Civil aviation has 'zero tolerance' on breaches

Last updated 15:00 25/07/2014

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Civil aviation staff normally have ''absolutely zero tolerance and no sense of humour'' about security breaches, no matter who you are, an industry leader says.

In response to Gerry Brownlee's airport security breach, Flying New Zealand Richard Smith said only a small number of people were able to bypass airport security.

Anyone wanting to ''go air-side'' needed clearances including security passes, worn as red tags on a belt, he said.

Pass holders had to wear photo IDs to access the runways and were expected to be signed in and out; whether they were flight crew, maintenance crew or general public. An escort would be needed air-side too.

It was irrelevant whether you were known to airport security, Smith said.

''In general, the system is very tight.''

The only similarity to the Brownlee incident that he could recall was a failed stunt by a group comedian Ben Boyce.

In 2012, Boyce, alongside The Rock host Bryce Casey and TV producer Andrew Robinson, were discharged without conviction for a botched fake pilot stunt, which was condemned by the aviation industry and Prime Minister John Key.

At an initial sentence indication hearing the trio was warned they could face up to 12 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Boyce was told if he paid the police $2000 reparation and completed 75 hours community work he could be granted a discharge.

The trio were charged with providing false information in an attempt to gain access to a secure area after a skit for the TV3 series WannaBen in September 2011 went wrong.

During the stunt, Casey was dressed in a pilot's uniform and tried to get past security at Auckland Airport, during the Rugby World Cup and close to the 9/11 terror attacks anniversary.

But he was spotted by security and he, Boyce - who masterminded the stunt - and the TV crew were arrested.

Prime Minister John Key was drawn into reaction to the incident, saying the stunt was "irresponsible from a bunch of clowns that should know better".

In May, 2012, Daniel Watkins, Craig O'Reilly and Gregory Clarke faced the same civil aviation over the incident and were discharged without conviction and fined $250 each to cover prosecution costs.

Smith said he didn't know how pilots dealt with unauthorised passengers but knew they had ''power to boot anybody off, or do anything they want''.

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He expected the NZ Airline Pilots Association would keep the full set of on-board assessment procedures to itself for security reasons.

Back at his electorate office today, Brownlee was concerned his security breach may affect his election performance.

He said he expected voters would be "disappointed, just as I am" by his actions.

"Every politician always worries about what public opinion is of their performance, absolutely," he said.  

Brownlee said he took responsibility for the breach, though his two staff members were "obviously caught in this".

"It's all my fault, no-one else's. I am to blame. It's as simple as that," he said.

- The Press

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