FAA: Planes Must Be Built to Take an Attack

Boeing and Airbus would have to design new airplanes to better withstand terrorist attacks, with stronger cockpit walls and smoke-removal systems in passenger cabins, under a proposal by U.S. aviation regulators.

The manufacturers would need fire extinguishers in cargo holds that can withstand explosives, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Friday. The proposed rule also calls for making it harder for people to hide weapons and having a designated place for crews to put an explosive to minimize damage to the plane.

The proposed rules would apply only to planes built after the rules take effect expected later this year or next and would not require any retrofitting of existing planes, said FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette. The FAA is taking industry and public comments on the rules until April 5.

"Following the replacement of the cockpit doors, this will make airplanes even more secure," Duquette said.

The FAA is trying to close security gaps that remain after the agency tightened protections following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The agency said its proposal would cost $453.9 million through 2049 and save $1.2 billion. The savings include $763.5 million from preventing one terrorist attack in that period, an expectation the FAA said was based on the historical number of aircraft bombings and hijackings.

Boeing will work with the FAA on the rule, said company spokesman Jim Proulx. "We need to review it before we venture any opinions."

Manufacturers already have taken steps to secure the cockpit, said Mary Anne Greczyn, a spokeswoman for Toulouse, France-based Airbus. "The evolution of security technology will undoubtedly prompt further measures."

American Airlines, Lufthansa and other major carriers worldwide spent $505 million to meet the FAA's April 2003 deadline for installing cockpit doors that can withstand bullets, explosives and human force.

Airbus and Boeing were also required to meet the door standard for new models.

The new rule would extend the same requirement for newly manufactured planes to the wall around the cockpit door and to the floors and ceilings of cockpits on airplanes with more than one deck.

Manufacturers also would have to "avoid designs that make it difficult to search an area" and reduce places where bombs could be hidden. For instance, some toilets are designed to restrict the size of devices that can be flushed, the FAA said.

The agency's estimate includes the cost of getting the required changes approved and manufactured, and the extra fuel expense from increased airplane weight.

Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.

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