By KATHY MATHESON
YARDLEY, Pa. (AP) â¿¿ New airline safety legislation would mandate the installation of extra cockpit security in order to protect pilots and passengers from 9/11-style terrorist attacks, its main sponsor said Monday.
The current standard of requiring reinforced cockpit doors is not enough to prevent hijackings, but a relatively inexpensive secondary barrier can serve as a deterrent and give crew members crucial extra seconds needed to thwart intruders, said Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.
"No cost is too high to protect pilots, to protect passengers and to protect our homeland," Fitzpatrick said at a 9/11 memorial in the Philadelphia suburb of Yardley.
Reinforced cockpit doors, which were mandated after the 2001 attacks, are occasionally opened so pilots can use the restroom or receive meals. During those brief intervals, pilots say, sometimes the only protection against a flight deck breach is a crew member with a meal cart.
Fitzpatrick's bill, which is supported by the Air Line Pilots Association, would require the installation of a wire-mesh gate to protect the cockpit when the door is open. Current federal rules do not require the gates, and most planes flown by U.S. airlines do not have them.
"We know that terrorism is not going away in this country, and at 30,000 feet up in the air, it puts our passengers, our flight attendants and crews in a very vulnerable spot," United pilot John Barton said.
Barton was one of several pilots who joined Fitzpatrick and local resident Ellen Saracini at the news conference at the Garden of Reflection. Saracini's husband, Victor, was captain of United Flight 175, which hit the south tower of the World Trade Center.
Saracini said she fears the country has become complacent about airline security, noting that passengers could soon be allowed to carry small knives onto planes. The new policy, which was supposed to take effect last week, has been delayed.