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Wednesday, 3 October, 2001, 04:54 GMT 05:54 UK
US airlines to reinforce cockpits
Airline workers listen to an address by President Bush this week
Air safety fears are expected to impact on trade
The two biggest US airlines - American and United - have said they will immediately start reinforcing the cockpit doors on all their planes.

Planes belonging to both carriers were hijacked for the attacks on America on 11 September.

Steel bar on Alaska Airlines planes
The steel bar Alaska Airlines has begun installing
United spokesman Joe Hopkins said that steel bars should be on the doors in a matter of weeks.

Although locks on cockpit doors are already standard practice in the US - although not in the UK and Europe - without reinforcements it would be relatively easy to force the locks.

Bush recommendation

US President George W Bush has recommended the move.

American - the largest US airline - said prototypes had already been installed on two planes and would be placed in all the aircraft operated by American and its subsidiary, Trans World Airlines (TWA) within 30 days.

United also said it had placed 30in (75cm) prototype metal bars in two of its aircraft.

Other airlines are also investigating the measures. Alaska Airlines, the nation's ninth-largest carrier, said on Monday it would install crossbar locking devices on its 103-strong fleet.

Interim step

American said the devices were aimed at immediately securing the cockpits while the Federal Aviation Administration looks into "ways to further enhance security".

But although the devices are aimed at improving airline safety, airline industry observers are concerned that they could create new problems.

They say the bars could prevent emergency evacuation of the cockpit, and could prevent flight attendants from getting into the cockpit if pilots fell ill.

But airline officials stressed that the steel bars were only an interim solution and long-term measures could address these concerns.

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Business
Aviation firms axe 26,000 jobs
11 Sep 01 | Americas
Cockpit drama of doomed planes
02 Oct 01 | Business
Swissair grounds all flights
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