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that we might be aware of every year, they are all serious. We take every one of them seriously. In the case of those over 600 bomb threats, if that threat is specific to an air carrier, to a flight, we require that the air carriers do certain things. That's the overriding point that I would like to leave, is that they are all serious. They are all assessed. There is some action taken with every single piece of information that we receive. It is an assessment by professionals as to what action ought to be taken. Mr. MoLINARI. Just one last question, if I may. Before a plane takes off, the pilot does an around-the-plane check. I assume that a portion of that check has some bearing on security. Would you agree with that? Mr. BELGER. Clearly, I think the pilot would look for ways that the aircraft may have been altered or tampered with or changed. Mr. MoLINARI. The reason I ask that is because there's been a press release put out by the Air Line Pilots Association dealing with the Eastern problem. They're making a charge in this statement that I just received that the pre-flight walk-around is not occurring, not taking place now, and that they have videotapes to prove that, in fact, that's what's occurring. It seems to be a legitimate question, and I would like to get your response to their charges. Are you familiar with this charge? Mr. BELGER. No, sir, I am not personally, but I can assure you that the FAA will vigorously pursue those types of charges quickly. Mr. MoLINARI. What I would like to do is ask you to please respond in writing, with the consent of the chairman and subcommittee members, a statement within 48 hours indicating just what steps will be taken to address that problem. [The following was received from Mr. Belger:]
MAR 22 1989
The Honorable Guy V. Molinari
Dear Mr. Molinari:
I am pleased to provide the results of our investigation into allegations made by the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) that non-striking Eastern Air Lines (EAL) pilots are not properly performing their safety duties.
The press release to which you made reference yesterday essentially makes two charges: first, that non-striking Eastern pilots have not been properly performing pre-flight inspections on flights from the LaGuardia Airport Shuttle terminal and, second, that these failures have been reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and these alleged violations have been observed but not stopped by the FAA.
Early in the strike, union officials contacted the FAA to raise allegations relating to the performance of pre-flight inspections by Eastern Air Lines crewmembers. During one or more of the daily telephone conferences held to exchange strike surveillance information, the union's charges were discussed. Inspectors who were conducting surveillance of EAL's operations were asked to verify the performance of pre-flight procedures. We did not receive any information to validate the union's allegations.
Late last week, the charges of improper or insufficient preflight inspection were repeated by the union to a senior FAA official in Washington. A visit to the union "observation post" at the Marriott Hotel near LaGuardia Airport was arranged. On March 17, two FAA inspectors visited the room in which video and photographic surveillance equipment appeared to be in use. The inspectors reported that the observation post permitted a view of EAL's western-most gates and the eastern ramp area. It did not offer a clear, unobstructed view of all the gates. In fact, the northern-most gates were barely visible. During the visit, the EAL shuttle flights were operating from gates 7 and 8 on the rorthern side of the terminal. From their vantage point in the union observation post, our inspectors were unable to see these operations clearly enough in order to determine unequivocally whether appropriate pre-flight inspection had been conducted.
It is the FAA's position that a detailed pre-flight examination of an aircraft is warranted before a crew's first flight of the day or when a crew change is effected. Prior to a crew's subsequent flights in the same aircraft, the crew may perform a more abbreviated pre-flight inspection to determine whether any damage occurred during operation of the aircraft.
The union press release to which you referred yesterday indicates the union belief that the very detailed pre-flight inspection is required prior to each operation of the aircraft. In discussions : with union officials which were held yesterday, the union refined its position to reflect the belief that a detailed pre-flight inspection should be done each time the flight number of the operation has been changed, whether or not a crew change has occurred. This understanding is not reflected in the EAL operations manual, which provides for the abbreviated inspection at intermediate stops, nor is there such a requirement in the Federal Aviation Regulations.
During yesterday's visit, our inspectors were provided copies of video tapes made by the union surveillance equipment. The FAA will promptly review that information, and any other data provided by ALPA, and take appropriate action.
