The cockpits of commercial airliners are designed to be virtually unassailable, to keep terrorists out – so what happens if an intruder gets aboard an aircraft and locks himself in a cockpit?
Security staff at London’s Heathrow Airport faced this conundrum at the weekend when a man somehow got aboard an empty British Airways B747 and locked himself inside the bullet-proof and bomb-resistant cockpit.
The intrusion has major security implications, as the man allegedly managed to breach security on the airport perimeter, break through an inner security cordon and climb aboard the parked and empty plane.
As soon as he realised he had been seen, the intruder ran to the flight deck, closing and locking the cockpit doors behind him.
The doors are enormously strong to protect flight crew if terrorists try to break in mid-flight.
The airport fire brigade finally mounted a “long and very protracted operation to get into the cockpit from outside,” an unnamed source told the paper.
As soon as the fire crew succeeded in forcing open the cockpit doors, police stormed the flight deck and arrested the man, who is reported to be a Portuguese living in Hounslow near the airport. No terrorist motives are suspected.
The man has been charged with unlawfully being airside at the airport, and unlawfully being on an aircraft. He is in custody and will appear in court this week.
Written by Peter Needham