Sample Aviation Critical Thinking Paper on Aviation Security and Terrorism


The key topic under discussion is aviation security and terrorism. Terror attacks in the air transportation sector is not an entirely new phenomenon. However, the 9/11 attack changed the whole view on this subject and perhaps exemplified how dangerous terrorism can be. Thus, critical analysis of the aviation insecurity caused by terror-related crimes forms an essential part of this discussion. Economic implications of airport insecurity have been unfolded. The review uses published pieces of literature to elucidate on the matter. In conclusion, security gaps still exists in aviation industry and recent terror attacks on airports in Turkey and Brussels justify this. Considerable effort must be made to ensure safety and security in the aviation sector.

Aviation Security and Terrorism

In the recent years, the aviation industry has been hit by numerous terrorist attacks that have mostly targeted airport and commercial planes. The consequences of terrorist attacks are gross but the psychological and economic effects that these attacks cause are perhaps more disturbing. In the recent years, terrorism and terror-related activities have immensely multiplied across the world. The world has seen an unprecedented surge of terror networks and organizations in different parts of the world. These incidences have proved that no region in the world is immune to terror attacks. Over the recent periods, various terror networks have engaged in substantial links thereby by making even the weakest terror organizations a real threat to the aviation security (Beck, Rose & Merkert, 2015). Terror groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, Al Qaida, Taliban, Islamic State in Iraq and Syrian (ISIS), etc. have directly caused aviation insecurity in various regions in the world (Gillen, 2015). This highlights how dangerous terrorism can cause insecurity to the aviation industry. In fact, recent attacks and threats against civil aviation, and on numerous airports, still highlight how terrorists view the air transport industry as they aim to instill fear and profound disruption of the economic activities. The war against terrorism is complicated since it is not a conventional war. Countries and airports must continue to put in place various innovative measures to curb any potential threat that may result from terror activities (Gillen, 2015). Various airports across the world have different security measures, and mostly it depends on the records of previous terror attacks and the influence of the airport in the region. Huge security discrepancies seen between countries and major airports are a cause for concern in the fight against aviation terrorism. This topic is of vast significance because aviation industry forms the economic, political, and even social backbone of a country. Once the security of airports and aviation sector are compromised by terrorism, the country and its citizens feel the ripple effect. Various sectors of an economy such as trade, tourism, and other diplomatic relations have the potential to scramble when safety in airports are not in place (Tourism and Terrorism, 2017). Aviation security and terrorism has become a contemporary threat, and comprehensive analysis of the issue is essential.

Critical Review

Recent attacks, as well as threats that have occurred across many airports, show how aviation industry is vulnerable to terrorism. Many terror organizations have preferred airports and other modes of transport to cause civilian casualties and instill fear among the populace as a way of advancing their objectives. The 9/11 attack on U.S soil perhaps exemplifies how dreadful terrorism can be. An attack linked to one of the most notorious terrorists, the leader of Al-Qaeda, sent shock waves across the globe, and many of the world leaders condemned the attack and promised to work closely with the USA to eliminate terror groups and restore aviation security. The attack caused an enormous loss of life, destruction of property as well as injuries. The 9/11 attack formed the turning point in the fight against terrorism in the aviation industry. The action presented the fact that no country is immune to a terror attack and this acted as a wake-up call to many country and airports. It has so far depicted the security gaps that many countries, including the advanced economies, still exhibit. Aviation safety cannot be compromised whatsoever, and enough measures must be implemented to curb the danger that still exists in the airports. Satisfactory progress has been made, but a lot more still needs to be done to defeat the terrorists and thwart their aims of carrying out attacks in the air transport sector (Combs, 2015).

Despite the numerous efforts to overcome terror attacks in airports and the aviation industry at large, many attacks and threats continue to happen. For example, in October 2015, a Russian A321 plane was brought down en route to Saint Petersburg from the Sinai Peninsula by some bomb that was placed beneath one of the airplane’s seats (Trends in Aviation Terrorism, 2017). Later, ISIS claimed responsible for that terror attack and made it clear that they were able to detect a security gap at Sharm El-Sheikh airport in the Sinai Peninsula. In fact, experts compared the energy in the blast to equal a kilogram of trinitrotoluene explosive material and according to ISIS; the bomb was concealed in a beverage tin under the plane’s seat. The attack made the Airbus crash thereby making all the 224 passengers who were on board to die. Terror attacks on airports did not stop there and many more have occurred in other countries in the recent months. In fact, shortly after the incident at the Sinai, numerous terror attacks have also targeted the aviation sector. On February 2016, Al-Shabaab planted a bomb on a passenger airplane in Somalia that created a hole in the plane few minutes after takeoff (Trends in Aviation Terrorism, 2017). In addition, in March 2016, ISIS claimed an attack in Brussels in a situation where two suicidal terrorists armed with explosives, exploded at the entrance of an international airport in Brussels (Trends in Aviation Terrorism, 2017). Another attack happened in June 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. The attack took place in Ataturk International Airport where four terrorists opened fire at people in the departure terminals thereby killing forty-eight people as well as leaving 200 people injured (Trends in Aviation Terrorism, 2017).

