No Common Denominator For Airline Incidents
NEW YORK (AP) _ The crash of an Air India jumbo jet, the hijacking of TWA Flight 847, an explosion at Tokyo’s airport, a bombing at the Frankfurt airport, and the hijacking of a Norwegian airliner on a domestic flight have given the airline industry a shock, officials said Sunday.
″I don’t recall a period of time of 6 to 9 days where we’ve had this number of diverse ... events occur,″ said Jerry Cosley, a spokesman for TWA in New York. ″It’s extraordinary.″
″I have many friends in the airlines, and they’re all kind of rocked by this,″ said Dr. Hans Krakauer, senior vice president of the 105,000-member International Airline Passenger Association based in Rotterdam, Holland.
″The world has had a pretty bad week,″ summed up Daniel Henken, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association in Washington that represents scheduled airlines in the United States.
Cosley said if the airline industry could find a common denominator among the incidents, it might be able to develop a course of action. Unfortunately, he said, it can find no connection.
The string of incidents began June 14, with the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 with 145 passengers and a crew of eight on a flight from Athens to Rome.
After shuttling between Beirut, Lebanon and Algiers, Algeria, and releasing some of the passengers, the hijackers released a list of demands, including one that Israel free 766 prisoners in exchange for the 40 American hostages remaining. On Sunday, the hijacking entered its 10th day, with the Shiites continuing to press their demands.
In Frankfurt, West Germany, two children and an adult were killed Wednesday when a powerful explosion ripped through a busy passenger departure hall at Frankfurt Airport. Investigators said Sunday they are taking seriously a letter from a previously unknown group of ecological radicals, calling itself the ″Peace Conquerors,″ who claimed responsibility for the bombing and threatened further attacks. Ecologists are against a proposed expansion of the airport.
A number of claims of responsibility for the bombing had been made earlier, including one from another previously unheard of group calling itself the Revolutionary Arab Organization.
On Friday, a Norwegian domestic flight was hijacked on a flight from Trondheim to Oslo. The 24-year-old hijacker gave up after releasing all 115 passengers in exchange for beer. The hijacker had asked for meetings with Norwegian Prime Minister Kaare Willoch and Justice Minister Mona Roekke. Officials said his demands were domestic and not political.
On Sunday, an Air-India Boeing 747 jumbo jet with 325 people on board crashed into the North Atlantic off the coast of Ireland, air controllers reported. Rescue ships reported sighting wreckage and recovered more than 100 bodies. There were no sign of survivors.
Ashok Gehlot, India’s civil aviation chief, said an ″explosion is considered a possibility″ for the crash. Transport Canada, the federal transportation agency in Montreal, said the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pulled three ″suspicious″ pieces of luggage from Flight 182 after airport scanners detected metal.
Also on Sunday, baggage from a Canadian airliner exploded at Tokyo’s international airport, killing two luggage handlers and injuring four others.
It was not immediately known whether the blast at Narita International Airport was linked to the crash of the Air-India jumbo jet.
Krakauer said, ″I think we are facing a serious threat (to aviation) and I don’t think we are out of it - there may be more to come.″
Krakauer, interviewed by telephone from Lisbon, Portugal, where he lives, said the only recourse for the airline industry is to increase security checks at airports around the world, and to secure the cooperation of governments in stopping terrorism against airline passengers.
″We are going to have to tell people that there are going to be delays ... We are going to have to search baggage more and go back to individual identification of passengers. People are going to have to go to the airport earlier. We’re going to have quite a few unhappy tourists,″ he said.
He said it is the height of the tourist season in Europe, and many airports already are overtaxed.
Cosley said it is premature to institute stringent passenger and baggage checks in every airport. He said security in most airports is ″excellent.″
″I also know the criminal mind of a terrorist can probably undo the strategy of any new security system. There is no way to make a security system absolutely safe,″ he said.
″What we can do is analyze each incident, and see what we can learn from each incident.″
Suspicions that a bomb may have caused Sunday’s crash of an Air India jumbo jet led the International Air Transport Association to call an emergency security meeting in Montreal this week, an IATA spokesman said Sunday.
″We will be looking at the number of very tragic incidents over the past few weeks and try to determine where security needs to be strengthened even further,″ press officer David Kyd said.
Kyd said that because of recent circumstances, it now looks as if baggage and cargo will have to be monitored more closely as well as passengers.