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Chair DeFazio Criticizes FAA for Further Delay of Rule on Installations of Secondary Cockpit Barriers | The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure

October 21, 2019

Washington, DC- Today, Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) sent a letter to Stephen Dickson, Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) raising concern over reports the agency will conduct a full rulemaking process instead of simply requiring installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all new airplanes.

Last year, Chair DeFazio fought to include a provision in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 directing FAA to issue an order requiring installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all newly-manufactured transport-category airplanes. The deadline for issuing the order was October 5, 2019.

“I find it inexplicable that the FAA did not determine before now that a rulemaking, instead of an order, is necessary to comply with the congressional mandate. The agency’s failure even to initiate public action until recently suggests to me that the agency is not serious about shoring up the undeniable vulnerability associated with cockpit access in flight. Today, at most airlines, the only line of defense of the cockpit when a pilot needs to exit during flight is an improvised procedure involving flight attendants and beverage carts. This is not, and cannot be, a permanent solution.” DeFazio wrote.

A full copy of the letter can be found below.

October 21, 2019

The Honorable Stephen M. Dickson

Administrator

Federal Aviation Administration

800 Independence Avenue, S.W.

Washington, D.C. 20591

Dear Administrator Dickson:

            Between 8:14 a.m. and 9:28 a.m. on September 11, 2001, hijackers systematically stormed the cockpits of American Airlines flights 11 and 77 and United Airlines flights 93 and 175, and the horrible ensuing events changed civil aviation forever.

            Yet 18 years after the 9/11 attacks, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to address a glaring vulnerability in aviation safety and security: the potential for a terrorist to again take over the cockpit of a commercial airliner during moments of vulnerability when the cockpit door is open in flight.

            After nearly two decades of FAA inaction, Congress stepped in and last year directed the FAA, by October 5 of this year, to issue an order requiring installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all newly manufactured transport-category airplanes. The deadline came and went, and now I understand the FAA intends to conduct a full rulemaking proceeding instead of simply issuing an order, as Congress required.

            I find it inexplicable that the FAA did not determine before now that a rulemaking, instead of an order, is necessary to comply with the congressional mandate. The agency’s failure even to initiate public action until recently suggests to me that the agency is not serious about shoring up the undeniable vulnerability associated with cockpit access in flight. Today, at most airlines, the only line of defense of the cockpit when a pilot needs to exit during flight is an improvised procedure involving flight attendants and beverage carts. This is not, and cannot be, a permanent solution.

            Please be assured that I will carefully monitor the impending rulemaking proceeding and will expect the agency to move as quickly as possible. If further Congressional action is necessary to see secondary barriers installed on each and every commercial airliner rolling off the production line in the near future, I will take it.

            In the meantime, I would urge you to issue a final rule as expeditiously as possible, recognizing the serious safety and security interests at stake.

                                                      Sincerely,

PETER A. DeFAZIO

Chairman

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