JOHN OBRIEN, DIRECTOR
ENGINEERING & AIR SAFETY
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL
SUBCOMMITTEE ON ENERGY POLICY, NATURAL RESOURCES AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS
THE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM
U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
REGULATIONS NEEDED TO ENSURE AIR SECURITY
NOVEMBER 27, 2001
I am John OBrien, Director of Engineering and Air Safety for the Air Line Pilots Association, International. ALPA represents 67,000 airline pilots who fly for 47 U.S. and Canadian airlines. We are sincerely appreciative of the opportunity to appear before the Subcommittee to present our views on the important subject of air security regulations.
ALPA has been at the forefront of the effort to create a more secure airline travel system. We are pleased, therefore, that the President last week signed into law the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (the Act) that contains many of the provisions that we have urged for adoption.
This hearing is most timely, in that it concerns the actual implementation of that laws numerous provisions and other initiatives. Congress oversight role will be critically important to prevent a repeat of some of the FAAs regulatory missteps in years past. One example of such a misstep was the agencys failure to produce major security regulations in a timely manner revised CFR 14 Parts 107 and 108 were published this summer, 10 years after revisions began! We are hopeful that the new DOT Under Secretarys office will produce NPRMs and final rules in a more expeditious fashion.
I would like to emphasize that ALPA strongly promotes One Level of Security during the implementation of federal security-related regulations. Instituting a single security level, by definition, means the abolition of todays sundry security levels and practices for airlines and airports based on perceived threat. A terrorist-guided missile, in the form of a fully loaded airliner, can take off from any commercial airport in the country and wreak havoc on unsuspecting innocents virtually anywhere below. A suicidal bomber can effect a terrorist attack as decisively on an airplane departing from Des Moines as one leaving from Dulles. There is no difference between a fully-loaded B-747 cargo airplane and a fully-loaded B-747 passenger airplane in terms of their use as terrorist missiles. Each of our recommendations is made in this context.
Following are our responses to the Subcommittees request for comments on several specific initiatives.
Employee and Passenger Identification
ALPA has been promoting the need for positive, electronic verification of identity and electronic airport access control systems since 1987 shortly after the downing of PSA flight 1771 by an armed, disgruntled, former airline employee. This mass murder, which bore similarities to the hijackings of September 11th, was attributable in large measure to identity-verification inadequacies that have yet to be addressed 14 years later.
At ALPAs urging, the FAA required approximately 200 of the largest commercial airports to install computerized access control systems in the late 1980s and early 1990s. However, in spite of the entire aviation industrys arguments to the contrary, the agency failed to (1) create a detailed set of performance standards for use by the airport community and (2) provide for the access control and identification needs of the transient airline employee population. This mismanagement was, and still is, expensive for the airports and airlines the initial estimate of about $170 million for access controls actually rose to more than $600 million, and the figures continue to climb. There are also numerous costs that are difficult or impossible to compute stemming from the inefficiencies related to transient airline employees lack of access at airports.
In the mid-1990s the FAA, with ALPAs urging and congressional funding, performed a test of what came to be known as the Universal Access System (UAS). Two million taxpayer dollars were spent on those tests involving two major airlines and four large airports. For all practical purposes, those funds were wasted. Although the FAA completed successful tests of the UAS and standards were finalized for the system in 1998, there has been no implementation by any airline of the system, per stated congressional intent. This failure came as a result of an FAA policy to leave UAS implementation to the sole discretion of the carriers.
Although magnetic stripe technology was used as the basis for UAS tests, there are now several advanced, mature technologies that could be used to positively identify authorized personnel. The FAA is expected to complete a study of its recent tests of a Memory Chip Card (MCC) system for identifying armed law enforcement officers in the near future. This technology is much more secure than magnetic stripe and has the additional capability of storing an extensive amount of data that can be used for both security and other types of uses.
