Upscale Aviation Security
By Dr. H.H.A. Cooper
"The real train of knowledge isn't a static entity that can be stopped
It's always going somewhere."- Robert M. Pirsig
security is never a static entity. It is always going somewhere.
To the instructed eye, it sometimes appears to be traveling backwards.
This area of security has always been strongly driven by economics.
It has also fallen victim, on occasion, to both complacency and
hubris. Curiously, the primary focus of aviation security has always
been the commercial sector. Certainly, that is where, largely, action
has been in the past. Yet the real vulnerability, in both quantitative
and qualitative terms, has been in the area of general aviation.
That this has not yet been exploited, as might have been expected,
ought not to lull those accustomed to riding the train of knowledge
as well as the occasional corporate jet. Recent developments in
this field prompt another look at a subject that has remained largely
dormant since that far-sighted seer, David Hubbard, directed his
tiny spotlight upon it some two decades ago.
company airplane is no novelty of our times. This sturdy workhorse,
in all its many metamorphoses, has long ferried the captains of
industry and commerce from one business deal to the next, easing
the tedium, shrinking the globe, and providing its own useful measure
of status to the powerful and privileged. But in the conspicuously
ostentatious '90s, the private, customized aircraft has become the
principal status symbol of the Rich and Famous. From a security
perspective, nothing can be more dangerous than blatantly advertising
wealth, and, cavalierly, exciting envy. The '90s axiom 'If you have
it, flaunt it,' is not merely vulgar, it is the competent security
director's nightmare. Aviation, by its very nature, is highly vulnerable.
Why make things easier for the bad guys by flying in the face of
the wise injunction to keep a low profile?
December, 1995 Vanity Fair, (an indispensable source fo the savvy
business intelligence professional), carries an article entitled
"Jet Compulsion". It is unusually informative and calculated
to send cold shivers down the spine of anyone entrusted with the
security of the jet set. It details many of the habits and the preferences
of the favored few able to indulge their fancies with these expensive
toys. And for those too lazy to read the entire text so as to figure
things out for themselves, the article has a concise list of Who
Flies What? What is set down, here, is truly a mouthwatering array
of alluring targets and upscale aviation. Is it really reasonable
to suppose that only the good guys and gals read Vanity Fair? Nor,
it must be pointed out, is this investigative journalism of the
kind designed to dig out what others would wish to keep hidden.
This is a kind of boastful showing-off on the part of those who
collaborated with the author in putting this piece together; 'my'
plane flies farther and faster than yours; is more luxurious; unique;
more me than anything you (poor thing) might have dreamed up! These
stellar moguls and celebrities would be aghast and, perhaps, even
disdainful were it pointed out to them how they might be contributing
to their own victimization. No good security professional would
need any such instruction, the evidence speaks for itself.
who have familiarized themselves with developments in aviation security
over the past three decades will be in for a real surprise on reading
the body of the article. The received wisdom of the security-conscious
'70s recommended the removal of all, nonessential identifying features
from general aviation at risk. Corporate entities dutifully removed
their logos and other distinguishing paintwork. While it was never
all that difficult to identify an IBM or a TI corporate aircraft
these sensible measures did make it a little less easy for potential
mischief-makers. Now, these prudent trends have been reversed in
the most exaggerated way possible. What is now being essayed by
customizers and those who engage their services is truly astounding
from a security perspective.
are seriously told of "the painting of a new GIV-SP owned by
Nike in black, red, and gray, the colors of the company's new sneakers;
the underpart of the fuselage will be painted to look like the sole
of the shoe." Great advertising, and surely the IRS will be
satisfied as to the business purposes of the venture on that account
alone. But this is not the Goodyear Blimp. This is a highly sophisticated,
long-range aircraft capable of carrying valuable, vulnerable loads
of human beings to far-off parts on a regular basis. Should they
also be so obviously noticeable? There are, sadly, places in this
country where people have been brutally murdered to steal the latest
Nike products from their feet. Were security considerations never
taken into account in this matter? Or is this, to parody the old
nursery rhyme simply the case of an executive who always wanted
to live in a shoe, because he had so much money, he didn't know
what to do?
pantheon of personalities, whose deals and doings are regularly
set forth on the glossy pages of Vanity Fair and, often enough,
depicted on its covers, are an alluring target for terrorists and
common criminals alike, amateur or professional. Targeting is not
some arcane art. It faithfully obeys the old, succinctly stated
Willie Sutton principles: it's where it's at that counts. Nowadays,
the sumptuously appointed corporate or private jet is, often enough,
where it is all at, and highly visible to boot. Were these hard
targets, such advertisement, though risky, might be pardoned on
account of the protection provided. Expert appraisal offers no such
assurance. Personal and professional tragedy awaits; Murphy's Law
is not idle doomsaying. It is shocking degradation of security.
Perhaps Tinseltown simply does not care, but the rest of corporate
America should. Security directors and managers of protective services
are among the hardest working executives in the modern business
world. They rarely welcome challenges having the effect of making
their jobs even harder. They are often responsible for seeing to
the protection of some of the wealthiest, highest paid talent in
this country, a priceless national resource. They are unlikely to
have been consulted by the brilliant customizers, and interior and
exterior decorators of today's jet set. But they should be. Those
unwilling to learn the lessons of history are condemned to repeat
the semester. If they are still around.
President, Nuevevidas International, Inc., Dallas, Texas has been
actively engaged in the field of aviation security for more than
20 years. He is vice President and Certification for A.S.E.T.
Copyright © 2003, Executive Protection Institute