• U.S.

Flight Crews Get Rough

2 minute read
Sally B. Donnelly

Cockpit doors have been hardened and passenger screening tightened, and pilots may soon even get the right to carry guns aboard flights. But one aspect of airline security has not improved since Sept. 11, according to a flight attendants’ group: defense training for flight crews. “Every day flight attendants go to work as unprepared for an attack as we were on Sept. 10, 2001,” says Patricia Friend, head of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), which represents 50,000 at 26 airlines. Although Congress mandated last November that flight attendants receive cabin-defense training, the AFA claims the training has been inadequate: classes offered by most airlines have been brief (as short as 45 minutes) and have included little or no hands-on instruction. “If there is another attack, we cannot protect our passengers,” says Friend.

The AFA has stepped up its efforts to change that. The group was instrumental in getting a measure requiring airlines to provide more extensive training put into a bill permitting guns in the cockpit, which passed the House last month. A bill that the Senate will consider next month includes similar language, requiring 28 hours of instruction and demanding that flight attendants get communications gear that could be used to alert the pilots from anywhere in the plane (a cabin-crew member now must go to one end of the plane or the other to use an internal phone). And on Sept. 5, flight attendants will converge on Capitol Hill to make their plea to Congress in person. –By Sally B. Donnelly

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