Former Air Zimbabwe chief executive Peter Chikumba said airline bosses were not likely to support the move by the United States to have 100 percent pat-down searches for passengers.
The United States had ordered stricter searches following the attempted bombing of flight NW 253.
Northwest Airlines flight 253, an international passenger flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, was the target of a failed al-Qaeda bombing attempt on Christmas Day, 2009. There were 290 people on board the aircraft.
The bomber was 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a Nigerian who had concealed plastic explosives in his underwear but failed to detonate them properly.
Chikumba was briefing a United States embassy official after he had been invited to an International Air Transport Association meeting in Geneva to discuss security challenges following the attempted bombing of flight NW 253.
Chikumba, an aircraft engineer with 30 years airline experience with Air Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Namibia and IATA, said stricter US security standards were not the problem, rather the problem was that current international standards inadequately addressed US concerns.
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SUBJECT: IATA MEETING WITH SEC NAPOLITANO
¶1. (SBU) Air Zimbabwe CEO Dr. Peter Chikumba requested a meeting
with conoff on January 20 to relay his agenda in advance of a
planned meeting at the International Air Transport Association’s
(IATA) offices in Geneva on January 22 with DHS Secretary
Napolitano. Chikumba, an aircraft engineer with 30 years of airline
experience with Air Zimbabwe, Ethiopian Airlines, Air Namibia, and
IATA, was invited by IATA Director General Bisignani to participate
as an African representative in a meeting between airline CEOs and
Secretary Napolitano to discuss the security challenges arising out
of the December 25 attempted bombing of flight NW 253.
¶2. (SBU) Foremost, Chikumba will stress the global, international
scale of the issues. In his opinion, passenger pre-screening and
air transport security are international issues that require
stronger international standards. He said security issues affect
all flights, not just those originating or departing from the U.S.,
and that he would support any effort to bolster ICAO regulations and
IATA standards/practices. He emphasized that stricter U.S. security
standards were not the problem, rather the problem was that current
international standards inadequately addressed U.S. concerns.
¶3. (SBU) Chikumba remarked that the world must cease its practice of
having different security practices for international, vice
domestic, flights. He said air travel had become so intertwined and
international in nature that it no longer made sense to have two
separate security standards. He said he would support formulation
of a single set of standards that covered both international and
domestic flights. In addition, he called on international adoption
of a passenger pre-screening tool, such as the Advanced Passenger
Information System (APIS).
¶4. (SBU) Although Chikumba voiced support for more robust
international security standards; he also voiced the need for
additional funding. He commented that the airlines did not have the
resources to fund and operate effective security screening systems;
rather, security screening should be the responsibility of
individual (national) civil aviation authorities. He called on
aviation leaders (read U.S.) to lead the funding for more robust
international processes and standards.
¶5. (SBU) COMMENT: Secretary Napolitano can expect flak from airline
CEOs in regards to the U.S. emergency orders that arose following NW
¶253. In particular, Chikumba mentioned that many CEOs felt they
could not support 100 percent pat-down searches over a long-term
period. That said, Chikumba’s remarks reflect an international
recognition of the global issues involved and an opportunity for the
U.S. to press for tighter international screening standards and
increased sharing of passenger data. END COMMENT.