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Risk-Based Approach to Aviation Security Essay


The idea of risk based approach to aviation security has been considered one of the best solutions that can be used to address security concerns in the aviation industry. The rise of a new form of terrorism in the world that targets the aviation sector is a clear indication that the stakeholders in this sector must find a way of dealing with this problem expeditiously. The Al-Qaeda attack on the United States soil on September 11, 2001 remains one of the worst attacks that sent a massive shock to the entire aviation industry in the world. Recently, the Malaysian airline went missing, and some of the analysts have claimed that it might have been an act of terrorism.

The only way of improving the security in this industry is to remain alert to possible risks that may lead to serious threat to the lives of the passengers and other stakeholders in this industry. As Berrick (2008) says, “Safety and security is not a destination but a journey, and we have to keep making improvements” (p. 47). The aviation sector stands to benefit by using risk-based approach in aviation security at a time when every passenger’s worry is about their security.

Importance of Using Risk Based Approach in Aviation Security

Risk-based approach in the aviation sector became very popular after the September 11 attack that led to loss of lives and massive destruction of property. The stakeholders in the aviation sector came to realize that a time had come when security had to be given priority. The sector suffered a massive blow, and this was blamed on poor aviation security approaches that were in use before. The managements of leading aviation regulatory bodies such as IATA, Transportation Security Administration, Airports Council International, and many other national agencies realized that a time had come when they had to step up on the issue of security in the country.

Risk-based approach in managing aviation has come out as one of the best alternatives that can be used to avert potential threats to the aviation sector. This would involve thorough screening of the passengers and their languages before they are allowed on board the planes. Zellan (2003) says, “When we talk about screening, you always have people talking about human rights, privacy, health issues, but you need to draw the line somewhere in order to enhance security” (p. 58).

It is important to respect the rights of the passengers at all costs. People may view the regular screening as a way of abusing their privacy. It is a fact that inspecting the bags of the travelers may injure one’s privacy. Some people have even complained that the kind of search that the authorities at the airport use is not in tandem with the ethical procedures required of them. However, Berrick (2008) warns that averting the screening procedure may lead to a serious threat. When screening is abolished, an ill-intentioned passengers use this immunity to board the plane with very dangerous weapons. Once the plane takes off, such a person may do anything to the passengers and the entire crew. This is an act of terrorism that can be fought by using affective screening technologies. It is better for a right to privacy to be compromised than to compromise one’s right to life

According to Posner (2005), “Risk-based security system that aims to evolve airport passenger security screening to a more sustainable, efficient and effective process that takes advantage of new technologies”(p. 36). This approach emphasizes on the need to maintain screening at the airport as a way of enhancing security. However, it is also concerned about the waiting time for the passengers at the airports. Some passengers have complained that they are always forced to queue for two or even three hours waiting for the screening process. This reduces their level of satisfaction.

This system seeks to find a way of introducing advanced technology in the screening process. This new approach minimizes the use of human labor when screening the passengers. It emphasizes on the application of some of the latest technologies developed by leading electronic firms such as Apple. The new technological equipments are not only meant to improve the speed of service delivery at the airports, but also effectiveness of the process. It seeks to address the human error that always occurs when people are involved in the manual inspections. With this new approach, Abeyratne (2011) says that the security in the aviation sector will be improved.

According to Bodden (2006), some stakeholders insist that when using risk-based approach to manage aviation security, it is vital to classify the passengers based on the perceived risks that they pose. Most of the passengers are always low risk, but this does not necessarily mean that they should be given blanket immunity in the process of screening. However, the management of the airports should find a way of knowing the low risk passengers so that their process of screening can be expedited. This can be done by having the data of the passengers every time they travel. When the authorities are convinced that they are aware of all relevant identity of specific passengers, and their reasons for travelling is known then such passengers should be classified as low risk passengers. The process of screening such passengers should be expedited. However, this does not mean that the screening process will be compromised among this group. The only advantage that they will have is that their process of screening will be shorter as they will not be subjected to a series of questioning. By speeding up the process of such passengers, there will be more time to deal with other passengers whose risk classification is not known or those classified as high risk passengers.

According to Volpe (2008), “We must put desired results at the center of our efforts, and if we want to keep bombs off of airplanes, it does not matter whether we use machines, dogs, intelligence or any combination thereof” (p. 72).

This scholar emphasizes the need to do everything possible to ensure that all threats in the aviation sector are eliminated. Some of the methods may be regarded as unconventional, but this scholar insists that when it comes to protecting lives, then any means that can offer effective solution is welcome. The terrorists attack on World Trade Center and Pentagon clearly demonstrated the conviction of the terrorists, and their new style of attack that targets the aviation sector. The Malaysian airline went missing with several passengers in one of the most mysterious circumstances. These are lives that should not be lost because some ill-minded criminals have the capacity of penetrating the aviation industry and finding their ways to our planes.

