Terrorists could smuggle the components needed to make a bomb on to a plane in Britain despite restrictions on taking liquids on board, it was claimed.

A television documentary team said it had made a bomb by mixing a series of odourless and colourless chemicals that could be brought into an aircraft by passengers.

Airport security - Bomb chemicals 'can be smuggled on airplane'
The aviation industry said robust security was needed, while inconvenience should be kept to a minimum

The liquids that were mixed to make the explosive cocktail were all contained in bottles of less than 100ml, which is the limit enforced at most airports around the world at present and was introduced shortly after British authorities thwarted an alleged attempt to blow up transatlantic aircraft in August 2006.

Researchers for Channel 4's Dispatches programme used a commercial detonator to explode their "bomb" at Lasham airfield, Hants.

Were this to have happened in mid-air, the documentary makers claimed, the pilot would have lost control of the aircraft.

The chemicals used were not identified by the documentary makers but it is widely known that commonplace liquids such as hydrogen peroxide, a contact lens cleaner available at most chemists, can be used in explosives.

The claims by the documentary makers fly in the face of tests carried out by the American authorities in 2006.

They claimed a viable bomb could not be made if a 100ml limit was imposed on individual containers of liquids and their findings led to the standardisation of restrictions across much of the world.

Since then, more sophisticated hand luggage screening equipment has been introduced at a number of British airports.

Critics say without passenger profiling - trying to identify potential terrorists before they board - such precautions are inadequate.

"If you had enough people getting on board, they could easily bring on enough liquid between them to bring a plane down," said Roland Alford, of Alford Technologies, a company specialising in counter-measures.

"You would need as few as five people. You really need to look at profiling, which has been a dirty word for political reasons."

Philip Baum, the editor of Aviation Security International, warned of loopholes in the system.

"We screen hand luggage, we don't screen people," he said.

The aviation industry said robust security was needed, while inconvenience to passengers should be kept to a minimum - without jeopardising safety.

"It is for the Government to stipulate what they look for," a spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport defended the present arrangements.

"The requirements are both appropriate and necessary to ensure that flights are properly secure and that passengers are able to travel as freely as possible," he said.

"If we did not believe it was safe we would not allow a single flight to take off."

It blew a gaping hole in a decommissioned aircraft, snapping the ribs of the fuselage.