Papers' exposes spark national security fears

Mirror: infiltrated airport security

A national and a regional newspaper have broken the security barriers surrounding what should have been some of the most closely guarded targets for terrorists in the UK – and sparked inquiries in each case.

The Mirror’s Adrian McGurran and photographer Phil Harris told last Friday how they had spent an hour in a servicing hangar at Stansted Airport, even getting into the cockpit of a 737 passenger jet, without being challenged.

On the same day, a plane chartered by the Western Daily Press was able to fly 2000ft over Hinkley Point nuclear power station, unchallenged by air traffic controllers. The pilot was able to do so legally because there is no exclusion zone around the Somerset site.

The WDP report said the exercise "exposed how easily a terrorist prepared to give his own life could have flown a plane packed with explosives into the buildings which house Hinkley Point’s nuclear reactors".

Both stories were picked up by television and radio and by Saturday, the two newspapers were reporting immediate reaction.

The Mirror was reporting that the Government had ordered all 142 British airports to tighten security.

Transport Secretary Stephen Byers, it said, had sent inspectors to Stansted Airport, the hangar at the centre of the investigation had been closed and the aircraft had been moved to a more secure base.

The newspaper also said that other airports were rushing to enhance security following its disclosures.

The WDP, whose photographer was amazed the plane was able to fly so close, said that local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger was to put down a written question in Parliament over why there were no no-fly zones around some British power stations.

A spokesman for Hinkley Point said that security was being "reviewed and enhanced" but would not give details.

By Jean Morgan

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