Get involved: Send your news, views, pictures and video by texting SUPIC to 80360 or email us.
Looking back: Gatwick Airport’s security tightened over years
7:00pm Thursday 11th July 2013 in News
On January 5, 1989, an emergency meeting of the National Aviation Security Committee was held in the wake of the Lockerbie bombing about how to tighten up security at airports like Gatwick.
Despite the rising threat of terrorism in the 1980s, Gatwick was considered one of the world’s safest airports.
Just one day earlier a suspicious bag was blown up in a controlled explosion by the Army Royal Ordnance Corps but it was later discovered to contain nothing more sinister than toiletries and personal possessions.
On March 5, 1991, Gatwick was again put on high security alert over fears of a terrorist backlash after the Gulf War.
The Department of Transport advised the airport and airlines to keep up stringent security precautions.
Large numbers of armed police were put on standby and luggage screening increased.
The increased security came at a price. On March 22, 1991, The Argus reported that Gatwick demanded that airlines pay an extra 45p per passenger to help meet the £6 million bill for the new security measures.
Airport fees increased by 7% the following month, with noisy airlines being charged more than quiet ones.
Despite the extra precautions, on November 29, 1991, a man armed with a knife walked on to an aircraft unchallenged in an amazing breach of security at Gatwick. Unemployed hairdresser Mark Booth broke through four locked security doors and strolled onto the tarmac after drinking 18 pints of beer.
The 21-year-old then put on a boiler suit that he found lying around tomake him look more like an airportworker, and calmly strolled onto an empty aircraft.Anastounded engineer found him locked in a toilet on the plane.Acourt was later told that it was a cry for help and he had just snapped in frustration at being unable to get a job.
Booth was ordered to pay £50 compensation for a security door that he damaged and placed on probation for a year.
He said: “I don’t want to showoff but it was an incredibly easy thing to do.”
He later showed police officers and airport bosses how he beat security.
On March 3, 1992, tanks rolled on to the airport grounds as Gatwick hosted an anti-terrorist exercise with the army and police.
The operation, to test anti-terrorist security, involved 150 police and Army personnel as well as four Scorpion light armoured vehicles.
The exercise came in the middle of an IRA bombing campaign in mainland Britain. Speaking in 1992 Supt David Reader of Gatwick police said: “It is to reassure the public that if we have a terrorist problem we can counter it.”
ON THIS DAY
1346: Charles IV of Luxembourg is elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.
1848: Waterloo railway station in London opens.
1895: The Lumière brothers demonstrate film technology to scientists.
1922: The Hollywood Bowl opens.
1960: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is first published.
1975: China's great Terracotta Army was uncovered near the ancient capital of Xian. More than 6,000 life-sized warriors were made around 206BC.
1979: America's Skylab I returned to Earth after 34,981 orbits in six years.
The Argus’ popular “Looking Back” feature has been compiled into an A4, soft back book which catalogues the events that have made their mark on the people of Sussex. The fascinating archive of “Looking Back” images dates back to the 1930s when The Argus first started to print photographs. The book costs £6.99 including postage and packing. To order please visit theargus.co.uk/store
- Boxing clever on Brighton's homeless crisis
- Missing Eastbourne man found safe and well
- Car collision on cliff's edge at Telscombe
- Woman subjected to "serious sexual assault" on beach
- Brighton's Blind Tiger Club asking punters to save it from closure
Comments are closed on this article.