American Airlines Pilots Union Blames Feds for Terror Alert Failure

The pilots union at American Airlines says federal officials failed to notify crews on planes in the United States about the attempted terror attack aboard a Northwest jet on Christmas Day.

The Allied Pilots Association said Wednesday it would lobby Congress to require that federal officials notify all flights in the air — no matter where the flights started — as soon as they learn of a possible attack on another plane.

Federal officials said they limited immediate notification of the Dec. 25 bombing attempt to crews on U.S.-bound flights from Europe because they were considered to face the greatest danger.

The Transportation Security Administration said after a young Nigerian man tried to explode a device on a Northwest jet from Amsterdam to Detroit, it "immediately" arranged a conference call with the Federal Aviation Administration and other agencies.

"Based on intelligence information at that time, a strategic, risk-based decision was made to notify all 128 flights inbound from Europe," said TSA spokeswoman Sterling Payne.

The American Airlines pilots union said the TSA was slow to react to the Detroit incident and should have immediately passed information about it to all airborne flights.

"They hadn't determined at that point if this was a sole actor or part of a broader plot," said Mike Karn, an American pilot and the union's security chairman.

Karn said if pilots of planes everywhere had known of the attempt on another jet, they could have imposed security measures such as limiting passengers' movement and preventing them from congregating near the cockpit or lavatories. He said it was illogical to limit immediate notification to planes on certain routes.

The four jetliners, including two American Airlines aircraft, that were seized by hijackers during the September 2001 terror attacks were flying within the United States. In 1995, authorities stopped a plan by terrorists to blow up 12 airliners flying from Asia to the U.S.