Ensuring airside is also a safe side

Published: 02 May 2017

Airport staff security checks have changed dramatically since the 11 September 2001 terror attacks, and Julian Parker’s company IDGateway is at the industry’s forefront with its online vetting process 

What sparked your interest in aviation?

When I was eight I was taken for a ride in a Cessna 172 piston-single, and immediately I was hooked. This progressed on to Air Cadets with the aspiration to fly in the Royal Air Force, until I grew too tall. But my passion didn’t stop there. I got my private pilot’s licence, and then joined British Midland (BMI) at London Heathrow airport as a flight dispatcher. You could say that it was inevitable that I would end up working in aviation.

Tell us about your career to date

After BMI, I joined the recruitment industry, working at a pilot recruitment agency. Following the attacks on New York and Washington DC on 11 September 2001, I set up my first business in aviation background screening. It was here that I developed a deep understanding of the rules and requirements at UK airports and learned very quickly that no two airports manage background checks and ID pass applications the same way. It was through this that IDGateway was born.

What is IDGateway?

IDGateway is an online system which securely manages the ID pass application process for staff at many large international airports, including Heathrow. By managing the entire airside pass application process online, IDGateway helps reduce processing time, decreases rejected applications, and helps mitigate the insider threat. The system highlights profiles of interest and carries out both random and directed automated verification checks, to ensure maximum quality and enhanced security.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love hearing about day-to-day issues and then creating solutions to make them better. Aviation is always fast-paced and dynamic, plus I get to meet some fascinating people in all sorts of different roles.

What are the biggest challenges facing the airport ID market?

The insider threat – where a member of staff can pose a security risk – is ever present. We urge all airports to adopt extra vigilance, as the traditional paper-based system for processing applications remains vulnerable. Security checking airport staff, whether they’re senior executives or blue-collar workers, is a rigorous process. Employees must undergo a complex five-year background check, with no employment gaps, and then apply for an “airside pass” to get access to relevant working areas. At work they need to go through security checks and body scans to access certain areas of the airport. Despite all these precautions, airports need to do more to ensure they have good data on all employees and are able to share this appropriately. We don’t want airports to view staff with suspicion, but the insider terror threat is very real. That is why stepping up security processes and checks is vital, without compromising the individual employee. We need more commitment from industry to focus on high quality background and identity checks, as well as more innovation and sharing of information between airports, the police and other control authorities.

What do you enjoy least about your job?

Aviation is very dynamic and must adapt quickly to threats. From a software perspective, this means we must be very aware of change and be quick to respond and adapt. These short-notice changes can be very testing and require some tough mental fortitude in order to keep ahead of the needs of our clients.

What next for IDGateway?

We have just gone live with our new “Smaller Airports” product at Guernsey and Alderney airports. This is a fully featured version of IDGateway, but adapted and priced for airports of less than five million passengers. This enables smaller airports to be able to reap the benefits of an off-the-shelf online pass application process. We are also starting to engage with airports outside of the UK and would like to push into areas such as the Ministry of Defence and national infrastructure businesses.

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