Saturday, February 20, 2010

Can a civilian airline be launched, only to unleash terror someday?

These thoughts are based on my current, incomplete knowledge about the process of launching and running an airline. As such, factual inaccuracies might be present.

In mid-January this year, I read the headline of a story on Reuters, which gave me this idea. Is it possible for people-with-malicious-intent to legally launch a civilian airline, and someday use that airline's aircraft for malicious purposes (similar to 9/11, perhaps)?

I tweeted about this, but based on my sister's request, I deleted the tweet (but saved a screenshot). Here's a sanitized version of the screenshot:

Is this possible? Can terrorists convince wealthy, orthodox individuals to fund the launch of a legal civilian airline, purchase of a few (large-sized) aircraft, and its operations for a few months, only to use the aircraft for destructive purposes someday? Have we already thought about this possibility? Do we have processes in place to prevent this?

Update (20-Feb-10): A news story in The Washington Post (annotated PDF here) and in The New York Times prompted me think - is it even required to launch an airline to conduct destructive acts? What prevents people-with-malicious-intent from directly purchasing low-cost, small-or-medium-sized aircraft from Bombardier/ Cessna/ Dassault/ Embraer/ Gulfstream/ etc., purportedly for business/personal use, and using them for destructive purposes? And this doesn't yet include purchase of second-hand aircraft...

Update 2 (20-Feb-10): A related article on a stolen Boeing on BBC (annotated PDF here)

1 comment:

  1. Update (14-Sep-10): As an example, a conspiracy theorist can claim that aircraft of GoAir - owned by Jehangir Wadia (great-grandson of Muhammad Ali Jinnah) - might eventually be used for destruction, although it's being run as a decent airline for now.