Seeking "to protect America's skies," Bucks County Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick has joined with three of his fellow lawmakers to sponsor the bipartisan Saracini Aviation Safety Act.
The U.S. House of Representatives resolution is named in memory of Capt. Victor Saracini, a Lower Makefield resident and pilot of United Airlines Flight 175. The airliner was one of four jets hijacked by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001. The terrorists crashed the United jetliner into the south tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.
H.R. 911 would require airlines to install "inexpensive, lightweight wire-mesh gates" as secondary cockpit barriers on most commercial aircraft, according to a news release issued Thursday by Fitzpatrick's office.
The gates, positioned between the passenger cabin and the cockpit door, would help prevent a 9/11-style terror attack by blocking access to the flight deck whenever the cockpit door is opened during flight, Fitzpatrick representatives explained in the news release. The secondary barriers, which would cost between $5,000 and $12,000 per aircraft, would be in addition to reinforced cockpit doors already required by law.
Saracini's wife, Ellen, has fought for the added protection for several years.
"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 (Sept. 11, 2001)," Ellen Saracini said in the news release. "I’m pleased that a bipartisan group of leaders in the 115th Congress (is) wasting no time to address the important issue of secondary barriers (to) begin protecting in the skies above us."
Fitzpatrick, , R-8, of Middletown, who represents Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County in the U.S. House, joined with Republican Rep. Peter King of New York and Democratic representatives André Carson of Indiana and Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey on Feb. 7 to introduce the safety act.
"Protecting the cockpit of our nation’s planes is the simplest, cheapest and most effective method to prevent airplanes from being turned into weapons of war by those who seek to do us harm," Fitzpatrick said in the news release. "I’m grateful for the bipartisan support of this legislation and look forward to building on the bipartisan progress made with the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee last Congress to see this important measure signed into law."
Carson, who represents the 7th District in Indiana, said the secondary barriers are a cost-effective way to protect the flight crew and airline passengers.
"It also provides the general public peace of mind to know that sensible precautions have been taken to ensure their safety," Carson said in the news release.
This is the third time the aviation safety resolution has been introduced.
The act also was introduced during the 113th and 114th sessions of Congress, but never advanced, despite bipartisan support and endorsements from 9/11 families, Tom Kean, chairman of the 9/11 Commission, former Secretary of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, the Air Line Pilots Association, the Allied Pilots Association, the U.S. Airline Pilots Association, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, the Association of Flight Attendants, The New York/New Jersey Port Authority and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Airline trade groups lobbied against previous attempts to pass the aviation safety act. The trade groups argued that secondary barrier installation should be up to the individual airlines, rather than be required by law.