In a Zebee exclusive interview, we talk to an undisclosed source about his former work as an airport security officer, dealing with the dirty, dangerous and deluded at London Stansted Airport. We’ll refer to our man on the inside, as ‘X’ for the remainder of the interview as he talks about the shady side of securing the nation’s borders and provides tips on how best to make a smooth passage through the airport’s stressful security.
HI ‘X’, THANKS FOR TAKING THE TIME TO HAVE A CHAT WITH US. COULD YOU GIVE THE READERS A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF YOUR BACKGROUND AND ROLE AT THE AIRPORT?
My official title was an Aviation Terminal Security Officer. I was responsible for a number of duties, including passenger search, baggage search, x-ray operator and conducting foot patrols. The training was an intense four-week course learning the different procedures and completing a number of exams.
We had to learn how to detect both firearms and IEDs or other explosive devices via the x-ray devices, and how to handle these if found. Once these exams were passed and we were competent with the techniques, we started work on the ‘shop floor’.
See photo (below) of items confiscated by Stansted Airport security over the last 10 years.
BLOODY HELL… HOW OFTEN ARE THINGS LIKE GUNS AND BOMBS ACTUALLY FOUND?
Firearms can legally be carried on flights with the correct licensing, however, these are never allowed in the cabin, due to obvious reasons. So, whilst it was rare, whenever a firearm was discovered, you knew straight away, something wasn’t right.
I was on shift when an antique dealer attempted to carry on a defused WW1 hand grenade onto the plane with him. I was also in the airport when an ammunition belt full of live AK-47 rounds was found in hand-luggage. This led to an hour of chaos and heightened police presence…. For obvious reasons.
HAVE YOU PERSONALLY DEALT WITH ANY SUSPICIOUS PASSENGERS WHO WERE UP TO NO GOOD?
Oh yeah! On countless occasions. One of the closest calls I had was when searching a German lady’s rucksack. She was irate and acting odd. The x-ray operator had identified a sharp object among all the other mess in her bag and rightly pulled it off the belt to be searched.
I emptied her entire rucksack and found nothing. It was then I noticed the bag had been tampered with and found a secret pocket sewn up at the bottom. I managed to open it up and found an 8-inch Rambo-style fighting knife, hidden at the bottom. Needless to say, police took her aside for an interview with the Special Branch guys immediately. Apparently, she was a manic-depressive schizophrenic. I’m guessing she didn’t make her flight that day…
OH MY GOD. WHAT A NUTTER. DID YOU EVER HEAR OF ANY POSSIBLE TERROR-RELATED INCIDENTS WHEN YOU WERE THERE?
Stansted Airport is the designated airport for any aircraft hijackings. There’s been a number of instances in the past where hijacked aircraft have been rerouted to Stansted. The design of the airport means the aircraft can land far enough away from the terminal to pose any serious danger to departing passengers. It also has trenches and other tactical access points for the SAS and negotiators, to use if needed. This heightened security also makes it the ideal location for Air Force One, so POTUS flies in and out pretty often.
An elderly gentleman was spotted pushing his trolley through the terminal wearing a white singular white glove. This was how the Brussel Airport bombers hid their suicide belt detonator when they attacked in 2016. The police got a tip-off, and despite being totally innocent, the elderly gentleman probably didn’t have a very good day. Half the airport was closed and it led to severe delays.
LET’S MOVE AWAY FROM BOMBS AND GUNS AND KNIVES, AND TALK ABOUT THE MORE AWKWARD SIDE OF BAGGAGE SEARCH. YOU MUST HAVE COME ACROSS SOME SLIGHTLY DISTURBING STUFF IN YOUR TIME?
Ahaha… Let us not beat around the bush. Coming across intimate ‘toys’ was a daily occurrence. One might say they’re the real weapons of mass destruction.
Ryanair flies from Stansted, and they do lots of budget flights to city-break and honeymoon destinations. Lots of couples walking through, with nowhere to hide their more personal items, apart from the carry-on luggage.
The worst part is these toys got picked up more often than not, due to the fact they perfectly resemble an IED on an x-ray. A large, oblong silicone material with a small electronic device placed neatly inside it. You do the maths. Tick, tick, boom!
We had to take them out of the bags, in front of other passengers, and give them a swab for explosive materials, per procedure. Hard to remain professional and keep a straight face when you’re swabbing a vibrator and it starts buzzing out your hands. But yes, before you ask, we always wore gloves.
All joking aside, the security officers witness sex toys numerous times a day, so they’re all very desensitised to it. The best way to play it, is just listens to what they’re saying, nod a lot, say ‘Yes Sir/Ma’am’ and don’t kick up a fuss.
DID YOU BRUSH SHOULDERS WITH ANY CELEBRITIES IN YOUR TIME?
I remember telling Peter Andre his Armani aftershave was too big to take onboard. He wasn’t happy about it, but it looked like a knock-off anyway. I also had to confiscate Claude Littner’s (judge on The Apprentice) personalised zippo lighter. There’s a pun about ‘being fired’ in there somewhere…
Gordon Ramsay was also a familiar face. I think the majority of A-Class celebs use their own private jet concierge services. Lots of TOWIE faces and Z-list soap opera actors passed through occasionally.