However, in numerous crashes and bombings, investigators have still been able to find evidence of foul play, even when the aircraft was at the bottom of the ocean as in Air India Flight 182. If Calloway meant for a crash to appear as an accident, it is likely that there would have been enough evidence from the plane crash, or certainly the will he left on his bed, to suspect foul play.
4. The first officer used the aircraft and extreme maneuvering to keep control of the situation. Although many airline flight procedure manuals state that pilots are not to use violent maneuvers during an air piracy attempt, it appears to either be a natural reaction, a preferred form of self-defense by pilots, or the most available and efficient means to attempt to control what is happening. In interviews conducted with several pilots for this textbook, all stated that regardless of what “the book” said, they would not hesitate to use extreme maneuvering to keep hijackers off balance. In 1970, an El Al airline pilot used this tactic to avoid a hijacking, and even the hijacker on United Airlines Flight 93 used this tactic in an attempt to keep the passengers from storming the cockpit.
5. A violent blow to the head with a hammer does not necessarily end the fight. All the flight crewmembers and Calloway himself were hit repeatedly in the head with hammers, but all continued to fight.
6. Commercial aircraft are constructed so that during an emergency it is easy to get out, but not as easy to get in without a boarding bridge or air stairs. Since 9-11, some airport law enforcement agencies have developed “raider” trucks, specially designed pickup trucks that have air stairs, which can rapidly unfold as the truck approaches an aircraft door. This allows law enforcement personnel the ability to rapidly access the aircraft, as compared to using the slower-moving standard air stair vehicles.
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Operation Bojinka (aka the Manila Air Plot)

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Operation Bojinka (aka the Manila Air Plot)
A series of terrorist attacks planned to occur in 1995 including:
Bombing of 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean

Assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton

Plot to crash a Cessna into CIA headquarters.

A series of terrorist attacks planned to occur in 1995 including:
the bombing of 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean,

a plot to assassinate both Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and

a plot to crash a Cessna general aviation aircraft filled with explosives into CIA headquarters.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Operation Bojinka (aka the Manila Air Plot)
The key player in the Bojinka plot – Ramzi Yousef
“The Manila Air Plot,” – Yousef planned for bombers to board 12 Asia-based flights, bound for the United States, assemble and arm their devices, then debark at stopovers.

The key player in the Bojinka plots was the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef.
“The Manila Air Plot,” – Yousef planned for bombers to board 12 Asia-based flights, bound for the United States, assemble and arm their devices, then debark at stopovers. The bombs would be timed to detonate when the aircraft were over water. Yousef had already tested airport security measures by smuggling nitroglycerine in contact lens bottles secreted in his shoes.
Had Yousef been successful, 12 airplanes, each carrying an average of 250+ passengers, would have been destroyed, killing more than 3,000 people, which would have nearly matched the total number of fatalities in the 9-11 attacks.
The case of the Manila Air plot highlights the importance of flight crews searching an aircraft before departure and ensuring that individuals who depart an aircraft take their belongings with them.
 
*

Flight crews must search an aircraft before departure

The case of the Manila Air plot highlights the importance of flight crews searching an aircraft before departure and ensuring that individuals who depart an aircraft take their belongings with them.
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TWA Flight 800

July 17, 1996
Boeing 747
Long Island, NY
Significant changes to U.S. Aviation Security

July 17, 1996 – Shortly after takeoff, the Boeing 747 crashed off the coast of Long Island, New York.
Although the crash was determined not to be caused by a bomb or missile strike, it did result in significant changes to the U.S. aviation security system.
 
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
TWA Flight 800
NTSB – faulty centerline fuel tank
White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security
Gore Commission

Eventually, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators would suspect a faulty centerline fuel tank issue as the cause of the explosion.
 
In the length of time it took to ascertain that the crash was not related to a security incident, the U.S. government took action as if it were a security issue. President Clinton soon established the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, led by Vice President Al Gore and commonly referred to as the “Gore Commission.”
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Flight Crew Suicides

Airline flight crews undergo some of the most in-depth background checks, which often include psychological evaluations, as part of the hiring process. However, like most individuals, pilots experience life-related problems—and these problems include the risk of suicide. Sometimes a suicidal individual will want to murder others before, or while, taking his or her life. Unfortunately, when these problems manifest within a pilot, he or she has the ability to affect the fate of many others. These types of incidents, regardless of whether they are classified as terrorism, are the most difficult to thwart because the perpetrator already has access to the airport, the aircraft, the cockpit, and the knowledge of how to fly and control the plane:
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight Crew Suicides
1997 – Silkair Boeing 737
104 Passengers
Cruising at 35,000 feet, rapid descent
Both flight recorders switched off

In 1997, a Boeing 737 operated by Silkair with 104 passengers and crew on board departed Jakarta-Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, India.
While cruising at 35,000 feet, the plane promptly began a rapid descent, breaking up over the Musi River Delta.
NTSB investigators believed that the captain may have switched off both flight recorders (voice and data) and nosed the aircraft over when the first officer left the flight deck.
The captain may have been struggling with several personal and financial issues at the time.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Flight Crew Suicides
1999 – EgyptAir Boeing 767
217 Passengers and Crew
Relief First Officer took controls, severe dive
Captain tried to recover from dive

In 1999, a Boeing 767 operated by EgyptAir departed Los Angeles International Airport with 217 passengers and crew on board.
Approximately 30 minutes into the flight, the relief first officer took the controls and the primary first officer and captain both left the flight deck.
According to the NTSB’s investigation, the relief first officer made several control inputs resulting in the aircraft going into a severe dive and soon exceeding the plane’s maximum airspeed.
The first officer repeated the phrase “I rely on God” several times.
When the captain returned, he asked what was happening but the first officer kept repeating the phrase.
Although there apparently was an attempt by the captain to recover the aircraft from the dive, it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Millennium Bomber
December 1999 – Port Angeles, Washington
Vehicle-borne IED
Intent to plant bomb at LAX

In December of 1999, Ahmed Ressam was arrested at the Port Angeles, Washington dock when he attempted to smuggle a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device through the Customs area.
During the search of his trunk, before inspectors realized they were dealing with a bomb, one inspector vigorously shook a jar containing a brown liquid. Upon shaking the jar he noticed Ressam, now in custody in a police car, suddenly ducked down. Later, it was discovered that the jar contained nitroglycerine, intended to be used as a triggering device for the VBIED.
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Reinforcement
TWA 800, World Trade Center Bombing, Murrah Federal Building– 300 Foot Rule
April 7, 1994 – Auburn Calloway, a pilot for FedEx, attempted to hijack his own airline.
Operation Bojinka (aka the Manila Air Plot), a series of terrorist attacks planned to occur in 1995 including:
the bombing of 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean,
a plot to assassinate both Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and
a plot to crash a Cessna general aviation aircraft filled with explosives into CIA headquarters.
July 17, 1996 – TWA 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island, New York.

