Airlines looking at new cockpit doors

Tuesday, October 30th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

At least one big problem with terrorists may now be solved as manufacturers compete to sell safe cockpit doors.

One aircraft equipment company has unveiled a new cockpit door that it says is virtually indestructible. News on Six reporter Steve Berg says the head of the company has two words about terrorists taking over airplanes: "Never again." And when you see what this door can do, you tend to agree. Whether they use a galley cart, or a hatchet, or even gunfire, terrorists can't get through this cockpit door, says the man whose company designed it. Amin J. Khoury, Chairman of the Board, B/E Aerospace: "Our door is available now. It's got some unique features. It's virtually impenetrable. So we're feeling good about this. Never again will our aircraft be commandeered and used by terrorists as missiles."

Only one US Airline, a New York based regional carrier, is known to have already installed the bulletproof doors. But the head of Tulsa-based Great Plains Airlines says the doors sound good to him. He cites Israel's El-Al Airline. Jim Swartz, CEO of Great Plains Airlines: "No one's ever gotten through their doors, not only because I think there door's are probably reinforced but they have marshals on all their flights so they don't get hijacked."

Air Marshals are being vigorously recruited in the States. And most airlines have already reinforced their existing cockpit doors with bars and deadbolts of some kind. The federal government has set a deadline of April 2003 to retrofit all US aircraft with secure cockpits, but the criteria for that hasn't yet been clarified. What is clear is that it's going to be expensive. "I don't view this as an economic question. I view this as a safety question, so whatever it costs, that's what it costs."

The federal government has $500-million available for the door changes. So that hopefully, not too much of the cost will be passed on to passengers.