Pilots union says FAA dragging feet on secondary cockpit door

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Photo Credit: Skycolors/Shutterstock

The Air Line Pilots Association is stepping up its call for the FAA to require secondary cockpit barriers on new commercial passenger aircraft.

The union's campaign comes as the FAA is nearly two months late in complying with a congressional mandate to issue an order requiring the secondary barriers. The mandate was signed into law by President Donald Trump in early October 2018 as part of last year’s FAA Reauthorization Act. Congress gave the aviation agency a year to issue the order. 

The second doors would enable a pilot to close the door to the cockpit before opening a door to the airplane cabin. As such, they could prevent a hijacker, from rushing the cockpit when a pilot steps out to use the lavatory.

Passage of the mandate last year came after a lobbying effort from ALPA that had gone on since 9/11.

In a statement, the FAA said that it has begun to take action on the mandate.

"The FAA has tasked the Aviation Rulemaking Advisory Committee (ARAC) to provide recommendations and benefit/cost data to support and expedite the rulemaking process on secondary cockpit barriers," the agency said. "The working group, which includes ALPA as the co-chair, has convened and will provide FAA a progress report at the December 2019 ARAC meeting."

But in a Nov. 21 letter to FAA administrator Stephen Dickson, ALPA president Joseph DePete said that ARAC's deliberations are a waste of taxpayer dollars and that they are designed only to delay implementation of the secondary barrier rule. The FAA, DePete noted, had contractor RTCA Inc. develop a minimum performance standard for secondary cockpit barriers in 2009 and the agency codified that standard in 2015.

"Let’s not wait for another 9/11 type terror attack before action is taken," DePete wrote. "We should forego the charade of the working group, and instead utilize the data we already have and implement the law -- immediately."

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