September 11, 2001

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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
September 11, 2001
September 11, 2001
Two airliners – North and South towers World Trade Center
Another airliner – Pentagon
Fourth airliner – crashed Shanksville, PA
Aviation system shut down – 6000 aircraft landed

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 18 operatives from the al-Qaeda terrorist network hijacked four commercial airliners over the continental United States.
Two of the airliners struck the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another airliner struck the side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The fourth airliner was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The U.S. aviation system was immediately shut down.
Nearly 6,000 aircraft were ordered to land immediately at the closest airfields.
Only military and essential emergency or government flights (like Air Force One) were allowed into the air for the next several days.
The attack triggered U.S. offensive operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and sweeping changes to the aviation security system, both in the United States and overseas.
*

Rick Rescorla
Morgan Stanley Bank
Researched scenarios

The hijackers selected transcontinental flights, which assured full or nearly full fuel loads.
Rick Rescorla was the head of security at the Morgan Stanley Bank in the World Trade Center. Before 9-11, he had researched scenarios that involved loading an airplane with explosives and crashing it into the WTC. According to Rescorla, aircraft such as the Boeing 767 have enough fuel on board (23,000 gallons at capacity) to create a large enough explosive force that additional explosives were not necessary to be able to bring down the buildings. Rescorla was killed in the attacks; however, many of Morgan Stanley’s employees were saved by his emergency evacuation exercises and plans.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
September 11, 2001
Light passenger loads
Hijackers had flown on flights, familiar with airspace and targets
Trained at US flight schools

All of the flights carried light passenger loads, making it easier to control the people on board.
The hijackers had previously flown on the flights they would eventually hijack and took flights in general aviation aircraft around New York to familiarize themselves with the airspace and their targets.
The hijackers piloting the aircraft were trained at flight schools in the United States.
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Hijackers advised passengers to remain calm.
“Traditional hijacking”
Flight 93 knew intentions

Evidence indicates that the hijackers advised passenger that they were to remain calm and that the airplanes were returning to the airport to have their demands met, thus creating the belief by passengers that a “traditional hijacking” was taking place.
 
This mindset may have contributed to the lack of action by crewmembers and passengers on the first three flights. The passengers on Flight 93 had the benefit of knowing the intentions of the hijackers.
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Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001
Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act

Within months of 9-11, the U.S. Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. Canada revised its security programs, and the ICAO revised its aviation security guidance manual. The United States also passed several subsequent legislative measures including the Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act, which provided money to U.S. air carriers for financial losses suffered during the attacks.
 
The terrorist attacks of 9-11 forever changed the way the world’s public and, especially, flight crews will perceive and react to future hijackings. There have been at least 20 hijackings or attempted hijackings (through 2008) since 9-11, and in nearly all cases the hijackers were stopped by onboard security personnel, passengers, crewmembers, or law enforcement when the aircraft landed.
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Reinforcement
September 11, 2001, 18 operatives hijacked four commercial airliners over US.
AA 11, North Tower WTC
UA 175, South Tower WTC
AA 77, Pentagon
UA 93, field in Shanksville, PA
Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001
Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act

Richard Reid (aka the Shoe Bomber)

*

December 22, 2001
Richard Reid
Explosives in shoe
American Airlines Flight 63

December 22, 2001 – three months after the terrorist attacks on 9-11, Richard Reid attempted to detonate an explosive concealed in his shoe while on board American Airlines Flight 63.
 
Reid was caught when a flight attendant observed him attempting to light a match on the tongue of his shoe. She intervened and along with another flight attendant several passengers they managed to wrestle Reid to the floor.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Richard Reid (aka the Shoe Bomber)
A day earlier, Reid attempted to board same flight
Additional questioning
Turned over to local police
Fit several suspicious passenger elements
Reid released, booked on next days flight.
Convicted on terrorism, life in prison.

A day earlier, Reid had attempted to board the same flight but was turned away by a suspicious gate agent.
Reid underwent additional questioning by security representatives, who were privately employed by the airport and not allowed to conduct a search.
Also suspicious of Reid, he was turned over to local police officials for more questioning.
Reid’s profile fit several suspicious passenger elements.
He was on an international flight without any checked baggage; no available means of supporting himself such as traveler’s checks, cash, or credit cards; and very little carry-on baggage. Perhaps the most salient cause for suspicion was that he was a British citizen, traveling on a passport issued in Brussels and flying from France to the United States.
Regardless of these indications for suspicion, authorities released Reid, who quickly booked passage on the next day’s flight (December 22).
Reid was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison.
 
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Richard Reid (aka the Shoe Bomber)
Two important issues in aviation security:
The use of passenger questioning for purposes of assessing risk
The inability of conventional X-ray equipment and metal detectors to detect the types of explosives currently in use

The incident pointed to two important issues in aviation security:
The use of passenger questioning for the purposes of assessing risk
The inability of conventional X-ray equipment and metal detectors to detect the types of explosives currently in use
 
The incident also points to the importance of training flight crewmembers in both security awareness and self-defense techniques as well as the strategy of passenger intervention.
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MANPAD Attacks
(Kenya and Iraq)

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
MANPAD Attacks (Kenya and Iraq)
Commonalities among commercial aircraft shoot downs:
1. Most occurred during a time of war over a country experiencing armed conflict
2. Aircraft was shot at while
on the ground
3. Shot down by a military aircraft

The use of a surface-to-air missile against a civilian aircraft has occurred several times in the course of aviation’s history. Since 1938, there have been approximately 80 incidents related to shooting down a commercial airliner.
 
There are commonalities among commercial aircraft shoot downs:
1. most occurred during a time of war over a country experiencing armed conflict,
2. the aircraft was shot at while it was still on the ground, or
3. it was shot down by a military aircraft.
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Reinforcement
December 22, 2001, Richard Reid attempted to detonate an explosive concealed in his shoe on board AA Flight 63.
A day earlier, Reid attempted to board same flight. He was questioned, released & rebooked for next day
The incident pointed to two important issues in aviation security:
The use of passenger questioning for the purposes of assessing risk
The inability of conventional X-ray equipment and metal detectors to detect the types of explosives currently in use
The use of a surface-to-air missile against a civilian aircraft has occurred several times in the course of aviation’s history.

2002 – 2011: Post 9-11 Attacks

May 29, 2002
Patrick Gott
New Orleans International

May 29, 2002 – Patrick Gott, allegedly angry because people had ridiculed his turban, opened fire with a shotgun and invoked the name of Allah at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter inside the Louis B. Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Bystanders tackled the man, preventing him from continuing the attack.
*

July 4, 2002
Hesham Mohamed Hadayet
Los Angeles International Airport
El Al ticket counter

July 4, 2002 – Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at the Los Angeles International Airport international arrivals terminal building, killing two and wounding four others before El Al security agents killed him.
Armed with a .45 caliber pistol, a 9-mm pistol, a knife, and extra ammunition for the firearms, Hayadet entered the Tom Bradley International Terminal and began shooting passengers waiting in the line at the El Al ticket counter. Two armed El Al security agents responded, along with LAX police. Within moments, Hayadet stabbed one of the El Al agents, who then opened fire killing the assailant.
 
This incident highlights the importance of having properly armed and trained law enforcement personnel in the public use areas of an airport.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Russian Airliner Bombings
August 2004
Volga-Avia Express Flight 1303
Siberia Airlines Flight 1047

In August 2004, explosives carried onboard by terrorists brought down two Russian airliners. It is believed that the bombers were two Chechen women who boarded separate flights at Russia’s Domodedovo International Airport.
 
Volga-Avia Express Flight 1303, a Tupelov-134, crashed as the result of a bomb 26 minutes after departing the airport
Siberia Airlines Flight 1047, a Tupelov-154, also crashed as the result of a bomb
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
Russian Airliner Bombings
Both referred to police captain, no devices found
Police captain, guilty of negligence
Ticket agent charged for accepting bribe

During the check-in process at the airport, both women were referred to a police captain for further scrutiny but no devices were found. The police captain was sentenced to seven years of incarceration for negligence. A ticket agent was also charged with accepting a bribe in order to allow one of the bombers, who did not have proper identification, to board the plane.
 
After this incident, Russia required travelers to remove bulky clothing, shoes, and belts for X-rays and subjected passengers to a profiling interview to identify higher-risk travelers requiring additional scrutiny.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
London Bomb Plot
London Bomb Plot
August 9, 2006
Great Britain
21 individuals arrested

August 9, 2006, authorities in Great Britain arrested 21 individuals suspected of plotting
to detonate liquid explosives onboard several commercial aircraft departing from the
United Kingdom and bound for the United States.
 
The number of operatives involved in the plot is significant, as is the fact that many of them were U.K. citizens. As a result of the threat, air traffic at airports throughout the United Kingdom came to a temporary standstill. This bomb plot was similar to the strategies used in the Manila Air plot attempted by Ramzi Yousef in 1995.
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Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
London Bomb Plot
Concept of thinking then acting (vs. acting then thinking).
Concept of preventative maintenance.
Concept of the systematic approach to aviation security.

