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Airlines asked to reinforce cockpit doors

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta on Friday asked airlines to reinforce the cockpit doors on their aircraft, and directed the Federal Aviation Administration to take any steps necessary to help with the move.

Mineta also announced the creation of a $20 million grant to develop and install new technology for better security aboard aircraft.

The announcements came as Mineta released the findings of two panels of experts who were asked to make security recommendations for airports and aircraft following the September 11 terrorist attacks. The panels said that better screening of passengers and luggage and a better design of cockpit doors are two major priorities.

The report outlined the suggestions of experts in the fields of aviation and security. One panel dealt exclusively with aircraft security; the other, with airport security.

The experts said airport passenger screening "must be placed under the direct control of a new federal law enforcement agency housed within the Department of Transportation," and that such a federal transportation security agency should have full law enforcement authority.

The Bush administration has proposed a 12-month transition period during which the baggage screeners would be managed, but not employed, by the federal government. After the transition period, the transportation secretary would decide whether the screeners should become federal employees.

Debate over the issue is holding up legislation on airline security in Congress. Democrats and several Republicans believe the nearly 30,000 people who screen baggage at airports should be federal employees, but congressional conservatives oppose such a move, saying it could lead to unnecessary bureaucracy.

President Bush also has called for an increase in the number of air marshals and better cockpit security.

Mineta's grant program, besides financing technology for the reinforcement of cockpit doors, would also pay for the installation of video cameras so pilots could monitor the cabin.

The expert panel recommends integrating law enforcement and national intelligence data with airline and airport systems, such as passenger reservation systems and employee background checks, to better respond to terrorist threats and to improve security access at airports.

The panel also called for the development of new technologies in baggage and passenger screening, passenger identification and explosives detection.

It said another improvement would be to have all passengers for flights check in at ticket counters, instead of letting those with no checked baggage check in directly at the boarding gates. The panel recognized that this would clog initial check-in points, and called on airports and airlines to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to better apply its Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System, or CAPPS, so that individuals who raise alerts in airlines' reservation systems are screened more carefully at the airport.

The experts recommended that the practice of allowing airline employees, mechanics, ticket agents and others to board aircraft as passengers without being screened end immediately.

They said carry-on baggage should be limited by airlines to one bag and one personal article (purse, briefcase) per person. The experts said this would reduce the time needed to screen such baggage, and therefore all the baggage screened could be examined more closely.

Among the other recommendations for airport security:

-- Each airport, airline and related service company should revalidate the background and criminal history checks on all employees.

-- All airports should change access codes on all doors and change the locks on key-lock doors.

-- The establishing of a pre-screening regimen for passengers, incorporating new technologies to validate their identities, and determining who needed a more extensive screening process so screeners could better distribute their resources.

As far as improving security aboard aircraft themselves, experts said a new flight deck barrier must be installed in the entire U.S. fleet of airplanes -- with such installation beginning in 30 days -- and future aircraft must be manufactured with new requirements for such security.

They also called for changes in the procedure for the identification of personnel who have access to the flight deck, and recommended the FAA redesign security training to include defensive capabilities for crew members on planes.

Another suggestion was to change the technology to ensure that once a "hijack" signal has been turned on from the cockpit, that it continuously transmit its signal without the possibility of being turned off.


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