Despite the recent attacks that have happened in various airports just as shown in the examples above, other airports have witnessed threats related to terrorism. On October 2016, German police arrested Jaber Albakr, a Syrian man in Leipzig. The man was planning a terrorist attack in a Berlin Airport as well as train stations. Similarly, on October 2016, Thai’s police unit was alerted for the possible terror attack that they believed to the hugely targeting Suvarnabhumi Airport and police later released the pictures of the terror suspects as well as the car models that they thought could be used to carry out terror in that airport. Finally, on 9 October 2016, the Indian police conducted a far-reaching operation in the periphery of Sri Guru international airport in Punjab. This action was prompted by some intelligence gathering of the real terror threats to various airports in northern India.

Critical analysis of these attacks and threats on airports point to the facts that terror groups have motivation as well as the capacity to conduct attacks on the aviation industry, a place they regard to be so attractive to pursue their targets (Combs, 2015). Terrorists have utilized the security gap that often exists in many airports to advance their agenda thereby causing enormous civilian casualties when they succeed. Thus, the inspiration terrorists get whenever they attack any public transportation sector, and more specifically, the aviation industry is directly tied to the psychological consequences of the assault. The attacks generate anxiety and fear among the populace and can paralyze transportation at the state or international level (Tourism and Terrorism, 2017). Precisely, the threat posed by terrorism to the aviation sector is enormous. The government must do more to ensuring that its people, as well as airports and other public transportation, remain safe. The recent exodus of refugees from different parts of the world has made the war against terrorism challenging. Countries accepting refugees may appear to be doing it in good faith, but few radicalized jihad sympathizers may take advantage of such actions(Combs, 2015). Political instability, particularly in the war-torn areas, must be realized in an attempt to reduce the insecurity in airports caused by terrorism. Efficient security measures that include body and luggage screening devices must be employed in airports to help mitigate terror attacks in the aviation sector at large.

Furthermore, embracing latest technology in ensuring security could drastically thwart any attempts by the terrorists to carry out attacks in airports. Primarily, the government must heavily invest in intelligence gathering since it core and shall help in getting information related to terror in real time and act swiftly before the terror groups can execute them. The implications of terrorist attacks are huge and controlling them would be essential (Combs, 2015).

Global terror groups, led by Al-Qaeda and ISIS continue to depict motivation to conduct attacks, particularly on the aviation sector (Targets for Terrorists, 2017). The groups have been doing so by carrying out exhaustive dialogue on this issue through the Internet, social media, in closed forums, as well as on other communications applications. For example, it is on record that after the Brussels terror attack in 2016, ISIS supporter urged Muslims in Germany to execute an attack against Bonn Airport and this was mostly inspired by an attack that had been conducted in Brussels. Likewise, in April 2016, a jihadist sympathizer made a post on telegram explicitly calling for hijacking airplanes and even gave links to some guidelines on how to make a bomb. The same April 2016 saw a German television network exposing a 230-page document on Cologne’s Bonn Airport safety protocol to be used should an emergency occur. Even though the airport’s authorities denied the claim, the report contained a detailed step in the event of the terror attack and encompassed ways of arresting the situation of hostage attacks, explosion and emergency exits, assembly areas, etc. When terrorists get access to this documents it very easy for them to identify some security gaps in the airport and utilize them to cause attacks. Thus, it would be naïve to disregard the probability that jihadist’s sympathizer call to conduct a terror attack at Cologne’s Bonn Airport was never coincidental to the revealed emergency plan.

It is essential to note that terror attacks in the aviation industry are not totally a new thing. The issue can be traced from 1960’s from the wave of the Palestinian terrorism. However, the 9/11 terror attack was the one that highlighted the real threat of the aviation insecurity to the international stage (Targets for Terrorists, 2017). Precisely, these attacks emphasized the vital steps in the technical novelty of terror groups and the application of airplanes as a way of carrying out an attack. Moreover, the recent prosperous attacks against the aviation sector act as an inspiration to the terror groups to conduct more attacks in the industry. In fact, as pointed above, the recent terror attacks do not only target airports but also airplanes.

One of key areas that terror groups have used to gain access to airports is through recruiting personnel employed at the airports or in the aviation sector at large to help the execute the attacks. Terror groups have been able to use employees to pass their weapons to secure areas that bypass the security measures placed in the airports. The recruitment can be done via the social media such as Facebook or even old ways such as in mosques. Therefore, this issue has considerable effect, particularly in Europe where there are huge numbers of airport employee that can be used to execute the terror attacks (Combs, 2015). This is factual because a man who was an employee of the airport for five years up to 2012 carried out the Brussels airport attack that happened March 2016. According to the Belgium television findings, Najim Laachraoui, a suicide terrorist had worked in the same airport, which he committed the terror crime. The report further states that just before the attack, a secret prayer chamber was made in the airport and it is believed that the radical Muslim personnel used to conduct secret prayer (Katia, 2017). Another key aspect that brings the challenge to airport security is the fact that many youths, as well as foreign fighters, leave for jihad in different parts of the world. The most significant threat brought by this phenomenon is that the returning radicalized jihad fighters are dangerous to the populace. In fact, their accrued military skills combined with amplified radicalized process make these soldiers an immense threat to the society as well as the aviation industry (Vora, 2017). For example, after the attack that happened at the Brussels airport, ISIS published in its routine magazine, DABIQ, the photos of several terrorists that indirectly or indirectly engaged in that attack wearing the their uniforms (Katia, 2017). It is most likely that these terrorists stayed in Syria. Terrorists have also been able to use modern technologies to carry out attacks in the airports (Vora, 2017). They have cyberspace capabilities, and a lot more should be done to thwart these threats posed by these terrorists to the airports.

