By Philip Newman
Politicians and public figures have appealed to New Yorkers to resume flying as a rebuff to World Trade Center terrorists and to help the nation’s financially ailing airlines, while federal officials announced new proposals to secure airports and jetliners.
Federal Aviation Administrator Jane Garvey, appearing at John F. Kennedy International Airport Monday, said her agency was willing to consider allowing pilots to carry guns.
U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), boarding the Delta Air Lines shuttle to Washington at LaGuardia Airport Monday, admitted he had flown little since the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
The two Queens airports play a critical role in the borough’s economy.
“But I’ve done the research, I know that we’ve improved our security measures and, while we still have to keep working to make sure our airlines and airports are as safe as possible, I believe it’s safe to fly,” he said.
“We have to fly because our economy depends on it, we have to because our recovery depends on it,, we have to because if we don’t, we let the terrorists permanently disrupt our way of life and we absolutely cannot let that happen,” he said.
Many airlines have cut back their flights by 20 percent or more and total layoffs have reached 100,000. Some carriers have said their survival is at risk.
Former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani also said people should fly as part of a return to business and life as usual.
Clinton, appearing in Manhattan, said he planned to fly four times this week after the attack on the World Trade Center. He said flying is a way to show terrorists Americans will not be intimidated.
“The terrorists want to instill fear in us,” Clinton said. “We must not allow that.”
Garvey, meanwhile, said the request by the 67,000-member Air Line Pilots Association labor union that the FAA consider permitting pilots to arm themselves was “something I would not have considered a short time ago. But it’s an idea we are willing to take into consideration.” The proposal would be voluntary for pilots.
She said she knew the idea did not have unanimous approval.
Garvey also said:
• The FAA is training air marshals at a rate of one every three or four days in what she termed “an aggressive program.” Such armed officials have been around since the start of the 1970s, but have not been used extensively in recent years.
• The FAA, Boeing, and the Israeli airline El Al are collaborating on a project to strengthen cockpit doors on jetliners to thwart hijackings, something they had begun before the Sept. 11 attacks, but which they now have speeded up.
• The FAA is considering using federal personnel to X-ray and examine luggage at airports, ending advance selection of seats on airliners and banning carry-on luggage.
• An FAA spokesman said airlines and airports have been ordered to make new and more extensive background checks of all employees including baggage handlers, workers who bring food aboard the jets and anyone allowed in secure areas such as the flight line, aircraft parking areas, or on board the planes.
• The FAA temporarily grounded crop-dusting aircraft this week after learning that agents who were believed connected to terrorist leader Osama Ben Laden expressed an interest in crop-dusting in the United States.
Authorities say such planes could be used in biological or chemical warfare.
Upon resumption of commercial flights following the Sept. 11 attack, the FAA had already banned curb-side check-in at airports, excluded from areas beyond security checkpoints persons without tickets and begun monitoring vehicles near air terminals.
Meanwhile, City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) said he would hold hearings on implementing security measures needed in New York as result of the attack.
“Given the recent tragedy in our city, the need for better security in public areas has become even more important than ever before,” Leffler said. “There are a whole series of issues that need to be reviewed and discussed regarding the need for better security.”
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 136.