Vol. 10 No. 88                                                                                                         Wednesday September 7, 2011


     On 9/11 I was at home in Hong Kong watching TV, riveted and shocked as the tragedy unfolded. At the time I was working for the Swire Group, whose interests include Cathay Pacific Airways, in a role working across a number of industries including aviation.
     It was clear immediately that the terrible scenes were going to have a devastating impact on aviation. The U.S. aviation system was completely shut down for several days. More broadly, it fundamentally affected the willingness of people to fly, and it had severe economic consequences for the industry and the global economy.
Looking back ten years, although it was one of those time-stopping moments then, for aviation it strikes me that there are some lessons in how we should respond to crises in general, be that volcanic ash, a pandemic or a natural disaster. The initial response is usually to shut down the system. It is similar in a financial crisis. Do you shut down stock exchanges? But if you do, when do you reopen them?
     Are we shutting down the system as an emotionally driven response, or would we do better to focus on maintaining the resilience of the system? I think the general lesson to be learned is that it’s better to try and avoid a complete shutdown. For business the lesson is to adapt and continue. Operations should be maintained where possible because if everything stops then it’s harder to get moving again.
     The other big impact on the industry was on security. It prompted a number of new initiatives for both passenger and cargo security, including reinforced cockpit doors for example. A number of countries started using armed sky marshals, although in hindsight the analysis seems to be somewhat skeptical on the cost benefit of those programs.
     What the last decade since 9/11 has shown, is that whenever you try and tighten security you need to look at both the benefits and the cost. We are not very good at looking at the costs because they can relate to whole supply chains, to delays, congestion, general hassle. These things are hard to put a number on.
But if terrorism and counter-terrorism are like a game of chess, and the terrorists’ aim is to disrupt society, then in a sense we have to avoid playing that game, if by over reacting to the perceived threat, we end up disrupting society even more.
     The best way to do this is through proper risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis. Some say safety is too important to put a price on, but traditionally safety improves when you do exactly that. You need to do the things that make the most sense. Similarly, we need to make disciplined choices on security and weigh the intangibles.
     The aviation industry is extraordinarily safe and secure. As an indicator, the costs of insuring the overall industry against residual risks is around $2 billion annually, including war risk premiums of a few hundred million a year. That works out at less than a dollar a passenger.
     So when people talk about improving safety and security I think it’s safe to say the bar is pretty high at the moment. If someone says a measure will make the industry more secure, then they should ask how much will this save on insurance – it might cost billions but save nothing because it does not actually reduce risk to the industry.
     No one should overlook how safe and secure the industry is already, that’s one reason why high value items go by air. The system is hardened against criminals, which also makes it very secure against other types of unlawful interference.
     With any security initiative you need to look at what you are trying to do. What is the end objective? We have argued for such an approach for air cargo. I think we need to use a risk-based approach, and recognize the value of trusted supply chain relationships, and intelligence on shipments, rather than simply focusing on 100% screening, which the U.S. plans to introduce for all inbound flights by the end of this year.
     If you simply get drawn into a screening ritual and ignore cost and outcome, you also end up with unnecessary duplication of procedures internationally. This is also costly in terms of time and if you slow down the whole process then you diminish the value of the service to customers. It’s not just the procedure cost, it’s a judgment about the cost imposed on the economy and society at large, and whether there is any benefit to security.
     There’s no such thing as 100% safety or security, it’s a goal we set ourselves.
     At the time of 9/11, ten years ago, it was hard to imagine things turning back to normal. But one thing that happens without fail after any major setback is that air travel and cargo demand picks up and continues to grow.
      It’s a very resilient industry, both operationally with its ability to get running again, and from a consumer perspective, because however shocking the event, what’s striking is how the underlying trend reasserts itself. People will always want to travel. Air cargo demand continues to grow.
      The aviation industry is an integral part of the global economy, connecting people and serving the community. In some ways, that reminds us that however bad things might look at any given moment, there is always reason to be confident about tomorrow.


Gabriela Ahrens
EVP Product & Sales
Jade Cargo International Co.

