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One Year On From September 11



September 4, 2002


September 11

The implications for the New Zealand travelling public,

the Aviation Security Service

and the aviation industry


p2: Before September 11

p3: On the day

p4: Settling in

p5: Sharp objects

p6: The future

p7: Additional information

p8: Background to Avsec, Conclusion, Contacts


Flying in and out New Zealand has always been considered a safe means of travel. Before September 11, there were isolated incidents that tested airport and airline security, but generally, no major threat existed. However, the Aviation Security Service (Avsec) was still constantly monitoring the level of threat through its networks of related agencies both in New Zealand and overseas.

For a long time - and well before September 11 - Avsec has also had a quality approach to its work, which ensured systems were in place that were constantly monitored. The New Zealand example of performance measurement has been recognised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and is recommended by ICAO as a system for other agencies to follow.

No domestic screening

Screening of passengers flying domestic routes had been considered by the Government before September 11, and was under constant review. However, at the time the costs were considered to outweigh the benefits. Avsec recognised that domestic screening could be introduced at any time - and at very short notice - if the level of threat escalated, so it had contingency plans in place. In fact, Avsec tested its systems and conducted limited domestic screening before the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. The organisation has always been ready to respond as required, as the events of September 11 testified.

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September 11 (Wednesday, September 12 NZ Time) began early in the morning (about 2am) for Avsec. It was a day in which decisions affecting Avsec were made very rapidly. These decisions came not only from the New Zealand Government, but also from foreign governments, their aviation and security agencies and international airlines. Avsec was obliged to respond to these decisions to ensure airlines were able to continue flying within the new requirements.

The attacks on the United States brought an immediate response in that country to close its air space. Six aircraft in the air that had left New Zealand bound for the US, or heading from the US, were set down at the nearest available airport.

Soon after, one of the Asian carriers with New Zealand connections went to a higher level of security by requiring all hold-stow baggage to be screened before it was loaded on their aircraft. The first aircraft was screened shortly after 10am, and by the end of the day, all Asian carriers had their hold-stow baggage screened.

Later in the morning, the New Zealand Government decided that all passengers on jet services within New Zealand that carried more than 90 seats were to be screened. Avsec said this huge logistical exercise, which had been well planned, could be in place by the end of the day. Shortly after 5pm, passengers on 90+ seat jets were being screened at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The next day, airports at Dunedin and Queenstown were being screened. Within a month, Rotorua, which had never had any screening facilities, was also conducting domestic screening.

With domestic screening came a ban on all sharp objects being carried in person or in carry-on luggage. For the first time in New Zealand, this included knitting needles, nail files and other sharp implements.

Meanwhile, the planning for domestic screening had always been on the basis that Avsec had internal resources for only three days’ screening. On the afternoon of Friday, September 14, the Government announced that the NZ Defence Force would assist with domestic screening until Christmas, when Avsec was expected to have recruited new staff.

On the Saturday morning, for the first time in New Zealand, NZDF staff were at work assisting Avsec in domestic terminals - at Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The rapid response by the NZDF and the manner in which they contributed to ensuring safe skies was much appreciated by Avsec, and drew an overwhelmingly favourable reaction from the travelling public.

US air space was finally reopened on September 15. With the reopening came a raft of extraordinary requirements demanded by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Avsec had to comply with the new FAA standards, which included:

- screening of all hold-stow luggage on aircraft bound for US destinations;

- pat down searching as well as walk through detectors, selected handsearching of luggage (both hold and cabin);

- shoe removal demonstration by passengers;

- special searching/verification of electronic equipment (such as lap tops); and

- detailed aircraft searches.

These measures resulted in longer check- in times for passengers (up to four hours). For security reasons, some of these measures cannot be disclosed.

Once the initial domestic screening was in place, Avsec also had to consider modifying the infrastructure at airports for domestic screening. This is continuing, and has been conducted in consultation with other organisations, such as the airport companies, airline carriers and other government agencies.


Monitoring of the level of threat has continued since September 11 (and, in fact, was in place well before then). Surveys in the months after showed New Zealand travelers had become accustomed to the stringent new measures, and they were overwhelmingly in favour of the measures as a means of ensuring safety.

However, Avsec had to grapple with differing requirements and standards from different airlines and foreign agencies, depending on their perception of the threat. The wish-list from these agencies was constantly changing.

On Christmas Day 2001, for example, as a result of a passenger on a flight from Paris to the US being discovered with explosives in his shoes, new instructions were issued - shoe checks were required for all passengers bound for the US. Passengers bound for other destinations did not have to have their shoes checked.

In some cases, hold-stow screening was necessary; in others it was not.

The different standards for different passengers resulted in some confusion with the public and the media. The apparent inconsistency was questioned, but Avsec was still required to meet the requirements for each airline and foreign regulators.

At all times, however, Avsec has been mindful of not over-reacting to events. Regulations were observed where they had to be, but everything was measured and applied only where necessary.

While Avsec anticipated some relaxation in the requirements from airlines and foreign regulators, the reality is that standards are the same as September 11.

Avsec’s operating philosophy is that it will keep aviation operating but it will not compromise security. Depending on the outcome of the analysis of any particular threat, parts or all of the aviation system may have to be closed down for a time.


Avsec recognises that some unreasonable internationally determined standards were applied in a New Zealand environment that has a low level of threat. However, as a signatory to ICAO, New Zealand and Avsec had to comply with those standards. As a result, items such as knitting needles were taken from anyone attempting to carry them on to an aircraft.

