Risk of crime at and off airports
Disregard for the law has become commonplace. Security considerations are essential everywhere.
"Some hotels, and hotel staff, are not reliable in terms of security so don't just stay in any hotel when overseas.
In areas with level 4 or 5 risks (on a scale of 1–5) it's a good idea to stay in, or close to, the hotel. When in high threat regions consider keeping room curtains closed—to limit damage from shattered glass as a result of a nearby bomb blast."
Secure transport is preferable for aircrews in higher threat level locations. Driver contact details, license plate numbers and, ideally, a photo of the car and driver should be forwarded to the crew in advance. "Public taxis may be viable options in certain areas but they can be a problem in many areas in terms of language barriers and potential for theft," says LeBlanc. "It does not cost that much more for vetted private crew transport. Crew members are valuable assets–you'll need them in order to fly out–so don't cut corners. Consider cost effective means to improve crew safety and security."
Particularly at higher risk destinations have a plan to evacuate passengers on short notice. Have several means of keeping in touch with all passengers/crew. Have competent ground transport on standby with alternative routes mapped between the hotel and the airport. Know where hospitals are, be sure that your ground handler is available 24 hrs and always have enough fuel on board to be able to evacuate to a safe destination.
"Whenever you're in a questionable area have an evacuation plan ready in case you need to get out quickly," suggests Linebaugh. "We have an operator that flies to PAP (Port au Prince, Haiti) regularly and the crew remains onboard, with a GPU running and catering delivered, for hours at a time if necessary. Some years ago we had a crew report gunfire at FIH (Kinshasa, Congo) but they were prepared. They got onboard, took off and coordinated with ATC, after takeoff, for vectors to LBV (Libreville, Gabon)."
Keep in mind that even though effective security can be orchestrated in the most risky areas of the planet it's important to consider if you really want to assume these risks. Do your ops specs and/or aircraft insurance allow such operations? For movements to US-sanctioned countries—such as Iran, Sudan, North Korea and Syria—be aware that US-affiliated ISPs and security providers may not be able to assist in flight and in-country security arrangements.
And, if you're trying to arrange security via a local warlord in Somalia, for example, be careful. Be sure that what you're paying for are legitimate security services and that these payments could not be considered as bribes.
There are also cases where operators want to reduce their "cash footprint." While Israel is not currently under US or EU sanctions many operators to this country want to minimize cash payments into the local economy.
Best practice is to pay in advance—to service providers not based in Israel—for fuel and support services and to use hotels owned by foreign chains rather than local entities. While you cannot eliminate your cash footprint there are steps you can take to minimize it.
Drop and go–2 schools of thought
Many ISPs suggest drop and go tactics when operating to higher risk destinations. "We've been helping clients operate into and out of CAI (Cairo, Egypt) lately," says Linebaugh. "Many operators choose to drop passengers at CAI and reposition the aircraft at LCA (Larnaca, Cyprus), Greece or Italy." Adds Saner, "When operating to North African locations it's common to drop passengers and reposition to an offshore, safer, location."
On the other hand, Leek suggests that drop and goes are not always the best idea. "The risk of a drop and go is that the aircraft and crew are not available for a fast departure. When operating to areas with a threat level of 4 and higher it's often best for the aircraft and crew to stay in the country and to use hotels close to the airport." Adds LeBlanc, "Some locations are more difficult than others from a security perspective but there are advantages in leaving the crew and aircraft with the principal."
Cost effective security measures
"If you've not been to a location within 60 days, or have never been to a location, order a security brief ($100-$150)," says Jones. "The more information you have on the airport and the destination the better. Just because something has not happened there does not mean it will not happen." Plan on 24 to 48 hrs lead time when ordering tailored security briefs.
Having a guard on your aircraft overnight ($300 to $800) is often a wise security precaution for level 4 or 5 threat locations or if an airport does not have effective fencing or patrols says Leek. "The objective is to harden the target by putting in as many levels of protection as possible." Keep in mind, however, that some locations—including China, Morocco and Saudi Arabia—do not allow private security or guards airside.
LeBlanc says that private vetted transportation may only cost 20% more than other local transport options and secure transport (with drivers trained in defensive driving techniques) is often a worthwhile investment.
Security tape is an inexpensive and effective means of determining if your aircraft has been tampered with. It's important to secure emergency exits and hatches, from inside, prior to leaving your aircraft.
Securing your next trip
While many corporate operators are very cognizant and pro-active in terms of security planning some crew still do not take security as seriously as they could. It's important to do your homework before blasting off to international locations. Be aware of your surroundings, refrain from wearing flashy clothing and drawing attention to yourself, order separate catering for on-duty pilots and don't wander down dimly lit side streets—in places like CJS (Juarez, Mexico)—looking for late-night attendance at clubs and other entertainment sites.
"World peace is unlikely to become a reality any time soon, says LeBlanc. "You need to do your homework pre-trip and be prepared for anything that might occur on each day of operation. Much of this risk mitigation falls upon the crew. And a well-trained flightcrew can be one of the last lines of defense at an overseas location."
Editor-at-Large Grant McLaren has written for Pro Pilot for over 20 years and specializes in corporate flight department coverage.