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Aviation at UK Security Expo

The civil aviation regulator and a former airline head of security now a consultant spoke at the UK Security Expo 2016 last week on the UK’s changing approach to regulation of aviation security.

They were Andy Blackwell, pictured; and Peter Drissell, director of aviation security at the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Each spoke about SEMS (security management systems); Blackwell while at Virgin was one of the first companies to take up SEMS. Peter Drissell summed up that SEMS could be a ‘game-changing approach to aviation security regulation’, over the next several years, by looking at performance, and risk, and targeting where the risk is highest and the security performance least. The aim, once more companies and airports take the method up, is to do some ‘genuine benchmarking’ and so raise standards, Drissell went on.

What’s in it for the industry? The regulator could bring in ‘differentiated charging’, Drissell said, to rewards high-performing organisations, to incentivise good performance in a way the current system simply doesn’t allow, Drissell said.

Likewise Blackwell called for a focus where risk is the greatest; for example, on behavioural detection, ‘to find the bomber and the bomb. I think there is more we can do in that regard,” he told the London Olympia audience. He described himself as a great believer in behavioural detection, which he described as ‘a key weapon in our armoury’. Echoing another speaker at the event, British Transport Police Chief Insp Gary Ash who gave an update on the policing patrol tactic Servator, Blackwell spoke of the required right blend to disrupt and detect, and unpredictability in security. He stressed the need for performance metrics, although he admitted that getting such data was ‘challenging’.

He wondered if there was a use for ‘decoys’, to create the impression for terrorists that things could go wrong for them; such tactics, he suggested, were used in cyber-security, to slow down and misdirect computer hackers. He made the case for mentoring, and also on the ‘people’ theme, said that aviation like many other industries was very well aware of the threat posed by insiders. Among his other suggestions were more use of social media analytics; and ‘augmented reality’ for risk assessment. Too much complexity, he warned, could lead to a false sense of security. He welcomed the CAA’s performance-based oversight. Given often limited resources, there was a need to focus on where the need is greatest, ‘while creating a solid baseline of security measures. He ended as he began by quoting the recent United Nations security council resolution 2309 in September 2016 (and featured in the November 2016 print issue of Professional Security magazine, page 67), when the UN called on countries to work with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization).

He quoted from a speech by Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at the UN meeting, that we all depend on each other to provide a secure aviation environment; no country alone can safeguard what is by its very nature a global activity.

About the UK Security Expo

The 2017 event will run at at the same west London venue, on Wednesday and Thursday,November 29 and 30. Visit

The ICAO is running a first cyber summit from April 4 to 6, in Dubai. Visit


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