CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – Bipartisan lawmakers introduced a bill this week aimed at fixing what many airline industry employees view as a major security flaw that still exists 20 years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
“It needs to come to a vote… today,” said Capt. Dennis Tajer with Allied Pilots Association, the union that represents 15,000 American Airlines’ pilots.
Two weeks after a FOX 46 investigation into the need for cockpit barriers, lawmakers introduced a bill that would require gates to be installed on all planes. Representatives for airline employees and federal law enforcement say the cockpit is vulnerable when it’s opened mid-flight for food and bathroom breaks. Often, the only thing standing in the way of an open cockpit door is a flight attendant and a drink cart.
The bill is called the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Act of 2021, named after Capt. Victor Saracini, a United Airlines pilot who was killed on Sept. 11. Tajer says this security fix, warned about in the 9-11 Commission Report, should have been addressed 20 years ago.
“We’ve got to get the airlines and their lobby groups off of their stance to not do this,” Tajer told FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant. “This defends our nation. It defends our airlines. And it defends our passengers.”
In 2018, Congress mandated the FAA require these secondary cockpit barriers on new planes only, which APA called a “half measure.” That still hasn’t happened yet. The FAA says it will issue a ruling in the coming months.
“That’s enraging. When you put profits over people you’re in the wrong business,” said Tajer, in response to our findings. “We won’t tolerate it.”
“Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, aviation security has been greatly enhanced through hardened cockpit doors and a host of revised procedures, but our nation’s commercial airliners nevertheless remain vulnerable to a cockpit breach by those who would do us harm,” said APA President Capt. Eric Ferguson. “That’s totally unacceptable. Fortunately, there is a solution: inexpensive, lightweight, wire-mesh gates between the cabin and cockpit door to block access to the flight deck whenever the cockpit door is opened during flight.”
The barriers are estimated to cost $5,000-$12,000 per plane.