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Competition to secure cockpits heats up

From Casey Wian
CNN Financial News

LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- More than a year ago, a major airline contacted James Raisbeck, wondering if his company could design bulletproof cockpit doors. The airline was worried about a disturbing series of events that hadn't been reported to the public.

"There have been some international instances of people shooting through the cockpit, and in one instance, at least, a co-pilot was injured," said Raisbeck, CEO of Raisbeck Engineering.

So the Seattle-based company went to work. Then came September 11, prompting the U.S. government to order new measures to keep people from getting into cockpits by force.

The Federal Aviation Administration initially gave airlines 90 days to install bars or other temporary devices to improve cockpit door security, and they have until April to come up with a new plan on improving cockpit doors.

CNNfn's Casey Wian reports on the growing competition to develop and sell reinforced airliner cockpit doors (December 26)

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While the FAA wouldn't comment, permanent measures, including bulletproofing, are expected to be ordered within 18 months. And competition for that business -- potentially 20,000 planes and $500 million worldwide -- is intensifying.

Raisbeck delivered his first cockpit door reinforcement kit to Alaska Airlines on October 2. The door is bulletproof, and has windows and locks that only work from inside the cockpit.

Other companies such as Los Angeles-based Telair are bringing new products to market almost overnight. Before September 11, Telair was developing blast-proof cargo containers for airlines. It says the same material could be used to make cockpit doors bulletproof.

"It's about half the weight of the products we're aware of at the current time," said Dennis Staver, general manager of Telair. "And weight is a big issue or a big concern when you're doing anything with aviation."

Telair has been trying to get its material sold so quickly that it says it hasn't had time to come up with a name for it. Perhaps a catchy name won't be needed to help sell a product that could stop a terrorist.


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