The FAA has stated that these same readers could also be used by airlines for issuance of MCC cards to their employees. ALPA is recommending that the airlines use the MCC, or an equally secure technology or technology combination (e.g., smart card with biometric reader), as the means for performing several important functions, including the following:
1. Positive access control for all employees who work at the airport, not just non-transients. Airline pilots and other transient employees currently rely on a very non-secure method of moving around airports, which creates the potential for security breaches. Namely, they request airport-based, company employees to open doors for them as a courtesy based on their possession of an airline ID card. As we know, ID cards and uniforms could be fraudulently used to gain access, which underscores the need for electronic verification.
2. Positive verification of identity at the screening checkpoint to enable transient employees to be processed more quickly. Passengers are enduring long lines at the security screening checkpoint. These lines are made longer by the screening of pilots, flight attendants and other individuals in positions of trust, who are often screened several times a day. The lack of equipment for positively identifying these individuals wastes limited screening resources and further inconveniences the traveling public.
3. Identity verification of jumpseat riders. Use of the jumpseat by commuting pilots is an absolute necessity in todays airline environment. Unfortunately, that privilege has been severely curtailed since shortly after the terrorist attacks because there is no way to positively verify the jumpseat requesters identity and employment status.
4. A platform for digital pilot licenses and medical information. Consistent with language in the Act, we recommend that the same card, or type of card, be used by the FAA for containing a pilots license and medical information. ALPA is working with FAA Flight Standards on this concept. Smart cards have more than sufficient memory for this purpose and others that the airlines may develop.
One important aspect of access control systems and UAS is the need for specifying a single set of performance standards to be used by all equipment suppliers and system integrators. Different types of technologies, used by different airports and airlines, can be incorporated into the aviation security system if interoperability is a requirement for all of them. RTCA, an aviation standards organization, may be useful in helping to create such standards.
In concert with the new security laws provisions regarding passenger identification, several organizations are promoting "smart" cards for passengers to be read at the screening checkpoint. Conceptually, such individuals would be processed more quickly than those without a card at a special lane created for this purpose. ALPA supports this recommendation provided that the passengers voluntarily submit to a thorough background check and, if possible, a criminal history records check, in order to receive this card. The background check should be updated at least annually in order to retain it.
Evidencing the importance of this issue, nine of the 33 DOT Rapid Response Team (RRT) recommendations relate to the subject of employee and passenger identification and access control, namely: Aircraft Security Report recommendations 7 and 8; and, Airport Security Report recommendations 2, 4, 7, 8, 9, 13, 16. A copy of these recommendations is included with my statement.
We recommend that the government amend CFR 14 FAR Parts 107 and 108 to accomplish the following:
1. Identify a single performance standard that will be used by access control equipment providers and integrators, the airlines and airports to create a universal access system.
2. Require airlines and airports to create such a universal access system that incorporates, at a minimum, the following features: (1) can be used by any transient airline employee at any U.S. airport where they operate (2) requires the carriage of only one piece of media (e.g., smart card) (3) positively identifies pilots for jumpseat-riding purposes (4) allows the bearer to open all access-controlled doors to which they have authorized entry (5) allows the electronic storage of pilot license and medical certificates, and (6) is used as the principal means of processing transient employees through the security screening checkpoint.
3. Establish a provision within FAR Part 108 that will allow the creation of a "trusted passenger" identification and security screening checkpoint methodology aimed at increasing security and checkpoint throughput.
Hiring Criteria and Performance Standards
The foundation of a good security system for any entity, public or private, is a sound set of hiring criteria. Non-trustworthy employees cost time, money, and in the most extreme cases, can be life-threatening. The aviation industry has failed in several respects to ensure that only the most trust-worthy individuals are hired into critical, security-sensitive positions.
Background checks, consisting mostly of employment verification, have been used by the aviation industry for a number of years. These checks have more recently been supplemented by criminal history records investigations when a lapse in employment has occurred or there is some other questionable matter associated with an applicants past.
