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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 15:35 GMT
Test exposes airport security lapse
Manchester Airport
Manchester Airport has a good reputation for security
A guard has been suspended after fake explosives, detonators and genuine firearms passed a security check for a commercial flight at Manchester Airport.

The arms were taken on to a British Airways flight to Gatwick on Friday by a company testing security procedures.

The airport has a good reputation for security but has been in a bitter battle with unions over the cutting of 140 security staff.

It is immaterial whether it was a training exercise or not - safety procedures were breached

Bill Morris
Permission had been given by British Airways with the items declared at check-in as part of the security test.

Securicor ADI is responsible for scanning luggage passing through the airport.

It has suspended a member of staff and started an investigation.

A spokesman for Securicor ADI told the Mirror: "At Manchester Airport today training equipment designed to test security procedures was allowed to pass through a hold baggage screening area by a fully trained, experienced, and CTC-cleared security agent.

"The equipment was in the baggage belonging to an aviation security trainer, en route to a Middle East assignment."

He confirmed permission was given by BA and a security guard suspended.

Security screenings

The bag contained bomb-making equipment, guns, imitation explosives, three detonators and a rifle magazine holding five dummy bullets.

The offending articles were hidden in a book, camera and cigarette box and checked in at Terminal Three by British Airway staff.

Having passed through security screenings, the cache was placed in the hold of the Boeing 737 flight BA2903.

A BA spokeswoman told BBC News Online that the cargo was not "smuggled" because BA was fully aware of the items in the bag.

Human error

"Obviously safety and security is always top priority at British Airways.

"The issue is the test of security at Manchester Airport - they are responsible for security procedures."

The company who carried out the test, Global Air Training, was unable to comment.

A Manchester Airport spokesman said it was down to human error.

Urgent talks

She told BBC News Online: "These items being carried by a training company were not detected by an external security company, Securicor ADI, employed to operate hold baggage screening.

"We understand that the employee involved has been suspended pending an investigation.

"This was not a problem with the X-ray equipment but was an operator error.

"This is a matter of great concern to us and we will be holding urgent talks with ADI."

'Sophisticated' smuggling

Jane's Transport aviation security editor Chris Yates said the test result was surprising bearing in mind Manchester's reputation as one of the best UK airports for security.

But he told BBC News 24 that it was less surprising bearing in mind the sophisticated way the weapons were smuggled on board.

"Security equipment at any airport can be overcome by the way that items are concealed in baggage."

He added that plastic explosive or mock-ups could not normally be detected by standard X-ray devices used on UK domestic flights.

Staffing warnings

TGWU secretary general Bill Morris said he had written to the transport secretary about the dangers of bringing in more casual staff.

"[I have warned] reductions in staffing and seeking to replace experienced and trained staff would bring about the incidents repeated twice this week.

"Regrettably it is a case of 'we told you so'.

"We should be increasing security not cutting it.

"It is immaterial whether it was a training exercise or not - safety procedures were breached."

The BBC's Catherine Marston
"The aiport insist there was no breach of security"
See also:

02 Jan 02 | Sci/Tech
Spotting the face of deception
16 Oct 01 | UK
Keeping air passengers safe
26 Sep 01 | Business
UN agency reviews airline security
21 Sep 01 | UK
Q & A: Airport security
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