An aviation industry project team established soon after September 11 kept a close eye on compliance and the necessity to continue with stringent carry-on rules. By late June of this year, the rules were relaxed, although an international standard of banning a blade of any description still applies.

Many members of the public were inconvenienced and in some cases upset when objects were taken from them. Such procedures are not a normal part of New Zealand life, but were instituted as a response to an unusual and tragic event on the other side of the world. There was a concern that such an event could occur here.

Some travelers also decided they would treat the system with contempt and “joke” about what they might be carrying in their luggage. There is no room for this idiocy, and Avsec will continue to treat such behaviour seriously. Others have attempted to “test” the system by deliberately hiding dangerous items. The result can often be costly delays for airlines and passengers, no travel and a costly court appearance for the offender.

In the meantime, Avsec staff have worked some very long hours and shown a great deal of dedication to maintain the organisation’s high standards. Although they have had to intrude on the personal space of millions of passengers, they have tried to be unobtrusive.

However, there will be no going back to the way things were before September 11. The world has changed forever. Avsec has no option but to do its job and follow the regulations that are established by a myriad of organisations, both within and outside New Zealand.

While we do this, we are continuing to ask for tolerance.


While it is impossible to predict the future what events might further change the picture, Avsec will continue to monitor the level of threat and to do its utmost to ensure the safe travel of passengers internationally and in and around New Zealand.

Three key factors will guide Avsec in the foreseeable future.

The first is the International Civil Aviation Organisation’s Annex 17, which covers security issues. This year, Amendment 10 requires all member countries (including New Zealand) to screen all international hold-stow baggage before it is loaded on aircraft. This amendment is to be implemented internationally by January 1, 2006. New Zealand is likely to have this in place a year earlier.

There are implications for the traveling public, for airlines, airport companies, and governments and, of course, aviation security agencies. There will be the likelihood of delays if dangerous items are found. The issue of who will pay for this additional international requirement is being worked through by government officials and the aviation industry.

Planning is well under way in New Zealand for complete hold-stow screening of out-bound international flights. An aviation industry working group is working through the issues.

The other major focus of Amendment 10 is quality security systems, quality assurance programmes, and performance measurement. Avsec has these programmes in place and was recognised as a world leader in this area long before 11 September.

The second factor is the Review of Aviation Security Matters, which the Government established in October last year. In consultation with other agencies, airlines and airport companies, this was a review of the adequacy of aviation security matters taking into account international practices. Its recommendations were accepted by Cabinet in May. The recommendations included implementing hold-stow screening; providing guidelines for structural design of airports to facilitate aviation security, enhancing the identification card system for workers at airports, airline staff and contractors; establishing a different regime of secure zones at airports; and establishing procedures for access on to the tarmac, cargo screening and duty-free shopping.

Avsec is working with industry and other agencies to implement the recommendations.

The third factor is Avsec’s own 2002- 05 Strategic Plan, launched on 1 July. The Plan places emphasis on implementation of the recommendations of the Review of Aviation Security Matters and amendments to Annex 17, as well as goals aimed at enhancing Avsec internal management. Avsec will continue to consult other participants in the aviation industry as it works through the Plan.


Number of objects removed from passengers from 11 September 2001 to 3 September 2002 305,496

Number of passengers screened from 11 2001 September to 31 August 2002 International 3,124,165

Domestic 4,083,247

Total 7,207,412

Amount spent by Aviation Security Service from 11 September 2001 to 31 August 2002 International $12.096m

Domestic $9.275m

Total $21.371m

Number of screening hours worked post 11 September International 129,267

Domestic 92,464

Total 221,731

Number of Avsec staff 358 (an increase of 151 or 73% over the August 2001 total of 207)


The New Zealand Aviation Security Service is a Crown-owned entity, reporting through a board of directors to the Minister of Transport.

It has developed a strategic three-year vision - complying with the Government’s vision - in consultation with strategic partners, which include international and domestic airlines, airport companies, the Civil Aviation Authority, Ministry of Transport, Police and Customs and significant overseas regulatory bodies such as the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Avsec’s activities are mainly the screening of international (and since September 11 domestic) departing passengers and their baggage for dangerous items, access controls and patrolling of the security-designated areas, and the searching of international aircraft for security purposes. It operates out of eight airports, in order of size Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Hamilton, Dunedin, Palmerston North, Queenstown and Rotorua.

In a December 1998 review of the Service, PriceWaterhouseCoopers reported that the Service was highly regarded by all major stakeholders.

Avsec was the inaugural winner of the 2000 SATS/Edith Cowan University award for the best aviation security organisation in the Asia/Pacific region.

During a visit to Avsec by United States Embassy officials and the FAA only weeks after September 11 last year, an FAA official commented on TV 1’s Holmes Show that he believed Avsec to be one of the best aviation security organisations in the world. Avsec was also invited to do a presentation to the US delegation on its recruitment and human resources management strategies.

Avsec has a strong strategic vision, excellent leadership, development of high standards and an emphasis on its people. It has looked at how similar organisations have operated overseas and taken the best from them and developed plans and processes that work for local conditions. Avsec pays well, manages well, rotates staff so they retain an interest in the job, and involves and communicates with staff so they know and understand their role.


Avsec has been well prepared for an event such as that which occurred on September 11. Its planning, professionalism, people and relationships with key stakeholders have all contributed to a successful transition to heightened security. It is well prepared for any future event and will continue to ensure that aviation throughout and around New Zealand remains safe.


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