ART LAFLAMME, ALPA SENIOR REPRESENTATIVE IN CANADA
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL
THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON
NATIONAL SECURITY AND DEFENCE
AVIATION SECURITY AT AIRPORTS
AUGUST 14, 2002
Captain Kent Hardisty is an Executive Vice President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International and President of ALPA’s Canada Board. As well, he is a pilot for Air Canada Jazz. Captain Hardisty sends his regrets and apologies for not being able to be here in person this morning. He resides on the west coast and a flight cancellation yesterday prevented him from being able to arrive in Ottawa in time for this morning’s hearings.
I am Art LaFlamme, ALPA’s senior representative in Canada. My duties involve government affairs and legislation. As well, I am the ALPA staff member in Canada responsible for security matters following the tragic events of September 11.
ALPA represents more than 66,000 professional pilots who fly for 43 airlines in Canada and the United States. As the representative of employees whose very lives depend on the safety and security of the air travel system, ALPA has since its inception in 1931 devoted itself to ensuring that air travel is both safe and secure. ALPA has developed extensive knowledge and expertise in aviation security issues.
ALPA has long been a leader in working with other parties in the United States and Canada in developing improvements to aviation security, and these efforts have been stepped up in recent months. Our President, Captain Duane Woerth, led the U.S. Rapid Response Team on Aircraft Security that was tasked with developing recommendations to be delivered to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta. Additionally, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration appointed ALPA’s Security Committee Chairman, Captain Steve Luckey, to chair a committee examining new security technologies. Captain Woerth and other ALPA representatives have provided testimony before Congress on numerous occasions since the events of September 11, 2001. Most recently, Captain Luckey appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation on July 25, 2002, to discuss Aviation Security issues.
Meanwhile, in Canada, security representatives from ALPA have been meeting with senior officials from Transport Canada’s Security Directorate in Ottawa to discuss the vital issue of our nation’s aviation security and to begin the development of a new security aviation blueprint. ALPA pilots and staff have participated in the Aviation Security Advisory Committee as well as the Aircraft Security Working Group and the Airport Security Working Group. The recommendations of these groups are now before the Minister of Transport.
As the events of September 11, 2001 demonstrated, airline pilots have a great personal stake in the successful development and deployment of enhanced aviation security measures.
To underscore the risks that we face, I would like to pose two questions and follow them with answers. First, is there still a risk of terrorists assuming control of an airliner and crashing it into a building? The answer is an emphatic "yes". Transport aircraft, regardless of whether they carry passengers or cargo, must from now on be viewed as potential human-guided cruise missiles if they fall into the hands of a suicidal terrorist. The September 11 terrorists were remarkably patient, thorough, well trained, and employed surprise attacks to great advantage using relatively innocuous weapons that they knew would go unchallenged through security checkpoints. From their perspective, the operation was a great success, not only in terms of damage, but also with respect to the amount of global media attention their acts garnered. History has shown that terrorists endeavour to repeat successes, so we must assume that our enemies are planning for yet another airliner attack.
Second, if terrorists board an aircraft with the intention of hijacking it, will they be armed only with box cutters as they were before? We think that the answer to that is "probably not". The element of surprise from a box cutter-type attack is gone and small knives are now confiscated at security checkpoints, so we must assume that terrorists will be armed with some other weapons, which could include guns or explosives pre-placed on aircraft, but not taken through passenger screening checkpoints.
We have an unfortunate habit of preparing for the type of security breach that most recently occurred after it has already taken place - this is the equivalent of locking the barn door after the horse has been stolen. Such tunnel vision is foolhardy and leaves us pitifully unprepared for the various types of hijacking attempts that may well lie ahead. Terrorists will attempt to exploit the weak links in the system. What we must do, instead, is address, to the best of our knowledge, resources and ability, all of the potential threats that exist, not just those that we have most recently experienced. I believe that this Senate Committee would agree that Canada must take the necessary steps so as not to be viewed as a potential target of opportunity by terrorists.
To use the onion skin analogy, every layer of the onion must have a defence, including from outside the perimeter of an airport right to the aircraft and, finally, the flight deck itself.
