ALPA's Communications Department provides information and support for news media inquiries. An ALPA communications representative can be reached in the Herndon, Va. office at (703) 481-4440.

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News Release

Release #01.124
November 16, 2001

ALPA Blasts ABC Airing of Tapes from Doomed Airliner

WASHINGTON, D.C.---The following statement was issued today by Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, in response to last night’s broadcast on ABC’s Primetime Thursday of the air traffic control tapes containing voices and sounds from the cockpit of United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania after a struggle with hijackers:

Airline pilots are appalled and outraged by the airing of pilots’ voices and the sounds of their death struggles in the cockpit of United Flight 93. Once again, the news media have demonstrated their fascination with sensationalizing the final words and sounds from doomed cockpit crews moments before they die.

Since radio transmissions between pilots and controllers are not protected by law, and since the network did not reveal its source for the tapes, ABC may not have violated any legal sanctions in broadcasting them. However, the thin cloak of legality does not hide the fact that last night’s broadcast was repugnant sensationalism masquerading as news. There was no news value in the content of the tapes, since transcribed accounts already had conveyed that information through the print media weeks ago.

To make matters worse, we have heard that at least one local affiliate station attempted to contact the family of one of the pilots to elicit their response to the scheduled broadcast. While it may be debatable whether television broadcasters do or do not have standards, it is abundantly clear that they have no shame.

At a time when all Americans, including the families of all the victims of the September 11 attack, are trying to put the horrors of that day behind them and work toward some recovery in their personal lives, here we have the media once again pulling the scabs off their wounds. At a time when Americans are seeking assurances that it is safe to fly, here we have the media again playing on their anxieties for the sake of ratings. And on the very day when Congress reported out its final version of a bill that will effect dozens of desperately needed security improvements, Primetime was looking backwards, not forward.

Little wonder that public respect for the media has slipped in recent years. By pandering to the audience ratings game with this kind of voyeurism, once-respected television news organizations are dragging themselves down to the level of "reality TV" and survivor shows.

ALPA represents 67,000 airline pilots at 47 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site is

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ALPA CONTACTS: John Mazor, Ron Lovas (703) 481-4440.