Terrorism And The Threat To Civil Aviation

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


International Studies


A case study is presented of the threat of terrorism upon civil aviation and the response generated to that threat by governments, the air transport industry, and the general public. In addition to the impact of "conventional terrorism," the cumulative impact of related incidents of violence, all of which individually may not be intentional acts by the perpetrators to "terrorize" a larger, indirect victim group, is identified as a potential and significant influence upon the perception of the terrorist threat by a nation, a society, or segments thereof. The perception of the threat by the indirect victim, as distinct from the validity of that perception, is further explained as a key determinant as to the extent to which terrorism "works" against that group and one to which further research by scholars in the field should be directed.On a global scale, terrorism has exerted a greater impact upon civil aviation than any other major industry. Nor has any other industry group matched the response of civil aviation to the terrorist threat. The political and social costs in developing and maintaining comprehensive security programs against hijackings and other violent actions against the air transport system have been extensive; the economic costs have been staggering.Domestic and international threats traditionally have developed along different lines. Fugitives, disgruntled immigrants, and mentally unstable individuals have represented the principal domestic threat to date, but organized political terrorist groups, primarily Middle Eastern in origin, have posed the major threat to international travel. A limited capability for accurately detecting explosives represents a critical vulnerability and is a primary objective for improving existing protection programs. American aircraft, ground facilities, and passengers on national and foreign aircraft repeatedly have been direct victims of international terrorist attack and continue to confront a higher than average risk. The potential for serious incidents against civil aviation within the United States by organized political terrorists is increasing.


Political Science, General; Sociology, Criminology and Penology; Transportation

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