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Protective Measures

Flight Attendants are now the front line for airline security.

I recently witnessed this on a domestic flight. The pilot and first officer left the cockpit to use the bathroom on an Airbus 319. These planes have the bathroom right next to the cockpit. Maybe not such a smart spot?

As part of the pre-flight brief, they announced that “only one person at a time could be waiting in the aisle by the lavatory.” In some circles, that’s a head start.

To “protect” the pilots while they used the bathroom, a flight attendant moved to the head of the aisle placing a beverage cart there and held “post.”

For several minutes, it was the beverage cart and flight attendant that stood between the passengers and the pilots / cockpit door.

According to sources, this is an FAA approved “protective measure.”

I hope flight attendants are trained like Steven Seagal because TSA and air carrier studies have shown that a cockpit, when the door is opened, can be breached in as little as 3 seconds with the cart/flight attendant on post. Picture a 200+ pound enraged and focused guy charging the cart/flight attendant at full speed.

That’s ok, Airlines think that in this day and age, the passengers will also help. That is probably true post 9/11 and it’s nice of the airlines to consider paying passengers as supplemental security on flights. You think tickets would be less.

One year ago today, 9/11 widow Ellen Saracini whose husband Victor was the Captain of high jacked aircraft United 175 advocated to Representative Mike Fitzpatrick to introduce HR 1775, The Saracini Aviation Safety Act which would solve the “flight attendant on post” problem.

That bill would mandate proven secondary barriers on all US aircraft. Barriers which multiple studies have said are the most cost effective way to really secure a cockpit.

The airlines have balked at the alleged cost. It costs over $1 Million dollars for an aircraft’s “inflight entertainment” system and airlines have grossed over 3 Billion in baggage fees. Secondary barriers run approximately $3K-10K installed or for free on new planes, like the Boeing 747. Perhaps airlines think satellite TV and paying for luggage will deter a highjacker?

Here are some more costs the airlines seemed to forget about:

According to the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security:

9/11 total losses exceed $100 Billion dollars.

If you add in the loss in stock market wealth (including airlines stocks) — the market’s own estimate arising from expectations of lower corporate profits and higher discount rates for economic volatility — the price tag approaches $2 trillion.

The loss of four civilian aircraft alone is valued at $385 million.

That’s 385 inflight entertainment systems!

These 9/11 losses were broadcast far and wide, the most infamous being the video showing a terrorist highjacked United 175 being rammed into the South Tower.

I wonder if that is available on the entertainment system?

In a Fox News interview, retiring FBI Director Mueller said that out of all the terrorist threats, “The possibility of a plane being taken down (via highjacking) … tends to keep us awake at night.”

I guess airlines sleep well knowing that flight attendants and passengers are on the front lines of securing their planes.

For more information visit the Pilot Partisan Blog.

Submitted by Valerie Mihalek

Director at Large

The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation

Steady Ahead

With March upon us many residents of the Northern Hemisphere are looking forward to the spring season and some relief from the cold and snowy weather of the past few months. Moving forward toward any goal requires focus, dedication, effort and commitment. With that in mind, here are some mileposts from The Foundation.

The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation application window for the 2014 Scholarship Award closed January 31st and we are busy evaluating over 100 individuals who are seeking to be our next Scholarship Recipient. The scholarship committee is busy processing and reading a mountain of paper to find this year’s winner. We anticipate a selection and announcement on or about May 1, 2014 and we hope you will visit the website often for updates and to learn about this year’s winner.

Also in January our current Scholarship Recipient, Nathan Sanders, received his acceptance letter to the United States Air Force Academy. Nathan is completing his senior year of high school and is within a few hours of completing his Private Pilot License. We congratulate Nathan on being accepted into the incoming class and we look forward to celebrating his certification as an FAA Certificated Pilot in the near future.

On March 1st the US Navy held the commissioning ceremony for the USS Somerset (LPD-25) in Philadelphia, PA. The USS Somerset is the third ship commissioned and named in honor of those whose lives were lost in the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. The ship can deliver two amphibious units of motivated marines and their equipment to answer our nations call around the world. The names of the crew members and passengers of United Flight 93 adorn the railings and emblazoned on the Flight Deck wall are the often quoted words “Lets Roll.” There is also a museum within the ship with memorabilia from United Flight 93.

