« السابقةمتابعة »
Worrying about their safety during this hijacking gave me an understanding of how the family and friends of those passengers must have felt.
I have two or three questions, and I would like to start with this; if you had to do it over again, what would you do differently?
Mr. GROSS. Well, hopefully, there would be an airport plan developed for each air carrier airport, for such an emergency. That plan could also apply to other kinds of emergencies, accidents, and so forth.
If that were in effect and if there were communications available, and this is where we had part of our problem, in being able to keep order; to do the communications is difficult. I am not sure that we would do anything any differently, except that we would attempt to expedite the airplane more than we did.
Our whole objective, our feeling was that, first, they did mean business, and that they would kill the crew or passengers. At first we thought they might even kill themselves. As it worked on longer in time, we began to feel that, perhaps, they would not do that.
But, I think that the quicker you can handle your airplane and satisfy an immediate demand without antagonizing any more than you have to, then the safety of the passengers and crew will not be compromised so much.
Senator BAKER. Thank you. At one point in that particular episode, the Director of the FBI with the concurrence, I understand, of Southern Airways, decided to terminate the movement of the airplane.
As you say, that was some 29 hours after that weird adventure started. Looking back on it, was anything gained by letting it go on 29 hours, or would it have been better to make the termination attempt earlier?
Mr. GROSS. No, sir; I do not think it would have been helped at all. In fact, I am convinced that any attempt to do it earlier would have been a failure.
At no time were we, or was anybody able to get close to the airplane. I knew the pilot very well. He is a first-class pilot. His reaction time is very short, and he was reacting very quickly. And we felt that he would have the airplane off the ground before we could ever get anywhere close to it.
I think it would have been a mistake to do it earlier. And this was discussed at length as we went along. We considered every alternative that we could. As you can imagine, the situation changed very rapidly; and we talked with FBI people onboard the aircraft with us, as well as the same kind of conversation going on in Atlanta.
We agreed that we could not get it done.
Senator BAKER. One aspect of the hijacking that you have already touched on briefly in your testimony, is that the airplane held over Knoxville, and, as I recall, there were threatening gestures made toward the atomic energy plants at Oak Ridge?
Mr. GROSS. Yes, sir.
Senator BAKER. As a matter of fact, my hometown is Knoxville, and the first notice I had of the hijacking was an urgent early morning telephone call from the Atomic Energy Commission advising me that the experimental reactors at Oak Ridge were being shutdown and that
the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and related installations were being evacuated.
The newspaper accounts indicate that the hijackers said they intended to crash the plane into the facilities at Oak Ridge, implying, I guess, that one of the reactors might explode or that one of the other nuclear installations there might explode.
It is frightening to know that a nuclear facility of very great proportions, might be held hostage to hijackers, and that possibility underscores the seriousness of the crime and the importance of finding an effective means of prevention.
That leads me to the last question I would like to put to you. Even assuming that we have a Federal force at each airport and a Federal program for handling hijackings at all the air carrier airports, as you suggested; and assuming further that there is a Federal plan for the coordination of all agencies affected; in the final analysis, do we not finally get to the place where there has to be some deterrent force on the airplane itself?
I am convinced that air marshals are not the answer. I am wondering if it is not necessary to see that there is a force of some sort on each air carrier airplane. At one point, you know, we put the marines on merchant vessels to protect them against pirates. I am wondering if we are reaching that point now, and I particularly wonder if you would care to give me any reaction to a proposal that we put armed military personnel on airplanes?
Mr. GROSS. Well, we have considered this, and of course, we had sky marshals on our aircraft on certain flights for some period of time. I do not believe that it would, in a circumstance, such as our hijacking, that it would have been effective.
The crew reports indicate, let me just describe what happened, and maybe you can make a judgment, yourself.
When the hijackers boarded the airplane, they dispersed back through the cabin, they did not sit together. Shortly after takeoff, from Birmingham, one came forward to the galley just behind the cockpit, and one stewardess was in the back, taking drink orders.
The other was in the galley getting set up. He tapped her on the shoulder and told her that there was a passenger in the back that apparently was ill, and she better look after him.
