Capt. David Mackett, Airline Pilots Security Alliance

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, July 29, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: My next guest says that, if Al Qaeda (search) were to strike again tomorrow, it would succeed. He is Captain David Mackett, executive vice president of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance, and he joins us now from Washington.

Captain, thanks for joining us.


CAVUTO: So you give these reports some credibility?

MACKETT: I give these reports a lot of credibility. It’s especially disturbing that they come from multiple sources, and any time that happens, you ratchet up...

CAVUTO: Multiple unnamed sources, Captain.

MACKETT: Multiple unnamed sources, yes.

CAVUTO: OK. So I guess what I would want to know, in this day and age, when I fly all the time, Captain, I’m very aware of any strange character who walks up to the restroom. I think more people since September 11 are very aware. Wouldn’t more people be inclined to snuff any type of that activity in the bud?

MACKETT: If you see the activity, I think they would be more inclined, but I would also expect Al Qaeda to be able to change their tactics, such as you may not see the activity.

You only need half a second with a bad guy up front when the cockpit door is open for him to rush the cockpit, slam the door behind him, and use whatever weapon he’s secreted to take over the airplane, and, at that moment, the passengers are helpless.

Again, now they’re behind the fortified door, and you have a terrorist in the cockpit.

CAVUTO: So you think that, even with security measures we have taken, it is still possible for an errant madman to rush the cockpit while the pilot goes to the restroom or grabs a cup of coffee.

MACKETT: I think it’s easy.

CAVUTO: Really?


CAVUTO: Now what makes you say that things are easier now, let’s say, than they were?

MACKETT: Well, I don’t know that they’re easier now than they were, but the problem is the false sense of security that, to a certain extent, the public is developing by watching us take nail clippers from little old ladies and thinking that that’s airline security. That’s not airline security.

CAVUTO: So measures, Captain, like we’ve taken are largely cosmetic, using the snack cart to block the pilot door. If either one of them leave at any moment, that’s not good enough. You think that someone intent on rushing that cabin could?

MACKETT: Well, I think, if I were Al Qaeda and I were sitting around discussing how we were going to get by a snack cart, I wouldn’t need a lot of time to figure out that particular issue, no.

CAVUTO: So, in other words, this other talk that they’re training in bands of four or five men, that would be very similar to what we had on September 11. You don’t necessarily buy that, that all it needs is one errant nut.

MACKETT: It could be an errant nut. It could be an organized attack with a group. It could be any kind of scenario at all. All they need to do is get control of the cockpit, and we haven’t done nearly enough to prevent that from happening.

CAVUTO: But don’t a lot of these pilots now have guns?

MACKETT: No. There are actually only 44 that have guns. In the time it’s taken the FBI since September 11 or whatever date you used to put hundreds and hundreds of new agents on the street -- when they were mandated, the TSA has been able to put only 44 armed pilots in the air.

CAVUTO: But it’s like Russian roulette, right? You’ve got to assume that maybe possibly the guy up there does, right?

MACKETT: Well, the odds are very strongly against having an armed pilot on the airplane at the present time. The odds are very strongly against having an air marshal on the airplane.

CAVUTO: The same with an air marshal? The same with an air marshal?

MACKETT: Exactly.

CAVUTO: Really?

MACKETT: They’re covering only a fraction of flights, and, if you target five airplanes tomorrow, one will get through. Two, maybe three will get through. Maybe four.

CAVUTO: All right. Captain Mackett, thank you very much. We’ll see where it goes.

MACKETT: Thank you, Neil.

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