The Plane Truth
Hank Investigates: The Plane Truth
This flight attendant loves his job, but every day it's more difficult for him to get on a plane. He could be fired for making it public, but he's afraid to fly.
"I'm taking my life in my own hands by just going to work."
This flight attendant, still mourning her coworkers killed in the hijackings, says now she's obsessed with security.
"Now since Sept 11th of course, I mean its haunting, its really haunting."
Sara Delacruz, Flight Attendant
Pilots, flight attendants, officers and crew, logging not only millions of air miles, but also how many times airline security failed.
Our investigation found that for years airline crews filed internal reports outlining breakdowns in safety, and our analysis of those reports reveals an eerie pattern of problems- exactly the same problems that allowed September 11 to happen.
"The minute I saw it I said to myself, I could have told you so."
Many are first hand accounts of real security lapses at the gate, on the tarmac, even on board and in the cockpit. NASA started the database in the 70's. It's anonymous to insure confidentiality.
"Sometimes this confidentiality is important?"
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Linda Connell, NASA
"It’s absolutely crucial. And they're able to talk very candidly to us without incriminating themselves."
And what the reports reveal could be a blueprint for terrorists.
On September 11, the hijackers were able to take control because they had boxcutters. We found, dozens of times before, crews complained about dangerous weapons on their planes! Example: "The security person allowed the knives through the checkpoint" Another: "A .38 caliber revolver was brought to the cockpit." Another: "I can't believe all these weapons were boarded."
This attendant reported screeners pushing passengers through so fast, by they time they realized there were huge scissors in someone's carryon, the owner was long gone.
"They probably went on their merry way and got on the plane."
September 11: hijackers terrorize those on board. Reports revealed how other flights have been put in jeopardy. This flight attendant told of one out of control passenger who was trying to open the airplane’s doors.
"He was absolutely putting us at risk and every passenger on the aircraft."
Other reports told of a "flight attendant taken hostage with hot coffee." How another passenger "pulled out a 'huge' switch blade 18 inches long." Another threatened that "he was going to put a bomb on board."
"We are at risk and its horrifying for a lot of reasons."
Sept 11: hijackers stormed the cockpits. These reports reveal crews repeatedly complained of such unauthorized entry. One said: "a man representing himself at a pilot entered the cockpit." Another: "an irate passenger entered the cockpit." One tried to get in "by kicking at the door."
Pilots say that they're under siege.
"The ultimate target of the terrorist is the cockpit."
Capt. Robert Guida, Commercial Pilot
Now, AFTER the hijackings, officials reveal the database is inundated with safety violations.
"Have the number of reports about reports about security increased since Sept 11?"
Hank Phillippi Ryan
"The number of reports on security have increased."
So many, in fact they're still processing them all, but there are hundreds so far.
"There's a lot of information we're going through, to see what's kind of in it, that could be valuable for improving security."
But those who fly for a living complain that they're spent three decades documenting security breakdowns. Now its time for those who make the rules to make some changes.
"My friends colleagues coworkers and now my heroes had better not die in vain. They better get off the stick and make the changes that are needed to make sure we are safe."
There is new federal airline safety legislation in the works, but at this point its stalled on Capitol Hill. Those who fly for a living are there now testifying before congressional committees and pushing to get tougher rules as soon as possible.