Aviation Security Measures ‘Confusing and Incompatible’

Download PDF(2MB)

Insecure SkiesCreating harmonised, clearly set and rigorously enforced baseline standards on international aviation security must be a priority for governments around the world, a new report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) argues.

According to 'Insecure Skies? Challenges and Options for Change in Civil Aviation Security', current government-led efforts to counter the aviation security threat are confusing and incompatible with one another, leading to loopholes which terrorists actively try to exploit. The paper highlights that information and intelligence-sharing lacks cohesion and adequate dissemination, often relying on bilateral relationships rather than standardised agreements.

Dr Tobias Feakin, head of RUSI's National Security and Resilience programme, writes that, whilst the international nature of civil aviation requires concerted action across the board, certain measures - such as the testing, evaluation and secure deployment of new screening technologies - will need to be EU- and US-led.

The report calls for increased global focus on understanding and tackling inbound threats, and on building resources and security capacity in the countries of greatest concern. Some suggested practices - such as the introduction of a 'traffic light' system for ranking global airports, with strict penalties for poor results - are the extension of the report's recommendation that aviation security be handled with the same level of scrutiny and international co-operation currently applied to 'safety' concerns in the industry.

Government, aviation security operators and technology manufacturers need to engage in closer dialogue if they are to ensure that regulation and responses which both enhance passenger experience and improve security are correctly formulated and adopted.

Securing civil aviation has been a key political priority of the world's most powerful countries since 9/11, and over the past ten years we have seen numerous efforts to enhance aviation security in response to terrorist attacks.  As security technologies and procedures in key parts of the civil aviation industry have been developed in response to attempted terrorist attacks during the 2000s, so the attackers look for new weaknesses in the chain to exploit. 

Generating a shared perception of risks, and coherent frameworks for managing them beyond what is dictated by self-interest, is the 'holy grail' of governance in our globalised age - and this latest report makes a significant contribution to this vital area of research.

Explore our related content