The U.S. government’s response to this incident provides three important considerations for aviation security policy makers and practitioners:
the concept of thinking then acting (versus acting then thinking).
the concept of preventative maintenance.
the concept of the systematic approach to aviation security.
The no-liquids policy is an example of acting, then thinking. The failure of government to do the preventative maintenance necessary in aviation security systems has trained security agencies to react to, and then think and roll back if later deemed appropriate, certain security measures. Preventative maintenance in this case means continually upgrading aviation security programs to match the new threats as they develop.
*

Passengers check more bags
Delays
Lost bags

Passengers affect security systems when forced to check more bags because of security concerns.
 
Baggage management and checked bag security systems are designed to handle a certain amount of bags per year. Dumping millions or more bags into those systems results in flight delays as aircraft loaders wait for the bags to be processed.
 
Furthermore, more lost bags result in increased financial loss to the airlines, and more people standing in airport arrival halls result from increased restrictions to carry-on baggage.
*

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
London Bomb Plot
Sudden or highly restrictive policies could threaten the economic viability of the airlines and the national economy.
Frequent business traveler generate much of an airline’s revenue.
Business travelers may select not to travel.

The government must understand that sudden or highly restrictive policies related to carry-on baggage could threaten the economic viability of the airlines and the national economy.
 
Additionally, with laptop computers and other expensive electronic equipment being placed in checked baggage, more of it gets stolen. Laptop theft is particularly damaging as the information on the laptop can often be exploited for a variety of purposes, such as identity theft and corporate espionage.
The frequent business traveler generates much of an airline’s revenue.
As another alternative strategy to traveling with long delays at airports, business travelers may select not to travel but rather conduct business through another mode of communication.
*

Northwest Flight 253
Underwear bomber
Accelerated deployment of body imaging technology

On Christmas day, December 25, 2009, a Nigerian national, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan.
U.S. then stepped up its use of the pat-down screening technique at the security checkpoints, and accelerated the deployment of the body imaging technology.
*

Practical Aviation Security – Chapter 2
2007-2011
February 2010 – I.R.S Building
Yemen Air Cargo Plot
Desktop Printers
Moscow Domodedovo Terminal Building
January 2011 – 35 people killed, 100’s injured
Suicide bomb attack
Underwear Bomber II

In February 2010, a Texas man, upset with the Internal Revenue Service, took his own small aircraft and crashed it into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and an IRS service manager. The attack was a “suicide-by-airplane,” style attack that most security measures would not have normally prevented as the individual owned the aircraft and had lawful access to both it and the airport where it was based.
Yemen Air Cargo Plot
Two desktop printers, with plastic explosives concealed in their printer cartridges, were loaded onto cargo flights out of Yemen on October 29, 2010.
In 2012, Congress mandated that by the end of the year, all cargo on U.S. flights and inbound from international destinations is required to be screened by the aircraft operator.
Moscow Domodedovo Airport Terminal Bombing
In January 2011, 35 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide bomb attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, in the international arrivals terminal.
Underwear Bomber II
In May 2012, another underwear bomb attack was thwarted by U.S. intelligence agencies and the plot never posed a serious threat to aviation security.
*

Reinforcement
May 29, 2002, Patrick Gott, New Orleans International
July 4, 2002 – Hesham Mohamed Hadayet, Los Angeles International
Volga-Avia Express Flight 1303, Siberia Airlines Flight 1047 bombed
August 9, 2006, authorities in Great Briatain arrested 21 individuals suspected of plotting to detonate liquid explosives onboard several commercial aircraft.
Sudden or highly restrictive policies related to carry-on baggage could threaten the economic viability of the airlines and the national economy.

Conclusion

Attacks on aviation continue throughout the world. A review of virtually any edition of Aviation Security International magazine will reveal incidents of sabotage, unruly passengers, attacks, and even the occasional attempted hijacking.
 
Policy makers and practitioners of aviation security face the challenge of deciding where the most dangerous threat lies and taking measures to prevent those threats from becoming real attacks. Funding for security measures must be guided by risk analysis, by historical data, and by a careful and continuing assessment of the developing threats throughout the world.
 
Taking costly and rigorous security measures when there has only been a minimum of casualties may not receive the necessary public support. However, waiting too long until hundreds or thousands have died will result in accusations of being reactionary and negligent by failing to take the necessary precautions ahead of time.
*

This chapter introduces the significant incidents, crimes, and forms of terrorism committed in the history of aviation. These cases are shown to have had significant affects on the evolution of aviation security. The chapter also describes the motives for various forms of hijackings and terrorism from the days of early flight to modern times. Historically, aircraft have been a prime target for attack with airports enduring less risk. Studying the history of these attacks on aircraft and airports is an essential task for improving the effectiveness of aviation security. Lessons learned from attacks are presented in this chapter and should be examined thoroughly by the aviation security practitioner or student.
*
3 Fundamental strategies for attacking aviation:
 
Hijackings
Bombings
Airport Assaults
 
*
Methods, motivations, and purpose for attacking aviation have changed.
 
The traditional objective for past hijackings was to “land and negotiate.”
The 9/11 attacks were, fundamentally, aircraft hijackings, however the purpose was significantly different.
 
The fundamental mission of aviation security remains the same – to prevent or deter hijackings or attacks from occurring.
One of the difficulties of aviation security is that acts to mitigate threats often create the next challenge.
*
Criminals and terrorists become more creative, more daring, and more deadly as new technologies and strategies, such as baggage screening and air marshals, are introduced to prevent certain avenues of attack.
 
Closing vulnerabilities in the security system may reduce the number of criminal or terrorist attacks, yet it also increases the potential severity of future attacks.
 
In the spirit of trying to learn from the past and not repeat mistakes in the future, the ensuing sections are intended to provide aviation security practitioners with:
1. a basic overview of aviation security incidents,
2. explanations of the impacts of aviation security’s watershed events, and
3. the relevance of lessons learned.
*
*
The eras of attacks on aviation can be subdivided into four basic periods:
1930-1979,
1980-1990,
1990-2001,
Post 9-11
*
Before the 1960s, a desire to escape from some form of persecution or prosecution, or a hostage taking to extort money, characterized most hijacker motives. Bombings were rare and when they occurred were usually the result of insurance fraud.
 
By the 1960s, hijackings were turning deadly and soon became standard operating procedure for Middle Eastern terrorist groups who often used the tactic to leverage hostages for the release of political prisoners and to call attention to their cause.
Hijackings became a dangerous endeavor—more so for the hijackers than the hostages. For a period of time, at the rate of about 10 hijackings per year, the majority of hijackings ended with the shooting deaths of the hijackers by airline security officers, local police, FBI agents, and military personnel.
*
By the 1980s, U.S. airlines routinely became targets of hijackings and terrorism from various factions in the Middle East. Two airline bombings made significant headlines because of their high death toll: the bombing of Air India Flight 182 and Pan Am Flight 103.
 
Throughout the 1990s, hijackings and bombings continued primarily overseas.
*
The terrorist attacks on 9-11 would signify the first major aviation security incident in more than 10 years.
 
Subsequent to 9-11, there have been other forms of attack on aviation, such as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADs) and suicide bombings.
 
Hijackings have been the preferred method of air terror (90% of attacks), yet, except for the 9-11 attacks, airline bombings have taken more lives.
 
