Flight of fear: Small airports are sitting ducks

Smaller airports in the country suffer security vulnerabilities, which terrorists can exploit to target aircraft taking off from them

Published: 02nd April 2017 07:26 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd April 2017 10:43 AM   |  A+A-

(Image for representation only) An Air India Express flight at the Tiruchy International Airport | Express File Photo

NEW DELHI: Smaller airports in the country suffer security vulnerabilities, which terrorists can exploit to target aircraft taking off from them, the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) has warned. The bureau found that the operators of these airports were unwilling to spend adequately on security infrastructure. It has suggested that they be made to provide adequate funds through regulatory framework.

In the wake of evolving terror threats, the bureau has proposed standardised security protocols at these airports, including controlled entry and exit with the help of access cards, biometric credentials and PIN for different security areas of the airport complex. The protocol followed at all major airports includes metal detector doors and frisking.

The civil aviation security regulator has also recommended mandatory use of uniform 2D barcode tickets for passengers, with code readers installed at entry gates, and migration to the e-boarding system successfully experimented at Hyderabad airport.   

On the approach road security, it has stressed minimising vulnerability by introducing under-vehicle scanning systems, improving the capabilities of Quick Reaction Teams and their proper deployment, planning setback area and placement of parking lot at a sufficiently safe distance from the terminal building.

With regard to terminal building security, the bureau has suggested measures such as intelligent structural design, installing crash rated bollards, aviation security group morchas at entry and exit points, blast-resistant trash bins and armed gate protection by ASG with bulletproof shields.

The use of Chinese mobile phones without International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number in India’s neighbourhood is becoming a major concern in the security establishment in Delhi, which is now planning to take up the issue with respective governments.

The proposals from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) for beefing up airport security include CCTV surveillance and use of concealed body wearable cameras by intelligence and surveillance teams for providing video feeds to command and control centre from blind spots.

“While metropolitan airports were adequately secured, there was a need to examine requirement of standardised security protocols for small airports, which constitute 95 per cent of the total number of airports in the country,” a senior Union Home Ministry official said, adding such airports are likely to increase in number in view of the regional connectivity scheme envisaged by the new civil aviation policy 2016.

Multifarious threats for airport security emanate not merely from explosives and firearms but also from non-conventional sources such as chemical, biological weapons and drones among others. 

For cargo screening, BCAS has advocated creation of secured folding area and off sight air freight stations.

With the last threat assessment of airports done in 2014, DG BCAS recommended a fresh threat assessment, on the methodology prescribed by International Civil Aviation Organisation.

It has suggested the establishment of a national level command and control centre with clear standard operating procedures for situation management, development of contingency plans, raising of state industrial security force and deployment of an ASG by CISF.

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