CAPTAIN DUANE WOERTH
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL
COMMITTEE ON COMMERCE, SCIENCE, AND TRANSPORTATION
SEPTEMBER 20, 2001
Good morning, Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. My name is Duane Woerth and I am the President of the Air Line Pilots Association, International. ALPA represents 67,000 airline pilots who fly for 47 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, I am also here today representing the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO, of which I am a Executive Vice President.
It is an honor to be able to speak to you today, but I sincerely wish that I could do so under more pleasant circumstances. Before last Tuesday, most of us could not have imagined the possibility of the horror that occurred on that day.
Our hearts, thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those killed as a result of the four separate aircraft hijackings. We have lost pilots and flight attendants from our ranks who, though gone, will never be forgotten. The survivors of the Attack on America, as it has been called, must now work diligently to ensure that our beloved country, and its airline industry, are protected from further acts of terrorism.
One of the lessons of this tragedy has been that the nation truly does rely upon the aviation industry as the "wings" of our economy. Without a strong airline industry, our economy is in serious peril. With that thought in mind, I want to inform you that we are striving to do all that we can to help the industry get back into the air and we urge the Administration and Congress to do likewise. I am certainly proud to inform you that union pilots and flight attendants demonstrated a "can do" spirit and a willingness to return to work shortly after the events of the 11th in order to get the aviation system running again.
Prior to the events of last Tuesday, the aviation security community was generally opposed to the concept of adopting a "fortress" mentality to protect our airlines and airports. The use of tall security fences, highly visible armed police officers roaming the airport terminal, hand searches of bags, interviewers asking probing questions of passengers, and other such measures were thought to be incompatible with commercial aviation in a free society.
It is probably safe to say that the entire aviation industry, including most in the government, traveling public, airlines, airports, and perhaps, even crewmembers, enjoyed a false sense of security before September 11th. I suspect that many of us believed that, although flawed, our security system was generally doing the job that it was intended to do. Unfortunately, that mind set may well have been at the root of what enabled the 19 terrorists to perform their acts of unspeakable devastation on an unsuspecting and innocent public.
If, in fact, there has ever been a false sense of security, it most certainly no longer exists. We must replace that false sense of security with a genuine sense of security, by instituting the most advanced civil aviation security system in the world.
The security improvements that I am here to recommend to you today range from the simple, inexpensive and quickly achieved to the difficult, expensive and longer term. We believe that if the government, working with us and the rest of the aviation industry, will act on them forthrightly, we will some day be able to tell our children and grandchildren that we turned tragedy into triumph.
Several years ago, ALPA embarked on a campaign entitled One Level of Safety. That effort, as you probably know, was highly successful in bringing to the attention of the traveling public, elected officials and the aviation industry the need for significant safety improvements to small airline aircraft operations. As a result of those efforts, smaller airline aircraft now meet the same, or equivalent, standards of the largest aircraft in the fleet.
This week, we must embark upon a new mission to achieve one level of security throughout the airline industry. The security in place last week was, by design, of differing levels. The rationale behind those disparate levels of security was that the threat posed to small aircraft was thought to be less than that posed to large aircraft. The dangers associated with operating at small airports were thought to be less than the risks germane to large airports. The hazards posed by service personnel carrying items around the screening checkpoint were, curiously, thought to be of less concern than those associated with uniformed crewmembers going to their aircraft. For the most part, we even felt that the threat to domestic flights was less than the threat to international flights. And we believed that the threats to cargo aircraft were minimal. These assumptions have been proved wrong.
We now know that those assumptions must be discarded so that we can get about the work of preventing any further acts of aircraft piracy and other acts of malice. It is now clear that any size aircraft flying from any size airport, international or domestic, can be used as a human-guided weapon. Accordingly, we believe that in order to create a truly secure aviation system, we must start with the principle that the traveling public and aircraft crewmembers need one level of security, no matter where they fly to or from and regardless of the size of aircraft in which they travel, or whether it carries passengers or cargo. The remainder of our comments should be understood in that light.
