Cargo planes the 'Achilles heel' of airline security: expert
Cargo planes have "always been the Achilles heel" of aviation security, an expert warned Saturday after an international alert sparked by suspect packages on planes headed for the United States.
"The whole issue of cargo security has been up in the air for a long time, almost since 2001," Chris Yates, security editor at Jane's Aviation, told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper.
"It is very difficult to examine certain sized containers in any depth, given the technology. Cargo planes have always been the Achilles heel."
He continued: "The depth of vision for security technology looking at those containers is minimal.
"There are a whole series of questions to be asked about security when cargo is transported to an airport, held at an airport and then transported on."
Suspect packages were discovered Friday on cargo planes in transit for the United States, one in Dubai and the other in Britain's East Midlands airport.
US President Barack Obama said the packages came from Yemen, contained explosives and represented a "credible terrorist threat."
Former British interior minister John Reid told the BBC Saturday that there was a "huge and continuing threat from terrorism" and said that despite calls this week from airlines to scale back security, airports must stay vigilant.
"We've got to get away from this idea that if we go a period of time without an incident like this that somehow we can reduce vigilance and reduce security at airports," he said.
Reid said it was unclear whether, as some reports suggested, the Yemen packages were some kind of practice run but he added that it would be "unwise to assume that because we have detected these two that there aren't any more out there."
© 2010 AFP