Pilot training may soon add the warning signs of human trafficking to curriculums
Business and general aviation groups are the new focus areas for the awareness and prevention of human trafficking. How will the U.S. Department of Transportation accomplish this? It’s simple: pilot training. While it’s a tall order, I agree we should all do something to stop this terrible abuse.
The Department of Transportation is already attempting to get the public involved in this campaign. I was in the Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport recently, and there were posters and signs everywhere regarding human trafficking. I also heard multiple public service announcements urging me to be on the lookout for human trafficking. I took a moment to look around at the thousands of people transiting this huge airport with me, and I silently wondered what I was supposed to be looking for.
Honestly, I had no idea. So maybe some pilot training is in order. I’m surprised it is now directed at business aviation, but I shouldn’t be. Part 135 charters would be a stealthy way to move victims from one state (or country) to another.
Like how airline pilots and flight attendants are taught what to look for through the Blue Lightning Initiative, pilots and flight attendants of the biz jet world are getting involved too. The timing is perfect because traffickers tend to like the privacy of private jet travel and have become good at international crossings, using small, isolated private airports with hardly any customs and border protection available.
The Department of Homeland Security says that traffickers use various methods to lure victims into their trap, including video gaming, online solicitation, and enticement of disadvantaged or low-income children or teens. Though human trafficking often occurs within a person’s hometown, it can also cross borders (human smuggling), and that’s where the use of private jets comes in.
Another thing to consider is significant international events, like the Ukraine War. The chaos of the situation encourages traffickers to take advantage of vulnerable people who are just trying to survive or escape. High-traffic events like the Superbowl and other sporting events are also places where we should be extra vigilant.
Warning signs include travelers who have no control over their identification or travel documents, passengers who have no freedom to move around at will or who can’t talk to whomever they please, people who are unaware or confused about their travel plans, or passengers who have their plans changed at the last possible minute.
One of the most significant signs is travelers who do not seem to have a genuine relationship with each other. This is what I usually think of when I wonder about trafficking victims. Do they look out of place? Are they trying to distance themselves from their companion?
If you suspect something isn’t right, call 911 or the trafficking tip line at (866) 347- 2423, any time of the day or night. Also, in addition to the pilot training initiative, the Blue Campaign is planning a Human Trafficking Awareness Summit for aviation professionals on January 26, 2023, in Washington, DC. If we all do our part and stay aware, we can help put an end to this miserable excuse for humanity.