Moscow attack may cause security rethink worldwide
Jan. 25, 2011, Brussels, Bel. - The suicide attack on Moscow's Domodedovo airport may prompt a reevaluation of how to protect airport terminals but is unlikely to result in tougher security measures, pilots and aviation security experts said Tuesday.
January 25, 2011 By The Associated Press
Analysts warned that the large crowds that gather at airports' public areas are an easy target for terrorists. But it's virtually impossible to screen them because many airports have been turned into commercial centres, with shops, food courts, train stations and other facilities.
"Airport security needs to be thorough but it also needs to be rational, and the truth is that we can never make any airport totally impervious to attack,'' said Patrick Smith, a commercial airline pilot and aviation author.
"Like any crowded public space, be it a subway station or a shopping mall or a football stadium, an airport will always have inherent vulnerabilities.''
Monday's attack in Domodedovo's international arrivals area killed 35 people and wounded 180.
Most airports in the West don't restrict access to the terminals, which are considered public areas. Security screening only takes place once the passengers enter the departure areas.
But in some countries, like Israel, Jordan or Pakistan, police roadblocks situated several kilometres from the airport parking lots prescreen arriving passengers and others, before allowing them to proceed.
Analysts said the Domodedovo attack appeared to be the first time terrorists have tried to exploit unrestricted public access to the terminals since the failed bombing of the airport in Glasgow, Scotland, in 2007. Attackers there tried to crash a Jeep loaded with explosives through the entrance doors, but the bomb did not go off.
Philip Baum, editor of Aviation Security International, a London-based publication dedicated to security issues, said expanding the airport's security perimeter as in Tel Aviv was desirable but would be difficult to replicate in Europe or America.
"So many of our airports now are commercial enterprises which have to maximize their earnings,'' he said. "They have food courts, shopping centres, train stations all located together, and any effort to control access would have a major impact on the airport's bottom line.''
Domodedovo continued operating with just a 20-minute interruption. Many air crews and passengers in the secure departure and arrival areas at the time were not even aware of the blast.
Pilots said this underscored the dilemma in securing such transport hubs — which by definition attract large numbers of people — while simultaneously keeping them accessible to the public.