Securing Domodedovo

Posted: 1 December 2006 | Andrey Danilov, Head of Aviation Security, Domodedovo International Airport | No comments yet

Security at Domodedovo International Airport is no case of Russian roulette. Lessons were learned from the terrorist events of 2004 and a commitment to innovative technology, training and technique has seen the Moscow hub exceed international standards and become a model for other airports.

Security at Domodedovo International Airport is no case of Russian roulette. Lessons were learned from the terrorist events of 2004 and a commitment to innovative technology, training and technique has seen the Moscow hub exceed international standards and become a model for other airports.

The modern airport is a super-technological enterprise of increased risk, whose security complex encompasses a number of measures and activities. All other factors being equal, security of such enterprises is primarily ensured by professionalism and a high level of training of security services on the one hand, and technologies and equipment on the other.

Domodedovo International Airport is the principal air gate of Russia. Some of the largest foreign and Russian airlines fly here, such as British Airways, Thai International Airways, China Eastern, Iberia, Singapore Airlines, EL AL Israel Airlines, Royal Jordanian Airlines, BMI, Transaero, S7 Airlines and Russian AirUnion Alliance airlines. When choosing an airport, an airline considers conditions that ensure the security of its flight operations. The fact that the list of Domodedovo’s client airlines keeps growing indicates that our airport is trusted. Today, according to independent experts, Domodedovo is one of the safest European airports.

Domodedovo International Airport services almost one half of the entire passenger traffic of the Moscow aviation node: more than 60 airlines used our airport’s services in 2005 (approximately 14 million passengers and more than 120,000 tons of cargo). Today, Domodedovo services 73 airlines. The passenger traffic forecast to be serviced by the airport this year exceeds 16 million people.

In the conditions of growing passenger traffic worldwide (according to ICAO, it grows approximately by 4.0-5.5 per cent annum), one of Domodedovo’s goals is to become one of the five top-quality airports in Europe by 2010, and one of the five largest European airports by 2020. Accomplishment of these goals requires that our managers work hard and use a comprehensive approach in a variety of areas, including assurance of a higher traffic capacity and better comfort for passengers, application of high technologies and development of optimal solutions together with airlines, as well as assurance of the maximum security level.

The aviation security system at DME

Technologically, the aviation security system used at Domodedovo is fundamentally different from the systems used at other airports of the Moscow aviation node. It is based on experiences of the largest airports of the world and entails two kinds of controls – that of passengers and that of the airport’s controlled perimeter zone – ten kinds of examination (aircraft, onboard supplies, mail, crew, employees, etc.), and a security function (parked aircraft). The entire security cycle of airport facilities is ensured by a specially established service, Domodedovo Airport Aviation Security. Training of this service’s specialists is one of our management’s priority areas. All Domodedovo Airport Aviation Security specialists regularly undergo training and testing programmes at specialised centres that often involve participation of experts and officers from special services; some of our security specialists undergo internships in Israel and the USA.

All passengers departing from Domodedovo undergo tactile examination. This measure was mandated by the RF Government in October of 2004. At the same time, outer clothes, footwear and belts are subject to a separate examination using introscopes. All passenger check-in points are equipped with trays and baskets; passengers are supplied with disposable shoe covers, and the floor is carpeted, all of which helps ensure appropriate sanitation and hygienic conditions. Although, undoubtedly, this measure inconveniences passengers to a certain extent, they have always showed us a great deal of understanding because this measure is there to ensure their own security.

Alternatively, we request that passengers, who due to their religious convictions, being late for their flights, or other reasons, would rather not take off their belts and footwear, pass through an X-ray scanner. A Russian-manufactured scanner detects any items forbidden onboard aircraft, including substances, plastic weapons and explosives that may be hidden in passengers’ clothes, on their bodies and inside their natural cavities. The radiation dose a passenger receives is extremely small and can be compared to the radiation dose accumulated during 10 minutes of airborne travel. By its technical parameters the scanner is unique: it shows an image of a human body at full height and inclined at a certain angle to control examinee’s footwear, considering that heels are one of the most popular elements used to contain forbidden items. The entire scanning procedure does not take more than five seconds. Today, Domodedovo uses four such scanners located in domestic and international departure sectors.

Today, in addition to standard technological solutions adopted and recommended for adoption worldwide, such as frame metal detectors, video surveillance of incoming traffic and control zones, etc., the latest domestic and western solutions are used at all check-in points and stages. Among them there are video surveillance systems, analysers that are able to detect traces of explosive substances, X-Ray and microwave scanners that ensure detection of items made of various materials hidden on a human body, and analysers of liquids. A multilevel luggage examination system (HBS) integrated with the automated luggage sorter is scheduled to be installed shortly. This system includes computer tomography and diffraction devices that are able to automatically detect explosives and narcotic substances.

A cynologic department was established under the Domodedovo Airport Aviation Security service in September of 2004. The level of training of the cynologic department officers and patrol dogs has been evaluated by the Cynology Service Center of the Moscow department of internal affairs for air and water transport of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs. Today, 13 cynologists and 12 patrol dogs of the Domodedovo Airport Aviation Security service work to ensure security of airport visitors and passengers.

