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Weapons on Airplanes Expose Aviation Security Weaknesses

Date: October 22, 2003

WASHINGTON, DC *The following is a statement from Association of Flight Attendants, AFL-CIO, International President Patricia Friend regarding the recent discovery of box cutters and other materials onboard four Southwest Airlines planes.


"A college student with no funding or terrorist training was able to easily breach security and get weapons onboard several planes last week. This incident should serve as a wake-up call to the Transportation Security Administration that not enough is being done to protect our nation's aviation system.


"The most shocking part of the story is not that weapons were found on the aircraft a recent GAO study showed that guns, knives and box cutters routinely make it through security. The most shocking and reprehensible part is that once these weapons are on the aircraft, there is no one onboard who has been properly trained to defuse a terrorist attack and protect the lives of the people onboard.


"Flight attendants are no better prepared to stop a terrorist than we were on Sept. 11, because the TSA and the airlines have failed to provide us with comprehensive security and counter terrorism training. The TSA needs to stop pointing at the air marshal program as a fail-proof layer in our security system, since marshals only work a small fraction of flights each day. Most passengers aren't lucky enough to have air marshals on board their plane. The pilots and their guns are locked behind reinforced cockpit doors with explicit instructions not to open the cockpit door in the event of a terrorist attack. This lack of appropriate training leaves the flight attendants unprepared to serve as the only means of security and protection in the aircraft cabin.


"In testimony given before the House Transportation and Infrastructure's aviation subcommittee on October 16, TSA Secretary James Loy claimed his agency had developed mandatory guidelines for flight attendant security training but the agency was waiting for Congress to act again before issuing the guidelines to carriers. The real terrorists aren't going to tip off the authorities or wait for the TSA to decide what level of protection the flying public deserves."

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