Secondary Cockpit Barriers Become Mandatory on Commercial Aircraft

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 21, 2024 11:00 AMNews
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A large passenger jet flying through a cloudy blue sky
A large passenger jet flying through a cloudy blue sky. Source: unsplash

President Joe Biden has signed the "FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024," mandating the installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial aircraft. This legislation addresses a critical security gap exposed during the 9/11 attacks.

The newly signed law requires all commercial aircraft to have a secondary cockpit barrier, a measure aimed at preventing unauthorized access to the flight deck. The US House adopted the rule with a vote of 387-26, ensuring it remains in effect until at least 2028, pending further reauthorization by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The implementation of this requirement will be a gradual process, potentially taking five to six years to retrofit existing aircraft. Until then, experts warn that the US could remain vulnerable to attacks similar to 9/11. Advocates argue that secondary barriers are essential for deterring hijackings and enhancing overall flight security. David Boulter, Acting FAA Associate Administrator for Safety, emphasized that pilots should not have to worry about intrusions on the flight deck.

The necessity of this legislation was highlighted by past incidents, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, where hijackers stormed the cockpits early in the flights, leading to catastrophic consequences. More recently, in March 2022, an out-of-control passenger attacked a flight attendant on a United Airlines flight, reinforcing the need for improved cockpit security.

The recent Alaska Airlines incident also underscored the vulnerability of cockpit doors. During a flight, the emergency exit plug door blew out, revealing the susceptibility of cockpit doors designed to open automatically during cabin decompression, a feature not specified in the plane's manual.

The new legislation mandates that all new aircraft be equipped with secondary cockpit barriers. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg highlighted the importance of this measure, stating that it ensures pilots and flight crews have the physical protections they need to safely transport millions of Americans daily.

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