NZ to tighten regional air security after hijack attempt

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New Zealand’s Government has decided to take steps to improve security at regional airports and on board regional aircraft following an incident earlier this month in which two pilots on board a small regional aircraft were stabbed.

Transport minister Annette King says in a statement that the Government “will require immediate strengthening of security training requirements for airlines and airport staff at regional airports and the CAA will expedite a feasibility study on whether flight deck barriers can be fitted to smaller aircraft in New Zealand”.

The Government also says it will undertake a review of domestic aviation security and consider the costs and benefits of having passengers on regional aircraft undergo full or limited security screening.

The review led by the Ministry of Transport will include input from the CAA, the Aviation Security Service, airlines, the police, airports, sector groups and the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, it says.

“The move follows an attempted hijacking of a small passenger plane on an Air New Zealand (ANZ) flight between Blenheim and Christchurch on 8 February,” says the Government.

Larger commercial aircraft, such as Airbus A320s, are generally fitted with cockpit security doors but the attempted hijacking of the BAe Jetstream 32 highlighted a discrepancy in which some measures have often failed to extend to smaller regional aircraft.

The fact that the Jetstream 32 had no cockpit security door meant the alleged hijacker was able to get into the cockpit soon after takeoff. A female suspect was arrested over the incident, in which she allegedly used a knife to stab the two pilots.

Despite the attack the pilots were able to land the aircraft and police on the ground arrested the suspect, who reportedly wanted the pilots to operate the aircraft to Australia.

The aircraft was from Air National and was operating the flight on behalf of ANZ.