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America's New War: Hearing on New Airline Security Measures

Aired September 25, 2001 - 11:05   ET


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you live now to Capitol Hill, a hearing on aviation security under way. Let's dip in and listen.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our recommendations range from the simple and inexpensive and quickly achieved to the difficult and the expensive and longer-term.

I will briefly highlight only a few of our proposals in my oral statement, but our written statement provides details on all of that.

And, Mr. Chairman, since I appeared before the Senate Commerce Committee last week and since we submitted our testimony, our written testimony to the subcommittee on Friday, the Airline Pilots Association has reprioritized our security recommendations and have determined that creating a program to allow especially-trained and screened pilots to carry weapons in the cockpit must be a top priority. Specifically, ALPA urges Congress to authorize a new program to train volunteer airline pilots to carry firearms in the cockpit to secure the nerve center of the aircraft and to get the aircraft on the ground safely if faced with terrorist threat.

Immediately following the terrorist acts of September 11th I wrote a letter to Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiring about the possibility of the development of such a program to address and overcome this new form of terrorism by enabling airline pilots to defend their aircraft and providing a deterrent to any individual who may attempt to use aircraft as weapon of destruction.

Now, historically, most aircraft hijackings were used as means of extortion. Pilots were trained to fly the airplane during a hijacking and not exasperate the situation. Today, the terrorist threat is very different. Today we are dealing with terrorist suicidal operations. The cockpit must be defended, and pilots must play a pivotal role in protecting their place of work.

ALPA asked Congress to deputize all airline pilots who complete the FBI training course and meet the explicit criteria as deputy federal law enforcement officers who are certified to carry a weapon aboard an airplane. ALPA believe that this action would mean the deputization of thousands of airline pilots.

Second, we must improve aircraft cockpit doors to ensure that flight crews are secure against attacks by wood-be cockpit intruders armed or otherwise. This door system should be retro-fitted on current aircraft and installed on all new aircraft.

The technology for advanced cockpit doors is already under way. The network as well as the development of governmental standards for these doors must be expedited.

In addition, a deadbolt lock should be installed on the inside of current cockpit that cannot be overridden with a key from the outside. And second, a lightweight mesh net door should be installed behind the cockpit door on the flight deck side.

We also recommend the installation of at least two stun guns or tasers as standard equipment in the cockpit of all aircraft airliners.

Now, there must be a means to verify electronically the identity of all airline and airport employees and armed law enforcement officers who are authorized to enter secured airport areas. In addition, all airline employee ID cards should be revalidated immediately.

And furthermore, a public awareness campaign should be undertaken to educate the traveling public about aviation security. A better informed public could serve as an additional eyes for security, assist crew members as appropriate, and cause fewer problems of onboard aircraft.

The understanding that security is everybody's business could be very valuable by thwarting future security breeches in our industry.

Among our recommendations that can be initiated soon but will take longer to fully implement I will highlight only two. First, we believe the administration and Congress should consider using an existing law enforcement agency or creating a new aviation law enforcement agency. Currently, civil aviation security is but one of many responsibilities of the FAA. The FAA is not a law enforcement agency, nor is it staffed to provide law enforcement support. Whereas the FAA's focus is appropriately on the development and enforcement of safety of regulation, and law enforcement agency should focus on countering existing and evolving threats. This agency should also be responsible for coordinating threat and other security information with other law enforcement agencies, and ALPA is committed to work with you to create such an agency.

Second, the U.S. security screening system must be overhauled. We must use highly-trained and motivated, well-paid screening professionals and the best possibility equipment. A well-run security screening cooperation selected not on the basis of the lowest but on the highest competency should perform the screening function under the supervision of the aviation law enforcement agency I just mentioned.

Now, the Airline Pilots Association stand ready to work with the Congress and the administration and the rest of aviation industry to implement these recommendations and to institute the most advanced civil aviation security system in the world. We believe that this will allow everyone to use as our national transportation system to do so with a genuine sense of security.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. And we'll withhold questions until we've heard from all of the panelist.

Let me recognize next David Plavin, who is president of the Airport's Council International of North America.

Welcome, sir, and you are recognized.


I'm here today of ACI North America and behalf of the American associate of airport executives. We have a written statement that I would like to submit for the record, if I may.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without objection, your entire statement made part of record. Please proceed.

PLAVIN: Thank you, sir.

First of all, I bring you up to date on where we are in the airport system at this point. New federal mandated security requirements, 40 percent decline in the number of passenger using our aviation system, and the canceling of war risk insurance so that it is not available at any price are having significant impact on airports. Some airports may even be forced to shutdown critical operations unless they can receive some immediate relief.

