Swiss lead efforts to boost airline security
Switzerland is leading efforts to create global security standards for the aviation industry in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
Until the end of the week, the Swiss are heading a special session of the International Civil Aviation Organisation in Montreal aimed at hammering out a consensus on aviation security measures.
Experts from all across the industry are taking part in the meeting, which was called in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. The experts include representatives from Boeing and Airbus, as well as operation and certification specialists.
The conference chairman, Urs Haldimann of the Swiss Civil Aviation Office, told swissinfo that the attacks have created an urgent need for universal, standardised security precautions both in the air and on the ground.
"A quick reaction is required," said Haldimann. "What we have to find now is a worldwide response to this event."
The aim of the Montreal talks is to come up with long-term solutions to deal with the threat of terrorism. Countries will focus on establishing a set of universal, standardised security measures to protect passengers, airline personnel and planes.
They will also focus on the technical possibilities for limiting an attack. "On a technical level, the conference will examine the feasibility of having, for example, an inviolable auto-pilot which could be activated by the crew," Haldimann said.
"This feature would cause the plane to land at a location programmed by the pilot. Another option could be an automatic anti-collision system."
The new guidelines will be built on an existing agreement with the International Civil Aviation Organisation. This is part of the Chicago Convention, which outlines worldwide security measures.
Security already increased
The real challenge, Haldimann said, will be finding a way to monitor the eventual effectiveness of the new security measures.
"In the field of European civil aviation, we've already started something," he said. "Inspectors from different countries will go to airports to see how security is implemented.
"This could be a good model for a universal audit system," Haldimann concluded.
Following the tragedy in the United States, security has been stepped up considerably at public buildings and airports around the world.
Luggage restrictions and searches are being widely enforced and the presence of security personnel has also been increased. In addition, aircraft manufacturers have been studying ways of reinforcing cabin doors to make them bullet and bomb proof.
Airline companies, on the other hand, have been studying the option of arming the personnel onboard their planes.
by Anna Nelson and Jeff Nottage
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