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Archive for Sunday, September 16, 2001

Mineta announces task forces to examine security at airports, on airplanes

September 16, 2001

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— Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said Sunday he has appointed two tasks forces of non-goverment experts to make detailed recommendations by Oct. 1 on improving security against terrorism aboard airliners and at the nation's airports.

The airliner task force includes a pilot, airline executive and plane designer and will focus on preventing terrorists from gaining access to cockpits. Current regulations require the cockpits to be locked during flights, but pilots have the capability of breaking down the doors in emergencies.

The second task force was told to come up with new ways to prevent terrorists from getting aboard planes.

Before commercial flights resumed Thursday, two days after hijackers crashed airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, airports put into place new security measures. Curbside check-ins were eliminated and only ticketed passengers were allowed in boarding areas.

Armed agents from the U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Border Patrol and U.S. Customs were deployed at airport security checkpoints across the country.

And the Air Line Pilots Association began advising its members to consider depressurizing the plane or taking drastic maneuvers to keep assailants off balance and away from the cockpit. Pilots have been taught in yearly training sessions to cooperate with hijackers.

"Our efforts must now turn to developing long-term, sustainable security improvements within our airports and the aircrafts themselves as we continue to provide all Americans the highest possible levels of safety," Mineta said.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Ronald Reagan National Airport should remain closed indefinitely because its flight path is so close to the White House, Capitol and Pentagon.

"We have airports at Dulles. We have airports at Baltimore, which give a great deal more time for a fighter interceptor to do something," he said.

Mineta said his department was looking at how to operate Reagan National safely. Chet Lunner, a Transportation Department spokesman, said a consensus was building to require take offs to be southbound and landings to come in from the South, away from government buildings and monuments.

Mineta said he would regularly talk with members of the task forces. He said officials of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Department would be working with them.

In addition, operators of oil and natural gas pipelines have been instructed to increase security around their facilities, Mineta said.

The members of the airport security task force are Herb Kelleher, chairman of the board of Southwest Airlines; Raymond Kelly, former U.S. Customs Service commissioner, and Charles Barclay, president of the American Association of Airport Executives.

The aircraft security task force consists of Robert Baker, vice chairman of American Airlines; Robert Davis, a former vice president of Boeing Co. and Captain Duane Werth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said the agency was working with the Post Office to allow a resumption of mail and package delivery aboard passenger aircraft. She said the ban could be lifted as early as Monday but that new rules may require that mail be screened.

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