Wednesday, February 13, 2019

US legislators introduce bill to mandate secondary cockpit barriers

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers have introduced a bill that would require all commercial aircraft operating in the US be retrofitted with secondary cockpit barriers to prevent terrorist attacks similar to 9/11.

If it becomes law, the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act would mandate the installation of lightweight wire-mesh gates between the passenger cabin and cockpit door, which would block access to the flight deck whenever the cockpit door is opened during flight.

The bill was named in honor of Capt. Victor Saracini, who was killed when the plane he was flying—a United Airlines Boeing 767—was hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center on 9/11. His widow has since become a national advocate for aviation safety.

“It is unacceptable that, more than 17 years after terrorists breached the cockpit of my husband’s airplane on Sept. 11, 2001, our skies are still susceptible to repeat this act of terrorism,” Ellen Saracini said “It is my mission to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the flight deck aboard our nation’s airliners because, without secondary barriers, we are just as vulnerable today as we were on that fateful day.”

Since 2001, FAA has issued a series of rules to protect flight decks from intrusion and small arms fire, resulting in the installation of reinforced flight deck doors on all commercial carriers operating flying to and from the US. While these doors provide protection when they are closed and locked, the FAA has long recognized that the flight deck is vulnerable when the crew members open the door to access lavatories, transfer meals or switch positions for crew rest purposes.

Last year, Congress attached an amendment onto the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 that required all new manufactured aircraft to install a secondary barrier protecting the cockpit. The Saracini Aviation Safety Act would extend that rule to all existing aircraft, ensuring current fleets are held to the same standards as newly manufactured planes.

“I was proud to cosponsor bipartisan legislation last Congress requiring secondary barriers on new commercial aircraft to help stop terrorists on airplanes,” Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-New Jersey) said. “Now that it’s law, we need to go a step further to protect our country by requiring all commercial aircraft to have secondary cockpit barriers. We must do everything we can to prevent all terror attacks on our country, and that includes in our skies.”

(Ben Goldstein - ATWOnline News)

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