Author Topic: Airlines required to install secondary cockpit barriers on new planes  (Read 6162 times)

Offline KB4TEZ

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Nearly 22 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration announced a new rule Wednesday requiring commercial airlines to install secondary cockpit barriers on all new planes, but not existing ones.

“Every day, pilots and flight crews transport millions of Americans safely — and today we are taking another important step to make sure they have the physical protections they deserve,” said US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

In 2018, Congress passed a law mandating “secondary barriers” — lightweight gates that create a physical barricade around the cockpit — to prevent hijackers from gaining access when the cockpit door is routinely opened mid-flight.Pilots and flight attendants have warned, for years, that the flight deck is vulnerable when the cockpit door is opened, for example, when a pilot has to use the restroom mid-flight. Union representatives point out air marshals can’t be on all flights and say, often, the only thing stopping a would-be terrorist from gaining access is a flight attendant and a drink cart.

‘Best time to storm the cockpit’
The 9/11 Commission Report, released in July 2004, found the hijackers were aware of this vulnerability. Recruits “learned to focus on storming the cockpit at the earliest opportunity when the doors first opened,” the report found.The ringleader of the attack, Mohamed Atta, had no “contingency plan” because “he was confident the cockpit doors would be opened and did not consider breaking them down a viable idea,” according to the report, which noted: “The best time to storm the cockpit would be about 10-15 minutes after takeoff when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time.”

The report also said Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the attacks, was aware of “gaps in cabin security.” The report notes he instructed hijackers when casing flights to “watch the cabin doors at takeoff and landing, to observe whether the captain went to the lavatory during the flight, and to note whether the flight attendants brought food into the cockpits.”The Air Line Pilots Association, which represents 74,000 pilots, applauded what it called a “life-saving measure after years of needless delay.”

“Twenty-two years ago this September, terrorists used passenger aircraft to kill nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans and shattered our sense of safety and security,” said ALPA president Capt. Jason Ambrosi. “We responded to these attacks decisively and put multiple measures in place to prevent another tragedy like this from happening, but until now have failed to act to install secondary flight deck door barriers.”

The union is supporting a bill in Congress, named after United Flight 175 pilot Capt. Victor Saracini, who was killed in the 9/11 attack. The bill would mandate barriers be retrofitted on all existing planes. Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth and Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston, are two of the bill’s Texas cosponsors.In the months leading up to the 20th anniversary of the attacks, Saracini’s widow, Ellen, said she was “appalled” more hadn’t been done to protect pilots and passengers — something she has long advocated. “I can’t look another family member in the eye and say, ‘Sorry, I knew this vulnerability existed and I just decided not to do anything about it,'” she said.

The FAA has not announced a date when its new rule will take effect but the union said it must be done “within two years.”

“[E]nsuring that no terrorist — domestic or international — breaches another aircraft flight deck door again should be one of this nation’s highest security priorities,” said Ambrosi.