aircraft security

Management of Aircraft Security Search in Air Transport


Aircraft security search is a critical component of ensuring the safety and integrity of air travel. In an era where aviation security concerns are paramount, the meticulous process of conducting aircraft security searches plays a pivotal role in detecting and preventing potential threats such as suspect explosive devices and weapons. This comprehensive guide delves into the essential guidelines and procedures that underpin effective aircraft security searches, addressing the need for thoroughness, precision, and vigilance in safeguarding both passengers and aviation assets.

Conducting Aircraft Searches for Suspect Explosive Devices and Weapons

The regular search of aircraft for suspect explosive devices and weapons should be conducted prior to commencing each flight as applicable via the airline concern security manual. A similar search will be required when an aircraft is suspected of being the target of an act of unlawful interference. The difference between the two types is only in the degree of thoroughness of search undertaken, and the total circumstances applicable to each situation.

Development of Aircraft Search Procedure Checklists

The large number of aircraft in service throughout the world makes it impossible to provide guidance for recommended aircraft inspection procedures that will be adequate in all cases. Aircraft operators should develop an aircraft search procedure checklist for each type of aircraft in service and include this checklist as part of the flight crew security kit. The use of such a checklist by ground crews will be particularly helpful at locations where the only persons familiar with the particular type of aircraft or configuration of aircraft are flight deck and cabin crew members.

Selection of Aircraft Parking Position for Searches

The designated isolated aircraft parking position at airports will likely prove to be the best location on the airport at which an aircraft subjected to a specific threat can be searched, but contingency plans should recognize that it may not always be possible to access this position. Regular searches normally conducted prior to each flight may be carried out while the aircraft is in the normal gate or apron parking position.

Conditions for Carrying Out Aircraft Searches

Aircraft searches should be carried out in good lighting conditions this may require the use of auxiliary power units or the attachment of ground power lines to the aircraft. It will be necessary to impose and maintain control of access to the aircraft before starting the search, which should be carried out with the minimum number of persons on board.

Systematic Approach to Aircraft Searches

To avoid duplication of effort the search of an aircraft should be conducted systematically by staff familiar with the particular aircraft, provided with a checklist and assigned to specific areas of the aircraft. Attention should be given to those areas to which passengers have / had access, such as main cabins, galley areas and toilets, but the search should also include the flight deck exterior of the aircraft and cargo holds.

Strict Control of Access Before and During Searches

Before starting the search, strict control of access must be implemented to the aircraft being searched. This is necessary to ensure devices are not introduced into the aircraft once it has been cleared. Control of access must then be maintained until the aircraft doors are closed prior to push back.

Procedures for Handling Suspected Devices

Searchers should be briefed not to touch suspicious objects but to notify the search coordinator, mark the location with a prominent object (but not touching the device) and withdraw from the immediate area to await further instructions. When a suspect device is discovered the possibility of secondary devices should not be discounted.

Procedures for Handling Suspected Devices

Hand-held communications are useful for coordination of the search and are often the only way of ensuring appropriate and speedy lifesaving procedures for search and evacuation. However, once a suspect device has been located those using hand-held communications should immediately move away and ensure that they and anyone else in the area move outside the cordon as quickly as possible. Radios should not be used to transmit within 25 meters of a suspect device.

Opening and Closing of Aircraft Doors and Access Points

All entrance doors, hatches, inlet and exhaust ducts, service and access doors, etc., must be opened to allow the necessary access to all areas to be inspected. However, a check must be made to ensure that all doors and covers which were opened for inspection purposes are closed at the conclusion of the search.

Read More About Factors that affect aircraft performance

Identifying Suspect Explosive Devices

It is difficult to give guidance to search teams about the appearance of suspect explosive devices as they can be disguised in many ways. Search teams should be briefed to look for unidentified objects or anything:

  • That should not be there
  • That cannot be accounted for
  • That is out of place.

Regulatory Authority and Procedures

As per procedure in Pakistan PCAA is the authorized regulatory body through ASF / Bomb Disposal Unit as applicable on the subject matter besides airline concern security policy and National requirement of state of registry of aircraft.

Regulatory Authority and Procedures

As recommended the following areas of aircraft are required to be checked as per level of threat/search level.


Seats, including pouches, cushions and underside of seats.
Log book and flight manual stowage
Crew oxygen mask stowage
Entire floor, including area forward of rudder pedals and beneath all flight deck areas.
Ceiling, side and rear walls
Life-jacket stowage
Crew coatroom and luggage stowage area
Table and drawer of third crew member’s position
Area around rudder/brake pedals
Inside first-aid kit


Stairway including underside
Connection of stair to fuselage, as well as shelf at this point
Escape chute stowage
Cabin attendant seat, lift-raft stowage and seat back
Forward windscreen and storage unit, including compartments
Oxygen mask compartment
Ceiling and wall
Fire extinguisher stowage


Walls, ceiling and floor
Overhead baggage storage – entire area with baggage removed
Compartments above baggage rack and coatroom
Drinking fountain, cup dispenser, cup disposal compartment and drain valve access
Area above and along sidewall of stowage compartment, forward side of forward toilet


Coatrooms and enclosed mask and vest stowages
Flight attendants’ and passengers’ seats (including underside of seats)
Passenger berth
Ceiling, floor and walls
Crew and passenger lift vest stowages
Portable oxygen stowage cupboard
Seats (pouches and oxygen mask compartment)
Table between rear lounge chairs and its compartment
Escape chute stowage
Literature containers