With the longer days approaching and the temperature slowly rising, there is much to look forward to in the weeks and months ahead. Much work remains as well. Further work in Washington promoting Secondary Barriers to protect the cockpits of our aircraft. More focus on the threats to our US Aviation Industry and the goals of foreign interests to gain more access to it via Open Skies agreements and offshore Customs and Border Patrol facilities. You can be sure we are doing our part to stay focused, show our determination and demonstrate our commitment to encourage and support young adults who wish to pursue aviation careers.

Lest We Forget

Memorials, anniversary ceremonies, days of public service are all ways people remember Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Yet, in some ways, especially recently, lessons from that day seem to be forgotten.
Take for example the airlines. After the attacks, Congress mandated reinforced cockpit doors. When procedural experience showed there were still concerns about a cockpit breach when it was necessary for the door to be opened, United and Northwest went ahead installing a secondary barrier. A secondary barrier is a lightweight wire door that blocks access to the cockpit. When the cockpit door needs to be opened for crew meals, restroom breaks etc. the secondary barrier prevents anyone from gaining access. United currently has secondary barriers installed on their 757/767, 747 and 777.
With the recent merger of United and Continental airlines, United Airlines is now under Continental management. Several months ago I became aware that United had paid Boeing to remove this safety feature from their recent delivery of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner. When asked for a reason by Ellen Saracini, widow of Captain Saracini United #175, no clear cut reason was given.
Instead, you may have noticed a flight attendant standing in front of the cockpit door with their arms crossed or standing behind a beverage cart. So, it would appear by the airlines’ own procedures that they do acknowledge there is a need for a secondary barrier.
Why the pushback from other airlines to install these devices? Cost? Research conducted this year estimated these barriers to cost 5000 – 12,000 each. If that number seems high, compare it to the reported one million dollars United invests per airplane on their in-flight entertainment. If given a choice, I believe most of the flying public would opt for safety.
Last week I flew to Washington, DC to meet with congressional reps and encourage them to sign on to HR 1775 which would mandate airlines to install these barriers. I learned even more about this issue. An article in Politico magazine suggested that passengers were one of the many layers of security which negates the need for secondary barriers. I’m not sure how that would work – first, we would have to know this as an expectation, much like when we agree to sit in an exit aisle. I’m assuming this would only apply to the adult able bodied, then I suppose who would have to agree to sleep/eat/read in shifts. As I found out in my meetings in DC, for this cockamamie scenario to work, given a generous minimum reaction time of a 30-45 seconds of passengers to notice a breach and then react, they would still not be able to intervene as it takes as little as 3-6 seconds to breach the cockpit.
And also realize that if the cockpit is breached, no one will ever be able to get through the reinforced door. Which means the aircraft can be used as a WMD, and the only way to stop it would be for the government to order an American aircraft to be shot down.
This all boils down to the almighty dollar. The airlines just are not concerned enough to want to spend a relatively small amount of money to keep their passengers and crews safe. There are people, bad people, terrorists, mentally unstable individuals, who are seeing this weakness right now, figuring out how to use it to their advantage.
I would ask everyone who reads this to remember September 11, 2001, how helpless you felt, how we didn’t know what was happening, what more was going to happen. If we ALL contact our congressional representatives, and ask them to support HR 1775, and then pass this information on to your friends and families, especially the ones who have to travel for work. Because if this bill doesn’t get passed, and a plane is hijacked again, the blame will fall on the these representatives, many of whom were present for the dedication of the plaque which hangs in the US Capitol, as a thank you to crew and passengers from United #93 who lost their lives while thwarting the attack on this intended target.

To contact your congressional rep, go to:
www.house.gov/representatives/find/ OR http://www.alpa.org/ALPADeptInfoPages/Departments/GovernmentAffairsDepartment/PopvoxSecondaryBarriers/tabid/7906/Default.aspx

UPT Graduation, Vance AFB

I recently had the pleasure of attending undergraduate pilot training (UPT) graduation at Vance AFB in Enid Oklahoma. Courtney Schaer was a 2006 scholarship recipient from The LeRoy W. Homer Jr. Foundation. I was also in attendance when Courtney graduated from the US Air Force Academy in May 2011. I had never been to a graduation at USAFA; it was very emotional for me thinking of LeRoy’s graduation in 1986, nine years before we would ever meet.

