Julian Bray Aviation Security expert writes: Remembrance Sunday, 11th November 2015: As an interested observer of the shambolic events unfolding at Sharm-el-Sheikh Airport, it has been one human and PR disaster after another. In my various media reports, I have become increasingly concerned at the willingness of British holidaymakers to unlawfully hand over to a stranger just £15 to bypass queues and security checks. By doing so, and on the basis that 'a chain is as only strong as its weakest link' they effectively prove, there is no viable security at Sharm-el-Sheikh.
Simply if a smartly but casually dressed 'British jihadist ' with expensive looking luggage uses the illegal 'fast track' facility, it plays into terrorist hands as it effectively and totally bypasses the CCTV cameras, the screening and pat down process. Clearly several security cleared staff must be involved to make the scam work. I wrote a piece in 2010, for The Scotsman, little seems to have changed.. Click the link here.
Although we now hear the CCTV cameras were routinely abandoned and effective traffic flow is achieved by opening the barriers and waving through whole family groups. Especially if the security officer is taking a personal call on his/her cellphone. A toddlers 'Trunky' style ride on case is big enough to contain a huge explosive device.
The Egyptians having lost face in international circles, have now 'quite correctly' applied full security checks but it has to be the Egyptian version of 'working to rule.' TV footage of the pat down process seems to take twice as long as the same procedure at our UK Airports and Ports. Ask Royal Caribbean how they manage to turn around at Southampton a cruise ship such as the Independence of the Seas where the luggage of 4,000 souls can be collected, x-rayed, searched and sniffed in a matter of hours. The throughput is several times that of the Sharm-el-Shambles security process.
Clearly the only way to perform satisfactory luggage checks is to involve the individual passenger. Line up the individual pieces of luggage on the airport apron and let boarding passengers clearly identify their individual items and then, and only then, can it be cleared for loading into the hold. Yes it will delay the process, but we do live in dangerous times.
The situation with returning Brits is also highly problematical. Russia is now pulling its Nationals out of the entire country not just Sharm-el-Shambles. And as President Putin has asked ( and financially supported) the Egyptian military to assist, over 10,000 Russians have already returned home, whereas just 1,000 Brits have been repatriated.
This writer would be very surprised if the UK bound evacuation is completed by next weekend, the following weekend is more realistic. Simply as we seem to be limited to 2 evacuation flights a day for each UK carrier.
The Russians meanwhile have ALREADY flown out over 10,000 people and only decided to recall their nationals long after the UK started the process. It needs far more than a dozen UK embassy staff however well meaning in Union flag embossed hi-viz tabards running around the Sham passenger terminal.
The response and interaction with clients of the holiday companies and the airlines has been mixed. Some have given up on the customer communications process entirely, and tat home he situation is being inflamed by a series of poorly informed and downright misleading TV and Radio interviews by an ABTA- (Assn. of British Travel Agents) representative who seems to place 100 percent blinkered reliance on the travel advice offered by the Government FCO, but appears to be oblivious to what is actually happening on the ground, it is of little of practical value and just adds to the confusion.
How can it be right that the FCO says the town is safe but the approach to the airport and the airport isn't ? Neatly this political doublespeak, denies frustrated and near broke UK holidaymakers an immediate claim on their travel insurance. Declare the whole region a 'no go' area and that will immediately trigger insurance payouts. Possibly distribute pre-payment loaded credit cards to assist near to breaking point stranded Brits. The money can always be reclaimed at a later date.
However the problem might be about to resolve itself as some airlines and travel firms have simply had enough, and are about to pull the plug on their winter sun programmes to the entire region. This of course will have a devastating effect on the Egyptian tourist industry, which is a major contributor in both revenue and employment. But the reality is this is a tiny 'safe travel' zone completely surrounded by war and conflict zones, and a complex series of inter tribal insurgencies.
If 11-year-old children can walk the streets with a manpad shoulder mounted surface to air 'rocket propelled grenade launcher' and back street factories are busily churning out spares and ammunition and supporting a trade in repairing Kalashnikov rifles; then the region is a security risk and we as a nation should not needlessly be sending our families into harms way just for a some winter sun.
A much heralded media news conference was finally held yesterday afternoon, the worlds media duly attended. It was to be an official Egyptian update on the decoding of the two back box flight recorders, imagine our collective amazement when the platform party just consisted of one person, a government minister, instead of the scientists who are decoding the black boxes. "The committee members were all invited but refused to come" was the Ministers lame response.
A short statement was read basically confirming the flight was totally normal, climbing at 30,000ft, Autopilot ON, until seconds before the 'tape' ended at 23 minutes 14 seconds into the flight when a noise was heard. The Cockpit Voice Recorder containing 23mins 14secs of chatter between the pilots and air traffic control, but this seems to be beyond the wit of the Egyptians to supply a simple written transcript, "We need more time to write this......" It is well known in military circles 'ISIS' is seeking to perfect the 'explosives free' bomb, or rather wiping and sniffing for explosives will be frustrated as a cloaking agent will cancel out or mask any smell or residue. So for the Egyptians to rely on the 'figleaf 'of a explosives sniffer test as conclusive evidence of a bomb rather than mechanical malfunction is clearly very wrong, and on so many different levels. The rest of the World (well, say, 99percent) now believes it was a bomb .....
ABC INTERVIEW: http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/russian-airline-rules-out-mechanical-failure-or/6907142
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581, Aviation Expert, Journalist, Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations Expert, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 (ALL CODECS) e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 iPhone 0743 530 3145 www.aviationcomment.com Contrib. Account #104764 53 FEED: http://feeds.feedburner.com/BraysDuckhouseBlog