Security Lessons From Crazy-Busy Airports

Forbes | July 9, 2018

By Dr. Mike Lloyd, RedSeal CTO

I found myself in London Heathrow recently with a few hours to kill. I’d heard about a big political brouhaha rumbling along about adding a third runway, but there are lots of competing pressures — from the economic to the environmental and everything in between. So I decided to spend my down time looking into that. Just how badly does Heathrow need another runway?

After reading a good piece in Wired, this amateur pilot found the statistics intense: Heathrow functions at almost 99% capacity, essentially packing in as many people as the airport can take, with a landing or takeoff taking place every 45 seconds. Forty-five seconds might sound like there’s still some room for error, but from my point of view, it’s far from it. I’m not allowed to land the small planes I fly for three minutes after a big jet takes off or lands due to the dangerous turbulence they leave in their wake. If I wanted to land at Heathrow, it would have to make a huge gap, canceling landing clearances for at least three big jets. That would inconvenience many hundreds of people. What’s worse, at these use levels, the ripple effects could last all day.

As a security professional, I found a behind-the-scenes aspect of the story most interesting — specifically, the approach taken to ensure resilience.