Now here I was again, having the privilege of seeing Courtney complete another major milestone in her aviation career. As is the case with many of our scholarship recipients, we meet them when they are young kids, and somehow they become these adults who can fly airplanes!

I decided to take a look at Courtney’s scholarship application essay – oh yes, we do keep them! – to see what 2006 Courtney had to say. She wrote “a good family friend started to take me up flying with him and taught me about the aerodynamics of an airplane and what it takes to be a good pilot. I instantly became hooked on the mixture of adrenalin, freedom and power that I receive when I was at the controls of the airplane. I also felt a comforting connection with my father every time I climbed into the cockpit. Flying gave me a bonding experience with my father that I had missed out in the early years.”

Reading that essay today, I feel the same way about spending time with Courtney during her graduation. I am able to see a part of LeRoy’s life story through her, which in turn makes me feel even more connected to him. For me, although I didn’t know it when we started the Foundation, is one of the greatest gifts I could have been given.

We are in the process of reviewing this year’s scholarship applications, and I have no doubt they will make us just as proud.


A Day in the Life of a C-12 Pilot

One of the coolest jobs in the Air Force exists at Yokota Air Base, Tokyo, Japan. On the western edge of the biggest city in the world lies a base with a small unit of Air Force personnel that fly the C-12J. The C-12J is the military version of the Beechcraft 1900C, which can seat up to 19 passengers. Our primary mission is to transport distinguished visitors (DV) which can be military members above the rank of Lt Col, or US/foreign civilian leaders. We also have a deployed mission transporting troops between their forward-operating-base and bigger cities where bilateral meetings and events take place. On a daily basis we fly into airfields all over Japan, Korea, the Micronesian Islands and the Philippines.


A typical week for a C-12 pilot may involve flying a mission (transporting a DV to a bilateral function) and flying a training sortie. Our training sorties are meant to maintain our proficiency in the aircraft, especially in responding to emergency situations. On a typical training sortie we may fly Visual Flight Rules (VFR) over Tokyo, practice short field operations (landing at a field that is significantly shorter than an average runway, which requires a precise touchdown in the first 500 feet and stopping within the remaining runway, often 1,500 feet or less), practice instrument flying (referencing only aircraft instruments to maneuver the aircraft without looking outside), and practicing emergency situations (losing an engine just after takeoff, conducting a single-engine landing and conducting a single-engine go-around). Aside from flying, every person has an office job which helps sustain the operations of the squadron, group or wing that they are assigned to. Typical jobs in the squadron are: Training, Safety, Scheduling, Standardization and Evaluation, Assistant Director of Operations, and Executive Officer to the Commander.

459th AS performs Samurai Surge

Currently, I am the Chief C-12J Evaluator Pilot and work in Standardization and Evaluation, assigned to the Operations Group. My primary responsibility is to ensure that our C-12 pilots and C-12 procedures meet standards. I evaluate pilots by giving them a checkride. These checkrides consist of a Ground Evaluation, Flight Evaluation, and Emergency Procedure Evaluation. By testing a pilot’s knowledge of the airplane, their performance in the airplane, and their response to a simulated emergency, I evaluate their overall proficiency level and assign an appropriate grade (Q1 – pass, Q2 –pass, but needed additional training, and Q3 – not qualified). Looking at the “bigger picture,” my goal is to ensure the squadron’s training is sufficient and that the C-12 community is adhering to standards that are required by FAA, ICAO and military rules.

c12 DV carpet

As I reach the tail end of my tour here in Japan, I reflect on why the C-12 has been such a rewarding experience. Japan is rich with culture, and I have appreciated being able to experience their traditions and favorite past-times. Being submersed in a completely different language and way of life also brings you closer to your fellow Airman. Our small squadron is much more like a family than other unit I’ve seen. The flying has been incredible, and the opportunity to “pick the brains” of our passengers on the most important national issues, whether they be Congressman or top military leaders, has been a rewarding and humbling experience.

Capt Christina Lee, 374 Operations Group Standardization and
Evaluation, C-12 Evaluator Pilot