Cargo Security

ALPA continues to work with the Transportation Security Administration to ensure One Level of Security for all U.S. airline operators. In mid-March, ALPA’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, and staff representatives met with Undersecretary for Transportation Security John Magaw to address security deficiencies. Capt. Woerth believes cargo operations are currently at significant risk due to the absence of basic security measures to protect the aircraft, cargo, and flight crews.

Some of the primary deficiency concerns relate to captain’s authority, carriage of employees and other personnel, the inclusion of cargo operations within the Security Identification Display Area, and cargo screening.

The management of one cargo airline is striving to eliminate the captain’s authority to decide whether to prohibit unscreened employees from flying on the airplane. Some cargo operators allow their employees to ride in seats located outside the flight deck. These employees are not required to go through metal detectors or have their carry-on items screened, so they pose a risk to the security of flight.

Additionally, cargo airlines may carry their own employees and nonemployees in the back of the airplane. An example of such nonemployees would be an animal handler traveling with an animal. The individual could board the aircraft with large hypodermic needles and other items that could be used against the flight crew.

ALPA also is urging that airport operators be required to create more appropriate SIDA boundaries. Cargo operations are not normally included within the SIDA, unless they happen to be conducted inside of passenger airline operational areas. Consequently, access controls around cargo aircraft are ineffective or nonexistent.

No rule requires that items carried aboard cargo airliners be screened. This fact gives rise to the potential for numerous ways in which security may be breached.

Later, Capt. Woerth and then FedEx Pilots Association president (and now FedEx MEC chairman), Capt. David Webb, sent the TSA director, Undersecretary John Magaw, the following letter:

"Dear Mr. Undersecretary:

"As the Air Line Pilots Association has previously indicated to you, we believe that serious security vulnerabilities remain in the cargo sector of our nation’s aviation transportation system. The recent requirement for cargo operators to adopt a security program is a step in the right direction. However, we are writing today
to urge the TSA to reclassify the FedEx corporation’s security program as a ‘Full Program’ as defined in CFR 49 Section 1544.101. The broader application and adoption of that regulation’s Subparts C, D, and E, will greatly address many of the following security concerns:

"We believe that government should regulate carriers not by what they do, but what they fly, in an effort to reach One Level of Security. As you know, terrorists, like water, will seek the path of least resistance. Cargo is the current path of least resistance. FedEx’s fleet of widebody aircraft often carries tens of thousands of pounds more jet fuel than was carried on the aircraft destroyed on September 11. Further, many of our ramp locations throughout the country fall outside of SIDA perimeters. Access to these aircraft on isolated parts of the airports is easily accomplished, and frequent probes by your security staff can verify these vulnerabilities. Reports from our pilots indicate that security monitoring, surveillance, and screening procedures at many of our ramps are minimal at best.

"FedEx management intends to resume carrying passengers, possibly as soon as next month, based on a simplified criminal record background check. Such checks would not have detected any of the perpetrators of the attacks of September 11. Nor will they prevent disgruntled employees, sleeper agents, or persons suffering from depression or other stress-related events from gaining access to our cockpits. It must be emphasized that many of our aircraft have ‘blow-out panels,’ which permit access to the cockpit, regardless of the installation of cockpit door locks. Even more importantly, our pilots are confined to the cockpit because to leave the cockpit for visits to the galley or lavatory would place the cockpit at risk of attack. Such confinement is a physiological impossibility on long flights. We do not have Federal Air Marshals, flight attendants, or 100-plus passengers on board to intervene on our behalf.

"Our pilots are reluctant to resume carrying passengers (as many as 27 passenger seats have been certified on certain aircraft) until major security improvements are implemented. Our worldwide operations include destinations in the Middle East and Pacific Rim, where many known terrorist cells are operating and attacks by stowaways are more probable. All crews would have little chance to defend themselves. For these reasons, we have advocated a ‘double-door’ safe zone retrofit to our fleet of aircraft. In addition to the stowaway problem, we recommend that such a system should be in place before again carrying passengers in both domestic and international operations.

"We have received information that FedEx continues to employ individuals who have violated company weapons policies. In addition, we have learned that certain employees may be attempting to file false or misleading maintenance reports in order to defer passenger seats in our aircraft cabins. It is believed that this is a misplaced effort to hinder our pilots who commute and force resumption of the carriage of other employee passengers.

"While the security deficiencies identified in this correspondence are specific to FedEx, some of them also exist at numerous other all-cargo operators. Improvements to cargo security programs are, therefore, warranted and needed throughout the air cargo industry. If we fail to address these cargo security issues in a substantive and meaningful way, we risk a coordinated terrorist attack with massive economic repercussions on Wall Street and in international markets—potentially much greater than the economic damage from Sept. 11, 2001.

"We have enclosed a binder of background information to this letter that contains many FedEx Pilots Association letters to FedEx management on these and other issues, as well as some correspondence with government entities. We hope that this material will serve as a primer for your staff to evaluate our pilots’ security concerns."