Only about 5% of all attacks on aviation have been on or at an airport.
*
A study conducted by Ariel Merari, professor of psychology at Tel Aviv University and one of Israel’s leading academic experts on terrorism, concluded:
The effectiveness of aviation security measures had little effect.
The average hijacker had an 81% chance of actually seizing control of an airliner
The success rate of bombing an airliner was 76%
Problems included:
a lack of foresight and limitations of getting actionable intelligence to airport and aircraft operators
*
Nonterrorist small scale events should cause security practitioners to take notice.
In two separate incidents, criminals shot passengers waiting in ticket lines in the Los Angeles International Airport and the New Orleans International Airport.
Practitioners should focus on the tactics and strategies that will mitigate similar future attacks. Security professionals should expand the implications and outcomes of such an attack if perpetrated by an organized, trained, and heavily armed group.
*
A traditional mistake the aviation security industry seems to make is that it often does not learn from close calls or near tragedies.
 
Threats from individuals working inside the aviation system represent one of the most dangerous forms of attacks on aviation.
 
The possibility that an airport or airline employee will be the primary or supporting actor in an attack on aviation is frightening from several perspectives:
 
1. Aviation employees are entrusted with protecting passengers from both safety and security risks.
2. Aviation employees have greater knowledge about how the aviation security system operates and in some cases may have 3. detailed knowledge of how law enforcement handles hijackings, bombings, and other attacks.
4. Aviation employees have approved access to airports and aircraft and thus may bypass many of the airport’s security layers.
*
Some of the most significant aviation security incidents:
 
the hijacking of TWA Flight 847,
the downing of PSA Flight 1771, and
the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103
Involved individuals working within the airport system.
Although these events occurred in the 1980s, some of the very first hijackings also involved airport and airline employees, either as a facilitator or as the assailant.
*
The first recorded hijacking occurred on February 21, 1931, in Arequipa, Peru.
The hijacking demonstrated a fundamental precept in aviation security—criminals and terrorists will assess new technologies and determine if those technologies can improve their chances for success.
*
The first airline bombing occurred in 1933.
Investigators determined that a nitro-glycerin based explosive detonated by a timing device destroyed the aircraft.
At the time of the 1931 hijacking in Arequipa, Peru, and the aforementioned Boeing 247 bombing, there were no passenger or baggage screening requirements. Passengers arrived at the airport and boarded the aircraft without any security screening.
Regulations addressing these types of aviation security concerns would not begin until 1971, nearly 40 years later.
*
In 1949, a pilot and hijacker worked together to hijack a Hungarian airline flight.
In 1958, airline flight crewmembers hijacked two aircraft and flew the planes to the United States.
In 1966, a hijacker on a flight en route from Santiago de Cuba to Havana turned out to be the aircraft’s flight engineer.
*
In the 1940s and 1950s, commercial aviation was still in its infancy and crashes, while not frequent, still occurred. Airports installed insurance kiosks inside their terminal buildings so that passengers could purchase insurance on themselves before departure.
The kiosks were however used to commit insurance fraud, when in 1955, John Gilbert Graham placed dynamite inside his mother’s luggage, destroying Flight 629 from Denver’s Stapleton International Airport, killing all 44 onboard, to collect $37,000 in life insurance money.
*
Insurance-related attacks can also be construed as “passenger dupe” scenarios, where a passenger unknowingly brings explosives onto an airplane in their luggage. This resulted in the “first-level” passenger profiling:
Asking passenger prior to boarding an aircraft:
Has anyone unknown to you asked you to carry an item on this flight?
Have any of the items you are traveling with been out of your immediate control since the time you packed them?
*
Between 1947 and 1953, there were 23 hijackings worldwide. Europeans seeking various forms of political asylum committed most of these hijackings.
In the United States, between 1930 and 1967, 12 hijackings were attempted. Seven of these attempts resulted in successful hijackings.
Providing firearms and related training to airline pilots in the United States became an additional layer of security designed to prevent hijackings.
*
In the 1960s and early 1970s, Fidel Castro’s rise to power, coupled with a lack of passenger or baggage screening requirements resulted in more than 240 hijackings or attempted hijackings.
 
This increase in hijackings resulted in the U.S. Congress passing the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1974, mandating passenger and carry-on baggage screening.
*
The years between 1968 and 1973 marked the peak of hijackings and use of antihijacking measures. During that time, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimated that 364 total hijackings occurred worldwide.
 
The majority of hijackings throughout this period were for one of three reasons:
Political asylum
Release of prisoners
Financial gain.
The high rate of hijackings caused the FAA to create a task force to study methods to deter future hijackings. Resulting in the first hijacker profile, and limited use of metal detectors to screen passengers.
*
Three attempted hijackings occurred in the early 1970s that are eerily reminiscent of the motivation and tactics of the 9-11 hijackers:
 
March 17, 1970, Eastern Airlines Flight 1320, passenger John DiVivo entered the cockpit with a gun ordering the crew to continue flying until the plane ran out of fuel and crashed.
The flight crew fought back, and First Officer James Hartley, who was mortally wounded during the altercation, managed to disarm DiVivo and then shot him. Captain Robert Wilbur was injured during the fight but still managed to safely land the plane.
*
1972, three alleged rapists (including one escaped convict) took over a Southern Airways DC-9. The hijackers demanded $10 million dollars and directed the plane back and forth over the country. At one point, threatening to crash into a nuclear facility.
The 31 passengers were held for 29 hours. The first officer was shot and wounded before the ordeal ended
*
1974, another individual would attempt to hijack an aircraft—this time with the intent to crash it into the White House.
Samuel Byck, using a stolen pistol, shot and killed Maryland airport police officer Neal Ramsburg at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
Byck then boarded a Delta Airlines DC-9 and ordered the pilots to take off and fly low toward Washington, D.C. Byck intended to crash the plane into the White House in an attempt to assassinate President Richard Nixon.
When the pilots refused to take off, Byck shot both pilots, killing the first officer, and then ordered a passenger to help the pilot fly the plane.
An FBI agent, using the fallen police officer’s .357 caliber pistol, fired through a window in the aircraft’s door and killed Byck.
*
Another characteristic of hijackings during the 1960s and 1970s was that there were often only one or two hijackers who used guns, grenades, bombs, and in some occasions simply the threat of having a bomb in order to take over the flight.
 
A key lesson that U.S. law enforcement agencies learned from numerous hijackings was to keep hijacked aircraft on the ground. Once a hijacked aircraft is airborne, the crisis is more ephemeral and risky.
*
Hijackings in the Middle East occurred less frequently than what was experienced in the United States, yet they resulted in greater loss of life and overall destruction.
 
Middle Eastern hijackings focused on extorting the release of prisoners or on delivering a political message.
*
July 23, 1968 – El Al Flight 426 experienced the first hijacking of a commercial flight in the Middle East
The gunmen claimed to be members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP)
The aircraft was forced to land in Algiers, where negotiations began with the hijackers demanding the release of certain Arab passengers
As a result of this hijacking, Israel implemented the strictest security measures on El Al of any air carrier and also adopted a retaliation policy toward those groups who seek to harm Israeli citizens
*
6 months after the El Al flight 426 hijacking, two terrorists armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades boarded an El Al Flight while on the ground in Athens, Greece.
 
Because of these attacks and hijackings, El Al began implementing the practice of escorting taxiing flights with armed personnel in vehicles.
In retaliation for the attack, Israeli commandoes raided the airport in Beirut, Lebanon, and destroyed a dozen Lebanese registered aircraft.
*
From 1969 to 1970, there were a few other Middle East–related hijackings, mostly for extortion or transportation, along with a couple of airline bombings, but nowhere near the rate of hijackings that were occurring in the United States during the same period.
*
September 6, 1970 – teams of Palestinian hijackers departed from three separate airports with the intent to hijack three aircraft en route from Europe to the United States.
 
