7 January 2002

Journalists smuggled knives on to aircraft

By Terri Judd

Government officials will meet British Airways security chiefs this week to discuss a second apparent breach of airline safety precautions after newspaper reporters claimed to have smuggled three knives on to a plane.

The weapons ­ a stiletto, a small cleaver and a four-inch dagger ­ were missed by security and X-ray machines at Gatwick's north terminal. They were concealed in a briefcase and overcoat. On board the Boeing 737 bound for Manchester, the reporters said they were able to take the weapons to a lavatory adjoining the flight deck. They could see the cabin crew at the controls through the open door of the cockpit.

Last week, journalists from the same paper, the Sunday People, carried two knives and a cleaver on to two domestic British Airways flights from Heathrow and Manchester.

The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions said the matter was being treated very seriously and a meeting with BA representatives had been arranged for this week.

A BA spokeswoman said: "Safety and security is our number one priority and we are extremely concerned to hear that the Sunday People has repeated last week's exercise.

"Senior representatives of the British Airways security team are meeting the Department of Transport ... to discuss how we can ensure there are no similar incidents.We will also be urging the Government to invest in better technology to enable us to detect such items."

A spokesman for BAA, formerly the British Airports Authority, added: "While BAA Gatwick appreciates the Sunday People drawing this alleged incident to our attention, we are extremely concerned that the newspaper appears to have deliberately supported actions which contravene security regulations at UK airports.A full investigation into this alleged incident is already under way."