     I was sitting in a Restaurant in HKG when I received the first message (that the Towers had been hit)
     I think I thought what everybody thought: It just cannot be true. It was pure disbelief. Only hours after and of course for days later, the impact of this became a fact.
     (That day) simply changed everything. It has changed the whole industry and safety in air cargo has become another dimension of our industry. From the safety of a pallet build up, just DGR, it led to full scanning of each and every shipment. Now you have to find the balance between keeping 'flight and cargo safety first' to 'speed on the ground.'
     It has become a different world and cargo security has increased tremendously.
     Cargo security needs to be kept in focus, however it needs to be a team effort between all involved partners.
     We need worldwide harmonization of standards. New rules have been implemented and money has been invested, and we now need to concentrate on the efficiency.


     I was driving to the airport when the news started to break; I turned around and headed back to the office. I remember sitting in my office with my then VP of Cargo Operations, Kevin Diamonti – we just stared at each other in disbelief as the second tower came down.
     The prior week our major security concern was an FAA fine that penalized us for using the words PRINTING INK on an AWB instead of PRINTERS INK!
     And then poor Ron Cesana happened to be in that day for a C2K audit. He was stuck here for a week. I was a true C2K geek by the time he left.
     That day made air cargo better, made it worse; I could argue it either way.
     Today, American Cargo security is in full compliance with regulatory standards, engaged in the debate on what to do next, and staying close to customers.
     To improve security worldwide, the air cargo industry must get shippers to screen their own cargo and bring shipment logic into the screening process.


     I was in my office at Frankfurt Airport where I worked as head of marketing for account services.
It was about 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
     A colleague came to me and told me an airplane had flown into one of the towers of the New York World Trade Center.
     My first reaction was:
     What a silly pilot.
     I recalled hearing that during the 1940s a pilot had flown into The Empire State Building in New York so naturally my first thought was, well that has happened again, but this time into another building.
     But then ten minutes later my colleague came back reporting that a second airplane had flown into the other World Trade Center tower, so right away we snapped on the TV and watched like everybody else as that awful story unfolded.
     The view was almost indescribable—burning towers, people falling down out of the sky from the towers.
After watching for a few minutes I decided to shut down the office and go home.
     The thought crossed my mind that perhaps we were at the doorstep of the World War III.
     If this was a terrorist attack what would be the reaction of the American government, I wondered?
     Upon arriving home in just the time it took to travel aboard our commuter train some 25 kilometers I was shocked to discover that both giant World Trade Center towers no longer existed but had come crashing down.
That realization was incomprehensible to me.
     I began my career in air cargo as a result of 9/11 because the crises caused the Fraport Board of Governors to make changes in the management of the cargo department in April 2002.
     I had worked in air cargo in 1994 so my background afforded me the opportunity just at a time of major change here at the airport.
     The legacy of 911 for all of us is so much has changed in a world that will never again be as it once was.
     All of us had to change.
     Suffice it to say that we are no longer innocent.
     But thinking about it, there are only a few moments in life that can be recalled with exact detail as to where you were and what happened as a result.
     I recall the day, time and place when I learned of the first man landing on the moon, which happened when I was nine years old.
     I remember all the details when my daughters were born.
     And now 9/11, that has deeply impacted and changed so many people, that day will be recalled with sadness forever.


     I had just landed in Frankfurt having flown in from Hamburg.
     I recall someone calling and saying that an airplane had crashed into The World Trade Center.
     Inside the airport I went to the lounge to watch the story on television.
     The feeling was utter and complete disbelief.
     Everything just stopped and we all just stared at the TV set for more than an hour, transfixed by the horror in New York City.
     It was as if time stood still.
     The day was one of those days that will be remembered by everyone that experienced it.
     I know that I will never forget it.
     I called my wife who said:
     “It’s so surreal that at first when I saw it I thought I had turned on a movie.”
     We were at Ground Zero last year and I still feel the shivers thinking of the loss, especially for people who lost their loved ones there.
     We were also filled with thoughts for friends who were actually inside the World Trade Center when the terror attacks occurred.
     They experienced first hand what the rest of us only saw from a distance.
     Early on, after 911 our friends that we had known for some years never mentioned that they somehow escaped certain death.
     Both of course felt lucky to be alive but still in shock, were unwilling to talk about their experience.
     Eventually they told us the story.
     I think that the amazing thing is, that there is something in humans that allows us to get over the shock, but we can never forget.
     Today we still talk about 9/11 and we all agree that a handful of people changed everything for so many people, including how the airline business will be conducted forever into the future.

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