It’s a beautiful day. Sky’s blue, with puffy white clouds. Warm sun, typical of this time of year. Traffic is heavy, but flowing, on the streets far below. Looking out the windows of the upper stories of a tall office building, all seems to be at peace. Then the jet comes into view. Oddly, it seems very low, but the airport isn’t too far away. Oddly, it seems to be flying toward the building. A few seconds later, with a horrendous crashing noise, the plane impacts the building with fuel igniting, windows bursting from the pressure of a thousand degrees or more of flames behind them.
Is it September 11, 2001? Or other scenes, when airplanes have crashed into buildings? Is it an accident? Is it intentional? For those of us who protect lives and property, frankly, in the first few minutes and hours, it doesn’t matter if it is intentional or not. We must focus on saving lives and property. We must focus on preserving information. This information is the lifeblood of our clients, or our own company, as well as information that may provide clues that help us to learn why the incident happened.
We often think of “aviation security” only in terms of the airport and aircraft. We think of it as gate and access control. For those of us who do not have contracts at the airport, we think of it as someone else’s problem. However, that style of thinking needs to change in today’s marketplace. All security personnel, from entry level to executive, must play a role in aviation security. Guards standing post in office buildings far removed from airport property may still be in position to develop information that impacts the aviation arena. Also, our clients and their staff may well use airplanes to travel for business travel. Security executives must develop for themselves, as well as their subordinates, a higher degree of awareness to these issues than is often seen today.
One easy way to become more aware of incidents that affect the safety and security of aviation, and the safety and security of our clients and staff, is to routinely scan news reports from around the world for related stories. Setting “news alerts” on news sites that will automatically alert us to new stories is a very basic and necessary step. Developing a network that will feed us with related information and analysis is critical as well. Becoming a part of this network, and challenging our own minds to analyze, then share and invite discussion of our analysis of incidents is a time-proven method to grow and develop expertise. Those who participate in discussions, challenge views offered, and welcome counter-challenges in a fair and friendly exchange of views, grow stronger in their abilities to get to the heart of an issue. We should welcome these opportunities.
Aviation security forms a critical part of securing the nation and our social fabric. It affects all of us, whether we fly often or not. Knowing that people and goods can flow well, in a safe and secure environment is important to our sense of well-being. Some studies have shown that the biggest impact of the events of September 11, 2001 was on that sense of safety by Americans. When Al-Qaeda operatives blew up bombs near US embassies in Africa, Americans were incensed but their sense of security wasn’t disturbed. The same feelings arose when the USS Cole was bombed. But Al-Qaeda’s strike on American home territory cut deeply into the American psyche. This resulted, arguably, in the overwhelming use of military force in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is interesting to speculate whether or not the “Gulf Wars” would have happened had Al-Qaeda chosen other methods to attack the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. As it is, though, the use of airplanes amplified the sense of despair and fear felt by Americans in the incident.
Just as Americans were deeply touched by the use of aircraft on their homeland, many people around the world can feel a deep and core feeling of angst and fear when airplanes and the industry are seen as insecure. Thus, all of us in the security field have a strong interest in ensuring the aviation industry is secure, whether or not we are working on airport grounds.