Lawmakers Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect our Nation’s Skies

WASHINGTON, D.C. –Representative Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), along with Representatives Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05), André Carson (IN-07), and Chris Smith (NJ-04), reintroduced legislation yesterday to protect the safety of American citizens, by requiring the installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial passenger aircraft to prevent terrorist attacks similar to 9/11. The Saracini Enhanced Aviation Act of 2021 [H.R. 911] mandates the installation of inexpensive, lightweight, wire-mesh gates between the passenger cabin and cockpit door, blocking access to the flight deck whenever the cockpit door is opened during flight, on all existing aircraft. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Pat Toomey (R-PA) plan to reintroduce the companion bill in the Senate. The bill has also been endorsed by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA).

This legislation is named in honor of Captain Victor J. Saracini, who was killed after his plane was hijacked and deliberately flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Following the 9/11 attacks, Captain Saracini’s widow, Ellen, has become a national advocate for aviation safety. 

“It is unacceptable that nearly 20 years after terrorists breached the cockpit of my husband’s airplane on September 11, 2011, our skies are still susceptible to repeat this act of terrorism. It is my mission to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the flight deck aboard our nation’s airliners because, without secondary barriers, we are just as vulnerable today, as we were on that fateful day,” said Saracini. “We need to call on the FAA to act swiftly on legislation that was passed in 2019 to implement a secondary barrier on newly manufactured aircraft for delivery. I’m pleased that a bipartisan group of leaders in the 117th Congress is wasting no time to address retrofitting the remaining aircraft with secondary barriers and continue protecting all who travel in the skies above us.”

Despite significant, measurable improvements in global aviation safety since 9/11, the threat of hijacking remains. A study commissioned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other industry stakeholders determined that during transition, the flight deck door has real vulnerability and that a secondary barrier is the safest, most cost-effective ($5,000-$12,000 per aircraft), and most efficient way to protect the cockpit.

“Ensuring the safety of our nation’s aircraft is paramount to protecting the American public. Congress previously made progress in ensuring that all future commercial aircraft are equipped with secondary barriers, so we must build on that momentum in this 117th Congress and include the same requirement for all existing commercial passenger aircraft,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “I am proud to stand with my constituent, Ellen Saracini, along with Representatives Gottheimer, Carson, and Smith, and Senators Toomey and Casey, as we continue our fight to ensure that the devastating horrors of 9/11 never happen again. "

"Securing the safety of our skies is absolutely critical to preventing another terrorist attack like 9/11, which killed more than 700 New Jersey residents. Recent federal legislation, which I helped pass, already requires secondary barriers on new commercial aircraft. But now we need to go a step further and require that all existing commercial aircraft also have secondary cockpit barriers. Why would you have some planes that are safe from terrorist attacks on the cockpit and others that aren’t? We must do everything we can to protect our airplanes from terror attacks and keep our nation safe," said Rep. Gottheimer, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.

“I am honored to join my colleagues in reintroducing this bipartisan legislation to protect airline employees and passengers from unthinkable danger. It has been nearly 20 years since the deadly September 11th terrorist attacks, but there still has not been enough done to ensure this type of tragedy never happens again. Installing secondary cockpit barriers is a common-sense and effective safeguard against a similar attack. I want to thank all my colleagues for working with me on this bill, as well as Ellen Saracini, who has turned her personal pain and loss into bold action to honor the fallen on 9/11 and help save lives,” said Rep. Carson.

“Because of the significant security value of secondary cockpit barriers, new commercial aircraft are now required to have them—an important step that provides added protection for some passengers and crew, but not all,” said Rep. Chris Smith. “The bipartisan Saracini Enhanced Aviation Act will ensure that these meaningful security measures are installed on all aircraft, not just new planes. We must do everything we can to secure the flight decks of all our nation’s aircraft, so that all passengers, pilots, and flight crews benefit from this proven safeguard.”

“ALPA has long supported the use of secondary barriers to preserve the integrity of the flightdeck and keep crews and passengers safe. We are grateful to Reps. Fitzpatrick, Gottheimer, Carson, and Smith for their leadership and dedication to enhancing aviation safety and security by ensuring that these cost-effective devices are retroactively installed on all passenger aircraft,” said Capt. Joe DePete, ALPA President.

“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. This ‘enhanced’ version of that legislation is an important step in preventing future disasters by protecting pilots’ cockpit doors during flights in all passenger airplanes, not only newly manufactured commercial airplanes,” said Senator Casey. “The Saracini Aviation Act would make air transportation safer for all pilots and passengers.”

“Captain Victor Saracini of Bucks County was piloting United Flight 175 on September 11, 2001, when a group of terrorists hijacked the flight and flew it into the World Trade Center. Since that day, Victor’s wife, Ellen, has worked tirelessly to protect other pilots and the traveling public. With her help, we were successful in enacting legislation that requires the installation of secondary barriers on all new commercial passenger aircraft, but the barriers won’t protect everyone if they are not required for commercial aircraft already operating. Adding secondary barriers to all commercial passenger aircraft—whether new or already operating—is the next step Congress must take to ensure no family has to go through what the Saracini family went through. I look forward to introducing the Senate companion bill with Senator Casey later this year,” said Senator Toomey.

Congressman Fitzpatrick introduced similar legislation, the Saracini Aviation Act. Elements of its language were included in the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 as an amendment and signed into law. That amendment required all newly manufactured aircraft to install a secondary barrier. The Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act will require all existing passenger aircraft to retrofit a secondary barrier, ensuring that current aircraft fleets are held to the same safety standard as newly manufactured aircraft.