Casey, Toomey Push Back Against Attempts to Water Down Anti-Hijacking Bill

Casey, Toomey Push Back Against Attempts to Water Down Anti-Hijacking Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) are urging the Department of Transportation (DOT) to strictly enforce their bipartisan air travel safety law.

The Saracini Aviation Act, which was enacted last year, requires the installation of a secondary cockpit barrier between the passenger cabin and cockpit door on each new aircraft that is purchased by a commercial passenger air carrier in the United States.

In a letter to DOT Secretary Elaine Chao, Senators Casey and Toomey note that some in the airline industry have recently attempted to argue that the Saracini Aviation Act only applies to new “models” of aircraft. However, the legislation specifically applies to all new aircraft for commercial passenger air carriers in the United States, not just new types, or models, of aircraft. The senators’ letter reaffirms this fact.

The Saracini Aviation Act is named after a Bucks County resident, Captain Victor Saracini, who piloted United Flight 175 when it was hijacked by terrorists and flown into the World Trade Center on September 11th, 2001. While cockpit doors are currently reinforced, a secondary barrier will protect passengers and crew during times in flights when the cockpit door is opened.

The full text of the letter:

Secretary Chao:

We write today regarding the protection of America’s flight crews and travelling public. Section 336 of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization (PL 115-254) requires “installation of a secondary cockpit barrier on each new aircraft that is manufactured for delivery to a passenger air carrier in the United States operating under the provisions of part 121 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations.”

It has come to our attention that stakeholders argue the above language refers to only new “models” of aircraft that require a new type certificate. This misinterpretation falls well outside the letter of the law and the intent of Congress. Had our goal been to change the certification requirements to apply to each type of new aircraft, the language would have specifically stated new type certificated aircraft. Instead, the Senate and the House chose this language, which clearly expresses Congress’ requirement that physically installed secondary barriers exist on all newly manufactured aircraft delivered to part 121 passenger air carriers (not just new types, or models, of aircraft).

As we understand it, the same groups that opposed inclusion of this requirement during consideration of the FAA reauthorization are now trying to restrict the application of this new law. Congress considered their arguments during debate on the FAA bill and they were rejected. The U.S. fleet is in need of secondary barriers, which have been shown to significantly decrease the threat of a hostile takeover of the cockpit. Claiming Congress meant to express anything other than newly manufactured aircraft is inaccurate.

Please consider this letter as an open invitation to contact our offices at any time for more information and a full legislative history of this issue. We are looking forward to seeing a directive from the FAA mandating secondary barriers on these aircraft no later than October 5, 2019, as required by law.


Source: Bob Casey, Senator for Pennsylvania

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