Last week’s horrific acts of violence were perpetrated, as we now know, against a nation despised by certain Islamic terrorists. The weapon of choice, namely, an airline aircraft loaded with fuel and passengers, was viewed as a handy resource aimed at destroying our nation’s economic viability and wracking the American people with fear. I am sure that
you will agree with me that the terrorists will accomplish neither objective. But, it should be recognized by all that airline security must be viewed as a component of national security from this day forward. It is no longer feasible to expect that the airlines alone can protect the industry that gives wings to the rest of the national economy. While we are not suggesting that airlines be excused from all costs associated with securing their aircraft or the facilities that they occupy, we are saying that the federal budget must share in the costs of defending this national resource.
We call upon the Administration and Congress to ensure that the funding necessary for fortifying our airlines and airports be made available so that we can boost the public’s confidence in returning to the skies. Our economy needs a healthy airline industry and enhancing security immediately will be essential to achieving that goal.
A New Aviation Security Blueprint
In the early 1970’s, pilots took a strong, solitary stand against hijackings by demanding that the government mandate security screening of passengers. We were not successful in persuading the government to provide that protection, despite literally dozens of hijackings in prior years, until late 1972, when two separate incidents resulted in two woundings and one death.
Thirty years later, we find that we must take another strong stand. The aviation security system, as constructed today, must be completely overhauled in order to (1) address the new risks that could harm us and (2) bolster the confidence of the traveling public that it is safe to fly again. We are promoting a new security "blueprint" which we believe will accomplish both of these goals.
Aviation security must be dramatically improved, and it must begin not next month or next year, but today. It must happen now to limit the amount of damage being done each day to the health of the airlines and our national economy. As mentioned previously, the federal government should provide the funding for these "defense-related" expenditures to avoid further harm to an already weakened industry.
Following are the near-term actions that we are pursuing, for which we request your support and assistance. As used herein, we define "near-term" actions as those that are under development now, or could be very shortly, and can be implemented in a relatively short period.
1. Current cockpit doors are weak and flimsy, and can be easily compromised by a determined adult. There is a clear need for the increased security that a stronger door would provide. A dead bolt lock should be installed on the inside of cockpit doors that cannot be overridden with a key from outside; the door must be capable of being opened quickly in the event of a safety problem. This will offer a relatively small, but needed, additional margin of security over today’s cockpit doors.
A second, lightweight mesh net door should be installed behind the cockpit door on the flight deck side. This net door could be used as an additional protection device in the event of a security breach in the cabin.
2. The development of standards for an advanced cockpit door technology, and research on this technology, is already under way. Such a door, when installed, will be capable of securing the flight crew against attacks by would-be cockpit intruders, armed or otherwise. The door system, which must be fail-safe in the event of an accident requiring rapid egress, should be retrofitted on current aircraft and installed by the manufacturers on new airplanes. This item cannot be accomplished immediately, but ongoing work on it needs to be expedited .
3. Before last Tuesday, we could scarcely have envisioned calling for cockpit protection in the form of weapons carried in the cockpit. However, the world has changed and we must change with it. We recommend the installation of at least two stun guns as standard equipment in the cockpits of airline aircraft, three if there are three flight crewmembers.
There are sophisticated stun guns on the market today that are capable of immediately incapacitating a person of any size or strength, without posing any health risks to the individual. The devices have laser sights for accuracy and are capable of being used on a person up to 15 feet away. Use of these guns would be done in only the most extreme circumstances, to protect the lives and safety of the passengers and crew.
4. We are most pleased to learn that the FBI is in the process of creating a cadre of federal law enforcement officers to fly armed on airline aircraft. The FAA is also making plans to increase the number of Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) assigned to its contingent. ALPA has long been a proponent of the FAM program, because we are confident in its training standards and professionalism. We are also confident that the FBI will successfully create a professional air marshal group capable of defending against the types of hijackings that we saw last week. We recommend that the Congress provide such assistance as may be needed to facilitate the creation of the FBI’s marshals and an enlargement of the FAA’s FAMs.
