'A' COMPANY (AIRPORT SECURITY)
1 REGIMENT AFM
Co-operation with civil authorities to safeguard national internal security within own
The typical day includes the hustle and bustle of any average airport, particularly hubs like
ours that serve as mandatory stops for airlines travelling far, to and from different continents
over long hauls. MIA bears in mind the declared runway capacity (increased by 17%) to
35 movements per hour.
The threat to airport security can take various forms such
as hijacks with passengers and crews held hostage. Thus, airports are targets
for terrorists or criminals. Any irregular or suspicious activity (like
unattended luggage) may result in innocent people being injured or
Security is a team approach, and soldiers from ‘A’
Company, though their personnel are very familiar with airport activity,
cannot and are not always present. That is why they work hand in hand with
other government law enforcement agencies such as Customs, Police
Immigration, Ministry of the Interior airport security, the Departament of
Civil Aviation, and needless to say with the terminal and airlines’
For political terrorism, airports are targets for bomb
threats, hijacking, violent attacks, theft and contraband. Within the airport
itself, aircraft and large crowds (as hostages or cover) are targets.
The Security rules governing airport security operations are those
laid out in the Civil Aviation Security Act. The present system is critical
but helps to control access to aircraft and secure areas. Access pass violations are tackled
using the principle of reporting, knowing to who, how and following up the same
Night activity is double trouble because of the obvious lack of light. Unusual activity is
always reported: unattended baggage, open doors and gates, or malfunctioning area lighting.
‘A’ Company soldiers are responsible for the access control and manning of all the perimeter
fence gate access points and those within the terminal. Some of these points also have
representatives from Customs or MIA security on site. Points within the terminal include the
Departures, Transit and Arrivals’ lounges’ access points.
The soldiers are responsible for implementing access control regulations, issuing of temporary
visitors’ passes, escort duties, aircraft and vehicle screening, aerodrome driving safety, VVIP
protection and escorts to valuables.
The airport has three main areas which are the landside,
the air terminal, and the airside operations’ area (AOA). The landside
is deemed as being that outside the terminal building and outside the
perimeter fence. This is Police responsibility with most common problems
being traffic and passengers, thefts from cars, grass fires and illegal bird
hunting or trapping near he perimeter fence (since the aerodrome is a
bird sanctuary by law). The most hot and objectionable items would be weapons
and explosives. People loitering is most suspicious as are abandoned goods.
This area is particularly vulnerable at night
The air terminal has a shared security
responsibility with the MIA management’s terminal security. This is a very
busy area with large crowds and a constant hectic pace of activity. Both
security teams man and operate a joint security surveillance control room
that relays information and communications to its personnel on the ground
(particularly in so far as fire and attack/alert alarms are concerned).
Consequently, this is the most demanding area for security because of its
access to aircraft, poses itself as vulnerable target for terrorism and
opportunity to steel valuable items. It is dangerous area for bomb plants in
stairwells, toilets, stores and lockers. Here the access pass system helps
inidentifying people who should not be in certain restricted areas. Soldiers
are constantly on the lookout for unattended packages and baggage, unusual
activity, inconsistent dress or unmatched uniforms, people loitering or
anyone creating disturbance.
The AOA is the most dangerous because of the
aircraft, vehicles, fuel and people that move therein. It is ‘A’ Company’s
largest area of responsibility which it aims to keep safe at all times. The
AOA is anywhere within the perimeter fence and this is the area where
aircraft manoeuvre or park. From operations’ and security standpoints it is
the most critical area. It poses the best access for hijackers and terrorists
to aircraft for people who avoid screening with the organised confusion
around the aircraft. This is due to time pressure to meet flight schedules.
Such access may come through catering, cleaning or fuel services.
Unauthorised vehicles are kept off the airfield,
especially if their drivers have no airfield driving license as this would
otherwise constitute a hazard to aircraft safety though no criminal intent
exists. On field problems the soldiers often tackle include foreign objects
such as animals (stray cats and dogs), boxes or parts on runways or aprons,
unusual baggage, securing doors and gates propped/forced open, holes in the
perimeter fence, areas overgrown with trees and shrubs, and problems with
Other suspicious activity includes photography in
restricted areas or irrational behaviour. The access pass system is the heart
of the airport security programme. Soldiers from ‘A’ Company ensure that it
works if the airport employees respect it. They otherwise challenge those who
do not. All army personnel are trained to respond quickly, know the
procedures for reporting, know who to report to and how. All know not to
touch abandoned packages and not to interfere with other agencies’
operations. Many incidents of suspicious nature are but harmless (catering
truck open for example) but it takes one real threat to go unnoticed or
reported to cause a tragedy.
‘A’ Company personnel have to daily tackle employee apathy
attitudes, being on the watch and alert for anything. Personnel are qualified
in the use of side-arms and rifles with a view of protecting the
establishment and any personnel therein. The use of 2-way radio is a most
valuable asset along with the rapid deployment of personnel by using vehicles
and regular situation contrasting drills.
‘A’ Company is a four platoon and Headquarters infantry company-sized element within the
1st Regiment and it is located in the Malta International Airport (MIA)with the mission of
combining measures, both human and material to safeguard civil aviation against acts of unlawful
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Last Updated: July 2007