INTL OPS

Risk of crime at and off airports

Disregard for the law has become commonplace. Security considerations are essential everywhere.

By Grant McLaren
Editor-at-large


The more layers of security protection you can put around your aircraft and crew the safer you'll be at international destinations. It's important to plan for all security and protection options days ahead of your actual visit at your foreign destination.

Mainstream media has a way of over dramatizing selected security hotspots around the world. But it's important to be aware that just because a particular region is not "in the news" it's not necessarily free from assorted security threats. Risks of on and off airport crime are commonplace worldwide.

These days you have a greater chance of being mugged in London, Paris and New York than in Mexico, Honduras or Brazil say international support providers (ISPs). Even tropical resort locations have their own unique risk profiles. The good news is that there are steps operators can take to effectively mitigate many of these security issues. This is true even when operating to high risk destinations.

"The security risks we face today are not going away and flight departments need to ensure that they're protecting assets, people and company reputation when operating overseas," says FrontierMEDEX President Security Services Charlie LeBlanc. "Today's global economy has encouraged more travel to developing countries and remote/risky areas of the world.

Corporate aviation is still the best way to way to get in, get out and transact business. But there's more we can do to eliminate, limit and manage security risks that we'll encounter along the way."

Best practice is to "know before you go." Be aware of your surroundings at all times, be conscious of cultural and religious sensitivities at international locations and try to have as many layers of security around you as practical. Flight departments and crews need to ask more questions, research destinations in advance and maintain security considerations at top of mind awareness.

Many security risks can be avoided with just a little pre-planning, awareness of your surroundings and an understanding that if something does not feel right it probably is not.

International Trip Planning Services (ITPS) COO Phil Linebaugh points out that while airport security is generally good worldwide dangers and risks lurk particularly once crews are off airport. "Flight departments often do not take security as seriously as they should," he says. "You really should consider security briefings and security considerations for all planned international destinations.

We've had issues of crews being robbed at gunpoint in broad daylight on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro. There are kidnap risks to be aware of throughout much of Latin America and most of central Africa remains a high risk environment. Even in relatively safe areas—Europe, China and India—there can be significant off-airport risks for crews who wander off the beaten path."

Over recent months corporate aircraft have been tampered with in India, Mexico, Dubai and various locations throughout central Africa. Recently a drug induced man gained access to an aircraft that had been carrying German Chancellor Angela Merkel at CGN (Cologne, Germany).

"There have also been cases of petty crime affecting crews in London, Paris, Mexico City, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Cairo," says FAM International CEO Brian Leek. "Anti-American sentiment is increasingly being felt in Northern Africa, Egypt and the Middle East and security risks at these locations are likely to continue."

Universal Weather & Aviation Security Sales Rep Tracie Jones recalls an unattended corporate aircraft that was "tagged" and damaged at VNY (Van Nuys CA). "It cost the operator over $120,000. to repaint the aircraft and repair 2 doors." Phil Linebaugh brings up the case of a Gulfstream V winglet knocked off by a commercial jet on taxi to takeoff in India.

"The airliner continued to takeoff," he says. "Fortunately, the crew had a guard watching the aircraft who witnessed and reported the incident. Although the damaged aircraft was delayed for weeks on the ground the aircraft guard was advantageous in notifying crew of the incident, as early as possible, and being a witness for the insurance claim."

Problem potential

Jet Aviation Security Officer and Dassault Falcon 7X FO Olivier Saner confirms that international airports are generally safe but suggests steps need to be taken to maximize security off-airport. "Typically, the most vulnerable point for air crews are hotels," he says.

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