Airport Security


Airport Security


Memories of aircraft disasters like the bombing of Air India Flight l82, where 329 people were killed, often bring concerns about the security at Airports. Today, security at airports whether domestic or international,  has been given huge importance by governments of all countries , 9/11 catastrophe in the US is still fresh in the mind of people the world over.

“Security “,is indeed the most talked about topic globally today-Airport security refers to the techniques and methodologies used in protecting passengers, crew, baggage, cargo, mail, ground personnel, aircraft and property at the airports

Let us take a look at this topic in detail.

Important Definitions


A combination of measures, human and material resources intended to safeguard civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference.

Security Control

Security control is a means by which the introduction of weapons, or articles likely to be utilized to commit an act of unlawful interference can be prevented.


The application of technical or other means which are intended to detect weapons, explosives, or other dangerous devices, which may be used to commit an act of unlawful interference.

Threats to Civil Aviation

There are several threats to the Civil Aviations sector. They are:

  • Hijacking
  • Seizure of aircraft on ground
  • Sabotage
  • Terrorist attack on Terminal building and aircraft
  • Trespass
  • Bomb threat
  • Destruction of vital installations on Airside

Sources of Threats

  • Fundamentalist organizations
  • Separatist terrorist groups
  • Revolutionary groups
  • Hostile foreign intelligence
  • Organized crime mafia
  • Mentally deranged persons
  • Disgruntled employees

International Efforts to Combat Threats

  • Chicago conventions 1944

ICAO formed various Annexes to the Conventions deal on various subjects. Annex 17 to the ICAO Convention deal with the subject of Security and contains Standard and Recommended Practices (SARPs) for Security in order to be complied by the contracting nations.

  • Tokyo convention 1963

Powers of Commander of aircraft were defined.

  • The Hague convention 1970

Defined unlawful seizure of aircraft as offence. This mandated the contracting nations to make a law in their land where by the offence would be punishable by penalty.

  • Montreal convention 1971

Suppression of unlawful acts against safety of Civil Aviation, declared the following acts as unlawful, which were against the safety of Civil Aviation.

  • Performing the act of Sabotage
  • Destroying the aircraft
  • Placing a device or causing a device to be placed in an aircraft in service to render it unsafe for flight
  • Destruction of navigation facilities
  • Communication of false info

Montreal Protocol 1988

  • Acts of violence against persons at airport were also declared to be unlawful
  • Conventions on marking of plastic explosives Montreal 1991
  • Obligation on contracting states to manufacture and allow transit of marked explosives only

Indian Legislations for Aviation Security

  • Tokyo Convention Act 1975
  • Anti-Hijacking Act 1982
  • Anti-Hijacking Amendment Act 1994
  • Suppression of unlawful acts against safety of Civil Aviation Act 1982
  • Suppression of unlawful acts against safety of Civil Aviation (Amendment) Act 1994

Classification of Airports from Security Point of View

From the security point of view, airports can be classified as:

Normal: less threats

  • 19 Airports
  • Less traffic

Sensitive : threat more than normal

  • 43 Airports
  • Traffic relatively high /Quick Reaction Team(ORT)is also deployed

Hyper-sensitive: high threats

  • 17 Airports
  • Heavy traffic/Highly sensitive from the view point of strategic location.
  • Dedicated QRT

Security Measures at Airports

Some security measures taken at airports are:

  • Access control
  • Vehicle : Access of vehicles to the various areas is controlled
  • People :Access of passengers, employees, port users, concessionaries ,etc. are controlled
  • Anti-hijacking measures (Pre-embarkation Checks)
  • Passengers are frisked in the security Hold Areas by the use of Hand Held Metal Detectors and Pat down search.
  • Baggage: Cabin Baggage of the Passengers is checked for presence of dangerous articles with the help of an X-ray Baggage .
  • Inspection System in the Security Hold Areas.
  • Guarding and patrolling

Placing security guards at important and vital installations, to ensure, protection. It is further buttressed by placing foot and mobile patrolling in the areas of vulnerability, so that the integrity of the security is not breached.

  • Anti-sabotage measures

Registered baggage examination by the Air Operator (prior to Check-in) in case of standalone x-ray machine) and by the Airport Operator (in case of an in-line baggage examination).

  • Contingency response

For sudden attacks on the Terminal building or to mitigate crisis in an aircraft under unlawful interference.

Various Screening Concepts

Concourse Plan

The passengers are screened at the entrance of the departure, concourse. Passengers undergo Anti-Hijacking Checks prior to the Check-in. Prevalent mostly in developed countries, since it is a capital intensive plan.

Holding Area Plan

Smaller Security Holds are designed, and the passengers undergo the Anti-hijacking checks after the Check-in. This mainly prevalent India.

Boarding Gate Plan

The Anti – Hijack checks are conducted at the time of boarding and no specific area earmarked for Security Hold Areas.

Some Security Gadgets

Some Security gadgets used at Airports are

  • X-ray machine for Baggage
  • Walk Through Metal Detectors
  • Explosive Detection
  • Handheld Metal Detector

Governing Bodies

International Civil Aviation (ICAO), ICAO has recommended airport security practices standards.

Following the 9/11 incident, ICAO has made it mandatory that every country must have its security plans and contingency plans in place. Therefore, security at airports has become very stringent today.

The Bureau of Civil Aviation (India)

The Bureau of Civil Aviation is the apex body responsible for formulating the aviation security procedure in India. It performs the following roles with respect to security programs:

  • Preparing
  • Implementing
  • Monitoring
  • Coordinating
  • Training
  • Regulating

The security programs must be followed at all international and domestic airports in India. The Head of BCAS is Commissioner of Security Civil Aviation (COSCA), who is Appropriate Authority in India, for all matters related to Aviation Security.

Functioning Bodies

Aviation Security Group

Aviation security group is the contingent which protects the Airports and carries out all the check in the Airports. It used to be performed mainly by the Police, but post -IC 814 Hijack crisis, Government of India has given this responsibility to CISF.

Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)

The tasks of Aviation Security measures are carried out by CISF at more than 50 Airports in India.

People involved in carrying out airport security are:

  • Aviation Security Group(ASG)
  • Security of Airport Operator
  • Airlines own security
  • Bureau of Civil Aviation Security
  • Police
  • Air marshals on flight
  • Immigration
  • Customs

Additional Airport Security Support

A security check at the airport is also supported by:

  • Bomb Detection Squad
  • Bomb Disposal Squad
  • Trained Sniff dog Squàd
  • Airport Isolation Bay
  • Cooling – off pit

Other Agencies Following Aviation Security Programs

The various security measures that have been listed and shown above are carried out internationally at all the airports. The various wings and services like Catering, Cargo, Aircraft Guarding, Ground Handling Agencies, etc. Are all amenable to the same discipline of Aviation Security and are bound by their respective Security program which is duly approved by the Appropriate Authority.

Al the Airport Operators and Air Operators also follow their Security programs.


  • Important definitions
  • Threats to Civil Aviation
  • Sources of threats
  • Terrorist organizations threatening the Aviation industry
  • International efforts to combat threats
  • Indian Legislations for Aviation Security
  • Classification of Airports from
  • Security measures at airports
  • Various screening concepts
  • Some security gadgets
  • Governing bodies
  • Functioning bodies
  • Additional Airports Security Support
  • Other Agencies Following Aviation Security Programs