Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) sent a letter to the Department of Transportation Inspector General regarding an evaluation of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for cockpit security.
The full text of the letter follows:
April 20, 2015
The Honorable Calvin L. Scovel, III
U.S. Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Dear Inspector General Scovel,
I write to ask you to evaluate to what extent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) standards for cockpit security adequately ensure passenger safety.
On March 24, 2015, Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed due to what is widely believed to be intentional action by its copilot, causing 150 deaths. Additionally, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on March 8, 2014, with 237 onboard. Its disappearance is currently under investigation, and deliberate human actions in the cockpit are among several possible explanations. In fact, there have been at least four other incidents since 1994 where intentional action by a pilot was a suspected or confirmed cause of a passenger airplane crash involving a total of 398 fatalities:
1. LAM Mozambique Airlines Flight 470 (November 29, 2013): 33 deaths;
2. Egypt Air Flight 990 (October 31, 1999): 217 deaths;
3. Silk Air Flight 185 (December 19, 1997): 104 deaths; and
4. Royal Air Maroc Flight (August 21, 1994): 44 deaths.
Additionally, in March, 2012, JetBlue Airways Flight 191 was diverted after the captain was locked out of the cockpit by the first officer due to the captain’s erratic behavior. The flight landed safely, but the captain had to be subdued by passengers during the incident and later was criminally charged with interference with a flight crew. Cockpit access and safety is a serious issue that, in my view, warrants careful evaluation by your office.
The specific questions I would request that you address in an audit are:
1. Do current FAA regulations, policies, and guidance mitigate the risk of intentional crash by a pilot, including opportunities to do so when a pilot or co-pilot exit the cockpit during flight?
2. Are commercial aviation industry cockpit security and pilot hiring standards sufficient to ensure aviation safety/security and are they properly implemented? Are there best practices that can be identified?
3. Does FAA conduct sufficient oversight of commercial airlines to ensure regulations, policies, and standards for cockpit security are effective?
4. What steps does FAA take to evaluate the psychological health of pilots as a potential threat to aviation safety? To what extent do current FAA medical requirements and screening for pilots mitigate this threat? Is there evidence that pilots conceal pertinent medical information from FAA-designated Aviation Medical Examiners, and if so, what steps could be taken to prevent this or to incentivize the disclosure of such information?
Some stakeholders, including the Air Line Pilots Association, have expressed a concern that current cockpit safety requirements do not adequately mitigate the risk of intrusion by a hostile passenger when the cockpit door is opened during flight, and have advocated for secondary cockpit barriers. Thus, I would also appreciate it if your evaluation would include whether FAA needs to take additional steps to secure cockpits from the risk of a breach when cockpit doors may be opened inflight.
Thank you for your attention to my request.
United States Senator