It is our recommendation that criminal history records checks be performed on all new employee applicants to help ensure that only the most ethical and trustworthy employees be allowed within airport secure areas. Unfortunately, the issue of background and criminal history checks is greatly complicated by non-U.S. citizens and those who have been U.S. citizens for only a short time.
Accordingly, we recommend that the government amend CFR 14 FAR 107 and 108 to require mandatory pre-hire criminal history records check for all applicants who are U.S. citizens. An Interpol criminal history records check should be performed on all applicants who are either not U.S. citizens, or have not been U.S. citizens for at least 10 years. We endorse the Acts specific provisions for screener hiring standards.
Performance standards for baggage screening can best be tested and monitored through use of the Threat Image Project System, or TIPS. TIPS intermingles images of bags containing threat objects at random with the x-ray or EDS images of real bags. Screeners are required to identify the threat objects in a TIPS image, just as they do in a real bag, and their results are quantified and logged by computer. Performance of screeners has been shown to substantially improve with TIPS technology and it should be made a mandatory component of all baggage screening equipment.
Pilots at many U.S. airlines view the security training that they receive from their companies as boring, irrelevant, and unrealistic much of it is repetitive from year to year and may largely consist of watching video tapes. Accordingly, ALPA wholeheartedly endorses the new provision contained in the Act that calls for the government and industry to develop "detailed guidance for a scheduled passenger air carrier flight and cabin crew training program to prepare crew members for potential threat conditions." We recommend that new regulations also provide for security training of all-cargo pilots, who have special requirements in this regard.
An Air Transport Association (ATA) working group has recently developed, with our input, a very brief response to the RRT on Aircraft Security recommendation number 12. That response, however, does not fulfill the requirements of the Act for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that it does not identify an adequate response to acts of air piracy. ALPA has scheduled a meeting to occur in a few days with FBI, FAA, Secret Service, and other government and industry organizations to develop a new "Common Strategy" that can be used for training airline personnel on air piracy strategies. A revised Common Strategy is needed to develop many of the training elements that Congress has identified.
We recommend that FAR Part 108 be amended to specifically require that airlines incorporate all of the program elements identified in the Act, plus any additional elements that may be identified during the rulemaking process.
Baggage and Cargo Screening
ALPA endorses the new security bills provisions to require security screening of all checked bags loaded onto passenger-carrying aircraft and the screening of cargo and mail on cargo aircraft. The potential for carrying a bomb-laden bag onto an aircraft is very real and needs to be addressed expeditiously.
The new security law provides the Under Secretary with a one-year study period for reporting on the screening requirements applicable to aircraft with 60 or fewer seats used in scheduled passenger service. We recommend that all baggage of all airline passengers be screened, regardless of the size of aircraft on which they fly. Also, as we understand the Act, there will be some passengers who travel on small aircraft from certain points of origin without benefit of security screening who will be charged as much as $5.00 for security services on a one-way trip. This situation may be as the result of an oversight, but it is one that deserves the attention of Congress.
We recommend that Congress quickly take this issue up and provide legislation that will ensure that everyone who travels on U.S. commercial aircraft, and pays a security fee, is provided the same level of security.
ALPA has for several years promoted the concept of creating an electronic passenger and baggage manifest. Similar to the problem of employee identity verification, the airlines are not currently capable of positively determining who has boarded their aircraft. This is demonstrated when aircraft leave the gate with an inaccurate manifest; we know of one airline that routinely allows flights to leave the gate with up to a two-person error. As another example, after one accident last year, an airline CEO made a public request for assistance in identifying the passengers on his own aircraft! The security ramifications are also substantial unless we know that the person boarding the aircraft is the same one who bought the ticket, we cannot positively determine that the individual has been through the security checkpoint.
