Chilling warning for Australian domestic passengers
AN aviation security expert has issued a chilling warning to Australian passengers who are already reeling from news a terror cell was allegedly planning to blow up a plane in Sydney.
Roger Henning, CEO of Homeland Security Asia Pacific, told Radio National on Monday the alleged plot security agencies uncovered in recent days would likely have been stopped if the terrorists were using a metal kitchen object as part of their deadly plan.
He said a metal detector would probably have foiled that plan - but there were other methods possible.
"There are other ways of blowing up aeroplanes and they're certainly not covered by anything the Australian government or agencies have done to date.
"It would not show up any plastic explosives inside any metal object, what would show up is the metal object and that should trigger a response to have it examined manually, and removed."
The Daily Telegraph reported two would-be father and son terror teams linked by marriage are allegedly behind a plot to blow up an international flight out of Sydney using a homemade bomb disguised as a kitchen mincer. The Federal Government is holding the four men without charge under tough anti-terror legislation. Investigators have a week to build their case against the men.
New security measures have been introduced at major Australian airports in response to the alleged plot leading to major delays today.
Mr Henning said it was "ridiculous" for politicians to insist that scanning was the key when "plastic explosives bypass all metal detectors, all scanners at every airport. There is no scanners that can pick up plastic explosives".
It was the same situation with gas, he said.
"There is nothing to really stop a gas attack, the same risk applies at Parliament House in Canberra where these two things can bypass the scanning..."
The Australian has been told the detained men were allegedly constructing a "non-traditional'' device, one that would kill the occupants of the targeted plane with poisonous gas.
News Corp understands the plane was going to be an international flight to the Middle East, possibly Dubai, that was leaving from Sydney.
Mr Henning told Radio National "the only chance" to prevent a plastics explosive attack was alert airport staff.
"The only chance you've got is to have everybody who works on an airport trained to observe human behaviour and human intervention is the best weapon against terrorism, because people are likely to appear out of character."
But there were problems with this layer of defence.
"The only real difficulty with this in my experience is that a determined bomber or suicide bomber usually exhibits serenity - they don't look like the typical version of a bearded man with a black beard and black hair at all."
He said suicide bombers didn't all look the same.
Despite the danger, he believed Australia airports were better placed than others around the world to meet the threat. Despite that he warned against being complacent.
"Airports are supposed to go through an evacuation process at least once a year - some Australian airports have not had an evacuation exercise for over a decade," he claimed.
Earlier today, passengers were reporting "crazy lines" at Australia's largest airport on what is the first weekday morning since news broke of the Sydney-based terror plot to blow up a plane.
The Federal Government, airport management and airlines have been warning passengers to arrive much earlier than usual as security was beefed up at the country's biggest airports.
Travellers have been warned to arrive two hours before their domestic flight because of "additional scrutiny". Those flying internationally will need to arrive three hours before their flight is scheduled, with security experts expecting the arrangements will be in place for the foreseeable future.
Travellers are also being urged to limit the amount of baggage they take on flights to help speed up the screening process.
There are no changes to what can and cannot be carried on-board an aircraft.
Passengers in Sydney this morning took to social media to comment on the delays.
Crazy lines at security this morning @SydneyAirport but moving quickly! #sydneyairport
- Sarah Loomes (@LicoriceOlives) July 30, 2017
Pre-5am security screening - Sydney airport. pic.twitter.com/YTc3JFtSXc— Graham Ross (@Graham__Ross) July 30, 2017
Few were caught unaware of the extra time needed after massive publicity since Saturday's terror raids, and after airlines began texting passengers directly advising them of the new measures.
Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar were alerting their passengers to arrive early - but then told them they would have to wait to check in their bags once they arrived.
However, one person pointed out Sydney Airport itself may have been caught short by the number of people arriving early.
3AW in Melbourne is reporting there are big delays at the Qantas check in at Tullamarine. One Twitter user said there were Federal police cars back to back at the drop off zones and "police everywhere" but queues looked OK.
The Herald Sun reported AFP and Victoria Police officers were patrolling the airport terminals in Melbourne as long queues formed outside security gates.
Immigration Minister Peter Dutton acknowledged the measures were causing "a disruption" to travel arrangements.
"If people don't need to be going to airports, if you can bid farewell to loved ones at the kerbside, if you don't need to go inside the security section, please don't," he told the Nine Network on Monday morning.
Sydney Airport tweeted this morning it appreciated the support and patience of passengers who had arrived early. However, some passengers have reported the "jam packed" T2 was being complicated by a broken down baggage
Water bottles were being handed to people waiting in the Sydney queues, as passengers were warned delays could be as long as one hour.
A Twitter user said the airport was "stuffed".
"There's no chance of catching this flight."
Police have said there was indication the integrity of airport security having been compromised, and began quietly introducing the increased security on Thursday.
They were forced to act on Saturday after determining the risk to public safety was too great if they waited any longer.
On Saturday afternoon, NSW and Federal Police swooped on five properties in the Sydney suburbs of Surry Hills, Lakemba, Wiley Park and Punchbowl and arrested four men.
They are being held for an extended period under special legal conditions while investigators comb through evidence.