Secondary Barriers

Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the U.S. Congress mandated that airlines replace standard cockpit doors with hardened doors on certain types of airliners. Industry response to that mandate has resulted in installation of a fortified door to prevent unauthorized entry into the flight deck on most commercial aircraft types used today. Aircraft equipped include all passenger airliners and some all-cargo aircraft. Unfortunately, some all-cargo aircraft were excluded from this requirement and those aircraft remain at risk.

The strength of the reinforced cockpit door is in its remaining closed and secured during flight. However, actual operations demonstrate that the fortified door oftentimes does not remain closed for the entire duration of flight. During flights of any significant duration, the door must be opened for a variety of reasons, including crewmember coordination and meal service, as well as the flight crew’s physiological requirements. A “secondary barrier,” placed on the cabin side of the fortified flight deck door, is designed to add enhanced security during periods of “door transition” by adding additional time for crewmembers to secure the flight deck door in the event of an attempted breach. ALPA, in concert with industry partners, has long supported the development of a secondary barrier, accompanied by specific flight deck access procedures, to complement the security provided by a fortified cockpit door. In addition, a secondary barrier may provide a suitable alternative to the cockpit door on those cargo aircraft that have not been equipped with the reinforced cockpit door.

On July 19, 2007, ALPA issued a white paper: Secondary Flight Deck Barriers and Flight Deck Access Procedures – A Call for Action, which formalized the Association’s support of secondary barriers and accompanying procedures. The Association and its partners have sought a vehicle through which Minimum Operational Performance Standards (MOPS) can be established throughout the industry for installation of secondary barriers for those carriers who opt to implement this additional layer of security against a potential breach of the fortified flight deck. ALPA does not propose that government mandate the installation of a physical secondary barrier, but strongly endorses the need for establishment of FAA-approved MOPS so that airlines may voluntarily install them, or alternatively, procedures which will meet the same intent. At least two legacy airlines have voluntarily installed secondary barriers on one or more types in their respective fleets. Others have indicated the desire to do so, once appropriate MOPS are established for the industry and adopted by FAA.

The FAA late last year asked the RTCA, a government-chartered standards-setting organization to create a new, Special Committee on aircraft secondary barriers to develop MOPS. That committee is now actively meeting to create the desired standards. ALPA is also urging Congress to require that FAA, in consultation with appropriate airline, aircraft manufacturer, and airline labor representatives, identify a physical means, or combination of physical and procedural means, of limiting access to the flight decks of all-cargo aircraft to only authorized flight crewmembers.