Center for Strategic Decision Research


Civil Aviation Security in the Aftermath of September 11th

Mr. Ralf Nagel
State Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transport, Building, and Housing of Germany


When we discuss the fight against terrorism and global security issues, the events and consequences of September 11 are of course in the foreground of our minds. The terrorist attacks on the U.S. have had a worldwide impact. They have had consequences for politics and also for the economy. 

The aviation industry especially has been affected, and we have seen how vulnerable air traffic is. The dramatic decrease in the number of passengers since the attacks is an understandable consequence of the fear of renewed attacks. 

To counter these concerns, it is important to re-establish passenger confidence in the security of air traffic and in the efficiency of security measures. But our security measures must mainly aim at preventing potential assassins from succeeding once again in achieving control of an aircraft. 


We therefore need a staggered security system, which means that if one security measure fails it is compensated for by another one. With this objective in mind, the German federal government has taken additional measures for all flights and has further tightened the already-high aviation security standards. On the national level we conducted an intensive exchange of ideas with all relevant parties immediately after September 11. This included questions about the technical possibilities of increasing security onboard aircraft. The aim of our dialogue was, and still is, improving the measures that already exist. 

Following the attacks, the federal government adopted two so-called sets of anti-terror measures that contain legal amendments toward waging a more effective fight against terrorism. The core of these provisions in the area of aviation security is, inter alia, a regulation regarding background checks. This regulation lays down all the details concerning background screening and reliability checks that are prescribed for all employees working in the security areas of airports. It includes more stringent criteria, for example, the survey must be repeated every 12 months. With this regulation, the foundation was laid, in a very short time, for ensuring that only those persons who are checked and found to be reliable can become employed in the security-restricted areas of an airport. 

Another component of the sets of anti-terror measures is the armed security staff who accompany flights (so-called sky marshals). In our view, these people can increase security and also deter potential assassins. A comprehensive concept for deploying and training these security personnel has been developed and deployment has begun. In developing this component it was particularly important to us that the regulation allowing it stipulated that only official police forces and no private security services may be deployed. 

Another important aviation security issue is the door currently used in cockpits. These doors are obviously not suited for preventing a violent intrusion into the cockpit. For this reason, Deutsche Lufthansa has retrofitted a large part of their aircraft and mounted locking mechanisms. Furthering cockpit security is the welcome decision of the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization, ICAO, that prescribes that all aircraft must be equipped by November 2003 with reinforced doors that can be locked. 


The special nature of the attacks on the U.S. on September 11, 2001, in which the hijacked aircraft were not used to fulfill demands as they previously had been, but were used as weapons or as flying bombs, has made it necessary to put all existing security measures to the test and to envisage new ones. Security concepts, including ICAO Annex 17 and DOC 30 of the European Civil Aviation Conference, ECAC, have been completely reviewed and sometimes revised. 


All of the steps we have taken so far will certainly help to counter the risk of terrorist attacks. But I believe that even greater endeavors and ideas will be necessary to combat the new threats against the security of civil aviation in an effective manner. 

This means that we will have to go beyond traditional methods. We will have to work together to develop a new, worldwide security culture that contains the proven elements of the present security measures as well as effective new measures. In the area of new measures I am thinking especially of the use of new technologies such as biometrics and machine-readable travel documents that would make it possible to identify more quickly persons who might pose a threat. 

I am certain that everyone here and at least 99% of the traveling public are not risks to flight security. The important thing, therefore, is to immediately filter out the people who could mount an assault on an aircraft. In that way we would not only make air traffic more secure, but also make it more user friendly by shortening lines at check-in counters, at passport control points, and at security control points. But this will require the increased use of technologies that recognize the iris, the face, fingerprints, voices, signatures, and so on. These biometric procedures all have advantages and disadvantages, and only practical experience will show which are the most suitable. 


For its support of aviation security I want to expressly welcome the Trusted Passenger Aviation Security Program that is part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act signed by President Bush in November of 2001. One of the goals of this program is to use available technologies to speed up the security checks of passengers who participate in the program. This would involve having those passengers undergo comprehensive background and reliability checks prior to departure times. Such early screening would enable personnel carrying out departure checks to concentrate on other passengers. 

In my opinion, this is the right way to counter the new terrorist threat as well as manage the increase in passenger volume forecast for the next few years. It is my belief that we should act together to reach both of these goals and to do everything in our power to make air traffic as secure and passenger friendly as possible. We must also help small and developing states to offer a high level of security at their airports and within their aircraft. 











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