Members of the PFLP intended to land the aircraft at a remote airfield and hold the passenger’s hostage in an attempt to negotiate the release of other PFLP members held in jails throughout Europe and in Israel.
The first hijack attempt was conducted on board El Al Flight 219 from Amsterdam to New York
Before takeoff, the El Al security chief and airline station manager identified four suspicious passengers. The date of ticket purchase, last-minute arrival times at the airport, sequential numbering of two of the passports, and other anomalies (not expanded upon in reference) caused suspicion.
The captain of the flight was consulted about the suspicious passengers and decided to allow Khaled and Arguello on board but denied boarding for the other two.
The two hijackers bought tickets and boarded Pan Am Flight 93, from Amsterdam to New York
The Captain On the Pan Am Flight, also found the passengers suspicious and conducted a pat down search but did not find their grenades and pistols, which were hidden in their groins
Twenty minutes into the flight, Khaled and Arguello initiated a hijacking using grenades and pistols. They threatened the flight attendants in an attempt to get the flight crew to open the cockpit door.
*
A hijacked 707, and DC-8 were flown to an abandoned airstrip at Dawson’s Field, Jordan. The hijacked 747 was flown to Cairo, Egypt, where it was wired with explosives while still in flight. All of the passengers and crew evacuated immediately upon landing, and within minutes the aircraft exploded.
*
September 9 – a BOAC VC-10 was hijacked as leverage to negotiate the release of Leila Khaled, the hijacker was caught on September 7 during an attempt at hijacking the El Al Flight.
The VC-10 was brought to Dawson’s Field, all 500 passengers were confined inside the aircraft for several days.
Six days later, the passengers were deplaned and the terrorists used explosives to destroy the three aircraft while TV cameras recorded the event.
Authorities released Khaled about a month after the BOAC VC-10 hijacking in a hostage trade for passengers on the VC-10. This was characteristic of the type of hijack response strategy used in the United States.
*
A premise in hijackings before 9-11 was that hijackers used hostages and aircraft as bargaining tools. The assumption was that hijackers were more interested in an outside cause (escape, extortion, political message) than in using the aircraft as a guided missile. Thus, before 9-11 the goal of flight crews during a hijacking was to land the aircraft so authorities on the ground could take over negotiations.
*
Airport attacks are the third major form of attack against the global aviation system.
The security of airports has not received as much attention.
*
The most common form of airport attack has largely been an individual or group armed with automatic weapons and explosives (usually hand grenades) storming the public area of an airport terminal or in some cases the airfield.
Another form of airport attack is the use of bombs placed in airport public use lockers.
The use of public locker facilities was discouraged for several years before authorities permanently discontinued their use in the mid-1990s.
Lockers in the Sterile Area are routinely used but are usually restricted to individuals with higher Department of Homeland Security (DHS) security levels.
*
November 15, 1979 – a mail parcel containing a bomb exploded in the cargo hold of American Airlines Flight 444.
The bomb was later traced to Ted Kaczynski and was the first time in the US that a bomb was placed on board an aircraft as air cargo
*
1971 – D. B. Cooper parachuted out of an airplane he had hijacked and held for ransom, resulting in Boeing installing the “Cooper Vane,” preventing the rear air-stairs from being lowered in flight.
*
Improvements in passenger and baggage screening have resulted in alternative methods for smuggling weapons on board an aircraft. Strategies such as positive passenger bag matching have prevented bombers from checking a bag with a bomb hidden inside without personally boarding the aircraft.
*
Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, drug traffickers used aviation to transport narcotics.
September 5, 1986 – 17 people died on Pan Am Flight 73, a 747, during an attempted hijacking by terrorists dressed to resemble airport security guards.
The aircraft sat on the tarmac of a Karachi airport, when the terrorists fired the first shots. The captain and his flight crew used the emergency escape ropes to leave the aircraft, a practice concurrent with FAA recommendations meant to essentially “disable” the aircraft.
*
Several devastating attacks on aviation characterized the decade of 1980-1990. These attacks resulted in significant changes to security policies and practices both in the United States and around the world.
Airline bombings occurred at unprecedented levels of frequency and fatalities. Hijackings turned even deadlier, and there were several more attacks on airports.
*
A popular and rather effective technique, many of the hijackings in 1980 were implemented by individuals who threatened to have an explosive but did not actually have one.
 
Hijackers began bluffing, pretending to have certain items, but substituting other items (e.g., liquids for flammable liquid) that were overlooked during the screening process at that time.
Hijackings in the U.S. hit a peak in 1983, and ended in 1985 when the FAA restarted the air marshal program.
*
May 3, 1986 – bomb destroyed Sri Lanka Lockheed L1011 while on the ground at Colombo Airport. Authorities arrested an airport customs officer, sympathetic to a separatist movement and later charged with sabotaging the aircraft.
*
September 5, 1986 – Pan Am 747, Flight 73, terrorists dressed as security guards attempted to hijack the aircraft.
*
December 27, 1985 – armed gunmen attacked 2 airports simultaneously in the public terminal areas of the Rome and Vienna airports on passengers waiting at the El Al ticket counter.
*
1986 – Anne Marie Murphy was traveling to meet the parents of her fiancé who, she did not know, was secretly a Syrian intelligence agent and had placed a plastic explosives hidden in the lining of her suitcase.
*
June 14, 1985 – Shiite Muslim terrorists hijacked TWA Flight 847, a Boeing 727 en route from Athens to Rome.
*
The hijacking became an event on the evening news for several weeks. At its conclusion, this hostage crisis:
spanned thousands of miles of airspace,
involved several governments,
directly affected the operations at three major airports,
turned a flight attendant into a folk hero,
resulted in the death of a U.S. serviceman, and
gave rise to Hezbollah
*
While in flight, hijackers pounded on the cockpit door and started kicking out the lower panel of the door. The flight crew finally opened the door after being informed by flight attendant Uli Derickson that the hijackers were now beating several passengers.
 
Two hijackers, Ahmed Gayala and All Younes, demanded to travel to Algiers. The assailants kept control by running up and down the aisles, yelling and punching passengers at random. When the hijackers left Captain Testrake and his crew alone in the cockpit for a few moments, the crew notified air traffic control of their situation and then tried to find a map and compute fuel requirements for the detour to Algiers.
 
Hijackers spoke Arabic, crew spoke English.
*
Interesting points regarding this hijacking:
The hijacking occurred very quickly and violently.
The hijackers inflicted physical pain and mental fear on passengers as a successful strategy for gaining access to the flight deck.
The flight crew made an initial decision not to fight and, as a potential weapon, hid the fire ax in the cockpit.
The flight attendant was immediately involved in the hijacking, both as a reluctant advocate for the hijackers’ requests to enter the flight deck and as the chief communicator.
The pilots knew the safest place for the aircraft was on the ground.
*
The hijackers kept themselves busy by beating passengers.
 
Approaching Beirut, the tower controllers closed the airport and refused Testrake permission to land. ICAO did not classify a hijacked aircraft as an “aircraft in distress.”
 
Only after repeated pleas by Testrake, who declared that his aircraft was in distress, did controllers allow the plane to land. When fuel trucks did not arrive quickly, the hijackers resumed beating Robert Stethem, a passenger who was a member of the U.S. Navy. 19 women and children were released to Beirut authorities.
*
The plane headed to Algiers, but Algerian flight controllers temporarily refused landing permission. They eventually relented, and Algerian military forces quickly surrounded the plane. The hijackers negotiated for hours with Algerian officials over the radio about the need for more fuel. When negotiations were failing, the hijackers beat more passengers until finally a fuel truck arrived.

