For what its worth, this article appears in today's Times.
AIRLINES are considering ending trips to the cockpit by children after 400 people were nearly killed when a mentally
ill man attacked the pilots of a jumbo jet at 37,000 ft.
British Airways said that it was reluctantly considering a ban on cockpit visits, most of which involve children, and
which help to relieve the boredom of long-haul flights.
Other airlines are also considering a ban or reduced access after the Kenyan student, who was suffering paranoid
delusions, burst into the cockpit of the BA aircraft. Paul Mukonyi was able to walk through an unlocked door, attack
the pilots, grab the controls and knock off the autopilot. Doctors in Nairobi have said that his illness made him
believe that his life was in danger and that he would be safer if he controlled the plane.
Unlike most American airlines, which insist that cockpit doors are locked in flight, BA locks the doors only on
take-off and landing. BA has already said that it is considering whether to lock doors at all times apart from when
access is needed by the crew. The company said yesterday that its internal investigation into Friday’s incident
would also cover the policy governing cockpit visits.
American Airlines said that for safety reasons it did not permit cockpit visits during flights, “as harsh as it may seem
to little kids”.
BA said that it would regret having to impose any ban or reduction in the number of visits. “Clearly, allowing public
access to the cockpit has to be controlled for safety reasons,” a spokesman said. “But it would be a shame if we
had to put an end to it full-stop. Many of our pilots were originally inspired to take up their careers after such
visits.” Trips to the cockpit are also a recognised way of reassuring anxious flyers.
South African Airways also announced yesterday that it was reviewing its policy of allowing passengers cockpit
access, in view of the BA incident. The airline is also reviewing procedures for dealing with unruly passengers.
“Because of the growing trend of disruptive passengers, the airline has started retraining its cabin crew to deal with
these situations,” a spokeswoman said. The airline was worried about the increase in violent and intoxicated
passengers, she said.
BA recorded 122 incidents of unruly behaviour in the financial year 1998-99. A spokesman pointed out that 41
million passengers were carried each year on BA flights. The airline says that drunken passengers are the main
South African Airways dealt with 14 incidents on its aircraft in 2000, only one of which involved a violent