Pilots Association Announces Aviation Security Watchdog Program

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations has declared itself a watchdog over aviation security and has issued a report card on airlines' compliance with new security measures proposed by the Department of Transportation.

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, (CAPA) a trade association whose member unions represent over 27,000 pilots, has launched the Aviation Security Watchdog Program.

The program was created to ensure that the Department of Transportation's Task Force reports are implemented efficiently and effectively, CAPA launched the program to track deadlines and action on the recommendations. The group plans to issue a "report card" regularly to score the progress made to date.

The report card unveiled by CAPA analyzed the first set of recommendations that were to be completed within the initial 30 days following the Sept. 11 attacks. According to the group, four of seven of those items have not been completed.

"The events of September 11th underscored the urgency of addressing aviation security measures in a swift and comprehensive fashion. As a result, when the Task Force announced its recommendations, we strongly supported the package," said Capt. Bob Miller, CAPA chairman. "The concern however, is over ensuring that the industry comes together to swiftly implement them so that we aren't sitting here in 10 years asking what happened to the security improvements. This is essential for public safety, but also critical to getting consumers back in the air and the airline industry back in the black."

Citing the importance of quick implementation, CAPA announced their new role as a "watchdog" -- monitoring and reporting on the progress of regulators and the industry in implementing the Task Force reports each month until they are complete.

The trade association's first report card highlights the recommendations slated for implementation in the first 30 days including:

  • Recommendation 1: Installation of a flight deck door barrier.
  • Recommendation 5: Procedural changes in flight deck access.
  • Recommendation 6: Industry plan for alternative emergency warnings.
  • Recommendation 12: Industry wide revamp of security training and information delivery.
  • Recommendation 14: FAA guidance in cabin search procedures.
  • Recommendation 16: Transponder examination by FAA task force.
  • Recommendation 17: Industry standards for pilot anti-hijacking training.

CAPA reported recommendations 6, 12, 14 and 17 are incomplete.

"As pilots, we're on the front lines of the airline security debate and we feel a sense of professional responsibility to make certain the entire industry - pilots, regulators, airlines and the Administration - work together to rapidly solve these issues. Today we are recommitting ourselves to help make that happen. This is a time to work together for solutions and the program launched by CAPA will help achieve this goal," said Capt. Steve McPhail, CAPA secretary/treasurer.

Miller expressed concern regarding the lack of apparent deadlines for airport security improvements. Citing recent security breeches, in particular with regard to baggage screening, Miller reinforced the need for an immediate solution to the screening process including comprehensive screening of all passengers and parcels. In addition, members of CAPA are seeking quick installment of new technologies, like "smart credentials" or biometrics systems, to facilitate screening of crew members.

CAPA also reasserted the need to apply new security measures to all commercial aircraft by calling for "one standard of safety." According to Miller, "This has become more important since the events of September 11th because a hijacked cargo plane can cause a similar level of destruction as a hijacked passenger plane."

CAPA plans to regularly inform the public about the state of cargo security. Specifically, CAPA outlined six key improvements that need to be made in the cargo system to make the skies safer for all. These included:

  • Screening parcels electronically whether loaded on cargo or passenger aircraft.
  • Studying the design and development of bomb resistant cargo containers for both passenger and cargo aircraft.
  • Introducing a "package profiling system" to track suspect shippers.
  • Improving the existing security checks and reexamining airport and aircraft access for all airport personnel.
  • Mandating all personnel involved in fueling, catering, cleaning or the transportation of cargo (including truck drivers) to be properly identified via airline identification cards with a ramp access validation code. They should be required to operate under the same security standards as other airline personnel.
  • Regulating all ramp workers to have a background check as a condition of employment.

"We are at a critical juncture for airline security and we have the best momentum that I have ever seen in my many years of flying and dealing with aviation policy. But, it will all go to waste if we can't follow through on these excellent recommendations," said Miller. "CAPA is going to do its part by participating in the process and continuing to push for 'one standard of safety' for all commercial airlines. And we will make sure that the public knows exactly what is being done and what is not being done by reporting monthly on the progress of aviation security."

edited by Sandy Smith

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