Pilots Want To Know About Attacks: APA

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The Allied Pilots Association, which represents American Airlines pilots, says most airborne flight crews weren't notified of the Christmas Day terrorist attack on a Northwest Airlines A330. The group is calling for changes after what it describes as "communications failures" left the majority of airborne flight crews in the dark about the attempted bombing. In a message to members, the APA's security committee said the Transportation Security Administration specifically told airlines to notify only the crews of airborne westbound trans-Atlantic flights of the attack on the Northwest flight on approach to Detroit. "The TSA should have mandated that information about this security event be passed on to all airborne flights," says the message, which was passed to AVweb by a reader. The note says American complied with the directive but the APA says the airline should have told all of its in-flight crews of the incident "so that all of our captains would have been aware of the threat and could have made the proper adjustments to their in-flight security procedures." The APA says it noted other communications failures in the chain of events.

The APA claims the initial notification of the incident came from the FAA and that the first direct contact between the airline and the TSA was about 12 hours after Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab allegedly injected an ignition substance into a package of PETN explosive sewn into his underwear. "Clearly, we have seen a large-scale communications breakdown concerning this terrorist event," the note says. The APA says it has contacted the House Committee on Homeland Security with an eye toward making it policy that all airborne flight crews be notified immediately when there are serious security threats (Level 3 or Level 4). "It is essential in times like these that we act swiftly to ensure our crews are prepared to thwart any terrorist attack," the association said.

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Read the text of the APA's letter to pilots (PDF)