Currently available technology can be applied to this problem in order to create an inexpensive photo manifest of boarding passengers and their checked bags. The photo manifest will enable airlines to, among other things, (1) positively identify each person and bag on the aircraft (2) reduce the potential of boarding someone who has not been through screening (3) create a strong deterrence against fraudulent ticketing (4) quickly identify a bag(s) that must be removed in the event that its owner does not board the flight (5) create an accurate passenger manifest that can be used in the event of an accident or other tragedy and, (6) if tied to appropriate databases, identify those of possible criminal intent.
Additional Measures in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act
I would like to turn your attention now to the need for additional regulations for implementing certain provisions of the Act. ALPA has been heavily involved in the development of, and responses to, the security recommendations of the DOT Rapid Response Teams (RRTs), and I would like to address the status of some of those recommendations as part of this discussion.
Aircraft Cockpit Hardening
We are encouraged by the rapid move toward full, voluntary fleet compliance with Special FAR 92-2 which FAA recently issued. Today, nearly every U.S. passenger airliner has been modified to provide better, although temporary, security of the flight deck. Modification of the cargo fleet, although allowed by SFAR 92-2, was not supported by FAA funding as was the case with the passenger aircraft fleet. As a result, modifications to cargo airlines cockpit doors lag those of the passenger aircraft. It is important that cargo aircraft cockpit doors be strengthened for several reasons, including (1) cargo aircraft are subject to air piracy, just like passenger aircraft (2) security protecting cargo aircraft is nearly always less stringent than for passenger aircraft (3) cargo flight crews are often required by their companies to board additional, non-screened employees or couriers, about whom the pilots may know little or nothing, in seats outside the cockpit door.
The process to institute permanent cockpit door design changes referred to in the Act and in DOT aircraft security RRTs recommendations two, three, and four has already begun. A recent regulatory proposal by the ATA would provide for improved security of passenger airliner flight decks. Once again, however, the proposal does not include cargo carrier aircraft. The RRT recognized the need for improvements to both types of transport aircraft doors when they specified "retrofit of the entire US fleet" in their recommendations.
Furthermore, the ATA proposal stops short of requiring complete protection against gunshots, grenades, and other explosive devices. The design standards proposed for new aircraft provide such protection calling for "hardening" of cockpit floors, ceilings, and bulkheads, but retrofit of that protection is not addressed in the ATA proposal. This is a serious issue many aircraft in the fleet today, thus exempt from regulations covering new designs, will likely be flying for decades to come. The number of aircraft of new design will be miniscule by comparison.
We note that the Act legislates "such other action, including . . . flight deck redesign, as may be necessary to ensure the safety and security of the aircraft." This language is consistent with aircraft security RRT recommendations two, three and four to provide one level of security for every U.S. airliner, regardless of whether it is being flown today or still on the drawing board, for both passenger and cargo aircraft alike.
We recommend that new federal regulations address the need for enhanced flight deck security on todays fleet of aircraft, not just those aircraft of tomorrow.
The Act also calls for an investigation by the Administrator for determining a means of securing the flight deck of smaller passenger aircraft that do not have a door and a lock. These aircraft are particularly vulnerable, because many of them do not even have a flight attendant who can help prevent, or alert the pilots to, a security problem. New regulations should be developed that will ensure one level of security in this area.
Cabin Monitoring and Emergency Warnings
The Act provides for the use of "video monitors and other devices to alert pilots in the flight deck to activity in the cabin." The industry has held discussions about two related RRT recommendations, and there are numerous vendors with products that will address them, from the simple to complex. We recommend implementing regulations that are broad enough to allow airlines some latitude in selecting those products and systems that will work best for a given type of aircraft in the companys fleet. Pilot input should be solicited in the development of any such security enhancements, as they will be the ultimate end-user of them.
Even though video monitors may have a role in our aircraft cabins, we are duly concerned about the ultimate, improper use of any video recording. The recent television airing of recordings made during the struggle aboard United flight 93 on September 11th demonstrates that some within the media will not respect human dignity or decorum on a voluntary basis. We are adamantly opposed to any new type of audio or video recording device on aircraft unless all appropriate legal protections are in place in advance to prevent such recordings from misuse by the media, airlines, or government agencies.
