With the disappearance of Flight 370 dominating the news and no definitive cause established at this point, many potential theories of what happened are being explored. And will continue to be explored at least until the black boxes are found and the data analyzed. Although a catastrophic failure of the aircraft – either caused by a structural failure or an inflight electrical fire – is still a possible explanation for what happened, a number of clues have pointed to a deliberate act by someone familiar with aviation systems, either the crew itself or one or more passengers on board.
With terrorism or hijacking a likely possibility in this case – but always a factor to be considered whenever an aircraft crashes or goes missing - one of the issues for investigators to consider is access to the aircraft. Could someone have planted an explosive device while the aircraft was parked on the ramp? Could weapons have been secreted in an aircraft compartment for use by one or more passengers to carry out a hijacking? Could an aircraft system have been sabotaged?
Even if this particular aircraft disappearance does not end up involving ramp security, these are good questions to ask ourselves in reviewing our own ramp operations. How vulnerable are our aircraft and what could we do to decrease their vulnerability?
Of course, one of the critical keys to an effective security program is the vigilance of our employees and their willingness to report and challenge unusual behavior. I know this has been a particular challenge on many ramps due to employee turnover which not only tends to reduce the experience level on the airport but tends to make it more difficult to know who belongs and who doesn’t. So, just as I am concerned about employee turnover affecting safety, I am also concerned about its effects on security.