The stakeholders must realize that those who complain of the inconveniences caused by such security checks are the same people who will complain seriously when lives are lost. We need to protect the aviation industry by strengthening the screening process to eliminate the slightest possibility that criminals may find means of committing their crime through this sector.

It is important to use the information that can be collected from the relevant sources as a way of enhancing the speed of this process in order to boost the levels of customers’ satisfaction. Abeyratne (2010) says, “We need to make better use of the information that is available to assess the risk of the people, objects or situations that can pose threats” (p. 90). This scholar supports the idea of enhancing security at the airport with the help of information.

This would enhance the levels of satisfaction of the customers. As we use any means possible to protect the passengers, we should not be blind to how such processes may affect them. They are the same people that the authority seeks to protect, and therefore, if there is a way of protecting them without subjecting them to undue processes that may make them feel demeaned, then such procedures are always welcome.

Planning on How to Avert the Next Aviation Security Incident

According to Abeyratne (2010), the best way of averting aviation security incidents is to develop an effective plan on how to deal with them in case they occur. There are plans on how to avert future security incidents at most of the airports in the United Arab Emirates. The airport management authorities have embraced risk-based approach to aviation security.

According to Price and Forrest (2013), the Middle East region has been regarded as a very volatile region, especially with the rise in the number of Islamic extremists in various countries such as Syria and Iraq. For this reason, the aviation agencies in this country are forced to be on high alert in order to ensure that the aviation sector does not become their target. In its plan, the management has introduced new technological equipments that can be used to enhance security in the airport and the planes that land or take off within all the airports in the country.

The aviation authority has always based its security plans on the past incidents. These past incidents offer practical insight into the path that the threats may take in case they occur. For instance, the September 11 terrorists attack in the United States offered an important insight about the manner in which terrorists can execute their plan using the aviation sector. This has forced the stakeholders in this industry to develop plans that can be used to counter such moves.

The Malaysian airline that has gone missing is a further indication of the need to tighten security measures, especially when it comes to screening of the passengers. Recently a Malaysian airline MH17 was brought down in the war-torn eastern Ukraine by pro-Moscow rebels. This was another precedent set that has caused alarm as to the threats faced by airlines, especially when flying to volatile regions.

Changes to ICAO Rules and Regulations

The International Civil Aviation Organization has been responsible for developing rules and regulations to help improve security and safety in the aviation sector. When it was developed, this body’s major focus was on the standard requirements of the airplanes before they can be licensed to fly, and the classification of airport. However, this changed drastically following the terror attack in the United States in 2001. This incident forced the firm to introduce stringent measures in screening of the employees. Its new rules and regulations emphasize on the need to ensure that all passengers are thoroughly screened before they are allowed on board the planes. The use of puffer machines and x-ray machines have become a standard policy requirement set by this body.

This regulatory agency also strongly recommends the use of information-based screening. Other than using a blanket approach of screening the travelers, this agency recommends that the airport authorities should seek to get the relevant information about passengers as soon as they make their bookings. Passengers whose information is not very clear should be subjected to a series of screening to eliminate chances that they may pose a threat. The recent missile attack on the Malaysian airline has forced this body to issue strong advice against travelling to volatile regions.


Security has become a major issue in the aviation sector following the rise in cases of terrorism in various parts of the world. The stakeholders in this industry are concerned about the security of the passengers and all the people working in this sector. Risk-based approach to aviation security has been considered as the way forward in fighting insecurity posed by criminals or terrorists. This method allows the airport authority to gather relevant information about individual passengers in order to enhance effective screening.


Abeyratne, A. (2011). Aviation security measures in the modern world. Heidelberg: Springer. Web.

Abeyratne, R. (2010). Aviation security law. Heidelberg: Springer. Web.

Berrick, C. A. (2008). Transportation security: TSA has developed a risk-based covert testing program, but could better mitigate aviation security vulnerabilities identified through covert tests. Washington, D.C: Government Accountability Office. Web.

Bodden, V. (2006). The 9/11 terror attacks. Mankato, MN: Creative Education. Web.

Posner, R. A. (2005). Preventing surprise attacks: Intelligence reform in the wake of 9/11. Stanford, Calif: Hoover Institution, Stanford Univ. Web.

Price, J., & Forrest, J. (2013). Practical Aviation Security: Predicting and Preventing Future Threats. Oxford: Elsevier Science. Web.

Volpe, A. (2008). Aviation security dictionary. Trento: UNI service. Web.

Zellan, J. (2003). Aviation security: Current issues and developments. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science. Web.

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