It is the illegal hijacking of an aircraft by an individual or a group. Aircraft hijacking, skyjacking, and aircraft piracy are common terms used for air piracy.
Air Piracy Details
Air pirates and hijackers tend to divert aircraft to an unplanned location. They use the passengers and crew as hostages for a monetary ransom. In some cases, the hijackers demand political and administrative concessions from concerned authorities. Air Piracy is a federal offense punishable by death or life imprisonment. Aircraft hijacking is a capital crime in countries like the USA, India, and China.
Air piracy has been occurring since the early days of air travel. The number of air piracy incidents had significantly increased since the 1980s when commercial aviation became widespread. From the 1960s onwards, international airports have introduced screening technologies like metal detectors, X-Ray machines, and explosive detection tools. The airport security systems underwent wholesale changes after the September 11 attacks, focusing on intelligence and threat anticipation.
Real World Example of Air Piracy
On September 11, the terrorist group Al-Qaeda led by Osama Bin Laden coordinated a series of attacks against the United States. The group claimed full responsibility for planning, coordinating, and executing the air piracy attack. The attacks caused over 2,900 fatalities and over 25,000 injuries. It is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in human history. It resulted in over $10 billion US dollars in property damage and repairs.
19 Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airlines bound for California. Two of the airplanes crashed into the North and South Tower of the World Trade Center, Manhattan. The damages from the crash caused both towers to collapse in just under two hours. The resulting smoke, fire, and debris from the building collapse led to massive destruction and loss of life in and around the Manhattan area.
The United States of America responded to this attack by invading Afghanistan and declaring war on the Taliban. Osama Bin Laden led Al-Qaeda to claim full responsibility for the attacks. Al-Qaeda cited Israel's US support and sanctions against Islamic counties like Saudi Arabia and Iraq as motives behind the attacks.
Significance of Air Piracy
Post-September 11, in the wake of air piracy fears, world governments implemented several countermeasures to strengthen airport and onboard security. The Tokyo Convention is an international treaty first formulated in 1969. As of 2015, the treaty has been ratified by 186 parties.
Based on the treaty, the participating countries agree to take all necessary actions on the occasion of the unlawful takeover of an aircraft in their airspace territory. The captain and crew of the aircraft have full authority to disembark any suspicious traveler on any country's territory, and the country must agree to deal with such a scenario.
Airport security employs several techniques and methods to help prevent air piracy. The equipment involved in the passenger and cargo screening includes metal detectors, millimeter-wave scanners, explosive detection machines, and X-ray machines. Military, paramilitary, and security forces and resources are deployed in the airports to enhance safety and security.