5. One of the most basic functions of a good security system is positively identifying those individuals who are authorized entrance to an area and keeping out all others. The absence of access controls was a primary factor in the downing of PSA flight 1771 in December 1987. Since that time, we have called for the institution of electronic means of positively identifying each and every employee who has authorization to enter secured airport areas.
Today, the failure to require airlines and airports to verify employee identities is the cause of serious concerns about the security of flight. The reported possibility that terrorists are, or may have, posed as airline employees has caused us to focus our limited security resources on honest, trustworthy employees instead of unknown possible-threat passengers.
Last spring, it became public knowledge that GAO inspectors were able to gain entrance to 19 federal office buildings and carry weapons around two airport security checkpoints using phony credentials. The FAA is in the process of developing a highly secure Memory Chip Card (MCC) system to identify armed law enforcement officers (LEO’s). Plans have been announced to install a special MCC reader at each security screening checkpoint in the U.S. in order to positively identify armed LEO’s. This technology could also be used to positively screen airline and airport employees traversing the screening checkpoint.
Until there is a means in place to electronically verify the identity of all employees and armed law enforcement officers, they should produce a company ID and a photo driver’s license for this purpose. These items should be examined and validated by the airport police at the security-screening checkpoint. An alternative measure that would work for those airports having a computerized access control system would be the placement of a card reader at the screening checkpoint for use by employees.
6. In today’s aircraft, there is only one way for the flight attendants to talk with the flight crew when the cockpit door is closed, namely, by calling on the interphone. This method of communication is very observable when a flight attendant makes a call under duress. We recommend the installation of a discreet switch(es) in the cabin for use by flight attendants which enables them to discreetly notify the flight crew that there is a security breach occurring in the back of the airplane.
7. All personnel seeking employment in the aviation industry who need access to airline aircraft in the performance of their duties should, effective immediately, be required to undergo a criminal background check. The airline industry must create and maintain the highest personnel hiring standards in order to protect against "insider" threats. The technology for processing criminal background checks has advanced to the point where they can be made via electronic means.
8. Related to item #5, airports and airlines should immediately revalidate all of their employee’s identification cards using hologram stickers, or through card re-issuance. Some airports may be able to electronically revalidate their cards, if they have a computerized access control system. The industry is going to experience significant layoffs and reductions in force over the next several months; this could lead to many unaccounted-for ID cards that could be used in an illegal manner.
9. The Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System (CAPPS) is designed to use the passenger information in airline data bases to determine whether the individual poses a security risk. We have recently learned that CAPPS is assisting the FBI in its ongoing criminal investigation by providing information on the travel history of known and suspected terrorists. If properly configured, CAPPS can help identify potential security risks prior to boarding. We recommend that CAPPS be used on all domestic and international arrivals and departures in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, even after the current threat is diminished.
10. It has been the experience of U.S. pilots and flight attendants that, depending on the carrier, airline-provided security training is poor and outdated. Current training includes showing crewmembers videos that focus on hijacking situations faced in the 1970’s. Airline security training must not only be more current, it must also address the threats that a crew is likely to encounter. We recommend that the airlines enhance their crewmember training through the use of cabin mockups, problem solving, role-playing scenarios and other quality instructional methods.
11. The FAA is in the process of updating its documentation on the "Common Strategy," which is used by FAA, law enforcement, airlines, and pilots during hijackings. The Common Strategy was written in the Cuban hijacking era, and so involves procedures for handling extortion-types of hijackings (e.g., demands for money). It does not address suicidal hijackers or other such extreme hazards. ALPA recommends that the Common Strategy be amended to include procedures and training on the newest type of threats.
12. We have a long-standing opposition to the INS’s practice of deporting illegal aliens via airline aircraft. The agency’s current guidance allows groups of up to 10 deportees to board airline aircraft without any type of escort. There have been serious incidents of unruly behavior and, most disturbing, the possibility exists that a large group of deportees may attempt to commandeer an aircraft to avoid deportation. Clearly, INS should find another method of deporting illegal aliens that does not place the traveling public at avoidable risk. We urge the INS to only board deportees when they are accompanied by two or more armed INS agent escorts.
