Aviation Security Training - Review of previous acts of unlawful interference with civil aviation and terrorist acts.

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Sofema Online (SOL) www.sofemaonline.com Considers key aspects related to delivering an effective Aviation Security System


The history of civil aviation is marked not only by technological advancements and increased connectivity across the globe but also by periods of vulnerability to unlawful interference and terrorism.


  • These acts have significantly influenced international aviation security measures, leading to the implementation of stricter safety protocols over time.
  • Discussing some of the most impactful incidents can shed light on the evolution of aviation security and the continuous efforts to safeguard passengers and aircraft.

Early Incidents and Hijackings in the Mid-20th Century

In the early days of commercial aviation, aircraft hijackings were perhaps the most common form of unlawful interference. Initially, these hijackings were primarily politically motivated, often involving demands for asylum or the release of prisoners.

  • Between 1958 and 1967, there were approximately 40 hijackings worldwide.
  • According to the FAA, in the 1960s, there were 100 attempts of hijackings involving U.S. aircraft: 77 successful and 23 unsuccessful.

 FAA Actions

  • Recognizing the danger early, the FAA issued a directive on July 28, 1961, which prohibits unauthorized persons from carrying concealed firearms and interfering with crew member duties.
  • The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 was amended to impose severe penalties for those seizing control of a commercial aircraft.
  • Airlines could also refuse to transport passengers who were likely to cause danger. That same year, the FAA and Department of Justice created the Peace Officers Program which put trained marshals on flights.
  • May 7, 1964, the FAA adopted a rule requiring that cockpit doors on commercial aircraft be kept locked at all times.

In a five-year period (1968–1972) the world experienced 326 hijack attempts, or one every 5.6 days.

  • Most incidents occurred in the United States.

>>  There were two distinct types: hijackings for transportation elsewhere and hijackings for extortion with the threat of harm.

The longest and first transcontinental (Los Angeles, Denver, New York, Bangor, Shannon and Rome) hijacking from the US started on 31 October 1969.

Incidents also became problematic outside of the U.S.

  • In 1968, El Al Flight 426 was seized by Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) militants on 23 July, an incident that lasted 40 days, making it one of the longest.

As a result of the evolving threat, President Nixon issued a directive in 1970 to promote security at airports, electronic surveillance, and multilateral agreements for tackling the problem.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) issued a report on aircraft hijacking in July 1970.

  • Beginning in 1969 until the end of June 1970, there were 118 incidents of unlawful seizure of aircraft and 14 incidents of sabotage and armed attacks against civil aviation. This involved airlines of 47 countries and more than 7,000 passengers.
  • In this period, 96 people were killed and 57 were injured as a result of hijacking, sabotage and armed attacks.

ICAO stated that this is a worldwide issue concerning the safe growth of international civil aviation.

The Dawning of Terrorism in Aviation: 1970s and 1980s

The 1970 hijacking of three Western airliners to Jordan by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) marked a significant escalation in the scale and impact of such acts.

  • These events were not just about hijackings but also involved the destruction of aircraft, highlighting the terrorists' disregard for human life and the need for international cooperation in addressing these threats.

The 1980s saw further escalation with the tragic incident of Air India Flight 182 in 1985, when a bomb exploded onboard, killing all 329 people. This attack, along with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988, underscored the global nature of the terrorist threat to civil aviation and the necessity for comprehensive security measures.

Post-9/11 Era: A Paradigm Shift in Aviation Security

The attacks of September 11, 2001, were a watershed moment for international aviation security.

The hijacking of four commercial airplanes by al-Qaeda terrorists, leading to the death of nearly 3,000 people and the destruction of the World Trade Center, dramatically changed the approach to aviation security worldwide.

The immediate aftermath saw the formation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in the United States and the adoption of the International Civil Aviation Organization's (ICAO) comprehensive security measures, including

  • Reinforced cockpit doors,
  • Stricter passenger screening, and
  • Enhanced surveillance and intelligence sharing among nations

Sofema Aviation Services (SAS) and Sofema Online (SOL) provide EASA Compliant Regulatory and Vocational Training Please see the website or email team@sassofia.com


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