And, as she turned and started toward the rear of the aircraft, he caught her round the neck, put a gun in her head. At that instant, the other two hijackers jumped up, into the aisle, one facing forward, one facing aft, with drawn pistols. Now, had there been an armed force on the airplane, I am sure somebody and positively passengers, would have been killed.
Senator BAKER. I wonder though, the fact that the public knew that uniformed military personnel were on the plane might be a greater deterrent than the much-advertised deterrent effect of magnetometer surveillance on boarding?
Mr. GROSS. No, sir; I do not believe so. I think that every, and maybe this does not sound very optimistic, but almost every deterrent that is developed, someone rises to the occasion.
I think, to some extent, the sky marshal program may have contributed to the advent of the handheld bomb, with the deadman trigger
on it. And, there is always the lunatic fringe that will use something like that. You cannot depend on 100-percent prevention.
Senator BAKER. You run a good airline and I think you did a good job with a very difficult situation. In my opinion we do not have the ultimate answer to the hijacking problem. I think you have contributed to our record and I thank you for that.
In conclusion, I think that our methods of handling hijackings over the last few years have aggravated the problem rather than helped it. I don't mean that to be critical of your handling of this incident, but I do feel that remedial action is much needed.
I hope you get your $2 million back.
Senator CANNON. You did not explain at what point, and how, you got the money on board the aircraft?
Mr. GROSS. We picked up part of the money in Toronto from the airplane that came from Chicago. There was a jet from Detroit that picked up the remainder of it, and delivered it to us in Chattanooga. We combined it there, and got it on board the aircraft at that point. Senator CANNON. But you said the door never was opened to the aircraft?
Mr. GROSS. Oh, they went through the cockpit, side windows. Everything went in and out the cockpit side windows.
Senator CANNON. What is the status, today, of the recovery of that money? Is that money held by the Cuban authorities?
Mr. GROSS. It is still being held by the Cuban authorities, and we have been in communication with them and we are working on the problem now.
Senator CANNON. Does it appear that it will be released, shortly? Mr. GROSS. We hope it will. They have not given us a specific time that it will be released. We do not know that it will be, at this point. Senator CANNON. What is the current status of the hijackers?
Mr. GROSS. We know no more than has been in the media, that they are somewhere in prison in Cuba. We understand they are to be brought to trial. We are not positive on that.
They are to be brought for trial for crimes committed in Cuba, not against Southern Airways, or committed in the United States.
Senator CANNON. Thank you very much, Mr. Gross. I appreciate your being here.
Mr. GROSS. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Cook. One question, before you leave; you said the engines had not been shut off for 29 hours, and something had to be done before that aircraft became expendable, is that correct?
Mr. GROSS. Yes, sir; we had serious doubts that he had over an hour, hour and a half more operating time. With the oil quality he was carrying, when he went into Orlando. We were actually surprised that he got into Havana, as low as he was.
Senator Cook. Then, mechanically, and for the safety of everybody concerned, it was better to try to do something in relation to the aircraft on the ground, and that the next stop had to be a terminal stop rather than let the aircraft go back up?
Mr. GROSS. Yes, sir; because he indicated strongly, he was headed for Bermuda. He did not top off the fuel tanks.
Senator Cook. I hope you do not mind my interrupting, but you did say, in your testimony, that you were of the opinion and you have
been, in this business for quite some time, that they could not have made it to Bermuda?
Mr. GROSS. That is right, for two reasons. First, we were not sure what fuel load he had onboard, when he left Orlando because they did not fill it everytime, and second, we did not get a chance to oil it. We finally got one engine shut down but got no oil in it. We knew it would not bring it all the way to Bermuda. In fact, to Bermuda, with an airplane full of fuel, and favorable winds is stretching a DC-9. Furthermore, he had to have equipment, and no charts for overwater flights, so the only way we could have gotten him there over the most favorable conditions would have been to have had some other aircraft parallel him and give him guidance to Bermuda.
There was just too big a chance.
Senator Cook. Thank you.
Senator CANNON. Thank you very much.
Next, we will hear from Mr. George Bean, Mr. Donald Shay, and Mr. Erle Taylor.
