Aviation Daily Jan 15 , 2010 , p. 16
A recent incident in which a man hid in a toilet on an A330 Air India flight from Medina, Saudi Arabia, to Jaipur, in the desert state of Rajasthan, is raising questions about the need for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) to review its security rules.
In an unusual outcome for most countries concerning the Dec. 25 Air India flight, the stowaway has been released from jail without charges due to a cultural understanding that he was fearing for his life.
“I do not feel ICAO has rules on how to treat stowaways. While the current rules say the captain has the right to decide, he may not have the tools to know the intent of the stowaway,” said Rafi Sela, president of Israel- and U.S-based AR Challenges.
Sela, as the former founder and first president of the ILHSIA Israeli Homeland Security Industries Association and former co-chairman of the Airport Security Task force at HSIA Homeland Security Industries Association (US), had made a presentation to the ICAO Assembly to look at not just safety impacts on airlines, but also security breaches.
Recent incidents of stowaways include a Palestinian who was discovered when he fell 2.4 meters from the nose wheel of a Boeing 777-200 when the plane landed at the Changi International Airport in Singapore from Kuala Lumpur in 2007. That year, a stowaway on Ethiopian Airlines in the cargo hold was discovered in Dulles International Airport. In January 2008, two Ethiopian maintenance workers apparently stowed away in the ceiling of an aircraft on a transatlantic flight that landed at Dulles.
ICAO voted to look at security, but not much has happened on that front recently. At the 18th Annual Meeting of ICAO’s aviation security panel in September 2006, an agenda item included consideration of “the definition of airport security search to include stowaways.”
But ICAO has no real concrete agenda on the issue to speak of, and there is a gap in the international security arena in which each country handles such situations differently.
A ruling by ICAO might create various problems for some countries within the ICAO membership guidelines. Washington, D.C.-based Security Consultant Nick Naclerio, commenting on the Air India incident, told The DAILY, “Once the pilot concluded that the stowaway was not a terrorist threat, he decided to maintain his schedule. Treating him humanely is a judgment call. If our Airline Passenger Management System (APMS) was installed, the crew would have been alerted and perhaps he would have been found in the toilet and turned over to the authorities before takeoff.”
APMS is designed to monitor, track, control, restrain and limit movement of passengers in the passenger cabin during flight, so as to greatly reduce the possibility that an individual or group of passengers seizes control, or otherwise, interferes with the safe operation of the aircraft.
The APMS consists of a computer network with a hard-wired connection to every passenger seat. A display panel in the cockpit and the passenger compartment indicates the status of each passenger seat as to occupancy, and the status of each smart seatbelt, by reflecting one of the following: unfastened, fastened, loosely fastened, locked and unlocked. Only the APMS can lock and unlock the seat belt, explained Naclerio.