9/11 showed how terrorists could use airplanes as bombs against civilian objectives. This completely changed the environment of the aviation industry. 10th August 2006 will stay as another landmark date for aviation; this day the industry again felt under threat and understood that it will remain in the focus of terrorists as their most effective target to gain attention.
The plans discovered in London are extremely worrying. They show that terrorists have found ways to make explosives with common, innocuous materials that can be easily handled and transported. This presents new challenges to the current security systems.
In response, on 4th October, the EU Commission adopted new security measures to try to address these new challenges. ECA applauds the swift and transparent way in which the European Institutions and its Member States have handled this issue.
However, ECA is strongly concerned that these new measures will have an unacceptable impact on flight-crews. Flight crews, working inside aircraft for up to 14 hours need to have with them a series of items, including personal items and health and sanitary products now forbidden by the new security measures.
The current "general exception system" intended to allow staff, including flight crews, to carry the newly prohibited articles are good only for staff working in one airport. They are not adequate for pilots working in different airports where there are other rules on how to apply the exceptions.
One example is fluid for contact lenses. Having this liquid is essential to all flight-crew members wearing contact lenses and clear eyesight is certainly necessary for a safe flight operation. The smallest container holds 120ml and is therefore forbidden by the new measures. One authority may decide to authorise crews to carry such containers if it is properly labelled while another Member State's authority may require crews to transfer the liquid into a smaller container.
In both cases pilots will be able to carry their lens fluid from their country of origin, but will see it confiscated when departing from the other country. Furthermore, in some countries, holding prohibited items in the critical areas of security is a criminal offence.
Crews, especially if their roster includes layovers or change of airplanes, need to have their own baggage with them in the cockpit. This is so because if crews change aircraft in the middle of their duty, the check-in-baggage can not follow.
Furthermore, since the time for rest periods away from base may be as little as 10 hours, crews will not be able to have the legal minimum of 8 hours sleep opportunity needed for a safe operation of the aircraft, if they have to wait for their luggage to be disembarked after flight and then checked in again the following day. A delay in flight crew schedules will inevitably cause a delay in the whole of flight operations.
ECA has written to the European Institutions and requested an urgent meeting where we will be asking for better solutions. ECA is convinced that the current system of security screening and treatment of flight crews is not sustainable in the long term. Flight crews have an important role in the security chain, just like other security personnel.
There is an inconsistency in the fact that the pilot-in-command is the highest security representative on-board of the aircraft, but s/he is considered as a potential threat to security while being on the ground. This needs to be addressed urgently and ECA will work towards a more efficient system of security checks for flight crews, one which guarantees high security levels while facilitating the crews? work and avoids disruption to the operation.