Pilots Taking Security In Their Own Hands
(September 18, 2001)
Now that terrorists have used airliners as weapons,
pilots are being advised to take action. The Air Line Pilots
Association (ALPA), which represents more than 66,000 pilots at 47
airlines in the U.S. and Canada, began advising its members to
consider any means necessary to thwart hijackers.
Actions such as depressurizing the aircraft and
drastic flying maneuvers are being considered to keep assailants off
balance and away from the cockpit. "We are urging pilots that in
doing so, they not hesitate to exercise captain’s authority to the
fullest extent to ensure the safety of each and every flight," says
ALPA President Captain Duane Woerth. Pilots have been taught in
yearly recurrent training to cooperate with hijackers; however, that
was before last week's attack.
While the government has created teams of experts
called “rapid response teams” to improve air security, pilots aren't
wasting any time doing anything and everything they can do to ensure
the safety of passengers and crew. Now, pilots are taking security
into their own hands. ALPA has recommended the following to its
Indeed, many pilots
are taking the crash ax out of its storage area and putting it where
they can access it immediately. A US Airways pilot (who wishes to
remain anonymous) says, "I've got it right next to me on all
flights. These terrorist better not mess with us."
- Pilots should, first and foremost, open lines of communication
with our fellow employees. Ensure that the crew is
- Ensure that the aircraft, after servicing and prior to
boarding, has been searched by personnel who have been trained to
do so. This search should not be conducted by the
- Captains should not hesitate to exercise their fullest
authority. If there is any doubt or suspicion about flight
security, they should not close the door for departure until it is
- Captains should review emergency procedures with the flight
and cabin crew for if there is a hijacking or bomb threat.
- If any type of security event begins in the cabin, pilots
should not hesitate to declare an emergency and land the
- If the aircraft has a cockpit door, the pilot should close and
lock it, and not allow anyone to enter without knowledge and
- Consider using the jumpseat or other material to block the
door until other measures are instituted.
- Aircraft cockpits are equipped with a crash ax, which should
be considered a potential defensive weapon if there is a suicidal
hijacking. The ax should only be wielded if the crewmember is
convinced that using it is necessary to save lives. The pilot must
be prepared to kill a cockpit intruder.
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