NBAA Convention News

Prevention is the key to secure operations

 - June 30, 2008, 9:36 AM

Air Security International (Booth No. 2636) has been in the business of aviation security for 12 years, and according to ASI president Israel “Issy” Boim, globalization, combined with the threat of terrorism and other threats, has made his company’s services more vital than ever.

Although the threats inherent in travel abroad may have added to the length of the ASI sermon, the message it preaches remains the same. “We haven’t changed what we do and how we do it, which is at its core a preventive approach,” said v-p of operations Charlie LeBlanc. “No one wants to be tomorrow’s headline.”

Prevention is based on up-to-date, reliable information, according to LeBlanc. “Too much information is never enough when it comes to the safety of company executives and others traveling abroad on business.”

According to LeBlanc, the demand for security training has risen considerably since the terrorist attacks of September 11. The company has provided training for more than 50 corporations, including corporate aviation security training (CAST) specific to air crews, and corporate executive security training (CEST) for corporate executives. More than 20 companies have sent their international frequent fliers to the CEST course.

CEST is the company’s most recent addition to its training programs. “Air security doesn’t end at the aircraft door,” said Boim. It is with that in mind that ASI created CEST, taking into consideration the increasing incidents worldwide of bombings and kidnappings. In some areas of the world, he added, “kidnappings for ransom have become a cottage industry.”

The CEST course is compressed into a three- or four-hour period and addresses the basics of such concerns as roads being traveled, hotels and restaurants being used, meeting locations and dealing with clerical and other outside help that may come in contact with the executive in the course of the trip. It covers procedures an executive should take to avoid potential threats. CEST can be customized to deal with different threats in different regions, and adapted to any specific customer concerns.

Executives are taking such threats seriously, said ASI director of security training Darlene Radloff. They are not only in tune with their own safety but also with the safety of the passengers and family members traveling with them.

CAST has also been created since September 11. The goal, said operations sales manager Todd Smith, is to “paint a picture of how an air crew and passengers can be vulnerable, and then reduce their vulnerability to certain situations.” The course emphasizes many of the strategies that individuals can use to protect themselves, such as varying flight preparation routines and minimizing attention to the crew.

Both CAST and CEST are frequently modified to address changing threats and shifting areas of danger.

Examples of the need to understand what precautions should be taken with regard to personal security abound. LeBlanc told the story of a Gulfstream flight attendant who learned through personal experience the need for security training while awaiting the departure of her aircraft from Riyad, Saudi Arabia. She did not realize the impact her presence in public might have in a country where women are traditionally veiled and do not venture outdoors unaccompanied by a male family member. Her manner of dress, said LeBlanc–pants and long-sleeved blouse–did not meet the religious standards, and she was Caucasian and alone. She quickly found herself confronted, taunted and then threatened by a growing group of men. She managed to escape and return safely to the hotel. At the street level, said LeBlanc, the successful terrorist attacks have emboldened both religious fanatics and basic street thugs.

LeBlanc said Air Security is also doing more consulting at a corporate level. One problem that became evident in the hours following the September 11 attacks was that many corporations could not immediately pinpoint the location of their traveling employees. “We’ve done at least 40 different flight department audits, from security manuals and procedures to emergency reaction and control of passengers and baggage,” he said.

Just before NBAA, Air Security International expanded the availability of its security information by signing agreements with flight planning providers Jeppesen and Universal Weather & Aviation to deliver “intelligence and security services.” We think this will go a long way toward establishing a security standard for international business travelers,” said LeBlanc.

Perhaps unintentionally, Air Security International’s new airline rating program, spearheaded by its online publication The Airline Insider, may be encouraging travelers to consider business aviation alternatives. There may be nothing to worry about in terms of security and safety when flying a scheduled carrier, according to ASI, but maybe there is something else in the background of each carrier you need to know. “For example,” said special projects manager David Schwam, “does the airline have a history of fatal mishaps? Is it flying new Western-built aircraft or old Russian-built planes that are more than 30 years of age? Does the airline have an adequate maintenance program, or is it cannibalizing aircraft because it doesn’t have money for spare parts?

“Too many people naturally assume that all these airlines are being monitored by the FAA,” said Schwam. But he added, “While the FAA does a great job monitoring U.S. carriers, it has no authority over these foreign airlines.”

The list of airlines rated by The Airline Insider is available in three formats: alphabetical, by country and by region. A quick-reference Internet format lists all the airlines in the system with a corresponding class rating, on which the viewer may click to see a definition of the rating. A corporate report as to the reason for a specific rating can be viewed by clicking on the name of the airline. Subscribers can also easily see when the report was updated and the next expected update.