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Organizations Representing Consumers, Passengers, Pilots and Flight Attendants Urge Congress to Federalize Aviation Security

Oct. 30, 2001

Organizations Representing Consumers, Passengers, Pilots and Flight Attendants Urge Congress to Federalize Aviation Security

Groups Call for Standardized Procedures, Trained and Motivated Security Workers

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A coalition of organizations representing consumers, airline passengers, pilots and flight attendants sent a letter today to all members of Congress urging them to federalize airline and airport security, using standardized procedures and highly trained security workers who have passed criminal background and national security checks.

“The current aviation security system operated by airlines, airports and private security companies under FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] oversight and regulation cannot deal with terrorist threats of the magnitude America now faces,” the letter said. “Even with closer supervision and support, the current system cannot realistically meet the threat of new aviation terrorism.”

Citing not only the Sept. 11 terrorist hijackings but also the 1988 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, the letter noted that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has failed to implement basic reforms despite the fact that aviation security was the subject of major legislation in 1990 and was criticized by two presidential commissions during the 1990s. Recommendations that have been ignored include matching bags to passengers; screening cargo, mail and luggage for explosives; and securing cockpit doors. Federalizing the system is essential to restore public confidence in air travel, the letter said.

Such change is needed because neither the DOT nor the FAA is a law enforcement agency, so adding another layer of federal supervision in either agency is likely to fail.

“We should not even consider retaining a system which could again risk . . . the lives of thousands of Americans to even more devastating aviation terrorist attacks in the future,” the letter said.

“The Congress rushed to pass a $15 billion taxpayer bailout of the aviation industry without ever conditioning it on basic improvements in aviation security, which the industry has long opposed,” said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen president. “The industry s future depends on public confidence, which will be restored only with rapid passage of aviation security legislation mandating improvements. The White House has conceded that the president will sign a strong bill. The Congress should send him one immediately.”

The letter sent today was signed by the Association of Flight Attendants, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, the Aviation Consumer Action Project (ACAP), the Business Travel Coalition, the Independent Pilots Association, the International Airline Passengers Association, Public Citizen and Victims of Pan Am Flight 103.

The House is scheduled to consider two version of aviation security legislation later this week. One bill is backed by the president and House Republican leadership; the second is backed by House Democrats.