Amid reports of TSA security scale down, lawmakers push for metal gates to protect cockpit

MIDLAND PARK, N.J. — Amid reports that the TSA is considering eliminating security screenings at 150 airports, a bipartisan group of lawmakers are calling for a vote on the Saracini bill.

This legislation is named for Victor Saracini, the pilot of United Airlines Flight 175, which crashed into the south tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th.

In the eyes of his widow, 9/11 could have been prevented.

"It’s because of one thing and one thing only," said Ellen Saracini. "It’s because the cockpit got breached. There is a vulnerability on the flight deck."

Saracini, unions representing flight attendants and pilots, as well as lawmakers from both sides of the aisle say that a retractable wire mesh gate could serve as an extra barrier to protect the cockpit. The gate would close and lock into place when pilots emerge from the cockpit during the flight.

After September 11th, heavy security doors were installed to protect the cockpit from intruders. But pilots often do get up and open that door to use the bathroom, to stretch or to switch out.

Currently, flight attendants are trained to use the food or drink carts as a blockade for when pilots emerge.

"It's a ridiculous point of view to say that cart is going to be the deterrent," said Ken Diaz President of the United Association of Flight Attendants.

The Saracini bill's language has also been added to the Federal Aviation Administration Reuthorization Act — which would renew the agency’s funding for another five years. But the language would only force airlines to add the gates aboard newly built planes, while the Saracini bill would also mandate retrofitting old planes.

"It's a piece of safety equipment that needs to be put on an aircraft," said Saracini. "The airlines have never once put a piece of safety equipment on before multiple deaths, bloodshed and then an Act of Congress."

Meanwhile, reports that the TSA could scale back security at smaller airports nationwide is drawing the ire of the Saracini bill's sponsors.

Something the Saracini bill’s sponsors are strongly against.

"With all the testimony we’re getting behind clothes doors, this is no time to be even a little lax on aviation security," said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA).

"Don’t forget the 9/11 terrorists took flight lessons at small airports like Venice Municipal Airport in Florida and they flew from Portland, Maine to Boston on the morning of the attacks," said Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ).

The FAA Reauthorization bill has passed the house but is still sitting in the senate. The Saracini bill has been introduced in both houses but has not yet been put up for a vote.