The Sydney Morning Herald reports – Sydney Australia : The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines MH370 10 days ago highlights six mainly aviation security problems that need to be addressed.
The first was on the ground, with lax passport checking against the Interpol stolen passport database – although that probably would not have affected the outcome here.
Second was information management, which raised hopes and dashed them again, and created confusion about what to believe and what not to believe. For example, for several days we were told by Malaysia Airlines that there were five no-shows for Flight MH370 whose baggage was offloaded. Malaysian police later said this was incorrect and there were not any no-shows. Malaysia withheld for several days vital ACARS and transponder information that could have helped the countries searching for the aircraft, and so on. Malaysia was not helped by the international media continually publicising advice from technical experts, leaks from inside the investigation, and sniping from the sidelines.
Third, we need to revisit the cockpit door issue. Reinforcing the door was a good idea to keep out 9/11-style hijackers, but undermined by the door being opened for toilet needs, refreshment breaks, and crew handovers on long-haul flights. Someone on the cockpit side of the reinforced door can now keep out anyone trying to gain access to the cockpit for the right reasons. This happened as recently as last month, when the co-pilot of an Ethiopian Airlines plane flying from Addis Ababa to Rome locked the pilot out of the cockpit and flew the plane to Switzerland to seek asylum.
Fourth is the mental health of the pilots, which should be regularly reviewed – possibly every six months. I have heard from pilots that flying long distance on autopilot is excruciatingly boring and can cause fixation and stress problems. There appear to be inadequate studies on the effects of frequent long-haul flights on pilots or, for that matter, the health effects on flight crew of regular high-altitude cosmic and solar radiation exposure.
Fifth, no one on an aircraft should be able to disable the ACARS or transponder (as the 9/11 hijackers also did).
Sixth is the issue of Air Security Officers (ASOs) or flight marshals on international flights. Governments, including the Australian government, have been cutting back funding in this area and it is probable now that not more than 5 per cent of international flights have ASOs on board. An ASO on Flight MH370 could have made a difference – provided, of course, he or she was able to open the cockpit door.
Clive Williams is a Visiting Professor at the ANU’s Centre for Military and Security Law and an Adjunct Professor at Macquarie University’s Centre for Policing, Intelligence and Counter Terrorism (PICT).