NSC: Restored Confidence in Air Travel Is Critical for Public Safety

The National Safety Council says it supports President Bush's plan to enhance aviation safety and security.

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National Safety Council (NSC) President Alan C. McMillan offered that group''s "unequivocal support" for President George W. Bush''s plans to enhance aviation safety and security. According to McMillan, fewer fliers mean more drivers, and that could lead to problems.

"At a time when Americans are struggling to return to their business and leisure activities, a widespread movement toward motor vehicle travel would put the nation at greater risk of increased injury and death on the highways," says McMillan. "Based on passenger-miles traveled over the period 1995 through 1999, and depending on the length and type of trip, the risk of death from driving is up to 37 times greater than from flying."

The difference in risk of passenger death between air and highway travel is due to many factors, including differences in the skill and training of pilots compared to drivers and constant monitoring and control of air traffic compared to virtually unmonitored highway traffic.

McMillan says the steps to enhance airport and airline safety and security outlined at Chicago''s O''Hare Airport by Bush on Sept. 27 are exactly what the nation needs to restore confidence in air travel and get our transportation system back to normal. Getting travelers back in the air is vital for the nation''s safety as well as for the economy.

He adds that it is critically important that Americans be aware of the risks they face by switching from air to motor vehicle travel, as many have done in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist hijacking attacks on New York and Washington.

In the first of his security measures, President Bush asked the governors of all 50 states to call up the National Guard, at the federal government''s expense, to augment existing security staff at every commercial airport nationwide.

At the same time, Bush announced his plans to set aside $500 million to finance aircraft modifications to delay or deny access to the cockpit. Funding may be provided through grants or cost sharing arrangements and will be used for a number of projects, including the development of ways to:

  • Restrict opening of the cockpit door during flight.
  • Fortify cockpit doors to deny access from the cabin to the pilots in the cockpit.
  • Alert the cockpit crew to activity in the cabin.
  • Ensure continuous operation of the aircraft transponder in the event the crew faces an emergency.

Since September 11, the U.S. government has been steadily increasing the number of Federal Air Marshals using law enforcement officers loaned from various federal agencies. Bush announced he plans to continue to expand the Air Marshal program and seek congressional approval to make this expansion permanent. The requirements and qualifications of Federal Air Marshals are among the most stringent of any U.S. federal law enforcement agency.

Bush said he plans to work with Congress to put the federal government in charge of airport security and screening services.

The new security will be performed by a combination of federal and non-federal workforce, with federal uniformed personnel managing all operations and maintaining a visible presence at all commercial airports. The federal government will:

  • Establish new standards for security operations.
  • Supervise the passenger and baggage security at the 420 commercial passenger airports nationwide.
  • Perform intensive background checks and train and test screeners and security personnel.
  • Purchase and maintain all equipment.
  • Oversee patrolling of secure areas and monitoring of the quality of the airports access controls.

Work with other law enforcement authorities at the federal, state and local levels as well as serve as a key facilitator of coordination regarding homeland security.

McMillan says the NSC will work with the Federal Aviation Administration and the airline and travel industries and others to communicate with the public about the risks of driving vs. flying.

"The airline industry and the government are to be commended for making significant improvements in aviation safety," notes McMillan. "The National Safety Council will work with employers, government agencies and communities across the nation to spread the message that the safest form of travel is, and will continue to be, air travel."

by Sandy Smith

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