A bill that would require secondary cockpit barriers to prevent hijackings languishes in Congress, according to Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, who outlined congressional supporters frustration with the lack of final action in a press conference Wed., Aug. 15 in Bucks County.

The time: 2013

First introduced in April 2013 by former U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, R-8, brother of Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick who succeeded him in the Congress. Congressman (Mike) Fitzpatrick, in 2013, sponsored a key bipartisan bill in the House that would require secondary cockpit barriers in all commercial aircraft —designed to prevent terrorists from taking over a plane when unsuspecting pilots open flight-deck doors.

The bill was introduced publicly in the Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Lower Makefield Township. At the time, then-Congressman Fitzpatrick said it was a common sense matter of public policy. He was joined by Ellen Saracini, whose husband, Victor, was a pilot on board United Airlines Flight 175 that was flown into the World Trade Center, and airline pilots, flight attendants and local first responders. (The Federal Aviation Administration has required cockpit doors to be heavily fortified since 2001, the secondary barriers differ.)

Ellen Saracini speaks on H.R. 911. Photo by Rick Rickman.

The time: April 2018

On April 30, 2018, the House passed a reauthorization bill on airline safety, inspired by the 9/11 attack. Ellen Saracini and others joined the push, again, for secondary barriers to protect pilots from possible terrorist attacks when they leave the cockpit.

Saracini vowed to keep fighting.

A similar cockpit barrier mandate was central to the separate Saracini Aviation Safety Act, which Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-8, of Middletown, introduced in 2017.

The time: August 2018

On Aug. 15, Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick played host to freshman Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) for a series of various bipartisan district events in Bucks County. Gottheimer, co-chair of the Problem Solvers Caucus, joined Fitzpatrick to promote their “Break the Gridlock” proposal through bipartisan action. More importantly, the press conference scheduled for Wednesday was dedicated to passage of H.R.911, the Saracini Aviation Safety Act, similar to a plan begun in 2013.

Congressman Fitzpatrick and Congressman Gottheimer appeared at the Garden of Reflection 9/11 Memorial in Lower Makefield, along with Ellen Saracini and commercial pilots, flight attendants, and first responders.

A statement from Fitzpatrick’s office highlighted the frustration of waiting for passage of this important safety measure was distributed to the media:

Nearly 17 years after 9/11, the Saracini Aviation Safety Act [H.R. 911] still languishes in Congress due to a broken system. This commonsense bill reintroduced by Fitzpatrick and Gottheimer, mandates inexpensive, light weight wire-mesh gates to be installed between the passenger cabin and the cockpit door that would block access to the flight deck whenever the cockpit door is opened during flight for pilots’ meals, restroom use, and other reasons.

The bill is named in honor of United Airline pilot Captain Victor J. Saracini.