Monday, May 15, 2017

United’s Cockpit Door Security Codes Inadvertently Revealed: Pilots union says problem was resolved; airline had told pilots to take extra precautions



The Wall Street Journal
By Andy Pasztor and  Susan Carey
Updated May 14, 2017 6:27 p.m. ET


United Continental Holdings Inc. sent out an alert about a breach in cockpit-door security procedures after a flight attendant mistakenly posted information that included access codes on a public website, according to a pilot who was briefed on the matter.

Officials at the Air Line Pilots Association union said Sunday that the problem had been fixed.

The airline periodically changes codes that need to be punched into a keypad on the outside of the cockpit door to request entry to the flight deck. Even ringing a chime alerting the cockpit to open the door from the inside requires a specific code, this person said.

The system does give pilots the ability to override efforts by anyone from entering the cockpit, regardless of whether the correct access codes are entered.

Until the airline distributes new codes throughout its global network, this person said, pilots were being told to continue following existing procedures requiring them to visually determine the identity of someone before allowing entry into the cockpit.

There were no reports of flight delays or other schedule problems caused by the unusual incident.

The breach wasn’t caused by someone hacking into United’s crew information system or trying to manipulate any security codes through computer links, this pilot said.

In a memo to flight crews on Saturday, the nation’s No. 3 airline said its “flight deck procedures may have been compromised.” It reminded the crew members of its procedures, and told them to brief in-flight crews on them, pending a “corrective action.“

The Chicago-based company said it is working to resolve the issue as soon as possible, but didn’t elaborate on the sequence of events. “The safety of our customers and crews is our top priority,” the airline said. “United utilizes a number of measures to keep our flight decks secure beyond door-access information.”

U.S. airlines tightened up security around cockpit access following the terrorist attacks in September 2001, and leaders of pilots union have fought for years to require carriers to install secondary barriers to cockpit doors. These mesh restraints are intended for use when the pilots come out of the cockpit to visit the lavatory or the galley, instead of the common practice of flight attendants arranging beverage carts outside the cockpit door. Over the years, management at most airlines resisted such additional security systems.

Debate over all aspects of cockpit security spilled out into the public after the March 2015 crash of a Germanwings jet that was flown into a French mountainside by a suicidal co-pilot, killing all 150 people on board. The captain had left the cockpit momentarily and was then locked out by the co-pilot.

Original article can be found here:  https://www.wsj.com

No comments: