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Airport Security Cannot Discern Hoax Bombs From Real Ones

As flights are grounded due to bomb scares, experts warn current security measures can’t tell the difference between “dummy” devices and real ones.

While airlines and security forces create protocols to respond to suspicious devices found on commercial aircraft, experts in the field say modern technology may not be able to determine what constitutes a real threat. The commentary comes after an Air France flight bound for Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) was diverted to Kenya on Sunday after a suspicious device was discovered aboard the Boeing 777.

The Wall Street Journal reports the suspicious item was found aboard Air France Flight 463 by a retired police officer, who notified the flight crew. Out of an abundance of caution, the pilots decided to divert to Kenya for a full security response. The item turned out to be fake and the flyer who alerted the crew was detained.

Security experts say detecting a live device is a difficult process that the front lines of security may not be able to immediately determine.

“The reality is that aviation security detection equipment is designed to screen for genuine explosives rather than dummy bombs,” Matthew Finn, managing director of aviation security company Augmentiq, told The Telegraph. “They might pick up a couple of blocks of plasticine, a clock and some cables, but it’s only if those are all assembled together that it will be spotted.”

This does not mean that commercial aviation is not secure, or that travelers are being targeted. Finn went on to explain many international airlines retain security experts who work alongside officials to determine real threats from fake. However, even fake devices require a full security response, which can derail a flyer’s plans quickly.

“This can cause havoc at airports — not only do you get a flight delayed, you may have the airport shut for a while, passengers having to be re-screened, staff asked to work extra hours, and people missing connections and having to be rebooked,” Finn told The Telegraph. “Even what might appear to be a very small window can have a huge impact.”

Although a bomb is suspected in only one airline incident this year, Air France has been repeatedly targeted for bomb threats. Counting Sunday’s incident, at least four flights operated by the French flag carrier since November have been stopped short due to bomb threats.

[Photo: Getty]

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