Economic Consequence of Safe airports

The role played by having a safe airport and aviation industry at large is vital. When terrorists attack airports, it causes huge loss to various sectors of an economy. Firstly, air transport is a huge business. It generates employment for many people across the world; it also generates massive amounts of revenue thus when it is under attack because of terrorism, the economic loss that it causes is significant. Secondly, it can be noted that air transport is essential to economic integration; it contributes to the shift from local market to the global economy where many items can reach markets at different parts of that world. Valuable, sophisticated, as well as perishable goods can be transported to other markets in few hours. When terror attack happens at strategic airports, it is unimaginable how dire the consequences are for the economy at large (Carlton, 2015). The attack can cause total paralysis to airport activities, and this does affect not only that particular airport but also others that depend on the same airport (Combs, 2015). Thirdly, airports play a huge role in reducing poverty by giving people the chance to access the global markets to sell their goods. As shown above, airport and the entire aviation industry plays a huge role in economic development of a nation (Combs, 2015). Elements such as trade, tourism, and even diplomatic ties can easily be coordinated when there are safe airports. These items above often highlight and form the core of an economy. Terror attacks instill fear and chase away potential investor to the economy (Wong, 2015). According to Carlton (2015), no business can thrive in an environment prone to terror attacks including the airports. Thus, lack of secure and safe aviation services has a considerable impact on the economy.


In conclusion, the critical review of aviation security and terrorism has been clearly argued and supported by facts. Airports and the entire aviation industry remain essential to the economy of a nation, and thus security must be a priority to such places. The economic importance of air transport has been highlighted and it is clear the roles that airplanes play are indispensable. Thus, securing airports from any terrorism is essential to the economy of a nation. Recent terror attacks in various airports across the world are some of the examples that highlight the danger caused by terrorism. Deaths, destruction of infrastructure, and scaling down economy are some of the immediate implications of terrorism in the aviation sector. Even though the 9/11 attack changed the whole scenario on how the world view on terrorism, a lot still needs to be done to make aviation industry more secure (Targets for Terrorists, 2017). Planes have been used to commit terror attacks, and this shows that security loopholes still exist in the aviation industry. Terrorists have been quick to detect such gaps and use them to cause civilian casualties in planes. In the event of increased competition between security personnel and terror groups, it is clear that detailed strategy is required to help curb the challenges in the aviation sector caused by the terror crimes.


Strategies that incorporate growth of capacities at different security levels from personal level to the execution of advanced technologies are essential in airports. Suitable mitigation strategies must also be placed in various airports globally to enhance the security of the aviation industry. Sufficient funds should be allocated to the air transport sector to help improve the security at airports (Beck et al., 2015). International laws against terrorists must be in place as a way of curbing the issue. Also, various governments must enhance aviation safety and the counterterrorism capacities by the use of intelligence-based information as well as risk-based decision (Beck et al., 2015). Terrorists do not conduct conventional war and thus may be hard to defeat when proper mechanisms are not in place. Hence, massive investment in intelligence gathering would be a proper way of ensuring safety and security in the aviation sector. Efforts are required to encourage international collaboration with respect to passenger registers and the execution of individual biometric identification, with more prominence on the constant security scrutiny (Beck et al., 2015). Finally, investment in recent technologies that are sophisticated could help address the insecurity of air transport that has been under threat by terrorism.


Beck, M. J., Rose, J. M., & Merkert, R. (2015, July). Air safety & security: traveler perceptions post the Malaysian air disasters. In IATBR 2015-Windsor

Carlton, D., & Scharf, C. (Eds.). (2015). International terrorism and world security (Vol. 3). Routledge.

Combs, C. C. (2015). Terrorism in the twenty-first century. Routledge.

Gillen, D., & Morrison, W. G. (2015). Aviation security: Costing, pricing, finance and performance. Journal of Air Transport Management, 48, 1-12.

Katia Hetter and Oren Liebermann, C. (2017). Airport security: Can attacks be prevented? CNN.

Targets for Terrorists: Post-9/11 Aviation Security. (2017). Council on Foreign Relations. 

Tourism and Terrorism: Terrorist Threats to Commercial Aviation Safety & Security. (2017). International Journal of Safety and Security in Tourism/Hospitality.

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Vora, S. (2017). How to Stay Safe at the Airport.

Wong, S., & Brooks, N. (2015). Evolving risk-based security: A review of current issues and emerging trends impacting security screening in the aviation industry. Journal of Air Transport Management, 48, 60-64.