ALPA is of the view that an essential element of a properly functioning security system to counter-terrorist acts must focus on controlling access to aircraft; i.e., only properly identified persons who have reason to be at or on board an aircraft be they airport or company workers, crew members or passengers. The present thrust is to provide for security through “screening points” limited to passengers, crew members and “other persons” who access aircraft through a screening point. Much has been done to improve security in this area. We are all familiar with the more thorough measures that have been put in place since last September 11th.
However, ALPA believes that adequate security measures have yet to be put in place to control access to aircraft other than to passengers and crew members. There continue to be vulnerabilities in the security system allowing fairly easy access to restricted areas and aircraft to unauthorized persons. While they stand in line for screening to get to their aircraft, ALPA pilots are perplexed and infuriated with the easy access they see is available to their aircraft that would enable terrorist actions to take place. Examples of potential existing vulnerabilities are:
· Access to passenger aircraft by baggage handlers, cleaners, caterers, maintenance and servicing personnel, etc.;
· Individuals posing as crew members using stolen uniforms and identification;
· Individuals posing as armed law enforcement officials, including RCMP air marshals using forged identification;
· Cargo aircraft where there is a lack of cargo screening, and employees or others, such as cargo or animal handlers, carried on these aircraft; and
· Charter and private aircraft that are boarded in areas of the airport separate from the terminal building.
There is a pressing need for a national pass system under the regulatory control and oversight of the Government of Canada using uniform, reliable, technologically enhanced identification media for use by employees at airports, transient crews and even trusted travellers. The absence of such a system continues to complicate efforts to further enhance aviation security.
It is our understanding that there are already initiatives underway in Canada to use smart card technology at certain airports. Also, we are informed that the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency is studying this technology to facilitate its work at the border and ports of entry. Rather than a hodgepodge of perhaps incompatible systems across Canada that would stifle the free flow of goods and people necessary for the prosperity of Canadians, there is now an opportunity to take a national coordinated approach.
In Canada, ALPA, in separate correspondence and at meetings with Transport Canada, has made repeated attempts to have this issue addressed as a high priority. Although there has been some acknowledgement of this subject by Transport Canada officials, a coordinated, timely, integrated and high priority approach is not apparent. ALPA also believes that it is highly desirable to have a national system in Canada compatible with any such system implemented in the U.S.
In conclusion, an effective security system needs to be able to identify both unsafe objects in luggage or on persons, and undesirable and dangerous individuals. The focus of verification methods should be shifted from detecting objects to identifying high risk persons and matching inspection and identification technologies to those risk groups. Finite resources must be risk-driven, and not unnecessarily expended on screening passengers and crew members who are no risk to security. Pilots in Canada and the U.S. are extremely concerned about devising a system whereby they can access their aircraft in a free and convenient, but secure, manner. The Airport Security Working Group mentioned above ha recommended the adoption of a universal pass system to replace the often ineffective system that controls access to restricted areas of the airport at present. The new system would use "uniform, reliable, technologically enhanced, including biometrics, identification media", with oversight provided by a centralized management system.
It is essential that Canada implement currently available electronic technology to positively verify the identity of each authorized person who enters an airport secure area and who is not processed at the security screening checkpoint. Improper controls on airline identification media contributed to a suicidal former employee bringing down PSA Flight 1771 in 1987. We have known for some time that certain persons, almost certainly terrorists, have been stealing pilot uniforms and credentials. Creating a system that will prevent an impostor from fraudulently gaining access to aircraft is long overdue. A properly instituted, reliable biometric identification badge would go a long way toward thwarting a would-be terrorist in possession of a stolen uniform who is trying to gain access to an aircraft.
All airport employees, armed law enforcement officers, crew members and those who require access to an aircraft should be screened via electronic and biometric identity verification. As soon as possible, it should be required that airports install access-control card readers at entry checkpoints for electronically identifying all those who require access to the restricted areas of an airport.
ALPA requests that this Committee recommend to the Government of Canada the adoption and implementation of this technology on an urgent basis through a national coordinated approach with all appropriate departments, agencies and stakeholders.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before this Committee to outline ALPA’s views on this critical issue. The Association looks forward to working with Parliament, Transport Canada, and the other participants in the airline industry to ensure that there is a safe and secure aviation system in Canada.
I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.