By Captain Jerry Timmerman, Delta B737
Fifteen years ago, at the end of a prosperous decade, our planet was thrown into chaos when four U.S. passenger airplanes were hijacked and turned into missiles. Emotional, economic, and enduring scars from September 11th, 2001 are with us still. As a country, we vowed then to never let such a tragedy happen again, which is why we must mandate secondary barriers on all commercial passenger aircraft now.
In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, we upgraded our security systems. Cultural and physical changes were made, studied, adjusted, and re-implemented in order to create the risk-based, layered security approach we have now. Today, we have hardened cockpit doors, Transportation Security Officers at every entrance point, and the Federal Flight Deck Officers program, but we still lack one key layer in our aviation security structure: mandatory secondary barriers.
As pilots, we know how often the cockpit door has to be opened during normal operations. In those moments, the cockpit no longer has an impenetrable barrier and our aircraft are open to risk. A flight attendant in the aisle is not an effective deterrent to a hijacker. Federal Air Marshalls and FFDO’s are a great added measure on the flights they happen to be on however, we need a cost-effective, simple secondary barrier in place on all of our aircraft to protect our work spaces and allow us to do our job of safely transporting passengers on every flight, every day.
While the installation of these barriers is first and foremost a security and safety concern, 9/11 also was directly responsible for the economic disaster that persisted for years beyond. Between 2001 and 2007, airline earnings and employment contracted by a third. Thousands of pilots’ careers were destroyed or degraded. Pensions were lost. The U.S. airline industry has finally struggled out of our lost decade but another 9/11-style attack could quickly plunge the industry back into the very same morass no pilot ever wants to revisit.
I hope every ALPA member will join me in calling for mandatory secondary barriers on all commercial passenger aircraft. It is my hope that we will never again see a tragedy like 9/11, but it is all of our responsibility to fight to make that hope a reality.