American Airlines Uses Web to Inform Pilots Of Security Alerts

By Greg SchneiderAugust 10, 2002

American Airlines Inc. has set up a Web site to give its pilots access to government-issued security warnings, in response to criticism from its flight crews after the Richard C. Reid shoe-bomb incident in December.

American did not tell flight crews to look out for people concealing weapons in their shoes after being warned by the government Dec. 11. When Reid created a disturbance on his Dec. 22 flight, a reserve pilot said he carried the man’s shoes into the cockpit before realizing they were rigged with explosives.

The pilot later said he never would have done such a dangerous thing if he had known about the warning.

An American Airlines spokesman said the new Web site, which debuted recently after months of planning, is an attempt to keep crews better informed. Pilots can sign on to the secure site with a password and get the latest security directives or information circulars put out by the Transportation Security Administration.

Many pilots — and others in the airline industry — argue that the information the TSA releases is vague and often not useful. Capt. Gary Boettcher, head of the local unit of the Allied Pilots Association, the trade union for American Airlines, said pilots still are being excluded from information about a wide variety of security problems that happen on flights around the world.

A lack of information is a key reason many pilots are pushing for the right to carry a gun in the cockpit. Congress is scheduled to take up legislation that would arm pilots when it returns from August recess, and the new head of the TSA, retired Coast Guard Adm. James M. Loy, has said he is reconsidering the agency’s opposition to the measure.

In the meantime, other airlines also are trying to give their pilots better access to the information that does flow from the government.