September 8, 2005

Report cites gap in air crew security training

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Four years after the September 11
hijackings, gaps still remain in the oversight of flight and
cabin crew security training aboard commercial airlines despite
recent improvements by homeland security officials, a
government report said on Thursday.

The Government Accountability Office found that the
Transportation Security Administration has yet to establish
performance goals and lacks adequate internal controls for
properly assessing crew training.

Federal law requires that TSA monitor and periodically
review airline training programs -- which have been in place
for 20 years -- to ensure that crew members are prepared for
potential threats.

But the report found the security agency lacks written
procedures for reviewing training programs, assessing the
quality of classroom instruction and ensuring that airlines are
following up with their employees.

In addition, TSA developed an advanced but voluntary
self-defense training program in 2004 but has yet to establish
performance measures or a time line for determining whether it
is effective.

The program, available in 15 cities, has been poorly
attended, partly because airline employees have had a difficult
time getting three consecutive days off to attend, the GAO

Every commercial flight in the United States has at least
two flight crew members and one attendant on board. They are
viewed as the last line of defense in any threat to the flight.

Prior to the 2001 attacks, crews were trained to cooperate
with threatening passengers or hijackers. Since then, the
security response assumes a hijacking could include a threat to
damage or destroy the aircraft or use the plane as a weapon.

Among other things, crew members must now be trained in how
to recognize suspicious activity and determine the seriousness
of threats, how to coordinate and communicate with each other
in a threatening situation, and how to search for explosive

Carrie Harmon, TSA spokeswoman, said the agency has made
"substantial progress" in reviewing both security programs. "We
overall agree with the recommendations of the report. We've
already started working on those improvements, Harmon said.