STATEMENT OF GEORGE J. BEAN, DIRECTOR, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY AVIATION AUTHORITY, TAMPA, FLA., AND CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL AFFAIRS COMMITTEE, AIRPORT OPERATORS COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL; ACCOMPANIED BY J. DONALD REILLY, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, AIRPORT OPERATORS COUNCIL INTERNATIONAL; DONALD G. SHAY, DIRECTOR OF AVIATION, PORT OF SEATTLE, WASH., AND AOCI SECOND VICE PRESIDENT; ERLE A. TAYLOR, DIRECTOR OF AVIATION FOR CLARK COUNTY, LAS VEGAS, NEV.; J. J. CORBETT, AOCI VICE PRESIDENT, FEDERAL AFFAIRS; RICHARD D. FORD, SEATTLE, WASH.; BARTON JACK A, CHIEF DEPUTY SHERIFF, CLARK COUNTY, NEV.
Mr. REILLY. Good morning, Mr. Chairman, members of the committee. For the record, I am J. Reilly, executive vice president of the Airport Operators Council International. We appreciate the opportunity to appear before you this morning to present the views of the local communities owning and operating U.S. airports, on S. 39.
Representing the council today, on my left, George J. Bean, director of Hillsborough County aviation authority, Tampa, Fla, and chairman of the Federal affairs committee, Airport Operators Council
Next Mr. Donald G. Shay, director of aviation, Port of Seattle, Wash., and AOCI second vice president.
Next Mr. Erle A. Taylor, director of aviation for the County of Clark, Las Vegas, Nev.; Mr. Jack Corbett, AOCI vice president, Federal affairs, and next J. Richard Ford, also from Seattle.
On my right, Mr. Barton Jacka, Chief deputy sheriff of the County of Clark.
Mr. Bean will make the presentation this morning. The other gentlemen have short statements to fill out his basic statement. Following the presentations, we will be more than happy to answer any questions from the committee.
Senator CANNON. You may proceed.
Mr. BEAN. I am George J. Bean, director of the Hillsborough County aviation authority-Tampa International Airport-and chairman of the Federal affairs committee of the Airport Operators Council International. I also serve as chairman of the safety and security committee of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE), so my remarks will reflect the joint views of the two associations.
Also present to provide additional comments on the security programs at their airports are Donald G. Shay, AOCI second vice president and director of aviation for the port of Seattle, Wash. Commission-Seattle-Tacoma International Airport-and Erle A. Taylor, director of aviation for the county of Clark, Nev., Las Vegas McCarran International Airport. We are accompanied by Richard D. Ford, chairman of the AOCI legal committee, Barton Jacka, sheriff of the county of Clark, and J. Donald Reilly, AOCI executive vice president. The Airport Operators Council International is the association of the governmental bodies which own and operate the principal airports served by the scheduled airlines in the United States, as well as in many countries abroad. Our U.S. member airports annually enplane more than 90 percent of the domestic and virtually all of the U.S. international scheduled airline passenger and cargo traffic. In addition, our local government members operate many reliever and other general aviation facilities which supplement the larger airports in their communities and regions.
Mr. Chairman, while we appreciate the opportunity to present the views of our U.S. members on S. 39, Antihijacking and Air Transportation Security Acts of 1973, we are also dismayed that these hearings should be necessary at all. The U.S. Senate last September approved an excellent measure-almost identical to the pending billwhich should have been promptly considered by the House of Representatives and presented to the President for his signature. Valuable time has elapsed and three additional U.S. hijackings have occurred in the interim.
AOCI testimony last August in support of this earlier legislation focused on five major issues. Our position has not changed; airport operators still believe that:
First. Air piracy is a national and international problem which cannot effectively be foisted off on local governments; its solution requires Federal leadership and resources as well as best industry
In our view, skyjacking and political terriorism via air piracy are criminal acts directed against nations which endanger the safety of passengers flying in interstate and foreign commerce. The facts of the hijacking of the Southern Airways flight in early November clearly document the nonlocal aspects of the worldwide air piracy problem. This hijacking, occurring after departure from Birmingham, Ala., during its 29-hour duration, included a total of 10 stops in the United States, Canada, and Cuba, involving seven different airports in five different States.
No combination of local police forces could provide the coordinated approach toward stopping these hijackers as would have been assured by an expanded Federal security force at major U.S. airports supported by the intelligence-gathering efforts of the national FBI.