[IWAR] US air safety/security

From: Michael Wilson (MWILSON/0005514706at_private)
Date: Thu Jan 15 1998 - 10:43:13 PST

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       Posted at 8:56 a.m. PST Thursday, January 15, 1998 
                    Airlines, couriers flunk test in hazardous cargo
       Associated Press
       WASHINGTON -- Despite warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks,
       airlines and courier services aren't following required security
       procedures designed to detect dangerous cargo, a government report
       Security is so lax that 10 packages wrapped in plastic and loaded with
       50 pounds each of pesticide slipped by airline personnel undetected in
       Miami three months ago and weren't discovered until one burst as it was
       being loaded onto a plane, the Federal Aviation Administration report
       ``The current level of compliance with approved security procedures was
       unacceptably low,'' the Department of Transportation's inspector general
       said after the FAA conducted its own inspection of airlines and courier
       services in New York and Miami in the aftermath of the incident.
       In response to the findings, Bruce Butterworth, the FAA's director of
       civil aviation security operations, issued a strict warning to airlines
       and courier services that transport cargo or baggage on airlines for
       Butterworth also informed the airline industry in a November meeting
       that the FAA was considering new security procedures, according to a
       report obtained by The Associated Press. The report was signed by FAA
       Administrator Jane Garvey and Transportation Inspector General Kenneth
       ``We ran a number of tests and were not fully satisfied with procedures
       being followed for accepting cargo,'' FAA spokesman Eliot Brenner said
       Wednesday. ``Everyone involved has now been notified and is aware of the
       correct procedures.''
       Representatives of the airlines' trade group, the Air Transport
       Association, declined comment Wednesday.
       But terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, a member of a presidential
       commission formed after the July 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800, said the
       findings highlighted the panel's concern about cargo shipments.
       ``It is a great source of concern when any of these procedures are not
       being followed,'' Jenkins said in an interview. ``One is always going to
       find a violation here or there, but an indication that ignoring the
       rules is widespread practice is shocking and deplorable.''
       The Justice Department is investigating the Miami incident involving
       American Airlines, according to FAA officials. American Airlines
       officials did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
       The pesticide in question, Dowacide A Antimicrobial, when exposed to air
       releases fumes that can cause eye damage and burning in the lungs. It is
       considered highly dangerous and corrosive. Trying to check the pesticide
       as excess baggage would save the company money over shipping it as
       hazardous cargo.
       Cargo shipments already have proven deadly. In May 1996, a ValuJet plane
       crashed in the Florida Everglades, killing all 110 people on board.
       Investigators believe poorly packaged oxygen canisters ignited or fueled
       a fire that caused the crash. A year later, seven oxygen generators were
       shipped aboard a Continental Airlines flight in violation of rules
       imposed after the ValuJet crash. The canisters had not been listed as
       part of the shipment.
       FAA rules that have been in effect for years require air cargo companies
       and courier services, which deliver packages to the commercial airlines
       for shipment, to certify that bags or packages don't contain any
       explosives or hazardous materials. Airlines also are required to demand
       to see the documentation before loading the cargo.
       More stringent security procedures, including inspections, are required
       for first-time customers of the cargo companies.
       But when the inspector general tested courier services and airlines at
       airports in New York and Miami, it found:
       --Ten of the 17 courier services tested in Miami the last week of
       October were willing to accept packages from shippers they had not dealt
       with previously, but none of the 10 followed the security procedures.
       None of the 13 airlines that agreed to carry the packages followed the
       procedures, the report said.
       --Two of the 11 courier services and five of the 21 air carriers tested
       during the first week of November at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York
       failed to follow the FAA rules.
       ``It was obvious air carrier personnel were accepting packages even
       though they were unfamiliar with required procedures,'' the inspector
       general reported.
       Another round of inspections are to be held this month ``due to the
       unacceptable level of compliance,'' the inspector general said.
       Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater was expected to make the
       announcement today.
       The FAA said it was considering additional procedures that would require
       couriers who carry luggage or cargo onto planes to identify themselves
       as such and prohibit such couriers from trying to declare cargo as
       checked baggage.
       The problem of unscreened cargo attracted the attention of the
       President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism, formed after
       a terrorist bomb destroyed Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in December
       In February 1997, the panel, which is headed by Vice President Al Gore,
       again urged more stringent rules for cargo shipments, including the use
       of bomb detection systems to inspect packages.
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