GLEN ROCK BOROUGH, NJ (Bergen County) — U.S. Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) Friday joined airline pilots and local officials to call on Congress to pass bipartisan legislation — H.R. 911, the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Act of 2021 — to require the installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial passenger aircraft to prevent terrorist attacks similar to 9/11.
The bill is named in honor of United Airlines Flight 175 Captain Victor Saracini, a former Navy pilot, who was killed after his plane was hijacked and deliberately flown into the South Tower of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
The installation of secondary cockpit barriers on all commercial passenger flights is the only 9/11 Commission recommendation not yet implemented.
Due to Congressman Gottheimer’s bipartisan leadership, legislation was signed into law that requires secondary barriers on newly manufactured aircraft. This bill, the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Act of 2021, will require secondary barriers on all existing commercial passenger aircrafts, as well.
Gottheimer was joined at the Glen Rock 9/11 Memorial by Captain Frank Pizzonia, the Aviation Safety Vice Chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA); airline pilot Captain Eric Liliebladh, Glen Rock Councilmember Robert Dill, and Glen Rock Chief of Police Dean Ackermann.
“On 9/11, terrorists counted on being able to rush and breach the cockpit, knowing that the cockpit doors would be opened early in the flight. The terrorists exploited that weakness,” Gottheimer said. “Those flight decks and our flight crews and pilots remain vulnerable today — that is unacceptable. This bipartisan bill, the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act, will require all existing passenger aircrafts to retrofit a secondary barrier, which will ensure all current aircraft fleets are held to the same standard as newly manufactured aircraft. Currently, only new planes are required to have a secondary barrier. There’s no reason we should have terror-safe planes and terror-unsafe planes in the air at the same time. This bill will address that, and it’s part of our work to take every action we can to completely eradicate terror, whether abroad or at home, whether from Al Qaeda or an ISIS-inspired cell or a lone-wolf terrorist.”
Captain Frank Pizzonia, the Air Line Pilots Association’s Aviation Safety Vice Chairman said, “The secondary barrier is a very simple, cost effective way to create a barrier – not a door – that is in front of the cockpit door — which then prevents any breach of the flight deck when the door is open. However, previous legislation mandating secondary barriers applied to only new aircrafts manufactured after the law was enacted. The plane I fly is a 767 which is roughly 20 years old. Airplanes are built to last – they are very safe so unless we pass this legislation, many of my colleagues and I could be flying the rest of our careers in planes without secondary barriers. We can’t allow that.”
“It is unacceptable that twenty years after terrorists breached the cockpit of my husband’s airplane on September 11, 2011, our skies are still susceptible to repeat this act of terrorism. It’s my mission to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect the flight deck aboard our nation’s airliners because, without secondary barriers, we are just as vulnerable today, as we were on that fateful day,” said Ellen Saracini, wife of United Airlines Flight 175 Captain Victor Saracini. “We need Congress to act swiftly to finally get secondary barriers on all commercial passenger aircraft. Thank you to Congressman Gottheimer, Congressman Fitzpatrick, and the bipartisan group pushing to address this critical issue, because there is no time to waste to protect all who travel in the skies above us.”
Gottheimer is also leading several key efforts to combat foreign and domestic terrorism and to support 9/11 survivors and first responders, including:
- Introducing the bipartisan U.S.-Israel Anti-Killer Drone Act, which will boost cooperation between the U.S. and Israel by developing technology to counter ‘killer drones’ amid the ongoing terrorist drone war in the Middle East.
- Introducing the bipartisan Freezing Assets of Suspected Terrorists and Enemy Recruits (FASTER) Act, to give law enforcement the capability to freeze the assets of all domestic terrorists, and those who provide material support to terrorists, when a suspect is arrested by federal law enforcement; and to implement a one-of-a-kind National Homegrown Terrorism Incident Clearinghouse for all levels of law enforcement to collect and share information on incidents of homegrown, lone-wolf terrorism and violent extremism — to help investigate and thwart future attacks.
- Introducing the bipartisan Darren Drake Act, to require DHS and TSA to provide rental companies and car dealers with the information they need to flag and stop potential terror threats.
- Passing the bipartisan Never Forget the Heroes Act to support 9/11 first responders and survivors, of which Gottheimer was an original cosponsor and which the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, co-chaired by Gottheimer, endorsed. The law provides long-overdue support to cover 9/11 survivors’ and first responders’ injuries, lost earnings, benefits, and out-of-pocket medical expenses.
- Cosponsoring bipartisan 9/11 Responder and Survivor Health Funding Correction Act — to address the impending funding shortfall facing the World Trade Center Health Program and ensure it is fully funded now and in the future. This program provides medical treatment and monitoring for over 100,000 responders and survivors from the World Trade Center and lower Manhattan, the Pentagon, and the Shanksville crash site.