Region VII: Middle East/Asia (MID)

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With Mideast Tensions Rising, Time to Review Flight Security Procedures

March 12, 2012

The Mideast is rarely calm, but lately tensions seem to be reaching a fever pitch, with Iran’s nuclear program advancing and Israel asserting its right to defend itself by preventing the Islamic Republic from building a nuclear weapon. That news is enough to make operators flying in the region uneasy, while the Arab Spring continues to create instability in a dozen countries across the Mideast – and in places like Syria, a violent uprising and government crackdown.

“If your mission takes you to any country in the Mideast, or requires flying through Mideast airspace, now is the right time to review your flight security procedures,” said Doug Carr, NBAA vice president of safety, security & regulation.

The first step is to make sure your flight department has a robust security program and an up-to-date Emergency Response Plan. NBAA’s Security Council and the NBAA Management Guide both detail recommended procedures for an aviation security program, including:

  • Require all aviation department personnel to participate in security training and develop a security awareness attitude.
  • Do not publicize your trip itinerary.
  • Use the aircraft’s security system or hire security personnel at every stop, no matter how brief. When parking overnight, place security tape on all access panels and doors.
  • Do not share your passenger manifest. Know your passengers or require identification. Consider the value of crewmembers displaying the IBAC Aircrew Card at foreign airports.
  • Anytime local security does not meet your requirements, reposition the airplane to a more secure airport.

Plan Ahead for Each Trip

It’s also critical to have a specific security plan in place for each trip, based on a situation report (sitrep) for every country on the itinerary. The NBAA Security Council advises operators get a comprehensive sitrep and make backup arrangements for ground transportation, hotels and accessing the airplane in case they need to evacuate quickly.

A sitrep should include details on each country’s political dynamics, disputes that could lead to violence, the economic climate and whether the timing of the trip coincides with any local holidays or scheduled protests.

Third-party logistics (3PL) companies can provide a sitrep and help with hiring guards, ground transportation and catering. Working with a 3PL can be helpful, especially for operators traveling to a region for the first time. Other sources to consult if compiling a sitrep on your own include the travel advisories released by the U.S. State Department, NBAA’s International Feedback Database and international news publications.

“It’s critical to have a security briefing before the flight,” said Tom Winn, senior chief of operations and intelligence at FrontierMEDEX. “However, for more volatile locations, getting a daily security update during the trip can keep a flight department on top of the situation if the threat increases.” When traveling to higher-risk destinations, flight departments should consider working with an intelligence or security service that will monitor the situation and notify the crew of critical events, like a demonstration or bombing.

It’s also a good practice to leave a complete itinerary with colleagues back home and register to your trip with the U.S. State Department's Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which enables the U.S. embassy at your destination to contact you in the event of a crisis.