Took Long Enough! Decades After 9/11, U.S. Airplanes Receive THIS Critical Safety Upgrade Against Hijackings

By Jennifer Wentworth | Sunday, 19 May 2024 04:30 PM
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Image Credit : Wikimedia Commons

Nearly 23 years after the devastating 9/11 attacks, a significant security loophole that facilitated terrorists in hijacking four airplanes, murdering the pilots, and transforming the aircraft into lethal weapons is finally being addressed.

President Joe Biden, on Thursday, enacted legislation mandating secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial aircraft, marking the implementation of the last recommendation from the 9/11 Commission yet to be put into effect.

The lightweight, lockable metal gates, which have been a point of contention for the airline industry due to their additional cost of approximately $35,000 each, are designed to safeguard cockpit doors when pilots need to exit during flight for restroom breaks or food delivery.

Ellen Saracini, the widow of Capt. Victor Saracini who was a pilot on the ill-fated United Flight 175 that was hijacked and crashed into the World Trade Center's south tower, said, “I guess I wore down Congress enough that they were tired of me.” She added, “The airlines have had great lobbying efforts against this over the years, and I think they thought the little widow was going home in two weeks, but I decided not to.”

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Saracini expressed her determination to prevent such a tragedy from recurring, stating, “It’s been a lot of work, a lot of years, but my commitment was to never let this happen again. Victor didn’t die in vain.”

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However, the implementation of these changes will not be immediate. Sources suggest it may take between three to five years for airlines to retrofit approximately 8,000 airplanes with the new barriers due to bureaucratic delays.

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President Biden approved the provisions as part of a larger five-year, $105 billion civil aviation bill aimed at enhancing air travel. The bill was endorsed by the House of Representatives with a 387-26 vote on Wednesday and by the U.S. Senate with an 88-4 vote a week earlier.

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Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), who along with Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), included the provision requiring secondary cockpit barriers, said, “This amendment is a critical step to help prevent 9/11 from ever happening again.”

In 2018, both politicians helped enact the “Saracini Aviation Safety Act,” named after the late pilot, which mandated secondary barriers on newly built planes, but not on existing aircraft.

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Former Federal Aviation Administration Special Agent Brian Sullivan welcomed the long overdue protection against cockpit intrusions, particularly in light of the recent surge in unruly passenger incidents and the heightened threat due to the Israeli-Hamas war.

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer's spokesman, Angelo Roefaro, stated that the “new [rule] will mark an additional and critical safety measure now complete,” acknowledging that the 9/11 tragedy highlighted the need for improvements in airport security and aircraft themselves.

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However, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) believes more needs to be done. She called for stricter regulations on issuing government IDs and preventing illegal immigrants with arrest warrants from boarding airplanes, a practice admitted by the Transportation Security Administration. Malliotakis emphasized the need for comprehensive precautions to prevent terrorists from exploiting lax policies.

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