In Algiers, the hijackers continued beating passenger Stethem, but allowed 21 more passengers to go free for “humanitarian reasons.” Loaded with fuel, the plane headed back to Beirut. Approaching Beirut, the tower controllers turned off the runway lights and wouldn’t let them land. This time the hijackers threatened to crash the plane into the presidential palace unless granted permission to land. Once on the ground in Beirut, one of the hijackers shot Stethem and threw his body to the tarmac.
*
The terrorists released the remaining women, children, and male hostages from countries other than Israel and the flight attendants were also released in Algiers. Upon landing in Beirut, the flight crew secretly shut down two of the aircraft’s engines and convinced the hijackers that the aircraft could no longer fly. The standoff continued for 18 more days, upon which all hostages were released.
*
Authorities learned several lessons from the hijacking of TWA Flight 847:
All attempts should be made to keep the hijacked aircraft on the ground.
Flight crew should be trained in emergency safety and security operations.
Flight crew should be trained in crisis management during a hostage or security incident.
Despite Captain Testrake’s desire that a rescue not be attempted, flight crews must understand that during a hijacking situation they are effectively hostages, and as such with the duress involved and the lack of other information, they cannot be counted on to decide what actions regarding a rescue should be taken. However, flight crews or passengers should attempt to provide information to law enforcement agencies that may assist in the decision-making process.
Flight crews should take all available information into account when making decisions throughout the entire event. Although standard operating procedures should be trained, it is the flight crew that must make numerous decisions about whether to follow the SOP or decide if it is safer to deviate from policy.
*
Air India Flight 182 – two bombings committed simultaneously on two international flights departing Canada.
 
June 23, 1985 – Boeing 747, exploded at 31,000 ft off the southern tip of Ireland
*
Around the same time, two baggage handlers at the Tokyo Narita Airport were killed and four other wounded as they transferred baggage from Canadian Pacific Flight 003 to Air India Flight 301 bound for Thailand.
 
Ultimately, these bombings caused significant changes in the way checked baggage would eventually be handled in Canada. The events also changed Canada’s view of its role in aviation security.
*
After the Air India bombings, Canada implemented a sustainable and affordable five-level screening process.
All checked bags are first screened by conventional X-ray equipment, which can automatically clear about 60% of the bags and are then loaded on the aircraft.
The remaining bags continue to be examined through the use of additional X-ray machines, visual inspection, and the use of explosive trace and computerized tomography technologies until security personnel are satisfied that the bags contain no hazardous items or explosives.
*
1987 – U.S. Air employee David Burke, on unpaid leave pending an investigation into his alleged theft of $68 from the flight attendant’s on-board liquor fund, bypassed screening using his employee ID and boarded a flight his supervisor would be on, carrying a .44 magnum pistol. Burke killed his supervisor and then entered the cockpit, killing the flight crew and then himself. All 44 people on board died in the ensuing crash.
*
Following this incident, rule changes made included requiring airport and airline employees who have been suspended or terminated from employment to have their airport access immediately confiscated. Also mandated was that airport and airline employees undergo the screening process to gain access to the Sterile Area.
*
On December 21, 1988, the tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103 was the deadliest act of aviation terrorism ever committed, until 9-11.
 
Leading up to the disaster, Pan Am airline officials and U.S. authorities knew that bombs intended for use against aircraft had been manufactured, and a specific bomb threat was made against Pan Am.
*
Leading up to the disaster, Pan Am airline officials and U.S. authorities knew that bombs intended for use against aircraft had been manufactured, and a specific bomb threat was made against Pan Am.
 
The threat gave details as to the perpetrators and the method. Although Finnish authorities decided that the threat was a hoax, the FAA passed along the warning to Pan Am and other U.S. airlines. Authorities did not warn passengers of the threat. This is a considerable point of contention with the families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103.
A long-standing policy in aviation security is that authorities should not broadcast bomb threats against airlines to the public. The rationale is that if bomb threats were made available to the public, passengers would cancel their reservations on that flight.
 
Therefore, the act of making a threat, particularly on a widespread basis, could theoretically shut down the national airspace system. Making bomb threats public provides perpetrators with the publicity they are seeking and causes financial harm to the airline.
*
A study of bomb threats conducted between the late 1970s and early 1980s showed that in more than 10,000 cases of bomb threats, an actual bomb was never found.
 
The positive passenger bag match procedure may have caught the bag containing the bomb, as the bag did not have a passenger on board to match
*
The use of the barometric pressure trigger is also significant in the Pan Am 103 attack. In this case, the barometric trigger was a tool known to exist in the aviation terrorist bomber arsenal. Some airports used pressure chambers to predetonate any explosives using barometric pressure triggers.
 
Terrorists quickly learned of this technology, and in the case of Pan Am Flight 103, the barometric trigger was intended to work in conjunction with the timed triggering device.
*
In the United States, newly elected President George H. Bush established a Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism. As a practical matter, the commission focused on the destruction of Pan Am Flight 103. In Scotland, the country held a fatal accident inquiry (FAI). Both the presidential commission’s findings and the findings of the fatal accident inquiry were particularly damning to the aviation security system in the 1980s.
 
In the United States, the commission concluded the following:
The U.S. civil aviation security system is seriously flawed.
The Federal Aviation Administration is a reactive agency.
Pan Am’s apparent security lapses and the failure of the FAA to enforce its own regulations followed a pattern that existed for months before and after the tragedy.
The destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 was preventable had stricter baggage reconciliation measures been in place to stop any unaccompanied checked bags from boarding the flight in Frankfurt.
*
Pan Am Flight 103 taught authorities the following lessons:
Known threat information must be distributed to those who can act upon the information, and those who have the ability to act have the responsibility to act, regardless of government regulations.

2. When a new threat against aviation occurs, regardless of its location, policies and procedures must be reviewed throughout the aviation community, with the understanding that certain locations and airlines will have higher risk levels because of various geopolitical factors. Higher-risk flights should incorporate additional security measures such as the use of additional screening.
Security policies and procedures should be adhered to, such as the practice of positive passenger bag matching.

4. Government regulators, in a position of both providing guidance on adhering to regulations and advising on security policies and procedures, should have an understanding of airport and airline operations and, further, should focus on providing specific information that is clearly worded and enforceable.
5. There was a pattern of the FAA, which was charged with protecting aviation from sabotage, not enforcing the regulations consistently.
*
6. Good security is part of fiscal responsibility and results in cost savings for the company. Although the Pan Am bombing was a huge tragedy in the loss of life, the failure of the airline to provide a secure aircraft for its passengers, just as it has the responsibility to provide a safe aircraft, ended up costing the airline billions of dollars. Considering insurance companies paid the lawsuits, insurance for aircraft operations also increased substantially, thereby increasing the operating cost for all other airlines.
7. Policies and procedures can become relaxed over time when there is not an apparent threat.
8. Security measures must be evaluated to determine if they are intended to actually reduce risk or to reduce the public’s anxiety about flying.
9. Technologies in place to detect weapons and explosives should actually detect the threats that are prevalent at the time (i.e., conventional X-ray machines used to detect explosives could not detect the type of plastic explosives that were becoming more common in aviation sabotage).
10. There were numerous warnings of a potential bomb being placed aboard a commercial aircraft, even specifying the airline and the type of device. Warnings should be heeded and given careful consideration.
*
The last lesson, and an appropriate closure to our discussion of the tragedy of Pan Am Flight 103, was highlighted by Omar Malik in the following narrative:
 
Finally, aviation’s long tradition of safety consciousness had not, in 1988, been extended to security consciousness and commitment . . . given the remoteness of the probability of a terrorist attack on any specific flight, many of [the pilots] adjusted their priorities accordingly. Responsibility for these attitudes rested not with such managers but with the senior managers of the airline who determine corporate culture . . . staff attitudes to security are as important as security regulations and procedures. Regulations and procedures are the building blocks of security; personnel attitudes are the cement . . . which holds the blocks together.” (Wilkinson & Jenkins, 1999, p. 121)
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The 1990s brought a period of more than 10 years where there was a relative calm in global aviation security.
 
The mid-1990s did bring a few notable attacks and incidents, some on aviation and some that were not directly related to aviation but still affected aviation policy. Examples include the crash of TWA Flight 800, the bombing of the World Trade Center (WTC) in 1993, and the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in
1995.
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The attack on the WTC, Murrah Federal Building, and a similar vehicle bomb attack on the U.S. Air Force Khobar Tower barracks in Saudi Arabia acted as the catalysts for the “300-foot Rule,” which was put into place at U.S. airports in 1995.
 
