View Full Version : Bush to Boost Airport National Guard

November 9th, 2001, 09:02 AM
Friday November 9 5:55 AM ET

Bush to Boost Airport National Guard

By JONATHAN D. SALANT, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush is ready to expand the National Guard's role at airports to build confidence in the nation's air travel system before the traditionally busy holiday season, officials say.

The official announcement was to come Friday at a White House ceremony honoring employers of National Guard and Reserve personnel, administration officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

It was designed as a temporary tactic to encourage passengers to return to the skies, one source said. Congress is working to pass airline security legislation but, even after a bill was signed into law, it would take months for travelers to see significant changes.

Because of a huge decline in air travel following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the number of passengers flying this year will be less than last year - only the second decline since World War II, according to the Air Transport Association, the trade group for the major airlines. The only other yearly drop came in 1991, following the Persian Gulf War and during the nation's last recession.

Bush asked governors in September to call up National Guard troops and station them at the nation's 420 commercial airports for up to six months. The federal government was to pick up the costs.

It was unclear whether Bush would ask the governors to call up more troops or would do it on his own.

One official characterized Bush's plan as a ``dramatic increase'' in the number of troops at airports.

Most Guard personnel have been stationed at security checkpoints, where passengers and carry-on baggage are screened. Others have been used for general airport patrol duty.

One idea under consideration is to station guardsmen at departure gates, where they would watch passengers boarding airplanes after passing through security checkpoints.

On Saturday, airline employees at a boarding gate found seven knives, a stun gun and tear gas during a hand search of a passenger who had gotten the items past a security airport at Chicago's O'Hare Airport.

But David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, an advocacy group, said the National Guard has not helped screen passengers.

``They just stand around looking like wooden soldiers,'' Stempler said. ``I don't know what part they have to play in the security process other than to have a show of force.''

In another effort to increase passenger confidence, the nation's major airlines announced Thursday that they have finished installing bars and other equipment to strengthen cockpit doors. The stronger doors are designed to prevent hijackers from getting into cockpits, as they did Sept. 11.

Steel bars and latches have been installed on the cockpit side of the door. The bar is pushed into place by the pilot, preventing anyone in the airplane cabin from entering the cockpit.

``It's one more barrier,'' said Dave Barger, president of JetBlue Airways.

Cockpit doors on airplanes have been designed to allow flight crews to escape quickly in an emergency. But after the terrorist attacks, airline officials instead turned their attention to keeping intruders out.

FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette said increased security took precedence over allowing pilots an easy escape. ``There's a security threat today that did not exist when airplanes were first designed,'' Duquette said.

The steps to strengthen the cockpit doors are only an interim move.

The FAA, the airlines and airplane manufacturers are designing new, stronger doors to be installed on all airplanes. The doors are to be designed to stop a bullet and to prevent someone from entering the cockpit, while still allowing pilots to escape.


On the Net:

Air Transport Association: http://www.airlines.org

White House: http://www.whitehouse.gov

source: http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/ap/20011109/ts/attacks_airlines.html