Malicious aviation incident

This risk is featured in the full matrix, representing the averages of multiple different scenarios presented together in the ‘terrorist attacks on transport’ category.

Impact 5
risk indicator
ID 4
Risk theme Terrorism
Impact & Likelihood
Impact key
5 Catastrophic
4 Significant
3 Moderate
2 Limited
1 Minor
Likelihood key
5 >25%
4 5-25%
3 1-5%
2 0.2-1%
1 <0.2%


While air travel remains one of the safest forms of transport, aviation continues to be an attractive target for terrorists and those who wish to cause harm. In recent decades, there have been several attacks and attempted attacks against aircraft and related infrastructure around the world. The government works closely with the aviation industry on aviation security and continues to develop and implement effective measures to protect UK outbound aviation, including the use of advanced screening equipment at security checkpoints to screen passengers and their baggage. All staff working in restricted areas at airports are subject to screening and enhanced background checks. The aviation industry also works with partners overseas to improve aviation security globally


In summary, the reasonable worst-case scenario involves a terrorist attack against an aircraft with passengers on board, causing it to crash over a populated area. This would cause a significant number of fatalities and casualties, involving a broad spectrum of injuries, with impacts over a widespread area. Long-term rebuilding and regeneration of the affected area would be necessary.

Response capability requirements

The immediate response would require a range of capabilities across the emergency services, including specialist teams. There will likely be a requirement for mutual aid for emergency services. Psychological treatment and support would be needed. There would need to be decontamination expertise to clear any aviation fuel left behind.


In the reasonable worst-case scenario, it could take up to 2 weeks for normal air traffic services to resume. However, it would likely take much longer for the local area to recover from any damage caused by the incident. Local residents and businesses might need to be relocated temporarily and some permanently.