President Bush has signed into law a series of new measures to improve aviation security. Mr. Bush said the action will give all Americans greater confidence in flying.
The aviation security law strengthened cockpit doors and put more armed air marshals on U.S. flights. President Bush said it should make Americans feel safer about flying after the terrorist attacks of September 11. "Today we take permanent and aggressive steps to improve the security of our airways. The events of September 11 were a call to action. And the Congress has now responded," he said.
Congress ended up making all airport baggage inspectors federal employees in line with legislation passed by the Democratic-controlled Senate. President Bush supported a Republican bill keeping those screeners in the private sector, but he signed the legislation anyway because it had most of what he wanted on airport security. "The broad support for this bill shows that our country is united in this crisis. We have our political differences. But we are united to defend our country. And we are united to protect our people. For our airways, there is one supreme priority security," he said.
Mr. Bush signed the bill into law at Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport, which is still suffering from the economic impact of the terrorist attacks. Flights in and out of Reagan National have been cut back since September 11 with arriving flights now required to confirm with the control tower before landing that the pilots are in control of the aircraft. If not, the jet is redirected to another airport under fighter escort.
The President said the new aviation security law should ease travelers' concerns during the holiday season when many people fly to visit family. He encouraged Americans to return to air travel at a time when most airlines are losing money."These have been difficult days for Americans who fly and for American aviation. A proud industry has been hit hard. But this nation has seen the dedication and the spirit of our pilots and our flight crews and the hundreds of thousands of hardworking people who keep American flying. We know they will endure. I am confident this industry will grow and prosper," he said.
Passengers will pay for the safety improvements with a ticket surcharge of five dollars for a round trip flight. All of the changes are expected to be in place within one year.