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News Release

Release #01.117
October 30, 2001

ALPA Advises on Security Issues at Hearing on LAX

LOS ANGELES---A safety representative of the Air Line Pilots Association, speaking this evening at a hearing on proposed changes to Los Angeles International Airport, highlighted areas of concern for airport security.

"Because I’m a pilot, I’ll start with the aircraft itself, as it sits parked on the tarmac," said Captain Jon Russell, regional safety chairman of ALPA for the area encompassing LAX. "Who has access to a parked aircraft? An awful lot of people, as it turns out – caterers, cleaning crews, and mechanics, among others."

"Many of these are not even employees of the airline or airport. Nor do they have to pass through the same security screening points that I or my crew or passengers have to go through. For obvious reasons, I’m not going to discuss in public the details of these concerns, but access to aircraft is an area where we need major improvements," he said.

Russell was speaking at the Draft Master Plan Environmental Impact Report hearing sponsored by the FAA, the City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports. The hearing was at the Luminarias Restaurant, 3500 Ramona Blvd. in Monterey Park.

"Another aspect of access is identification. Restricting access to authorized persons is only as good as the means we use to identify the person seeking access. Some of you may remember the PSA incident from the late 1980s, where a fired PSA ground employee used his ID card to smuggle a gun around the security checkpoints, then used the gun to kill the pilots while the aircraft was in flight. ALPA called for a ‘Universal Access’ system of identification cards, which would be scanned and checked by computer against a central database," he said.

"Since then, we have developed so-called "smart cards" which incorporate a small computer chip that can store information, such as a photo of the holder and a PIN number that would have to be entered by the employee whenever he passes through a controlled checkpoint. This would eliminate the use of fraudulent, expired, lost or stolen cards. It also would reduce or eliminate the need for pilots and others to carry multiple ID cards for use at different airports, thereby reducing the risk of having one of these ID cards become lost or stolen," he said.

"Moving away from the airplane, we need to talk about baggage and freight. Bombs onboard the aircraft still are a security concern. To provide maximum protection, we are going to have to move toward screening freight and checked luggage, using the best detection technologies. This is going to be neither easy nor cheap, and we need to do it sooner rather than later. And purchasing these machines is the easy part – they must then be integrated into the flow of freight and baggage streams," he said.

"The other area that needs improvement is the matching of checked bags to passengers as they board the aircraft. This currently is done on many international trips, but we need to expand this to cover domestic flights as well. And as with the screening of freight and checked baggage, this will be neither easy nor cheap, especially if we do not want this to become a major bottleneck to on-time performance," he said.

"I do not want my next point to be taken as a criticism or a call to end the project. I understand that there is a proposal to create a centralized security check-in facility for passengers, away from the main terminals. I am not clear as to what all the benefits of such a facility might be, but I would simply raise the following question: Given the cost of this particular project, would the net increase in security be more than the increases in security that might be realized by spending the same money on improvements in other areas, such as the ones I have mentioned here? Given that there never is enough money to do all the things we want to, we must be judicious in prioritizing our needs and expenditures. I would hope that the planners and security experts will have done the math, so to speak, before moving ahead with this particular project," he said.

"In closing, let me point out that prior to September 11, we had a number of important issues relating to safety at LAX that have nothing to do with security concerns. These problems do not go away simply because we happen to be focused on the security crisis. The airport has been issued a temporary reprieve because of the reduced traffic, but at some point -- and again I am hoping that it is sooner rather than later -- I would hope that all of us can resume our focus on these issues before we are forced to, because of an accident or incident," he said.

ALPA represents 66,000 airline pilots in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site is

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ALPA CONTACT: Capt. Jon Russell (818) 591-8439