First airports are spending more to increase airport security. And we've got countless examples at individual airports of all sizes. We've already identified increased airport security cost of almost 600 million, and we expect this number to rise to at least a billion dollars per year. We think this is very conservative estimate.

The federal government has not yet taken steps to help pay for the additional security measures mandated by the federal government that the airports that have been implemented. And while we are spending more on increased security, passengers and revenue are declining. This loss, which is now projected to approach $2 billion, is also causing instability in the airport bond market.

Last week's Standard & Poor's placed all North American airports on credit watch with negative implication. And other airports have had experiences that directly result from that. Airports that have bonds that are backed exclusively by passenger facility charges, like Chicago's airports, will be experiencing significant special kinds of problems.

And to make matters worse, liability underwriters have elected to cancel war hijacking and other peril's risk policies without any kind of options for replacement of that. With the air carriers in danger, ACI and AAA supported the action that Congress took last week to stabilize the airline industry.

Now it's critical that Congress and the administration focus attention on airports whose problems are inextricably tied with the airlines. First, it's important to remind ourselves that airports are user funded. We get no subsidies, and because that's so, we need your help to ensure that our users, including the airlines, pay their bills. We cannot survive without that.

Secondly, we urge Congress to support airports with the funding they need to pay for increased security requirements, just as it did with the airlines. If general funds not provided, airports no chance but to raise the fee they charge their users, including their airlines.

There are other ways to help airports pay for increased security requirements. There are security fees. There are additional flexibility that we could add in AIP and PFC requirements, which today may not be used for anything other than capital investment.

And third, with the decline in revenue that we could use to help this situation. We could reinforce confidence in the bond market. We could lift the limitations on the alternative minimum tax as applied to airport debt, and permit airports to refinance all tax-exempt debt, including debt subject to AMD.

And in the interim, we're going to need some help with the cashflow that is necessary to pay our debt service. Many airports have been informed that their war risk policies are being canceled as of October 1. And airport contractors have had policies canceled as of yesterday. Congress fixed the airlines problem with the rising cost and liability issues associated with war risk insurance, and we really need your help to do the same for airports at this point, because without such protections, many airports and their contractors will be unable to operate at all.

In addition to the new security requirements that have been implemented in the past two weeks, there are other ways to improve aviation security. As Captain Worth said, we need to use well-trained security professionals to screen passengers and baggage, to be sure we all agree on the need for a funding source that isn't subject to bottom line considerations, but is rather subject to security consideration, and managing liability risks.

The key is to improve the hiring, training, compensation, retention, testing and proficiency of the individuals who screen the passengers and baggage. And if Congress chooses to federalize the screening process, it's imperative that the agency or entity responsible be given the resources, the equipment, the flexibility, and how security services are delivered on a long-term and continuing basis, without the traditional kinds of concerns that we have about annual appropriation and about being subject to the ongoing limitations on flexibility.

We think that it is critical that the airports be in a position to respond. And right now, unfortunately, the limitation on their ability to respond are enshrined in law and regulation. We are talking about additional deployment of machinery, filling up the pipeline with equipment that is necessary to control access, and to control the introduction of dangerous materials into the system. We need to have a different kind of a system for conducting background checks on all of those who have access to secure areas and for more airports than we now have the right to do that.

We need new funding for more law enforcement officials, especially in K-9 units, and we need to have better intelligence disseminated to designated airports, security managers, and to deploy additional federal security managers at more airports.

Mr. Chairman, we think that this situation is manageable. We think it is imperative that we get under way with putting the measures in place that will bring back the public's confidence in flying in our aviation system.

Thank you.


And we will now hear from John Douglass, who is president and CEO of the Aerospace Industry's Association of America. Welcome, sir, and you're recognized.


I would like to begin, also with saying our hearts go out to the victim of this tragedy and associate myself with Captain Worth's comments. As you know, I represent the manufacturers of America's aerospace equipment, and we're in a position similar to many other parts of the industry.

If you take this sector of our economy all together, it represents somewhere between 12-15 percent of our GDP on an annual basis. And one thing that I would urge the committee and urge the Congress in general is to look across the broad spectrum of this industry, to see the impact on the manufacturing side. We're looking ahead for the next couple of years, and we can see a loss of somewhere around $15 billion dollars and 80-100,000 jobs, so it is going to be broad, and most of the things that I've seen so far tend to underestimate it.

Turning to security, sir, the first point I want to make is we fully endorse what Secretary Mineta has done.




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