Featured image: Helwing Villamizar/Airways

POTUS Signs Second Cockpit Barriers Rule into Law

DALLAS — As U.S. President Joe Biden sings into law the Part of the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024, one recommendation from the 9/11 Commission has finally become mandatory after more than two decades.

The requirement of a second cockpit barrier on all commercial aircraft was adopted by the House this week, thus reauthorizing the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to enforce the rule.

Apart from new aircraft in production, it will take around five years to retrofit the currently active U.S. commercial aircraft fleet with the secondary flight deck barriers.

Experts and government officials have been advocating for the installation of these barriers for decades, emphasizing their crucial role in deterring airplane hijackings and preventing terrorists from gaining access to the cockpit.

During the tragic events of September 11, 2021, the terrorists were well aware that the cockpit doors would be opened early in the flight, enabling them to forcefully breach the cockpit.

According to the Boston Herald, "U.S. Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick and Josh Gottheimer have been pushing for the secondary cockpit barriers. Massachusetts Congressman Stephen Lynch was also backing the aviation safety act."

N37537, United Airlines Boeing 737-9 MAX @KSAN. Photo: Michael Rodeback/Airways

A Present Risk

The Boston Herald report recalls a mid-air attack last year on a flight to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). A Massachusetts man "tried to open the plane’s emergency exit and then attempted to stab a flight attendant with a broken spoon. Torres in a video was seen moving toward the cockpit as he allegedly attacked the flight attendant."

The recent incident involving Alaska Airlines (AS) Flight 1282 also brought to light a vulnerability in the cockpit door of Boeing jets. Specifically, the door was designed to open during a decompression incident, a fact that was not explicitly stated in the plane's manual.

The unexpected opening of the cockpit door occurred after a cabin emergency door plug blew out in midair, leading to an emergency landing. The incident underscores the risks associated with the design of the cockpit door, as it makes the flight deck accessible to anyone, albeit under extreme circumstances.

Photo: Pexels.com

Comments from US Aviation Officials

The Federal Aviation Administration stated this week that "The final rule mandating the additional barrier will protect flight decks from intrusion when the flight deck door is open."

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said, “Every day, pilots and flight crews transport millions of Americans safely - and today we are taking another important step to make sure they have the physical protections they deserve.”

On his part, acting FAA Associate Administrator for Safety David Boulter said, “No pilot should have to worry about an intrusion on the flight deck.”

As the rule goes into effect, aircraft manufacturers are now required to install secondary barriers on commercial aircraft produced.

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