‘Everybody’s business’ – pilots, flight crews say they rely on passengers to stop trouble
CHICAGO (AP) – Airline crews said Tuesday that after the terrorist attacks, they are counting on passengers to help protect them – the way they did when they tackled a deranged man who broke into a cockpit this week.
”We used to have a saying at the Air Force that security is everybody’s business,” said Herb Hunter, a United pilot and spokesman for the Air Line Pilots Association. ”That could never be more true than it is right now.”
Airline security has been a top concern since the suicide hijackings Sept. 11. Airports and airlines have increased security measures, but there were some tense moments Monday aboard an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Passengers said Edward Coburn, 31, of Fresno, Calif., ran to the cockpit and knocked open the door while screaming that the plane was going to hit the Sears Tower. He was restrained by a gang of passengers and two pilots, and the plane with 162 people aboard landed safely. Coburn was jailed on charges of interfering with a flight crew.
While some caution that it may be dangerous for passengers to get involved, passengers said they were grateful for the quick action.
”I loved what I saw,” said JoAnn Rockman of Flossmoor, Ill., who watched her fellow passengers subdue Coburn. ”The stewardess yelled, ‘Get that guy!’ and half the plane got up.”
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said the agency has no policy on what passengers should do if someone threatens a flight, but recommends they look to pilots and flight attendants for guidance.
Passengers at first thought Coburn might be a terrorist. His father later told authorities that his son had failed to take his medication for his mental illness. There were no sky marshals on the flight.
Jeff Jack, spokesman for the Association of Flight Attendants, said passengers can continue to expect flight crews to ask for help.
”That passengers are getting involved when there’s a security risk on a plane right now is almost a foregone conclusion,” Jack said. ”Can you imagine sitting on a place when someone goes crazy and not doing anything?”
The FAA and airlines are discussing self-defense training for flight attendants and whether it should include enlisting passenger help, he said.
Kent Spence, a lawyer from Jackson, Wyo., warned against relying on passengers too much. He noted the case of a 19-year-old Las Vegas man who suffocated during a melee on a Southwest Airlines flight last year. Authorities said the death was the result of self-defense.
Rockman said people on Monday’s flight ”were ready to fight to the death.”
”Americans saw what happened” on Sept. 11, she said. ”We learn our lessons and we will never allow that to happen again.”
On the Net:
Pilots union: http://www.alpa.org
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