13. The FAA issues its pilot licenses as traditional paper and ink documents that could be easily duplicated or forged. Given that pilots use these licenses to help identify an individual who desires to ride the jumpseat, it is essential that they be produced in a highly secure format (i.e., electronically verifiable).
The FAA decided approximately one year ago to put the names and addresses of pilots in public view on the World Wide Web. This information could be used in any number of malicious ways. We recommend that FAA remove the data from the Web and any other publicly accessible locations.
14. We are all familiar with the long-running public information campaign of Smoky the Bear, a cartoon figure who reminds us that "only you can help prevent forest fires." We believe that a similar campaign should be created by the government and industry aimed at educating the traveling public about aviation security. A better-informed public could serve as additional "eyes and ears" of security, assist crewmembers as appropriate, and cause fewer problems onboard aircraft. We recommend the slogan "Security is Everybody’s Business," and some type of cartoon figure to carry that message via advertisements, posters, etc.
15. Consistent with #14 above, the industry should implement the recommendations of the FAA’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee’s Employee Utilization Working Group. The essence of those recommendations is that all airport, airline and service employees can, and should, receive an appropriate level of training and ongoing information about how to make aviation more secure. One noteworthy recommendation is the creation of a security reporting "hotline" at all airports for tips, suspicious behavior, abandoned bags, and the like.
16. The threat information that pilots get, if any, is poor and usually outdated. The government intelligence community, working in concert with the airlines, should develop a greatly enhanced methodology for relaying timely threat information to the carriers, which can be shared with airline pilots.
17. We must prepare today for the possibility of a chemical/biological agent attack in our aircraft. Airlines should install full-vision oxygen masks in all commercial aircraft to enable the crews to safely land during a chemical/biological agent attack. Aircraft should be equipped with air quality monitors that can provide an alarm in the cockpit if the presence of chem/bio agents is detected.
18. The FAA should immediately develop and implement an ATC communication code for advising all pilots within radio contact that an aircraft is under duress or has experienced a significant security-related event. The major purpose of this action is to alert crews to take appropriate precautionary measures to prevent a similar occurrence on their aircraft.
19. The ban on all remote check-ins must include disallowing electronic ticketing check-in kiosks that currently let passengers check-in and receive a boarding pass without ever being identified by the carriers. All passengers must check in and show identification at staffed check-in counters.
20. Regarding baggage security, we recommend that the FAA impose standard limits on carry-on baggage in order to let security screeners spend more time examining each item brought on the aircraft. We strongly support increasing the percentage of bags subjected to search.
21. Security deficiencies can, and currently are, impacting safety. One example – virtually every cockpit crewmember has traditionally carried a small tool kit or "combination" tool in their flight case for dealing with small mechanical issues inflight. Based on the most recent FAA Security Directives of which we are aware, pilots may not carry them through the security-screening checkpoint.
We are urging the FAA to (1) allow pilots to carry such tools through the screening checkpoint after their identification has been verified, and (2) require that the airlines place these tools in the cockpit as additional aircraft equipment.
Following are our recommendations concerning action items that could be initiated fairly soon, but will take longer to implement than those above.
1. In view of the unprecedented terrorist threat that may continue for some time, we believe that the Administration and Congress should consider the creation of a new aviation law enforcement agency. Currently, civil aviation security is but one of many responsibilities of the FAA. The FAA assumed the task of providing aviation security in the 1970’s, approximately 20 years after its creation as a civilian agency. Although there are many hard-working, talented people at the FAA, it is not a law enforcement agency nor is it staffed to provide law enforcement support.
Additionally, this branch of the FAA has to compete internally for resources and priorities within the agency’s overall budget. To avoid this conflict and provide the law enforcement expertise which is now necessary, we believe that a law enforcement agency should be established whose sole responsibility would be to prevent and combat aviation-related crime. The removal of the security responsibility from the FAA would allow the new agency to be much more proactive. Whereas the FAA’s focus is on the development, promulgation and enforcement of regulations, the law enforcement agency should be focused on countering existing and evolving threats. This agency would also be responsible for coordinating threat and other security information with other law enforcement agencies. ALPA is committed to work with you to create such an agency.