Improvement of security systems is an ongoing process at Domodedovo. The airport deploys the newest technologies whose bulk acquisition, as a rule, is preceded by trial operation. By using this approach the airport can choose equipment and technologies that most adequately meet the requirements of the enterprise. The airport is currently testing two new devices: a microwave scanner that helps detect items on a human body that are made of metal, wood, ceramics, plastic and other materials, as well as a luggage scanner whose operation is based on the computer tomography technology. This new scanner is designed to examine hand baggage and when operated in a normal mode is able to process approximately 100 baggage units per hour. Baggage passes through a rotating beam of X-rays and explosive and dangerous substances are detected automatically, without operator’s involvement.

The microwave scanner’s technology is based on the radio-signal hologram construction. The device radiates millimeter-long waves which, without penetrating the human skin, are reflected from the human body. The power of this radiation is extremely low and the microwaves are totally harmless. One can already say that during the past three months of its trial operation the device has demonstrated excellent results. The scanner’s processing capacity is high and it only takes two seconds for a passenger to pass through it.

We are currently in the process of acquiring new perimeter fencing for the airport that is based on the so-called “Smart Fence” technology. The Smart Fence system includes a cellular fence (at least 2.44 metres tall and 24 kilometres long) equipped with vibration sensors, anti-sapping detectors and thermal imaging systems with control systems and operation consoles. The Smart Fence system also makes use of patrol vehicles equipped with automatic security devices that operatively identify penetrations of the fencing with a 50-metre precision range.

Highly qualified specialists – the key element in ensuring effective security

Nevertheless, even the most reliable and advanced equipment can turn out to be useless if operated by poorly trained specialists. To train and improve qualifications of security specialists, all employees undergo training at the specialised “Aviation Security Training Center” established in 2003 by Domodedovo Airport Aviation Security on the basis of the Russian National Qualification Improvement Institute of the RF Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Center offers a variety of training courses including initial training of aviation security specialists, qualification improvement, and training of profiling specialists. The Training Center makes use of a miniature model of an airport terminal, with a full scope of examination and security control zones provided with the same equipment that is used at the airport. Students who undergo training learn all aspects of their profession using realistic aircraft models and confiscated items forbidden onboard aircraft. The Center operates a unique virtual shooting range that is used not only by airport security officers but also by police officers from Russia, the CIS, and abroad. The Center has recently provided its training services to security officers from Italy and police officers from Afghanistan who participated in airport training maneuvers.

Internal audit of personnel performance quality is as important as training. Every day, the reaction of security officers to suspicious items is gauged as items forbidden onboard aircraft are hidden on individuals posing as passengers.


Employment of profiling specialists is one of the nonstandard security measures used at Domodedovo. Profiling is a special method that helps identify potentially dangerous individuals, who may commit criminal acts, among airport visitors and passengers in the course of an interview. Profiling specialists work not only as part of the personnel servicing check-in points, but they also operate within free access zones and as members of entrance groups.

All profiling officers undergo special training that emphasises psychological and information analysis culture training. In the course of profiling, a certain individual (or a group of people) is operatively analysed using the “mosaic picture” method that helps put together fragments of conditionally reliable information to arrive at a certain conclusion.

The profiling procedure implies that airport visitors and passengers (during check-ins) are asked questions about their documents and based on their responses, behavior, and results of verification of their documents (passports and tickets,) suspicious moments are identified using a special method. Profiling specialists do not differentiate their interviewees on the basis of their age, gender, and race.

In their work, profilers undoubtedly make allowances for such a factor as pre-flight anxiety, characteristic of many passengers. Various anxiety levels and their characteristic behavioral patterns are used as selection criteria.

Cooperation with partners

An airport is not only an intersection of various routes and cultures, but it also is a meeting point of various aviation security requirements imposed by different countries. It is important to not only be able to flexibly respond to demands of our principal clients – airlines, but also to be able to integrate successful cooperation experiences in the everyday Russian practice. For example, in March of this year, EL AL Israel Airlines joined its efforts with Domodedovo Airport Aviation Security to install a tomograph in its flight registration zone. A highly effective tomograph automatically detects items forbidden onboard aircraft and explosives.

All requirements of our client airlines that do not contradict the Russian legislation are operatively met in our everyday practice. In August 2006, after the UK government raised the terrorism threat alert to the maximum level and British airlines introduced new requirements with respect to examination of passengers’ hand luggage, in response to the request of British Airways, Domodedovo created all the necessary conditions required to implement the new security measures.

Audits that are periodically conducted by authorities of various countries confirm our airport’s compliance with their respective aviation security requirements. For example, in March of 2006, the US Transportation Security Administration conducted an audit inspection on the basis of whose results a protocol was endorsed confirming Domodedovo International Airport’s compliance with ICAO requirements.

The appraisal group that conducted the audit at Domodedovo airport uses the Standards and Recommended Practices (SARP) established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The audit examined security measures employed by the Domodedovo airport and recognised their full compliance with the currently existing requirements.

On the whole, one may say that the aviation security level ensured today at Domodedovo International Airport and confirmed by international and Russian certificates, significantly exceeds recommended standards. This, inter alia, is accounted for by administration of a serious investment policy; the airport invests almost $20 million USD per annum to improve its aviation security systems.

Andrey Danilov

For the past 15 years, Andrey Danilov has been working with aviation security issues at the level of airlines and airports. He was appointed head of Domodedovo Aviation Security in 2005.

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