Safety of airline operations is our most important responsibility
I trust we have satisfactorily responded to your request.
signed Robert E. Whittington
Robert E. Whittington
Mr. MOLINARI. I have no further questions, Mr. Chairman. Mr. OBERSTAR. At this point, I would like to yield the chair to the gentleman from California, Mr. Packard. I think the point that the gentleman from New York raised is appropriate and we would ask Mr. Broderick to respond directly as the officer in charge of the FAA. Clearly should such lapses be occurring, it would be a violation of FAA rules. It would be a violation of law. Mr. BELGER. I will talk to Mr. Broderick as soon as I can. Mr. OBERSTAR. Thank you. The gentleman from the Virgin Islands? Mr. DE LUGO. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. My question relates a bit to the question that was just placed by Mr. Molinari. That is my understanding is that under FAA regulations that prior to the departure of any flight, the ground security coordinator is supposed to brief the airline crew or, in this case, the captain as to the security situation before that flight leaves. Now in the case of flight 103, Pan Am 103, you had this alert going on for almost a month leading up to flight 103. Were the crews of these various flights that were taking off during that period briefed as to the security situation or were they given a routine assessment of it which, as I understand, in most cases the captain is told as he taxis down the runway that the flight is okay for security and that's it? What is the situation there? Mr. SALAZAR. If I may, there presently is a requirement for the exchange of information between what we term the ground security coordinator and the inflight security coordinator, the inflight security coordinator almost always being the pilot in command. That active exchange of information is to occur at our airports where we have extraordinary security. Oftentimes that exchange of information is on a form that is transmitted or sometimes is done verbally. In response to your specific question, sir, the investigation related to the Pan Am 103 tragedy is still ongoing, and I don’t believe that information is available at this time. Mr. DE LUGo. Well, all right. We won't talk about flight 103, but could you describe to me the type of an exchange that would take place between the ground security coordinator and the captain if there was an alert? What type of an exchange should take place? Is the FAA—let me put it this way—is the FAA monitoring this situation at the present time? Mr. SALAZAR. Yes, indeed, sir, there is a process ongoing that would look very closely at that exchange of information. The regulatory requirement as it presently exists requires the exchange of information for a specific threat. Mr. DE LUGO. What form would that take? Mr. SALAZAR. Our expectation, sir, would be a verbal communication between the ground security coordinator and the inflight security coordinator. That doesn't necessarily mean it has to be done in the cockpit; it could be done in the dispatch area, wherever it's convenient to facilitate that exchange of information. Mr. DE LUGO. Well, let me ask you something in another area. Based on security procedures that are being used in airports here in the United States, could a Pan Am 103 incident have occurred here with a flight originating in the United States? Mr. SALAZAR. I think, sir, until we begin to learn considerably more facts about the perpetrators of that particular crime, I would be in a better postion to provide an answer to that question. It’s fairly general in nature, and I would hate to— Mr. DE LUGo. All right, we'll give you some more time on that. Mr. SALAZAR. Thank you. Mr. DE LUGo. Let me ask Ambassador McManaway—you stated that if there was a high threat or a very serious threat to a flight that you could recommend that the flight be cancelled. You said that there had never been a flight cancelled. Has there ever been a recommendation made that a flight be cancelled? Ambassador McMANAway. Not under these circumstances, no, Slr. Mr. DE LUGO. Not under those circumstances. If there was a recommendation made, is that just a recommendation or does that flight have to be cancelled by the airline? Does the airline have any discretion there? Ambassador McMANAway. We don't have authority to order it under law to be cancelled. I would be astonished if a U.S. air carrier refused. Mr. DE LUGO. Well, perhaps Part 121 of the Federal Air Regulations, restriction or suspension of operation, “Domestic and flag air carriers.” It reads, “When a domestic or flag air carrier knows of conditions, including airport and runway conditions, that are a hazard to safe operations, it shall restrict or suspend operations until those conditions are corrected.” I am advised that that could suspend the flight. Mr. BELGER. I think it might be appropriate if I could answer that question. Mr. DE LUGo. Surely. Mr. BELGER. In fact, we know that in the past, in the course of discussions with the airlines about specific types of security information, they have in fact cancelled flights based upon information that we have shared with them. We also know, sometimes on a too-frequent basis, that flights are diverted or delayed in order to respond appropriately to bomb threats. If the situation arises that the threat information is such that we cannot direct countermeasures to ensure that that flight can be conducted safely, I can assure you that we will cancel the flight. I have no reservations— Mr. DE LUGo. Well, that's what I wanted to hear. Mr. MINETA. Would the gentleman yield? Mr. DE LUGO. I yield to the gentleman from California. Mr. MINETA. I'm a little confused here. First of all, Mr. Salazar said that you don't deal in general information, that you only deal with specifics in trying to inform the flight crew, the inflight supervisor. You don't inform them unless you have a specific one, not just a general one. Mr. BELGER. That's basically correct. Yes, sir.