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Sniffer dogs.

Lufthansa Cargo and Fraport train explosives detection dogs for cargo search missions.

When the game begins, Larry Hansen and Tommy get down to serious business. Hansen hides something behind his back, and Tommy starts looking for it. This ritual between dog handler Hansen and his canine friend is short but important. 

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For very soon, Tommy will no longer be sniffing to find Hansen’s toy, but searching for explosives. The German shepherd dog with his extremely discerning sense of smell will be nosing his way crate by crate through the pieces of cargo in the screening area of Lufthansa Cargo’s freight building. 

Tommy suddenly picks up the scent and tugs Hansen on the lead towards a small wooden box on a pallet and lies down in front of it. This is the dog’s alert, notifying the handler that there is a smell of explosives here. And indeed: Hansen pulls out the toy and praises Tommy for his discovery. The game is over – and, with the exception of Tommy, everyone knows that this game is no game at all, but could in fact save lives.

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Burkhardt Berndt, Senior Manager Aviation Security at Lufthansa Cargo, is also satisfied. He has watched Tommy’s training session on site. The reason: “Due to the new airfreight security regulations, we expect a sharp increase in the amount of cargo that has to be screened at German airports. 

All consignors have to undergo a certification procedure by the German Federal Agency of Aviation (LBA). Without this certification, their cargo is classified from now on as non-secure and must be checked at the airport,” says Berndt. The twelve teams of the Fraport dog squad could considerably relieve the accompanying workload.

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The small package containing explosives that Tommy detected was not hidden in the crate by a terrorist, but by Peter Russ. He is the task and training officer of Fraport’s dog squad at Frankfurt Airport.

He has been training Fraport’s sniffer dog teams for their missions on the airport site and in the terminals for over ten years now. The teams have been available for back-up deployment to assist the federal and state police since 1985. 

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The dogs will soon also be used in the cargo area. Berndt: “We are working intensely on the corresponding authorization by the authorities.” Time and time again, shipments turn up which have such a high density that the X-rays are unable to penetrate. This cargo has to be laboriously unpacked and manually checked. This is already part of the daily routine at the Lufthansa Cargo Center: two Lufthansa Cargo security employees have been busy here for half an hour unpacking a crate with auto parts in order to push the individual packages through the X-ray machine in smaller batches and then carefully put them back in the crate again.

“Deploying an explosives detection dog, who can also check the closed crate up to a certain size, saves us doing the work,” says Berndt. In a number of other European countries, he adds, explosives sniffer dogs are already being used to check the cargo.

To also enable the use of the dogs in Frankfurt as soon as possible, they have been preparing for their deployment in cargo checking for quite some time.

Training under realistic conditions, for example, in the LCC or even in an MD-11 on the apron, is particularly important.

The animals can only achieve optimal results through thorough training at locations that are as realistic as possible. “For training purposes, it is very important that the dogs are drilled where they will later go on their missions. That’s the only way they can get used to stress factors such as noise or the movements of fork lift trucks, which would otherwise distract them from their main task,” explains trainer Russ.

An experienced handler needs at least half a year to train an explosives sniffer dog. Hansen, who came to Frankfurt with the U.S. Army as a young man and speaks German with a broad American accent, has been working together with his “partner” Tommy for six years. The most important goal of Tommy’s training was to detect explosive substances.

Basic training, during which the dog learns to be obedient, is followed by special training. “This is where the animals become familiar with the different explosives as well as train their alerts and tactics,” Russ sums up. As this training at Frankfurt Airport is in-service, it can take up to twelve months before a dog is mission-ready. The objective is for the animals to be able to reliably search luggage, but also entire aircraft or rooms for explosives when training is completed.
    
In collaboration with Lufthansa Cargo, Russ and his dog squad colleagues have successfully taken part in long-term tests with the aim of establishing the suitability of the dogs for day-to-day deployment as a control element in cargo transport.

“Lufthansa Cargo gives us the opportunity to test realistic scenarios in places we would otherwise have no access to,” says Russ. Hansen adds: “Training in a freighter is almost impossible, as the aircraft come in, are unloaded and loaded, and then immediately leave again. But the Lufthansa Cargo people notify us when there’s a bit more time on hand, which means we can then utilize these valuable 30 minutes. It’s really important to have possibilities like these.”

Tommy is also happy about the successful mission in the freighter. And even though he may not comprehend how important this training is for his dangerous job, he definitely appreciates the encouraging pat and the tasty treat he gets from his partner Larry. It ensures that he will be highly motivated on the next mission to make Frankfurt Airport just that little bit more secure.

Photos:

Ralf Kreuels

planet 1/2013

To also enable the use of the dogs in Frankfurt as soon as possible, they have been preparing for their deployment in cargo checking for quite some time.

Training under realistic conditions, for example, in the LCC or even in an MD-11 on the apron, is particularly important.

The animals can only achieve optimal results through thorough training at locations that are as realistic as possible. “For training purposes, it is very important that the dogs are drilled where they will later go on their missions. That’s the only way they can get used to stress factors such as noise or the movements of fork lift trucks, which would otherwise distract them from their main task,” explains trainer Russ.

An experienced handler needs at least half a year to train an explosives sniffer dog. Hansen, who came to Frankfurt with the U.S. Army as a young man and speaks German with a broad American accent, has been working together with his “partner” Tommy for six years. The most important goal of Tommy’s training was to detect explosive substances.

Basic training, during which the dog learns to be obedient, is followed by special training. “This is where the animals become familiar with the different explosives as well as train their alerts and tactics,” Russ sums up. As this training at Frankfurt Airport is in-service, it can take up to twelve months before a dog is mission-ready. The objective is for the animals to be able to reliably search luggage, but also entire aircraft or rooms for explosives when training is completed.

In collaboration with Lufthansa Cargo, Russ and his dog squad colleagues have successfully taken part in long-term tests with the aim of establishing the suitability of the dogs for day-to-day deployment as a control element in cargo transport.

“Lufthansa Cargo gives us the opportunity to test realistic scenarios in places we would otherwise have no access to,” says Russ. Hansen adds: “Training in a freighter is almost impossible, as the aircraft come in, are unloaded and loaded, and then immediately leave again. But the Lufthansa Cargo people notify us when there’s a bit more time on hand, which means we can then utilize these valuable 30 minutes. It’s really important to have possibilities like these.”

Tommy is also happy about the successful mission in the freighter. And even though he may not comprehend how important this training is for his dangerous job, he definitely appreciates the encouraging pat and the tasty treat he gets from his partner Larry. It ensures that he will be highly motivated on the next mission to make Frankfurt Airport just that little bit more secure.

 

Photos:

Ralf Kreuels

planet 1/2013