Defensive Capabilities for Pilots
ALPA is most pleased that Congress agreed with the need for providing pilots a means of voluntarily arming themselves with lethal force. The Acts language in this area leaves considerable flexibility in how it may be implemented. We are currently studying this subject and intend to create a set of recommendations on what types of weapons should be carried, how the weapons should be transported, training curriculum and other related subjects. We plan to promote our views to the office of the new Under Secretary and appropriate FAA offices for their consideration in developing regulations.
We would note two specific omissions in the Act regarding carriage of lethal weapons by pilots. First, there is no provision in the Act for an exemption from liability in the event that a pilot uses a lethal weapon in self-defense. Secondly, the Act does not create a federal exemption from state laws for interstate carriage of weapons. We call on Congress to write new legislation aimed at addressing both of these requirements.
Regarding non-lethal defensive capabilities, discussions are ongoing with others in government and industry on the best means of providing such to both pilots and flight attendants. The discussions are not yet mature enough for regulations, consistent with the Acts provision for a study by the National Institute of Justice on this matter.
Passenger Volunteers to Provide Emergency Services
We endorse the Acts provisions for passengers to volunteer their services in the event of an emergency. This security enhancement is one that ALPA has promoted for several years. The Acts language, however, is very narrow in that it limits the volunteers to law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians. Notably absent are others, such as doctors, bomb technicians, and able-bodied individuals, who could provide useful services in the event of various types of emergencies.
We recommend that Congress broaden the scope of this legislative language to include additional categories of volunteers. We also recommend that these individuals, if they pass requisite background and criminal records checks, be identified as volunteers via future "trusted passenger" cards. The information about their special abilities could be stored on a smart card that would be read by airline personnel and, eventually, be transmitted to the captain for his use as necessary.
Aviation Security Programs for Air Charters
ALPA endorses the Acts provision for air charter security programs. Under current regulations, large commercial aircraft can be operated with little or no security provisions because of their charter status. Clearly, new regulations are needed to ensure that the same level of security for scheduled operations is provided for non-scheduled operations.
Lastly, I would like to bring to your attention a couple of other issues that are not included in the Act, but we believe they are worthy of your consideration.
ALPA has a long-standing concern about the use of airline aircraft to transport Immigration and Naturalization Service deportees out of this country. While the INS has, in our opinion, taken some steps to be more responsible with these "voluntary" deportations on our aircraft, the potential for problems still remains. In our view, anyone who is required to leave the country involuntarily is a security risk; they are traveling against their wishes to a destination where they may face prison or other hardships. A natural incentive is created for these individuals to try to escape or alter their travel destination. Many of the deportees carried aboard our aircraft have some type of criminal records and it is not uncommon for them to also have medical problems that are not conducive to passenger health. Buttressing these concerns are actual instances of sexual assaults, lewd behavior and other problems.
Under INS regulations, no escorts are provided for deportees unless they are deported in groups of 10 or more. We recommend that the INS find other means of deporting these individuals without subjecting the traveling public to potential for harm. Alternatively, deportees should not travel on commercial aircraft unless they are escorted by two or more individuals who are assigned to control them from the moment of boarding until disembarking.
We recommend that Congress address this matter immediately with legislation aimed at eliminating the INS deportation deficiencies.
Aircraft Security RRT recommendation number 13 recommends that each airline develop a delivery system or procedure to provide government security advisories to crewmembers in a timely manner. Currently, many pilots receive no timely security information at all. Some airlines, which can legally provide information from security directives to pilots because of their "need to know," instead withhold that information.
A regulation needs to be added to CFR 14 FAR Part 108 to require that airlines provide captains with all appropriate information about new security provisions, potential areas of threat, and other related subjects.
Thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I would be pleased to address any questions that you may have.
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