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Senator’s Anti-Sexual Assault Legislation, Secondary Barrier Pilot Protection Provisions Included in Reauthorization

Washington, D.C. - Today, for the first time in 6 years, Congress passed a reauthorization of our nation’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Following years of advocacy, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) was able to secure new provisions which will work to ensure safety for pilots and passengers aboard all commercial aircraft. Specifically, the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes provisions from Casey’s Stopping Assault while Flying Enforcement Act (SAFE) and Saracini Aviation Safety Act.

“As elected officials, it’s our job to make air transportation safer for all pilots and passengers,” said Senator Casey. “Congress has taken an important step in improving airline safety by approving my measures to prevent sexual misconduct as well as to protect pilots’ cockpit doors during flights. These advances move us in the right direction and I look forward to the President signing this legislation into law.”

The Stopping Assault while Flying Enforcement (SAFE) Act will ensure airlines are properly responding to and addressing in-flight sexual misconduct, including through training, reporting, data collection, and law enforcement notification. Specifically, the reauthorization included several provisions of the SAFE Act, including:

  • Section 339A: Requires the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to establish the National In-Flight Sexual Misconduct Task Force to review current airline practices, protocols, and requirements in responding to and addressing in-flight sexual misconduct by passengers, including training, reporting, and data collection.
  • Section 399B: Within 2 years of enactment, requires the Attorney General to develop and make public the process for individuals to report in-flight sexual misconduct to law enforcement based upon the Task Force’s recommendations.

The FAA reauthorization also establishes a civil penalty for sexually assaulting or the threat of sexually assaulting a member of the flight crew, cabin crew, or other individuals on the airplane and increases the current civil penalty for interference from $25,000 to $35,000 and expresses the Sense of Congress that all airlines should have policies and procedures in place to address sexual misconduct, including reporting to law enforcement; communicating the rights of employees and passengers; and training employees on responding to sexual misconduct.

The Saracini Aviation Safety Act was named after Bucks County resident Captain Victor Saracini who flew United Flight 175 when it was hijacked and will require airlines to add another barrier before entering the cockpit to increase pilot safety. Specifically, the reauthorization mandates the installation of a secondary barrier in front of the cockpit door on all newly manufactured aircraft. Senator Casey has been working on this legislation since 2013.

A 2007 study by the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics concluded that the secondary barrier dramatically improves the effectiveness of the other onboard security measures currently in place, also works as a stand-alone security layer, and is the most cost-effective, efficient and safe way to protect the cockpit.

A 2013 study published in Risk Analysis and the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, in conjunction with the CATO institute, found that secondary barriers are “very cost effective,” require little maintenance and “reduce risk…at a modest cost.”