Remove all containers, food boxes and ovens, if not already done
Open and inspect all galley compartments, bar and refrigerator
Inspect containers removed from galley and bar
Oxygen mask stowage (bar)
Galley service door (tape stowage; hinge recess)
Escape chute stowage
Compartments above service doors


Remove soiled and waste material not already removed
Remove containers under sinks, inspect contents and areas around sink
Inspect towel compartment
Tissue dispenser
Mirror and compartments
Walls, ceiling and floor
Oxygen mask stowage
Access to drinking fountain
Waste water receptacle


Seats (pouches, oxygen mask stowage, cushions and underside of seats)
Pillow racks, blankets and hand rail
Floor – do not remove carpet unless presence of foreign object is suspected
Side walls, including windows and curtains
Bulkheads and foot recesses and oxygen mask stowage
Light recesses
Compartments at aft end of each handrail
Compartments behind rear cabin seats
Stretcher equipment stowage above hat rack
Demonstration life vest stowage
Emergency escape rope compartments
Escape chute stowages
Main door and recess with door closed
Magazines racks
Life raft stowages
Life vest pouches
Passenger berths
Oxygen cabinet
Cargo tie-down stowage
Literature containers
First-aid kit, only if unsealed
Passenger oxygen service units – drop them down and inspect
Oxygen and CO2 cylinder stowage drawers, forward sides of galleys and toilets
Over wing emergency exit release covers
Aft entry door cabin attendant’s seat
Drinking fountain, cup dispenser, cup disposal compartment and drain valve access at floor.
Portable emergency exit lights – remove light and inspect.


Remove all containers, food boxes and ovens, if not already done
Open and inspect all galley compartments, bar and refrigerator
Inspect all containers removed from the aircraft
Walls, ceiling and floor
Glass stowage in bulkhead forward of bar
First-aid kit in compartment aft side of aft unit – only if unsealed
Compartment above service door
Service door and recess
Escape chute stowages
Cabin attendants’ seats in aisle No. 2 galley
Oxygen mask compartment in ceiling
Portable emergency exit light, remove light and inspect.


Flight attendant’s seat
Galley – remove all containers
Open and inspect all compartments
Walls, ceiling and floor
Compartments in front bulkhead
Inspect containers removed from aircraft
Diplomatic mail locker
Galley service door hinge recess
Escape slide stowages (each door)
Aft entrance door hinge recess
Lift raft stowages
Oxygen bottle ceiling stowage


Remove soiled and waste material
Remove and inspect container under sink
Inspect sink and area round sink
Towel container
Tissue dispenser
Toilet seat and lid
Mirror and compartments
Flight attendants’ seat
Walls, ceiling and floor
Oxygen mask stowage
Access to drinking fountain
Waste water receptacle


Remove coats and hand baggage
Inspect entire area
Sky cots and flight cradles
Oxygen mask stowage
Fist-aid kit, only if unsealed
Lift vest stowage


Entire compartment, especially area of hollow spaces and cavities


Entire compartment as well as all installations


Fuselage (the areas behind/in the following doors and openings should be checked)

Ground pneumatic connector panel
Cabin compressor air-inlets
Cabin compressor access panels
Doppler navigation antenna door
Cabin compressor air-outlets
Heat exchangers control access panels
Heat exchanger outlet guide vanes
Radio rack air-outlet
Beacon-holder (beacon removed)
Security locker and contents
Flashlights (check batteries)
Seals of first-aid kits for proper condition
Seals of lift raft panels for proper condition
Accessory compartment door
Auxiliary tank fuel sump doors
Cabin pressure safety valves
Aft waste water service panel
Cabin pressure regulator valve
Aft waste system service panels
Access door to stabilizer-mechanism
Tail cone access door
Aft potable water service panel
Aft cargo doors
Forward cargo doors
Forward potable water service panel
Ground air conditioning connector door
External power fuser door
External power receptacle


Forward cargo compartment, especially area underneath hinge snap-panel of cargo door floor covering.
Waste water tank compartment
Flight-kit boxes
Aft cargo compartment (especially area of cargo door hinge joints)
Area immediately behind aft cargo compartment


Nose wheel well – area behind access and zip-fastener panels
Entire main wheel wells and zone of wing roots LH + RH
Gears, wheel – tires, rims, brakes and parts such as struts, drag-braces, beams, arms, actuators, frames and trucks.


Trailing edge flap sections
Snap-covers to fuel X-feed tube
Snap-covers to fire-extinguisher bottles
Pressure refuelling adapters
Inspection snap-covers
Fuel vent openings


Engine air-intake, exhaust and fan-duct
Engine oil and pneumatic heat exchanger air-inlet scoop
Engine oil refill cover
Engine heat exchanger air-outlet door
Constant speed driver oil refill cover
Open engine cowl doors and fan cascade vanes. Entire engine installation and all openings on the cowl doors and pylons to be checked.



  • ICAO Annex -17
  • Bomb Reconnaissance course No.BR-21, FCDTS Karachi -1998.
  • MANPADS Mitigation course- GoP-MoI, Islamabad – 2009
  • State Safety Program –PCAA NCASP 2009


Zia Ullah sheikh

Assistant Manager (Admin & Security)

Gerry’s dnata Islamabad airport (Dec 2013)

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