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      Cockpit door work nearly done (# 20)

Cockpit door work nearly done
Cockpit door work nearly done

All airliners to have security measure

It can stop a bullet and withstand a grenade blast. A linebacker couldn´t knock it loose.

New cockpit doors should be on all passenger airplanes by this week as airlines finish one of the most important steps to defend pilots against hijackings.

"I feel very confident in there when the door is locked, that nobody is going to bust in," United Airlines pilot Eric Brown said. "It´s quite heavy. It would be very difficult to get through."

Brown, of Atlanta, flies the Airbus 320 and says it´s clear the new doors are much stronger. He likes being able to see who´s outside through a peephole. The door has electronic locks.

Boeing has shipped 6,235 door kits to airlines for installation. Airbus has shipped 1,796. The Federal Aviation Administration expects all U.S. carriers to meet the Wednesday deadline for installation. A spokesman for Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines said it will meet the deadline but would give no details.

About 5,800 U.S. planes must have the doors. An additional 4,213 foreign aircraft will need the doors if they operate in the United States, Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Alison Duquette said.

The International Civil Aviation Organization has said all 188 of its member countries should have some type of reinforced cockpit doors on planes making international flights by November.

Prices for the doors range from $27,000 for single-aisle planes to $40,000 to $50,000 for widebodies, not including labor. Some doors could cost as much as $100,000 depending on make and model, a Boeing spokesman said.

Congress originally agreed to pay about $13,000 per door to help defray the cost to U.S. airlines. It put more in this year´s budget. New airline aid bills would add more money for further reimbursements to carriers.

The Air Transport Association, the trade group for major airlines, has argued that reinforced doors are a national security cost the government should bear.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks the FAA began to confer with manufacturers on the specifications for the new doors. In the meantime, airlines immediately installed crossbars on doors to protect pilots.

Before terrorist hijackers burst into cockpits of four jets, the thin doors had served mainly for privacy.

Changing even mundane items such as doors can be more complicated than it sounds. Airlines have to get FAA approval for detailed plans on how the new part will be incorporated into maintenance and training procedures, for instance. Anything that needs wiring can affect other electronic systems.

Many airlines have almost finished the installations on their fleets. AirTran put the finishing touches on its planes last week. It had earlier sought a waiver on 12 planes it will take out of service by October, but the FAA denied the request.

Changing the doors is time-consuming. AirTran parks its planes at night and mechanics start work at 1 a.m. The replacement takes about 16 to 18 hours for each door.

Pilots must still open the doors on long flights to use the restroom or receive meals.

Pilots always verify who is at the door before it´s opened, United´s Brown said.

United also stations a drink cart and a flight attendant in front of the door before it´s opened. If someone were to charge the door, the cart and the flight attendant would slow the attack and give pilots extra time to react, Brown said.

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