Congressman seeks new airliner security law

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County said additional protection is needed for pilots.
U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick of Bucks County said additional protection is needed for pilots.
Posted: May 01, 2013

U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R., Bucks) announced Monday that he would cosponsor a bipartisan bill proposing mandatory secondary cockpit barriers on commercial airliners.

Fitzpatrick said in a statement that the barriers would serve as a "fail-safe ... to prevent airliners from being used as weapons of terror."

The Federal Aviation Administration mandated reinforced cockpit doors after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, but Fitzpatrick said flight crew members often open those doors briefly during flights - for bathroom breaks or to get meals, for example - making the cockpit potentially vulnerable to attack.

"Secondary barriers simply fulfill the intent of the efforts that were started over a decade ago by adding another layer of protection," Fitzpatrick said in the statement.

Gregg Overman, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 10,000 American Airlines pilots, said the union supported the bill.

"We'd like to see it passed," he said, adding that the union has worked with the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in researching secondary barriers.

The TSA did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the number of plane hijackings that have taken place since the FAA mandated reinforced doors. Fitzpatrick provided information with his statement saying there had been 10 hijackings since 2007.

Several major airlines contacted Monday did not immediately respond to calls for comment asking whether secondary barriers have been voluntarily installed on any planes. Todd Lehmacher, a US Airways spokesman, said the company does not comment on internal security practices.

Fitzpatrick announced the proposed legislation in Yardley alongside Ellen Saracini, the widow of Victor Saracini, who was flying United Airlines Flight 175 before it was hijacked and flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Saracini spent time in March lobbying politicians to mandate the secondary barriers, according to a Washington Post report.

The bill is cosponsored by eight other House members - four Republicans and four Democrats - including Pennsylvania Republicans Lou Barletta and Tom Marino, and Democrats Allyson Y. Schwartz, Matt Cartwright, Chaka Fattah, and Bob Brady.


Contact Chris Palmer, 609-217-8305, cpalmer@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter, @cs_palmer

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