This week 50 years ago, a German Shepherd named Brandy and a Labrador named Sally put on quite a demonstration for their handlers, law enforcement officials and invited press at a New York City police precinct. Relying on their incredible senses of smell and recent training, these canines easily sniffed out hidden pipe bombs and dynamite sticks saturated with high explosive odors to everyone’s amazement. At the time, the two were among a small group of dogs receiving explosive detection training as part of a limited‐warfare research program at the University of Mississippi, supervised by the United States Land Warfare Laboratories. Just three months later, a high-profile terror incident would put Brandy’s nose to the test and cement the power of the canine for explosive detection.
The following March 8, 1972, a TWA Boeing 707 left Kennedy International Airport headed for Los Angeles, CA. Fifteen minutes after takeoff, the pilot was notified of a bomb threat and quickly turned back the plane carrying 45 passengers and a crew of seven. At the same time, Brandy and his handler were in another area of the airport about to begin a demonstration for the Federal Aviation Administration. Instead, they were called into real-life action. Within seconds of boarding the plane, Brandy sat on explosive odor in a briefcase. Police bomb technicians deactivated the device just five minutes before it was scheduled to detonate. Authorities described the bomb as six pounds of C‐4, a puttylike explosive, with a fuse connected to an electric device.
This near-disastrous incident occurred amid rising aviation industry security concerns. It prompted President Richard Nixon to issue new regulations directing every air carrier to prevent or deter “carriage of weapons or explosives aboard aircraft” and to tighten baggage screening procedures. It was the dawn of a new era of aviation security which would center on using the capabilities of well-trained and properly imprinted explosive detection canines.
Half a century later, aviation security has dramatically improved thanks to bomb dogs and advanced screening technology. MSA Security’s more than 700 Explosive Detection Canine Teams are at work across the globe at airports, sports stadiums, entertainment venues and transportation hubs. Yet, high consequence threats continue as terrorists and homegrown extremist groups innovate their methods to create fear and cause harm. A serious incident can occur anywhere and at any time, spanning geographies, industries and tactics. Organizations must remain vigilant and invest in proven, layered security solutions to protect people, property and assets.
In related content, MSA Security® prepared High Consequence Threats: A Timeline of Events to further illustrate the wide range of incidents that can occur anytime, anywhere.