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American Shipper

Rep. Israel offers air cargo security bills

Rep. Israel offers air cargo security bills

   All-cargo airlines would have to emulate passenger airlines and put secondary security doors on their cockpits to prevent access to the controls by terrorist stowaways, according to a piece of legislation introduced earlier this month by Rep. Steve Israel.

   The hardened door would be in addition any regular cockpit door that already exists or serve as the primary door for planes built with open passage between the flight deck and the cargo bay.

   The Cargo Airline Association (CAA), whose members include UPS, FedEx Express and Atlas Air, opposes the measure.

   'Members of the all-cargo industry do not carry passengers in any generally accepted meaning of that term and the limited number of individuals who may be carried are company personnel or a limited class of others who are thoroughly vetted and screened,' CAA President Steve Alterman responded in an e-mail. 'Moreover, each company is already required to have either a hardened cockpit door or an alternate measure providing the same measure of security that is approved by both the FAA and TSA. From a security standpoint, therefore, requiring secondary barriers is simply unnecessary on all-cargo aircraft.'

   Israel, D-N.Y., also proposed that the Defense Department undertake a pilot test of missile defense systems for commercial cargo planes participating in the Civil Reserve Air Fleet (CRAF). The test should include at least 20 planes and be conducted over a two-year period. The bill, H.R. 2237, would authorize $75 million for the demonstration program.

   The Department of Homeland Security is in the process of testing whether military-type defense systems can be outfitted on commercial aircraft. The Science and Technology Directorate is evaluating two systems for defending against shoulder-fired missiles, which some national security experts believe terrorists could use to strike passenger or cargo planes. The estimated $1 million cost per copy, plus ongoing maintenance expenses, raise questions about whether it makes sense to outfit several thousand U.S. airliners with the systems, or if improved airport perimeter security and intelligence gathering could do a better job protecting planes during takeoff and landing.

   The final phase of operational testing for passenger aircraft is nearing completion, DHS spokesperson Amy Kudwa said. BAe Systems and Northrop Grumman outfitted two or three American Airlines jets with different systems to test their impact on normal aircraft operations. The viability study began late last summer and must collect data on at least 7,000 hours of flight time, Kudwa said. DHS previously partnered with FedEx to test the systems on nine MD-11 freighters.

   Kudwa said DHS is not taking a position on whether missile defense systems should be used on commercial aircraft. It simply will report the findings to Congress, which mandated the study in 2003.

   Israel's bill follows attempts as far back as 2004 by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to deploy, as a first step, anti-missile systems on CRAF planes that are contracted by the military to transport troops and cargo to war zones and other military bases around the world. ' Eric Kulisch

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