New and Potential Threats to Civil Aviation



While technological advances have produced a remarkable degree of safety in the air transportation system, unparalleled by any other means of trans-port, violent attacks against civil aviation have posed a man-made threat for which there are no simple technical solutions. Since terrorists came to the conclusion that aircraft hijacking was complicated and did not guaran-tee a successful outcome, the last decade has been marked by a most seri-ous eruption of sabotage bombings. Modem terrorism technology has bypassed the ability and resources of the airlines to defeat the sophisticated terrorist. Small amounts of plastic explosive are extremely difficult to detect and simple to slip into the luggage of an unsuspecting passenger. While this presents a vast danger, the future might be overshadowed by a new threat — missile attacks by terrorist groups against civilian aircraft. Some experts fear the use of surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), which are already known to be in the hands of many terrorist organisations. What is worse, as Paul Wilkinson points out, is the possibility of terrorists using chemical and biological weapons in their attacks on civil aviation.1 Although neither chemical nor biological weapons have been used by ter-rorists, who are well aware of the political price they would have to pay,2 the possibility of their use cannot be ruled out. However, previous experi-ence of missile attacks demonstrates that such attacks should be considered more seriously as a future threat. This Chapter provides an outline of such attacks and the future prospects for an international response.


Inertial Navigation System Crew Member Civil Aviation International Civil Aviation Organisation Flight Plan 
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© Jin-Tai Choi 1994

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