CAPTAIN ROBERT HESSELBEIN, CHAIRMAN
NATIONAL SECURITY COMMITTEE
AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION, INTERNATIONAL
SUBCOMMITTEE ON TRANSPORTATION SECURITY AND
HOMELAND SECURITY COMMITTEE
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
November 1, 2007
Good afternoon Madame Chairwoman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee. On behalf of the 60,000 ALPA members who fly for 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada, I want to thank you for this opportunity to provide a frontline perspective on aviation security training and equipment needs.
With such a broad topic, Iíve decided to narrow my remarks to just two of the Associationís security priorities: addressing the training and support gaps in the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, and the need for secondary barriers to protect our flight decks.
Letís start with the FFDO program. The first class of 44 federal flight deck officers graduated from training in April 2003. Since then, several thousands of airline pilots have been trained, deputized, and now serve as FFDOs.
But there are several challenges that are hampering the recruitment and retention of FFDOs: they must often risk discipline by their employer for attending training, and must pay all out-of-pocket expenses to attend training, practice and requalify. They perform their duties with no post-graduate mentoring and minimal supervision. They are expected to accomplish their duties and succeed in their assigned missions, but they do it with a fraction of the support structure available to other federal law enforcement officers.
Let me explain. Many employers will not permit pilots to take unpaid leave to attend FFDO training. Unlike military leave, there are no legal guarantees that require employers to allow their pilots to leave for training. In fact, some airlines create obstacles to prevent pilots from attending FFDO training.
After graduating from basic training, for which
they personally pay up to $500 in housing, meals, and transportation expenses,
an FFDO is deployed on mission status without the guidance of a field training
officer or frontline supervisor. All that the FFDO has for support is a TSA
phone number to call if any issues arise and access to a protected website for
routine scheduling of missions and administrative information.
Furthermore, there is no partner system in place to mentor incoming FFDOs, and no routine, supervised training beyond a six-month proficiency demonstration until their third year of mission status. At that point, they are provided with two days of recurrent training.
Speaking of which, the Federal Air Marshal Service announced that, as of April 25, 2007, all FFDOs must attend a two-day recurrent training event in Atlantic City, New Jersey at a certain interval in their FFDO career. Because of the very limited training dates and single location, pilots must often travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to attend, again, at their own expense. This costs pilots upward of $800.
In a time of significantly reduced pilot salaries, terminated pension plans and difficulty in obtaining leave for training, we are concerned that the FFDO programís attrition rate will grow and fewer pilots will make the personal sacrifices needed to keep the program alive. One solution is to add more training locations and use current Federal Air Marshal facilities for their training.
Congress can take a few simple steps to ensure that FFDOs remain an effective force in protecting our skies. First of all, enact legislation that gives pilots the same leave rights as those citizens performing military service. Second, we must ensure that pilots who enter the system have ongoing and frequent access to standardized training that include protocols, procedures and training scenarios that coordinate with our Federal Air Marshal counterparts. And, most important, reimburse FFDOs for their reasonable out-of-pocket training and travel costs.
Speaking of cost-effective measures, ALPA believes that the flight-deck secondary barrier will provide the biggest bang for the taxpayer buck in terms of aviation security. To that end, ALPA has worked closely with Congressman Steve Israel on the development of a bill, H.R. 3925, that would mandate installation of secondary barriers on all Part 121 aircraft.
While the reinforced cockpit door already serves as a vital element in flight deck protection, it is not fully sufficient to protect the flight deck from a well coordinated, efficient assault executed when the door is open. An inexpensive secondary barrier, along with access procedures, will ensure that door transitions are made safely and in minimal time.
Two U.S. major airlines have already developed and installed secondary barriers on its airplanes, and others seek agreed-upon design standards for their manufacture and installation. The industry is also seeking standardized procedures to complement the use of secondary barriers. The few seconds that secondary barriers will buy during a hijacking event are worth their weight in gold if they prevent future hijackings. The barriers are especially needed on all-cargo aircraft which do not even have a flight deck door between the cargo and crew.
In summary, all FFDOs must be effectively trained and supported to remain a successful part of the security process. Inexpensive secondary barriers have a high benefit for their very low cost. We urge Congress to support both of these initiatives. Thank you very much for this opportunity. Iíd be happy to answer any of your questions.