Julian Bray Aviation Security expert writes: It is thought that some 15% of air travellers are at any one time, covertly in possession of self defence aerosol type CSGas (tear gas) or Mace sprays. If packed with say toiletries in a suitcase they would look like any normal aerosol imaged under x-ray. Both Mace (teargas) and CS gas sprays, are illegal in the UK, but legal and openly sold on mainland Europe.
They are also on the prohibited list for carriage by airlines.
I watched the evacuation unfold, and also delivered a concise live news update for television and radio news. What struck me was the number of high viz tabards visible and what appeared to be a gentle marshalling exercise, meanwhile on social media fronts, frequent complaints of 'no information being issued by officials' which is slightly unfair, as two detailed airport wide sweeps were in progress, to try and properly establish what had just happened.
In the UK a number of 'legal' dye marker gas sprays for self- defence are on Internet sale . The incident at London City airport, when at around 4pm on Friday (October 21st 2016) a 'Chemical Incident' was declared, and is thought to have been caused by a discarded tear gas canister that a passenger had forgotten to pack in his/her luggage and belatedly realised the departure x-ray security check would pick it up. So he/she just dumped it, but it 'accidentally discharged' near to the main check in area.
Two people were taken to hospital, suffering from respiratory problems, and some 500 people rapidly but safely evacuated from the Airport building, as a pre-rehearsed Major Incident Plan was put into operation by the airport management and emergency services. Responders say it was a 'textbook, well co-ordinated' operation.
A statement later released by first responders: “Emergency services responded to evacuation, citing a possible chemical incident. Firefighters and police officers jointly conducted sweeps of the airport building.
“The search of the airport led to the discovery of what is believed to be a CS gas spray. Whilst the cause of the incident has yet to be confirmed, officers are investigating whether it was the result of an accidental discharge of the spray.
“The airport was declared safe and reopened at approximately 7pm. Passengers are advised to contact their airline for the latest information regarding their flights.”
A London Fire Brigade spokesman said "two complete sweeps of the airport building" were carried out jointly by firefighters and police officers wearing protective equipment.
He added: "No elevated readings were found and the building was ventilated, searched and declared safe."
Paramedics and ambulance staff trained to treat people in hazardous 'HAZCHEM' situations also attended the scene.
More than thirty British Airways flights in and out of the City Airport were cancelled, and others heavily delayed.
BA told passengers: “London City airport has been evacuated this afternoon and our flights will experience some disruption as a result.
“We are awaiting for more information from the fire service, police and the airport authorities at London City and are keeping the situation under review.
“If your flight is still operating please allow plenty of time to travel to the airport as transport to and from the terminal is heavily congested.”
Because the delays and cancellations are due to “extraordinary circumstances”, passengers are not entitled to cash compensation.
JULIAN BRAY +44(0)1733 345581 Aerospace & Incident Management Expert, Journalist & Broadcaster, Aviation Security & Airline Operations, Travel / Maritime & Cruise Industry, NUJ, EQUITY, LIVE ISDN LINK, Broadcast ISDN COOBE ++44 (0)1733 345020 e&oe Old faithful NOKIA: 07944 217476 www.aviationcomment.com