#TechTuesday Explores Reinforcing the Cockpit

On Sunday, ALPA, along with millions of people in this country, took time to honor the nearly 3,000 lives lost on September 11, 2001. An important facet of ALPA’s “never forget, never again” focus is to advance the security of aviation operations as part of the 9/11 legacy.  In the aftermath of the attacks, Congress mandated that reinforced flight deck doors be installed on passenger airliners. Unfortunately, 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 that they may be compromised by one or more intruders who could rush the flight deck. Airlines have developed ad hoc means of blocking the aisle with flight attendants and serving carts to protect the flight deck when the door is open, but those measures are inadequate to stop a determined adversary.

To address this unintended security loophole, another layer of safety, the “secondary barrier,” was developed by airlines for use whenever the cockpit door is open during flight. These lightweight, inexpensive (i.e., approximately $5,000-$12,000 per aircraft to retro-fit, and even lower cost on new aircraft), wire-mesh, retractable locking screens can be installed between the flight deck door and cabin to give the crew time to shut the fortified flight deck door before a potential intruder has time to compromise security. 

In order to enhance security for passengers, pilots and the national defense, ALPA continues to be a leader in efforts to enact legislation that would require secondary barriers on all passenger aircraft. While current legislation awaits congressional approval, ALPA remains focused on identifying new and innovative ways that technology can be introduced to enhance safety—both industrywide and specifically on the passenger and cargo aircraft that our members fly. 

Categories: Safety, Industry