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Enhancing the aviation security outcome - the way forward

The development of aviation security measures has focussed on protecting jet turbine powered aircraft used for RPT services. When these measures were mandated jet turbine powered aircraft were significantly and consistently larger than the turbo propeller aircraft then operating in Australia. For example, in 2003, the smallest jet aircraft operating domestic RPT services was the 100-seat Fokker F28; while the largest turbo propeller aircraft was the 50 seat Dash 8-300. As a result passenger and baggage screening were mandated for jet turbine powered aircraft, but not for turbo propeller powered aircraft providing RPT services.

Advances in technology and changes in market dynamics have seen a change in this structure. The introduction of smaller jet turbine powered aircraft and the increases in passenger capacity of turbo propeller powered aircraft have blurred the difference between types of aircraft. The difference in seating capacity, size and speed between the smallest RPT jet aircraft and the largest RPT turbo propeller aircraft operating in Australia has narrowed significantly. Also, a number of aircraft manufacturers have foreshadowed development of turbo propeller powered aircraft with seating capacity in excess of 90 passengers. The Government believes differential security treatment of jet turbine and turbo propeller powered aircraft is no longer appropriate and will therefore change the basic determinant in triggering security requirements in the aviation sector.

Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW) as primary determinant of aviation security settings

It is essential to establish a clear and transparent means of distinguishing a threshold for the implementation of security measures at airports and for aircraft. The Government has reviewed a number of attributes to determine the most appropriate trigger for security measures including aircraft range, seating capacity, fuel load, speed and Maximum Takeoff Weight (MTOW). The appropriate trigger must reflect the likelihood and consequence of these threats, be easily determined, and be applicable across the industry.

The likelihood of an aircraft being subjected to a terrorist attack will, in part, be driven by its size, the number of passengers on board, the capacity of the aircraft to reach attractive ground targets from its departure point and the capacity of the aircraft to cause catastrophic damage to buildings and other infrastructure if used as a weapon. International assessments indicate large civilian aircraft operating RPT air services are the most likely categories of aircraft to be the subject of a terrorist attack designed to either destroy the aircraft in flight or hijack the aircraft and use it as a weapon against a ground target.

The key risk drivers for a terrorist attack are the number of passengers on board and the kinetic energy of the aircraft. Aircraft with larger passenger numbers and a higher weight are therefore more likely to be targeted.

The jet turbine powered Embraer 170 and the turbo propeller powered Bombardier Dash-8 Q400, introduced in to Australia over the last several years are broadly comparable. Both aircraft can be configured to carry 78 passengers, and although the Embraer has marginally greater weight, speed and range, their operational characteristics and security risk profile are similar. Figure 8.2 shows the comparative range of the two aircraft.

Under the current settings, passengers using the Dash-8 Q400 are not subject to the same security requirements as those on comparably sized jet aircraft as regulations only require jet turbine powered aircraft to be fully screened. In this context the Government has examined the structure of the current aviation fleet to determine the most appropriate determinant of security requirements.

MTOW is the maximum weight of an aircraft where it is deemed to meet all airworthiness requirements for safe take-off and flight. Regardless of the number of passengers on board an aircraft, the MTOW does not vary, because the MTOW is predicated on a full load of passengers, luggage and freight, taking into account maximum fuel load, the maximum cargo load and the weight of the airframe. This figure is determined at the point of manufacture based on the configuration and specification of the aircraft.

Recognising that using MTOW as a trigger for security control will result in additional costs to industry, the Government will introduce a phased implementation of new thresholds for the introduction of measures such as compulsory passenger and baggage screening for RPT and open charter services. Initially the MTOW trigger will be set at 30,000kg, moving to 20,000kg by 1 July 2014. The Government will work closely with industry to ensure an effective transition to the new requirements. The Government will also examine, in consultation with the aviation sector, the feasibility of extending MTOW as a trigger for closed charter operations, noting the growth in use of large aircraft for closed charter flights in support of the mining and oil and gas sectors, particularly in northern and north-west Australia.


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