Serious gaps in aviation security, say experts

Serious gaps in aviation security, say experts
One security expert pointed out that a hijacked aircraft could be landed in a place like Orchard Road.

Security experts told The Sunday Times that the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has exposed serious security gaps and loopholes in the international aviation system that must be plugged.

A big question, they said, was whether Malaysia alerted its neighbours when the jetliner vanished so that they could take precautions to protect themselves.

If the flight was hijacked, they said, many others in the region - including Singapore - might have been at risk of a terror attack.

Airport and aviation protocols must be revamped after what one expert described as a "turning point in aviation security".

A former senior Israeli counter-terrorism and aviation security officer in the Israel Security Agency, Mr Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, said that aeroplanes are part of the arsenal of global terror and a missing aeroplane could be a sign of a mega security attack.

Any country that loses sight of one of its aircraft must alert other countries, he said.

"Was this done when the aeroplane went missing?" he asked. "Imagine an aeroplane that has taken off in another country landing on Orchard Road. An aircraft is in the hands of a pilot and he could have been incited or motivated. He could take things into his own hands and do something like this."

He described this scenario as a significant one, given the millions living in mega cities, and the horrendous consequences of the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks when 19 Al-Qaeda members hijacked and flew aeroplanes into buildings in New York and Washington, DC.

Referring to MH370's disappearance, he said that an incident of such a magnitude calls for suspicion of malicious intent. "In recent years, air piracy and terrorism have come together in a series of parallel events," he said.

Agreeing with Mr Bergerbest-Eilon's views, counter-terrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) called MH370 a "turning point in aviation security and a catalyst that will force governments in Asia to enhance aviation security".

The experts also agreed on another key issue - that one of the most serious security loopholes which must be plugged is the one that allowed two men with stolen passports to board the flight.

They noted that while the two Iranians with stolen passports might not have been connected to the disappearance of the aircraft, it is not unreasonable to expect that any traveller with a fake passport might pop up in future criminal activities. Hence, airport systems must spot and stop them.

Flight MH370 left Kuala Lumpur for Beijing with 239 passengers and crew on March 8. An aviation security analyst said that if the stolen passports had been found out, Malaysian authorities might have been alerted that something was amiss on that flight.

"The security on the ground was not good enough," he said.

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