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Security of El Al Airlines

Aired September 26, 2001 - 05:50   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: I find that fairly interesting about the Atlanta airport. I have been stopped with just a pack of Rolaids in my pocket going through that...

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes.

HARRIS: ... when they said a loaded gun got through.

LIN: Yes.

HARRIS: That's interesting.

LIN: Hard to believe because people are getting stopped for nail files, the tiniest little things so.

HARRIS: Yes, that's phenomenal.

LIN: Obviously still working on the airport security and its regulations.

HARRIS: Yes. Yes.

LIN: And you know, of course yesterday airline pilots were telling Congress that they think that they should be armed in the cockpit, and the FAA is also thinking about having federal air marshals routinely onboard now.

HARRIS: That's right. But you know one model for making the skies safer could be Israel's El Al Airlines.

CNN's Miles O'Brien now examines their security measures.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What is it that El Al airlines knows or does that U.S. air carriers don't?

ISAAC YEFFET, FORMER HEAD OF SECURITY, EL AL AIRLINES: We have to ask ourselves did we do all it's necessary that the flight will fly safe. Once the answer is yes, let them take off.

ISSY BOIM, PRESIDENT, AIR SECURITY INTERNATIONAL: So if you a passenger on El Al, most likely you will be observed from the minute that you left your car or you've been dropped out and then you would have met a security agent before you go to the check-in to check in your flight.

O'BRIEN: In essence the security experts say El Al airlines leaves absolutely nothing to chance and I mean nothing. They haven't had a single hijacking in more than three decades. David Hermesh is the President of El Al.

DAVID HERMESH, PRESIDENT, EL AL AIRLINES: Unfortunately because of our situation we developed the system not because we want to because we had to do it because of the fact that we had.

O'BRIEN: When El Al passengers arrive at Israel's Ben Gurion airport or any other airport that El Al services, three hours before departure they are interviewed by trained security personnel.

Among the questions: Who paid for your ticket? Why are you traveling? And, when did you book this flight? During the extensive interview ticket holders will also be psychologically evaluated, their entire make up judged, mood, body language, everything.

YEFFET: He will decide what kind of a passenger I am -- if I could go for this way or I could go through the other way.

O'BRIEN: The information is then sent on by computer to international intelligence agencies like INTERPOL or Scotland Yard for instant evaluation. If there are any lingering doubts, the passenger won't be allowed on the plane.

BOIM: You build up different criterion that you have taken even from previous incidents or terrorist attacks and you put everything together so you know that the persons that comes to you -- to meet you, he needs to go through your interview clean and clear.

O'BRIEN: Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, each and every El Al plane around the globe is carefully guarded. If the plane needs cleaning or food services, guards are watching whether there are passengers on board or not.

HERMESH: We have a special program for training. It depends what is your position. It's -- you know, it's like in the army. You have the first soldier, the second soldier and you are going to upgrade in the times that you are going to get more experience. It takes a few weeks to receive the first stage and another few months to get more professional during your training job.

O'BRIEN: All pilots flying for El Al have flown in the Israeli Air Force and are professional in weaponry and hand to hand combat.

However, one El Al official tells CNN, pilots do not carry guns in the cockpit. There isn't a need. Two bulletproof doors activated by a keypad from inside the cock pit act as a barrier between those flying the plane and the cabin.

YEFFET: We don't want the pilots to be fighters. We want them to stay in the cockpit. In case of emergency land in the nearest airport. Leave the Air Marshalls that are really professionals. O'BRIEN: On board every El Al flight there are at least two undercover Air Marshalls seated among the passengers. They dress in plane clothes and are armed, licensed to shoot and kill in situations where time is of the essence.

YEFFET: We tell them less than 30 seconds we save life. After 30 seconds, we did not save life. People lost a life -- even one we don't want to see.

O'BRIEN: If all this sounds overwhelming, Air Marshalls, the guns, bulletproof cockpit doors, around-the-clock security, there are many industry watchers who say it should be the standard for U.S. airlines. But is that really possible?

El Al has 34 airplanes carrying three million passengers a year. In the U.S. there are 25 airlines carrying as many passengers in two days as El Al carries in a year.

Still, there is a new phase of terrorism out there and at least one expert told us, the airlines need to take action or risk becoming easy targets.

YEFFET: We cannot do it like El Al because we have many flights every day. We cannot do it because every flight would take up to five hours. We cannot do it because it cost big money. If this would be the approach, if everything is possible in part and parcel, we will be named with a bad security system.

O'BRIEN: Some of El Al's security measures could be employed on U.S. airplanes. That's because the bulletproof technology is available and tested as this video shows right here in the U.S. For the past six years, a New Jersey Company, Galaxy Scientific Corporation, has been manufacturing and cooperating with the FAA designing protective materials for cock pit doors, cargo holds, even ventilation shafts, for U.S. air carriers.

JIMMY YOH, PRESIDENT, GALAXY SCIENTIFIC CORPORATION: This particular indentation is shot by a 50-caliber bullet.

O'BRIEN: But it's president, Dr. Jimmy Yoh, says even though the technology exists, without an FAA mandate and the airlines' demand for its supply, the materials remain locked away.

YOH: The security always is a funny business. And without the FAA's mandate and we have experience the resistance from the airline industry. And they consider that is additional cost.

O'BRIEN: Only one airline uses a variation of these materials in its airplanes, El Al.

YEFFET: Remember we are dealing with sophisticated enemy. And this group of terrorists that hijacked the four aircraft, they had to go many times to the airports, to learn the airports, to learn the terminal, to learn the check in, to learn the sky cap, to learn the security check point, even to know some of the FAA regulations. BOIM: The solution for the future is to integrate I would say centralized security for all the airports in America. Terrorists will understand that they cannot use aviation to fight with it against our live. Aviation is commuting. is not weapons and let's keep it out of their hands.

O'BRIEN: Miles O'Brien, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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