L to R: F/O Dan Ward (United), Capt. Robert Hamilton (PSA), F/O Joseph Morowitz (United), Congressman Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Ellen Saracini, and F/O Doug Mattson (United).
This week, United Airlines pilots took to Capitol Hill as part of ALPA’s efforts to mandate secondary barriers on passenger aircraft. Secondary barriers are lightweight devices that are easy to deploy and stow, installed between the passenger cabin and the cockpit door, that block access to the flight deck whenever the reinforced door is opened in flight.
After the attacks of 9/11, the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament mandated that airlines replace standard cockpit doors with hardened doors on certain types of airliners. However, practical experience using these doors soon revealed a critical vulnerability—the reinforced door must be periodically opened during flight for pilots’ operational and physiological needs, which means they may be compromised by one or more terrorists who could rush the flight deck. To address this unintended security lapse, a secondary barrier was developed by airlines for use whenever the cockpit door is open during flight.
Government and industry studies have shown that secondary cockpit barriers are an effective, inexpensive way to protect our aircraft during flight when the cockpit door must be opened. The current alternative—a flight attendant acting as a human shield with or without a serving cart—is not an acceptable layer of security.
For years, ALPA has been working closely with members of Congress on the merits of secondary cockpit barriers. This week, ALPA pilots spoke with elected officials on the importance of cosponsoring the Saracini Aviation Safety Act (H.R. 911, S. 911), which would require the use of secondary barriers in aircraft. The legislation is named for Capt. Victor Saracini, one of the United pilots killed when terrorists gained access to his cockpit and hijacked United Flight 175 on 9/11.
It is crucial that we take all needed measures to delay, deter, and prevent efforts by unauthorized individuals to enter the cockpit through an open door. Secondary barriers are a proven, effective, and efficient layer of security for the cockpit, and ALPA once again calls on Congress to require that these inexpensive devices are mandated on passenger aircraft.
We encourage everyone to take a moment and voice your support for keeping our skies safe and secure. Tell Congress today to support the Saracini Aviation Safety Act and ensure that secondary barriers are mandatory.