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1100 security breaches at 5 UK airports

27.09.08

Five UK airports had more than 1100 potentially dangerous safety and security incidents during 2007, the BBC reports. Documents obtained by the BBC for Belfast International, Manchester, Birmingham, Heathrow and Glasgow Airport show 1100 incidents that did or could have endangered an aircraft or its occupants. However, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said the severity of reported events varies, and warned against drawing conclusions from a 'simple assessment' of numbers.

There were just under one million commercial flights through the five airports during the year. Following a request from the BBC under the Freedom of Information Act, the CAA revealed that there were over 1100 Mandatory Occurrence Reports at the five hubs during 2007. These record incidents that either put passengers, crew and aircraft at risk or which would have done so without correction.

During 2007 there were 67 security breaches - both passenger and baggage related - 10 of which involved planes being left unattended and unlocked. On 7 occasions, passengers were able to get through departure gates without their boarding passes being checked. In one case at Heathrow, a group with tickets to Singapore boarded a flight to Mumbai. The mistake was only discovered when one passenger found someone else in what he believed was his seat.

There were also 49 reports of 'altitude deviation,' where planes flew at the wrong height as a result of air traffic control mistakes, pilot error, faults with equipment, or adverse weather conditions. The minimum vertical separation is 1000 feet, and if two aircraft are less than 700 feet apart, then the event must be reported.

The BBC reports that some of the safety incidents revealed by the CAA were entirely avoidable. One seemed to have arisen as a result of the pilot bringing a packed lunch into the cockpit. A small round object rolled out from under the pedals which had been causing ‘restriction to the rudder control’. It turned out to be a plum. On another flight, the offending object was a jar of jam.

The incidents are to be discussed on the Donal MacIntyre programme on BBC Radio 5 live at 19:00 tomorrow (Sunday September 28).

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