The 300-foot rule creates a clear zone around airport terminals and air traffic control facilities where vehicles were not allowed to park or be unattended and was based on a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BAFN) blast analysis.
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April 7, 1994 – Auburn Calloway, a pilot for FedEx, attempted to hijack a flight from his own airline.
 
Practitioners can learn several lessons from this attempt, in terms of the reactions of the flight crew and the importance of employee security measures including background checks, workplace violence education, and early-intervention programs.
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There are several important points to this incident:
Calloway was serving as a flight crewmember after he had been notified of a discrepancy that could result in his termination from employment.

2. Calloway was a martial arts expert and had the advantage of surprise and the ability to strike his victims several times before they could fight back; however, the three men were still able to fight and subdue him. No matter how bad their injuries, they never gave up the fight.
3. Calloway used weapons and tools that he hoped would not have caused investigators to suspect foul play. However, in numerous crashes and bombings, investigators have still been able to find evidence of foul play, even when the aircraft was at the bottom of the ocean as in Air India Flight 182. If Calloway meant for a crash to appear as an accident, it is likely that there would have been enough evidence from the plane crash, or certainly the will he left on his bed, to suspect foul play.
4. The first officer used the aircraft and extreme maneuvering to keep control of the situation. Although many airline flight procedure manuals state that pilots are not to use violent maneuvers during an air piracy attempt, it appears to either be a natural reaction, a preferred form of self-defense by pilots, or the most available and efficient means to attempt to control what is happening. In interviews conducted with several pilots for this textbook, all stated that regardless of what “the book” said, they would not hesitate to use extreme maneuvering to keep hijackers off balance. In 1970, an El Al airline pilot used this tactic to avoid a hijacking, and even the hijacker on United Airlines Flight 93 used this tactic in an attempt to keep the passengers from storming the cockpit.
5. A violent blow to the head with a hammer does not necessarily end the fight. All the flight crewmembers and Calloway himself were hit repeatedly in the head with hammers, but all continued to fight.
6. Commercial aircraft are constructed so that during an emergency it is easy to get out, but not as easy to get in without a boarding bridge or air stairs. Since 9-11, some airport law enforcement agencies have developed “raider” trucks, specially designed pickup trucks that have air stairs, which can rapidly unfold as the truck approaches an aircraft door. This allows law enforcement personnel the ability to rapidly access the aircraft, as compared to using the slower-moving standard air stair vehicles.
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A series of terrorist attacks planned to occur in 1995 including:
the bombing of 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean,

a plot to assassinate both Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton, and

a plot to crash a Cessna general aviation aircraft filled with explosives into CIA headquarters.
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The key player in the Bojinka plots was the mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef.
“The Manila Air Plot,” – Yousef planned for bombers to board 12 Asia-based flights, bound for the United States, assemble and arm their devices, then debark at stopovers. The bombs would be timed to detonate when the aircraft were over water. Yousef had already tested airport security measures by smuggling nitroglycerine in contact lens bottles secreted in his shoes.
Had Yousef been successful, 12 airplanes, each carrying an average of 250+ passengers, would have been destroyed, killing more than 3,000 people, which would have nearly matched the total number of fatalities in the 9-11 attacks.
The case of the Manila Air plot highlights the importance of flight crews searching an aircraft before departure and ensuring that individuals who depart an aircraft take their belongings with them.
 
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The case of the Manila Air plot highlights the importance of flight crews searching an aircraft before departure and ensuring that individuals who depart an aircraft take their belongings with them.
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July 17, 1996 – Shortly after takeoff, the Boeing 747 crashed off the coast of Long Island, New York.
Although the crash was determined not to be caused by a bomb or missile strike, it did result in significant changes to the U.S. aviation security system.
 
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Eventually, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigators would suspect a faulty centerline fuel tank issue as the cause of the explosion.
 
In the length of time it took to ascertain that the crash was not related to a security incident, the U.S. government took action as if it were a security issue. President Clinton soon established the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, led by Vice President Al Gore and commonly referred to as the “Gore Commission.”
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Airline flight crews undergo some of the most in-depth background checks, which often include psychological evaluations, as part of the hiring process. However, like most individuals, pilots experience life-related problems—and these problems include the risk of suicide. Sometimes a suicidal individual will want to murder others before, or while, taking his or her life. Unfortunately, when these problems manifest within a pilot, he or she has the ability to affect the fate of many others. These types of incidents, regardless of whether they are classified as terrorism, are the most difficult to thwart because the perpetrator already has access to the airport, the aircraft, the cockpit, and the knowledge of how to fly and control the plane:
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In 1997, a Boeing 737 operated by Silkair with 104 passengers and crew on board departed Jakarta-Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, India.
While cruising at 35,000 feet, the plane promptly began a rapid descent, breaking up over the Musi River Delta.
NTSB investigators believed that the captain may have switched off both flight recorders (voice and data) and nosed the aircraft over when the first officer left the flight deck.
The captain may have been struggling with several personal and financial issues at the time.
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In 1999, a Boeing 767 operated by EgyptAir departed Los Angeles International Airport with 217 passengers and crew on board.
Approximately 30 minutes into the flight, the relief first officer took the controls and the primary first officer and captain both left the flight deck.
According to the NTSB’s investigation, the relief first officer made several control inputs resulting in the aircraft going into a severe dive and soon exceeding the plane’s maximum airspeed.
The first officer repeated the phrase “I rely on God” several times.
When the captain returned, he asked what was happening but the first officer kept repeating the phrase.
Although there apparently was an attempt by the captain to recover the aircraft from the dive, it crashed into the Atlantic Ocean south of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts.
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In December of 1999, Ahmed Ressam was arrested at the Port Angeles, Washington dock when he attempted to smuggle a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device through the Customs area.
During the search of his trunk, before inspectors realized they were dealing with a bomb, one inspector vigorously shook a jar containing a brown liquid. Upon shaking the jar he noticed Ressam, now in custody in a police car, suddenly ducked down. Later, it was discovered that the jar contained nitroglycerine, intended to be used as a triggering device for the VBIED.
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On the morning of September 11, 2001, 18 operatives from the al-Qaeda terrorist network hijacked four commercial airliners over the continental United States.
Two of the airliners struck the north and south towers of the World Trade Center in New York City. Another airliner struck the side of the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
The fourth airliner was retaken by the passengers and crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
The U.S. aviation system was immediately shut down.
Nearly 6,000 aircraft were ordered to land immediately at the closest airfields.
Only military and essential emergency or government flights (like Air Force One) were allowed into the air for the next several days.
The attack triggered U.S. offensive operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and sweeping changes to the aviation security system, both in the United States and overseas.
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The hijackers selected transcontinental flights, which assured full or nearly full fuel loads.
Rick Rescorla was the head of security at the Morgan Stanley Bank in the World Trade Center. Before 9-11, he had researched scenarios that involved loading an airplane with explosives and crashing it into the WTC. According to Rescorla, aircraft such as the Boeing 767 have enough fuel on board (23,000 gallons at capacity) to create a large enough explosive force that additional explosives were not necessary to be able to bring down the buildings. Rescorla was killed in the attacks; however, many of Morgan Stanley’s employees were saved by his emergency evacuation exercises and plans.
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All of the flights carried light passenger loads, making it easier to control the people on board.
The hijackers had previously flown on the flights they would eventually hijack and took flights in general aviation aircraft around New York to familiarize themselves with the airspace and their targets.
The hijackers piloting the aircraft were trained at flight schools in the United States.
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Evidence indicates that the hijackers advised passenger that they were to remain calm and that the airplanes were returning to the airport to have their demands met, thus creating the belief by passengers that a “traditional hijacking” was taking place.
 
This mindset may have contributed to the lack of action by crewmembers and passengers on the first three flights. The passengers on Flight 93 had the benefit of knowing the intentions of the hijackers.
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Within months of 9-11, the U.S. Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act of 2001. Canada revised its security programs, and the ICAO revised its aviation security guidance manual. The United States also passed several subsequent legislative measures including the Air Transportation Safety and Stabilization Act, which provided money to U.S. air carriers for financial losses suffered during the attacks.
 
