25th Anniversary Of Pan Am 103 Reminds Us Of Importance Of Cargo Handling

[EDITOR’S NOTE: During the recent holidays, we didn’t deliver our e-newsletter with the same frequency. Here’s a blog that John wrote that we weren’t able to publish until today.]

I have often said that there are no unimportant jobs in aviation. While much of the glory goes to pilots and to some extent air traffic controllers, every job – including jobs on the ramp – are critical to air safety.

I have been thinking about this as this past weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the downing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.  As most of you know, the Boeing 747 was brought down by an explosive devise inside luggage that was placed in the cargo hold.

The investigation of this crash did not indicate that baggage handlers could have identified the particular luggage as suspicious or that someone on the ramp was involved, although there was at least some indication that an airline worker assisted the perpetrators.  But in the years since Pan Am 103 and 9/11 we are all too keenly aware that every vulnerability in an aviation operation could be exploited by people out to harm us.

Baggage handlers and other ramp workers are a line of defense if we encourage them to note and report unusual activity.  They know the operation and can often see things that are odd or unusual before others who don’t work on the ramp or in the baggage room day in and day out.  Unusual activity may not end up indicating anything nefarious, but noting it, reporting it and looking into it serves as a deterrent to those who may be testing an operation’s vulnerability.