Union advises pilots to treat hijackers aggressively
Saturday, September 15th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6
WASHINGTON (AP) _ With terrorists now using aircraft as weapons, a union representing commercial airline pilots is advising its members to act aggressively when confronted by hijackers.
Pilots have been taught in yearly training sessions to cooperate with hijackers. But that was before Tuesday's terrorist attacks.
``We've been guarding against the traditional hijacker who wanted the aircraft on the ground and his monetary or political demands met,'' said David Richards, a US Airways pilot from Charlotte, N.C. ``Never ever did we dream they would be using the aircraft as weapons.''
The Air Line Pilots Association said pilots should consider depressurizing the plane or taking drastic maneuvers to keep assailants off balance and away from the cockpit.
Pilots said increased security measures at U.S. airports, including banning curbside check-ins and limiting access to ticketed passengers beyond security screening points, are not enough.
Among the association's recommendations:
_Captains should not hesitate to exercise their fullest authority. If there is any doubt or suspicion about flight security, they should not close the door for departure until it is resolved.
_Captains should review emergency procedures with the flight and cabin crew if there is a hijacking or bomb threat.
_Aircraft cockpits are equipped with a crash ax, which should be considered a potential defensive weapon if there is a suicidal hijacking. The ax should only be wielded if the crew member is convinced that using it is necessary to save lives. The pilot must be prepared to kill a cockpit intruder.
_Airlines should implement a system to identify each passenger and their baggage.
_If any type of security event begins in the cabin, pilots should not hesitate to declare an emergency and land the aircraft.
_If the aircraft has a cockpit door, the pilot should close and lock it and not allow anyone to enter without knowledge and consent. Doors should have a dead-bolt lock.
Richards, who was piloting an 8:30 a.m. Tuesday flight from Boston to Charlotte, was forced to land in Richmond, Va., after the World Trade Center crashes. When he returns to the cockpit Monday, he will do things differently.
``I'm going to brief the flight attendants about ways to communicate with me in the event that things aren't going right in the cabin,'' he said.
``I'm probably going to have to brief the first officer on what we would do as a team if someone came in unannounced to the cockpit _ what our immediate reaction would be. It would be 180 degrees completely different than what it would have been three weeks ago.''