Message from the Director General

Angela Gittens by Angela Gittens | Sep 12, 2019

Airport security challenges

Innovation in aviation security is a priority for ACI and its member airports in all regions. Threats against civil aviation require proactive mitigation measures supported by effective risk assessments. As threats and risk change quickly, both industry and government face challenges trying to implement effective security measures in a timely manner.

Many of today’s security measures are a direct result of reactive security being ‘bolted-on’ in airport infrastructure in response to the latest threat and not being considered, or being considered too late, in the airport design phase. The timeline for testing and approval of new equipment is usually long, so a solution to a problem may be found only after the new threat has been identified.

In parallel, existing airport infrastructure cannot handle expected growth. ACI expects that passenger traffic will grow at an annualized rate of 4.1% and reach 20.9 billion by 2040. Many airports are near, at, or even exceeding their design capacities, causing congestion, lower levels of service, and passenger frustration.

Industry solutions

In October 2017, ACI and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) launched a joint initiative called New Experience Travel Technologies or NEXTT. This initiative brings together concepts and ideas that will transform the passenger and cargo journey to best fit and cater for tomorrow’s demand. NEXTT will define how technology and advanced processes can deliver the needed service and capacity enhancements to the entire ground journey.

For instance, NEXTT is researching how advanced processing technology such as tracking and identification, robotics, and automation can improve safety, security, and the customer experience. It also considers how data can better be used through predictive modelling and artificial intelligence for real-time decision making and improved efficiency.

One of the projects that falls under the NEXTT umbrella is ACI’s Smart Security programme. Smart Security identifies innovative solutions, shares best practices and drives change in passenger and baggage screening.

Many of the automated solutions we see at checkpoints today such as automated tray return systems and parallel loading were solutions proposed by Smart Security.  Best practices for remote image processing were also developed by Smart Security, drawing on experience from early adopters around the world.  Developing technologies such as Explosive Detection Systems for cabin baggage (EDS-CB), including 3D screening using Computed Tomography (CT), are also being studied to help further development and adoption.

ACI has this month launched a revamp of the Smart Security programme, which will consider not only technology and processes available today, but will also look to the future with a new long-term vision. We will re-think the way that we view airport and aviation security and will look to encompass technologies that we see on the horizon.

Government solutions

There are areas where significant opportunities exist within the control of national authorities to address airport security challenges and encourage a climate of innovation.

First, by making national aviation security rules less prescriptive. Prescriptive regulations are often based on past and current risk (including available mitigations) and cannot adapt easily to take account of new threats and solutions. Security regulations should be performance and outcome based; that is, they should determine the objective to be reached, but not define in detail how it should be reached. This approach should be coupled with strong oversight and a collaborative approach to identifying, assessing and addressing risks.

Second, by conducting impact assessments and consulting with industry. Before implementing new measures, their pros and cons vs. alternative solutions should be assessed, alongside costs, operational impacts and security effectiveness. Consultation with stakeholders should be sought to allow for greater understanding and support by those involved.

Third, by including clauses in regulation that allow for new technology trials. Without affecting the baseline laid out by Annex 17, governments should provide clauses within their regulations to allow for future innovation trials that could help identify effective ways to address new threats. 

And fourth, by reviewing the way technology is certified and approved for use. The certification and approval of new technology is a long and costly process, and with no unified global process for certification. In particular we would like to see regulators embrace the development of an industry standard such as Digital Imaging and Communications in Security (DICOS) that would allow parties and machines to exchange images and information with each other seamlessly, without being tied down to one manufacturer.

ACI at the ICAO A40

ACI will present its position on security and innovation at the upcoming 40th Triennial ICAO Assembly this month. ACI supports the adoption and implementation of the Global Aviation Security Plan (GASeP) and its initiatives and advocacy are in line with GASeP’s objective by the principle of “Innovation: Encourage States and stakeholders to devise, establish and share new and innovative ways to implement security policies and measures.”

Angela Gittens

Angela Gittens

Director General, ACI World
Angela Gittens began her tenure as Director General of ACI World in 2008. She was formerly airport CEO for Miami and Atlanta and Deputy at San Francisco International Airport. In other roles, Gittens led HNTB Corporation’s airport business and strategic planning practice and, at TBI Airport Management, she oversaw the transition to private ownership of London Luton Airport and managed operations contracts at several airports in the US and Canada. She is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and has served on numerous aviation industry boards and committees.
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