WASHINGTON – Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., Wednesday asked the Transportation Security Administration to develop guidelines and timetables requiring airlines to provide flight attendant security training. Appearing at a noon press conference with 150 flight attendants, Lieberman said anti-terrorist, anti-hijacking training for flight attendants was one missing piece of the aviation security puzzle.
“In the past two and a half years, we have placed thousands of Air Marshals aboard planes to protect passengers,” Lieberman said. “We have hardened cockpit doors and allowed pilots to carry guns to protect themselves. These are important pieces in the aviation security puzzle. But one very important piece is missing because the airlines won’t provide it unless they are required to.” Lieberman learned of the need for hands-on, defensive training for flight attendants at a November 2001 homeland security hearing he called as then-chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee. The next year, during debate over creation of a Homeland Security Department, Lieberman won support for a provision requiring the Transportation Security Administration to establish guidelines so airlines could provide appropriate training. The following year, despite a letter of objection spearheaded by Lieberman, the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill amended the Homeland Security Act to make the training requirement into a voluntary option. “We are here today to make a simple request of the Transportation Security Administration: Establish guidelines and timetables now for basic security training,” Lieberman said. “People seated on both sides of the aisle, in first class and coach, should agree this is a grievous oversight.” The memory of all who perished on September 11th should be motivation enough to get this training in place, Lieberman added, particularly the memory of Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the first plane to hit the World Trade Center, whose taped voice describing the scene on the plane was heard at a recent hearing of the 9/11 commission. “Her voice and her memory will live on as a reminder of extreme courage and dedicated professionalism in the face of unfathomable horror,” Lieberman said. “So, in Betty Ong’s name, and in the names of all the others who died September 11th, we call on the TSA to move off the dime, do the right thing, and require the airlines to provide flight attendants with the security training they need to defend themselves and their passengers. Put your tray tables in the upright position and fasten your seatbelts so we can finally get flight attendant security training to take off.”