Passenger attacks crew of Dornier 228 with axe

 - December 18, 2007, 6:31 AM

Norwegian authorities have rushed through new security requirements at the country’s smaller airports in response to a September 29 incident in which a man wielding an axe attacked pilots and passengers on a Dornier 228 operated by regional carrier Kato Airlines.

At smaller airports that are not equipped to screen passengers and cabin baggage, Norwegian authorities have now required that on aircraft equipped with a securable cockpit door, that door should be locked from the pilot’s side from pushback until the engines are shut down at the destination arrival gate.

Captain Stein Magne Lian, 56, and his copilot, Kristian Markus Andresen, 36, landed the Dornier turboprop twin at Bodo Airport despite being badly injured. The aircraft was beginning its descent to Bodo after a short flight from Narvik, where Kato Airlines is based, when the attacker struck.

Lian told the press that as he struggled with the assailant, the man pushed the control column forward to put the twin turboprop into a dive. The struggle continued and the pilots regained control of the aircraft barely 100 feet above the ground.
Bodo police have confirmed that they took an Algerian man into custody and that he has since been admitted to a psychiatric hospital. As of October 6 they had not released the name of the suspect and, according to subsequent local press reports, there has since been doubt about his identity and background because he had given confused and unverifiable information to police.

Initial reports had suggested that the man sought asylum in Norway and his application to stay in the country had recently been rejected.

There has also been confusion about how the weapon used in the attack got on board the aircraft. Initially, the Bodo police said that the axe was a safety tool fitted in the Dornier 228 cabin. They soon retracted this explanation and said that it was a small hunting axe that the attacker smuggled onto the aircraft, along with a carpet-cutting knife that was found in his bag.

No Security Screening, No Cockpit Door
Along with many other smaller, short-runway airports in remote regions of Norway, Harstad/Narvik Airport had no equipment for screening passengers and their baggage on the day of the attack. The airports have been preparing for a requirement to install X-ray and other equipment by January 1 next year. Immediately after the attack, the Norwegian civil aviation authority issued an emergency mandate for airports to screen all passengers and baggage either manually or by using handheld metal detectors.

Before the attack, only 17 of Norway’s 46 public-transport airports had permanent equipment and procedures to check for weapons.

A Kato Airlines spokesman confirmed that neither of the company’s two Do-228s is fitted with a cockpit door. According to Ruag Aerospace Services, which handles technical support for the out-of-production aircraft, cockpit doors are optional equipment and are lockable and have a handle only on the cockpit side. Ralf Ott, Dornier 228 service manager with the Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany-based company, told AIN that the doors can be retrofitted fairly easily, although he could not give exact prices for the modification.

According to the European Regions Airline Association, European Union officials have already been contemplating a move to extend to smaller regional airliners the requirement for anti-intrusion cockpit doors in aircraft with 60 seats or more. The association’s technical services group is evaluating how to achieve this in smaller aircraft. No timetable for the change has been set, and the European Commission transport directorate has yet to react publicly to the implications of the in-flight attack in Norway.