US legislators are seeking stronger aviation security with a two-tier law that would require passenger carriers to install secondary safety doors between cabins and the cockpit on current aircraft for another Sept. 11-type attack to prevent.
Hijacks remain a threat despite improvements in global aviation safety since September 11, 2001, when hijacked planes entered the New York World Trade Center and the Pentagon, four US representatives – Democrats Andre Carson and Josh Gottheimer and Republicans Brian Fitzpatrick and Peter King – said in a statement.
Last year, the Congress imposed a requirement for secondary barriers, designed to prevent potential hijackers from towing the cockpit when pilots take a break or eat meals for future, newly produced commercial aircraft. But that legislation did not apply to existing aircraft.
The new law, which was introduced last week, would extend the requirement to all passenger planes.
Secondary barriers would allow a pilot to close the cockpit door before opening another door to the rest of the aircraft. Current measures to protect the cockpit include the stationing of a steward or a food car for the cockpit.
A study by the Federal Aviation Administration, which oversees aviation security, concluded that cockpits are vulnerable when pilots disembark and cite secondary doors as the most efficient, cost-effective form of protection, according to the news issue issued on Wednesday.
The lightweight, mesh barriers would cost $ 5,000 to $ 12,000 per aircraft, the lawmakers said.
Airlines for America – a trade association representing major commercial airlines such as American Airlines Group Inc., Southwest Airlines Co. and United – said that individual airlines should be the one who decides to install such systems.
Vaughn Jennings association spokesman said the aerospace industry worked closely with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to implement a multi-tier security system after 9/11 and noted that some US carriers have found that secondary cockpit barriers are suitable for some planes.
The pilots' union, The Air Line Pilots Association, said it supported the legislation and called on the FAA to immediately apply the language that Congress asked last year for new passenger aircraft "to ensure the safety of our cockpits."
After the September 11, 2001 attacks, airlines have strengthened the cockpit doors and the TSA has deployed advanced airport control equipment.
The TSA also oversees the Federal Air Marshal Service, which uses armed American air aggressors on flights around the world.
But critics have questioned the effectiveness of passenger research and the air marshal program.
The new law for secondary barriers is called the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act after pilot Victor Saracini, who was killed when his plane was hijacked during the September 11 attacks. His widow, Ellen, was a proponent of legislation for the safety of aviation.
(Reporting by Tracy Rucinski, editing by Jonathan Oatis and Diane Craft)
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