Aviation Expert Says White House Endangered Airlines by Keeping Secret the Foiled 2002 L.A. Library Tower Terrorist Attack

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On February 15, 2006, retired airline captain and former jetliner instructor Hugh E. Scott accused the Bush administration of endangering domestic and international airlines by keeping secret a foiled 2002 Al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airliner into the Los Angeles Library Tower.

Retired Continental Airlines captain and former jetliner instructor Hugh E. Scott charged today the Bush administration had risked the lives of passengers, flight attendants and pilots by keeping secret a foiled 2002 Al Qaeda plot to fly a hijacked airliner into the Los Angeles Library Tower.

Scott said the White House was obligated to warn carriers about Al Qaeda's plan to use shoe bombs for breeching the cockpit door. Had the airlines known about the terrorist tactic, contends Scott, they would have established emergency procedures for thwarting forced entry of flight decks.

Scott said that the blast and heat from a shoe bomb detonated against the cockpit door would damage nearby circuit breaker panels, cause a crippling electrical failure and render the jetliner uncontrollable.

According to Scott, the autopilot would disengage with both pilots killed or seriously wounded by flying door fragments in a disrupted cockpit filled with thick smoke and no instrumentation. Assuming the aircraft was manually flyable, Scott doubts the terrorists could reach the flight controls in time to prevent a fatal loss of altitude, which happened to the hijacked B757 that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9/11

Scott speaks with experience. In 1968, he was the first officer on Continental Flight 25, a LAX to DEN trip commanded by Captain Ken Tiegs. Descending into Denver through 24,000 feet, the B720 was jolted by an exploding gasoline bomb (filled glass jar) in the aft lavatory.

Detonated with a lit fuse by a suicidal passenger, the blast blew open the lavatory door and belched out a huge fireball that melted the toilet seat and bathroom fixtures. The aircraft was saved by a flight attendant who, sitting on an adjacent jump seat, kicked the door shut, snuffing out the flames. Even so, the aft cabin filled with choking dense smoke. Scott said the same calamity would occur if an Al Qaeda shoe bomb exploded against the cockpit door of a more modern jetliner, such as the B737-300 on which Scott trained captains and first officers.

Because of the inherent risk of onboard explosions, Scott thinks Al Qaeda had planned to use shoe bombs as a threat to gain access to the cockpit, not to blow open the door. Had airlines been aware of the intimidation tactic, Scott said they would have developed a crew resource management (CRM) checklist during pilot/flight attendant brainstorming sessions.

The resulting standardized crew response might not prevent an explosion, believes Scott, but Al Qaeda skyjackers most likely would be denied access to the cockpit, especially when a crash ax is available for pilots to buy time for an emergency landing.

In sum, asserted Scott, by keeping the L.A. Library Tower plot secret, the Bush administration caused domestic and international airlines to be vulnerable to Al Qaeda skyjackings more than four years after 9/11.


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