Civil Aviation Security: Why we should pay attention to past and recent IED attacks


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Can the civil aviation industry learn from terrorist attacks carried out on the ground? This presentation compares the 2012 Bangkok explosions with the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 attack to expose possible vulnerabilities in today's aircraft and airport security measures.

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Civil Aviation Security: Why we should pay attention to past and recent IED attacks

  1. 1.  A handful of bombs were detonated as part of a larger but failed bomb plot. Similar bombs were set off in India and Georgia during the same week. Injuries caused by the explosions were minimal, and three suspects were eventually arrested.
  2. 2. Should the aviation industrytake notice?Even though these attacks took place on the groundin busy city streets, much of the tactics andtechnology used can be easily reproduced anddifficult to detect.Learn more about the bombs used in Bangkokand let us know what you think.
  3. 3.  Each bomb was assembled within the body of a regular household radio, using commonplace materials.  5mm metal bearings were added to cause greater casualties.This is a reconstruction of the bombs used in theBangkok explosions. All rights reserved.
  4. 4.  PETN, a military explosive, is believed to be used for the main charge.  The detonator was standard aluminum.  Magnets were used to attach the bombs toThis is a reconstruction of the bombs used in the their intended targets.Bangkok explosions. All rights reserved.
  5. 5.  Standard X-ray images reveal a complex structure. Still, metal fragments can be clearly seen.
  6. 6.  Metal fragments are still visible though may not be used in an attack on an aircraft.
  7. 7. Yes. In 1988, the same explosive device caused 270casualties on Pan Am Flight 103. The device was concealed in a similar radio receiver. It was carried onto the aircraft in a piece of checked luggage. About 2 months before the Flight 103 attack, police found similar IEDs in an apartment in Germany. This intelligence was unfortunately not communicated to potential targets.
  8. 8. Despite this IED’s well-documented history, it could still beused to attack an aviation target: Modern detection technology still has difficulty exposing explosive materials concealed in electronic devices. Magnets might allow attackers to exploit a known vulnerability point - the aircraft perimeter – and attach an IED to an aircraft body. Airport staff generally receive minimal security screening. Little prevents wrong-doers from using staff credentials to access an aircraft.
  9. 9.  All vulnerable areas of an aircraft should be secured - especially external surfaces. Aircraft perimeter security should require all staff with airside access to be screened, monitored. Screeners, crew and other airport staff should be informed of the latest screening techniques to improve effectiveness at all checkpoints.
  10. 10.