2. The government’s own inspectors, from the General Accounting Office and DOT Inspector General’s Office, not to mention the FAA’s security auditors, have found time and again that the U.S. security screening system is ineffective. The status quo, whereby airlines contract with the lowest bidder to perform security screening, has been a complete validation of the concept "you get what you pay for." It is past time to fix this problem using highly trained and motivated, well-paid, screening professionals and the best possible equipment. A well-run, security-screening corporation, selected not on the basis of lowest bid but highest competency, should perform the screening function under the aegis of the afore-mentioned aviation law enforcement agency. The U.S. should borrow from successful European security screening systems, which employ interviewers, maintain separate ramp crew access and other measures in the development of the new security screening system.
3. Government and industry have, as partners, made great progress in the development of explosive detection systems capable of spotting the most ingeniously disguised bombs and most minute particles of explosive material. However, there is much work still to be done.
FAA is in the initial phases of researching "Free Flow," a high-tech security screening system. We strongly support this concept and urge the Administration and Congress to fully fund it, ultimately as a means of rapidly and accurately detecting explosive devices, weapons, and chemical/biological agents on persons and in their bags.
4. We have known for some time that individuals, almost certainly terrorists, are stealing pilot uniforms and credentials. The imposter threat cannot be effectively dealt with unless there is positive, electronic verification of the identities of each employee authorized to enter the secure areas. It is past time that we created a system that will prevent an airline employee imposter from fraudulently gaining access to our aircraft and threatening the lives of all onboard and others on the ground. We have long supported the development and implementation of the Universal Access System (UAS), an effort aimed at closing the gaping hole in airline employee identification. FAA has completed UAS standards; we urge that implementation of it begin immediately.
5. Similar to the problem of employee identity verification, the airlines are not currently capable of positively determining who is getting on 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 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 substantial – unless we know that the person boarding the aircraft is the same one who bought the ticket, we cannot positively ascertain that the individual has been through the security checkpoint and is not carrying a weapon.
6. We are aware of a technology, available today, which is capable of taking a photo of each person and their checked bags. The photo is encrypted on the airline ticket in the form of a striated bar code, known as two-dimensional bar coding. The ticket is machine read at the gate and a monitor shows the gate agent the photo of the ticket bearer. If the two faces do not match, the passenger is denied boarding. The photo of a checked bag can be used to identify it easily, if it needs to be taken off the aircraft subsequent to boarding, but prior to flight. The system also avails the ability to positively match the passenger with his/her bags.
We recommend that the government investigate the various technologies available for positive passenger and checked baggage identification and begin moving toward the eventual goal of requiring the airlines to use it for security purposes. This identification system can be integrated with CAPPS for even greater synergy.
7. In connection with the item above, the airlines should create, and have readily available, basic information about each passenger’s special capabilities, if any. In the event of an emergency, the captain could, by contacting dispatch, immediately determine if there were any doctors, police, bomb specialists, etc., on the flight who could be requested to provide assistance. This capability would be extremely helpful in the event of a security breach, because the captain could determine whether there are onboard resources that could help resolve the problem.
8. There is much discussion ongoing today about the feasibility of arming pilots. The events of last week demonstrated that lethal force could be used to advantage. We have given this matter serious discussion and we believe that there could be potential for making this possibility a reality. However, as noted above, we have a seriously deficient employee identification system that must first be addressed. We want to ensure that anyone who is armed and going through the security checkpoint is positively identified.
After meeting that goal, a thorough study should be given to a program where airline pilots who meet strict qualifications could voluntarily be trained as sworn federal law enforcement officers with arrest authority and allowed to carry weapons in the cockpit to protect themselves and their passengers.
9. The FAA should begin a program to certify flight attendants as safety professionals. This would enhance flight attendant training and formalize and re-enforce their role as safety professionals. This would also ensure proper training for all types of emergencies. It is essential that flight attendant training be improved in this area.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to appear before you today. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.