The terrorist attacks of 9-11 forever changed the way the world’s public and, especially, flight crews will perceive and react to future hijackings. There have been at least 20 hijackings or attempted hijackings (through 2008) since 9-11, and in nearly all cases the hijackers were stopped by onboard security personnel, passengers, crewmembers, or law enforcement when the aircraft landed.
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December 22, 2001 – three months after the terrorist attacks on 9-11, Richard Reid attempted to detonate an explosive concealed in his shoe while on board American Airlines Flight 63.
 
Reid was caught when a flight attendant observed him attempting to light a match on the tongue of his shoe. She intervened and along with another flight attendant several passengers they managed to wrestle Reid to the floor.
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A day earlier, Reid had attempted to board the same flight but was turned away by a suspicious gate agent.
Reid underwent additional questioning by security representatives, who were privately employed by the airport and not allowed to conduct a search.
Also suspicious of Reid, he was turned over to local police officials for more questioning.
Reid’s profile fit several suspicious passenger elements.
He was on an international flight without any checked baggage; no available means of supporting himself such as traveler’s checks, cash, or credit cards; and very little carry-on baggage. Perhaps the most salient cause for suspicion was that he was a British citizen, traveling on a passport issued in Brussels and flying from France to the United States.
Regardless of these indications for suspicion, authorities released Reid, who quickly booked passage on the next day’s flight (December 22).
Reid was convicted on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison.
 
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The incident pointed to two important issues in aviation security:
The use of passenger questioning for the purposes of assessing risk
The inability of conventional X-ray equipment and metal detectors to detect the types of explosives currently in use
 
The incident also points to the importance of training flight crewmembers in both security awareness and self-defense techniques as well as the strategy of passenger intervention.
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The use of a surface-to-air missile against a civilian aircraft has occurred several times in the course of aviation’s history. Since 1938, there have been approximately 80 incidents related to shooting down a commercial airliner.
 
There are commonalities among commercial aircraft shoot downs:
1. most occurred during a time of war over a country experiencing armed conflict,
2. the aircraft was shot at while it was still on the ground, or
3. it was shot down by a military aircraft.
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May 29, 2002 – Patrick Gott, allegedly angry because people had ridiculed his turban, opened fire with a shotgun and invoked the name of Allah at the Southwest Airlines ticket counter inside the Louis B. Armstrong New Orleans International Airport.
Bystanders tackled the man, preventing him from continuing the attack.
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July 4, 2002 – Hesham Mohamed Hadayet opened fire at the Los Angeles International Airport international arrivals terminal building, killing two and wounding four others before El Al security agents killed him.
Armed with a .45 caliber pistol, a 9-mm pistol, a knife, and extra ammunition for the firearms, Hayadet entered the Tom Bradley International Terminal and began shooting passengers waiting in the line at the El Al ticket counter. Two armed El Al security agents responded, along with LAX police. Within moments, Hayadet stabbed one of the El Al agents, who then opened fire killing the assailant.
 
This incident highlights the importance of having properly armed and trained law enforcement personnel in the public use areas of an airport.
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In August 2004, explosives carried onboard by terrorists brought down two Russian airliners. It is believed that the bombers were two Chechen women who boarded separate flights at Russia’s Domodedovo International Airport.
 
Volga-Avia Express Flight 1303, a Tupelov-134, crashed as the result of a bomb 26 minutes after departing the airport
Siberia Airlines Flight 1047, a Tupelov-154, also crashed as the result of a bomb
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During the check-in process at the airport, both women were referred to a police captain for further scrutiny but no devices were found. The police captain was sentenced to seven years of incarceration for negligence. A ticket agent was also charged with accepting a bribe in order to allow one of the bombers, who did not have proper identification, to board the plane.
 
After this incident, Russia required travelers to remove bulky clothing, shoes, and belts for X-rays and subjected passengers to a profiling interview to identify higher-risk travelers requiring additional scrutiny.
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August 9, 2006, authorities in Great Britain arrested 21 individuals suspected of plotting
to detonate liquid explosives onboard several commercial aircraft departing from the
United Kingdom and bound for the United States.
 
The number of operatives involved in the plot is significant, as is the fact that many of them were U.K. citizens. As a result of the threat, air traffic at airports throughout the United Kingdom came to a temporary standstill. This bomb plot was similar to the strategies used in the Manila Air plot attempted by Ramzi Yousef in 1995.
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The U.S. government’s response to this incident provides three important considerations for aviation security policy makers and practitioners:
the concept of thinking then acting (versus acting then thinking).
the concept of preventative maintenance.
the concept of the systematic approach to aviation security.
The no-liquids policy is an example of acting, then thinking. The failure of government to do the preventative maintenance necessary in aviation security systems has trained security agencies to react to, and then think and roll back if later deemed appropriate, certain security measures. Preventative maintenance in this case means continually upgrading aviation security programs to match the new threats as they develop.
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Passengers affect security systems when forced to check more bags because of security concerns.
 
Baggage management and checked bag security systems are designed to handle a certain amount of bags per year. Dumping millions or more bags into those systems results in flight delays as aircraft loaders wait for the bags to be processed.
 
Furthermore, more lost bags result in increased financial loss to the airlines, and more people standing in airport arrival halls result from increased restrictions to carry-on baggage.
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The government must understand that sudden or highly restrictive policies related to carry-on baggage could threaten the economic viability of the airlines and the national economy.
 
Additionally, with laptop computers and other expensive electronic equipment being placed in checked baggage, more of it gets stolen. Laptop theft is particularly damaging as the information on the laptop can often be exploited for a variety of purposes, such as identity theft and corporate espionage.
The frequent business traveler generates much of an airline’s revenue.
As another alternative strategy to traveling with long delays at airports, business travelers may select not to travel but rather conduct business through another mode of communication.
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On Christmas day, December 25, 2009, a Nigerian national, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to detonate plastic explosives hidden in his underwear while on board Northwest Airlines Flight 253, en route from Amsterdam to Detroit, Michigan.
U.S. then stepped up its use of the pat-down screening technique at the security checkpoints, and accelerated the deployment of the body imaging technology.
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In February 2010, a Texas man, upset with the Internal Revenue Service, took his own small aircraft and crashed it into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, killing himself and an IRS service manager. The attack was a “suicide-by-airplane,” style attack that most security measures would not have normally prevented as the individual owned the aircraft and had lawful access to both it and the airport where it was based.
Yemen Air Cargo Plot
Two desktop printers, with plastic explosives concealed in their printer cartridges, were loaded onto cargo flights out of Yemen on October 29, 2010.
In 2012, Congress mandated that by the end of the year, all cargo on U.S. flights and inbound from international destinations is required to be screened by the aircraft operator.
Moscow Domodedovo Airport Terminal Bombing
In January 2011, 35 people were killed and more than 100 injured in a suicide bomb attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo airport, in the international arrivals terminal.
Underwear Bomber II
In May 2012, another underwear bomb attack was thwarted by U.S. intelligence agencies and the plot never posed a serious threat to aviation security.
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Attacks on aviation continue throughout the world. A review of virtually any edition of Aviation Security International magazine will reveal incidents of sabotage, unruly passengers, attacks, and even the occasional attempted hijacking.
 
Policy makers and practitioners of aviation security face the challenge of deciding where the most dangerous threat lies and taking measures to prevent those threats from becoming real attacks. Funding for security measures must be guided by risk analysis, by historical data, and by a careful and continuing assessment of the developing threats throughout the world.
 
Taking costly and rigorous security measures when there has only been a minimum of casualties may not receive the necessary public support. However, waiting too long until hundreds or thousands have died will result in accusations of being reactionary and negligent by failing to take the necessary precautions ahead of time.
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