Mineta announces task forces to examine security at airports, on airplanes
WASHINGTON (AP) – The federal government is asking private experts to come up with detailed recommendations within two weeks for making air travel safer.
Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said Sunday he has appointed two task forces of nongovernment experts to report by Oct. 1 on improving security both aboard airliners and at 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 they are constructed in a way to allow pilots to break them down 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.
More armed marshals were immediately assigned to airplanes, and spokesman Chet Lunner said the Transportation Department was working on a plan to train and deploy even more marshals in the skies. Officials declined to give any details on the program, including whether the marshals would be in uniform or plain clothes.
Mineta said late Sunday on PBS’ ”The News Hour With Jim Lehrer” that 4,887 commercial passenger airplanes were in the air at 12:50 p.m. EDT Sunday, about 65 percent of normal for a Sunday afternoon.
Delta Airlines Chairman Leo Mullin told ABC’s ”This Week” that he would support armed marshals on every flight.
”I think that we have to work very closely with the government to do whatever it takes, in a law enforcement way, to ensure that the American public has complete confidence in aviation,” Mullin said.
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. Lunner said a consensus was building to require takeoffs 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, Mineta said. The instructions came from DOT’s Office of Pipeline Safety shortly after Tuesday’s terrorist attacks and ordered companies to both take immediate steps to protect the pipelines and develop a long-term plan to improve security of their systems.
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 a former New York City police chief; 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 the Boeing Co.; and Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey said the agency was working with the U.S. Postal Service 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.
On the Net:
Transportation Department: http://www.dot.gov
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