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The Art of Aviation Security

The Art of Aviation Security

by Robert P. Mark

“We shouldn’t define security risks by country,” says Deborah Jacob,

managing partner at San Mateo, Calif.-based BizJet Security. “A broad

brushstroke simply will not work. Every country has some safe areas, as

well as places that are not.

“Before a trip begins, a company really needs to have its ear to the

ground outside the U.S. We often gather our intelligence from public

sources initially. But in the oil and gas industry, for example, we speak to

project security people who are right there in the middle of things to learn

about local politics, the regional direction of labor and religious organizations.

But a good security company can only assess the risk. They can’t tell

you whether or not to make the trip.”

She reminds clients that when flying a U.S. aircraft into a foreign country,

“The bad guys already know who you are when you arrive. Even though most

operators take the flags off the tail of the aircraft, they retain the N numbers.”

Jacob believes that while large companies often have vast intelligence

networks, “the answers [they get] are often 180 degrees out of sync with

reality. Gathering good security information is not science; it’s an art. Actually,

sometimes, it’s a best guess. We ask a lot of questions and also ask

‘what if’ constantly. It’s a healthy exercise. It’s what pilots do all the time.

You gather as much intelligence as possible and then sift through it all to

look for the sources that have a vested interest in one perspective or another.

You try to err on the side of caution.”

Jacob acknowledges that 9/11 changed attitudes toward security. However,

she maintains that the reevaluation had begun much earlier. “The real

change began with the taking of hostages by the Iranians in 1979. Before

that, U.S. citizens often thought they were wrapped in the American flag

anywhere they went. [With the hostage crisis] it was clear that we couldn’t

simply call the State Department for help. When you feel overwhelmed by a

situation, there’s a message there. That’s when you still have the power to

mitigate a significant portion of the risk.” –R.P.M.

40aaAviation International News • May 2007 • www.ainonline.com

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