SEATTLE (AP) -- Alaska Airlines has begun reinforcing cockpit doors with a tough locking mechanism and bullet-resistant Kevlar, a fabric widely used in protective police vests, officials said.
Raisbeck Engineering of Seattle is working with Alaska Airlines to complete the changes on the carrier's 70 Boeing 737s by Nov. 15 and will then turn to the 32 MD-80-series planes, president William S. Ayer said Tuesday.
Tougher cockpit doors had been under consideration since March 16, 2000, when a man experiencing an attack of encephalitis forced his way into the cockpit and tried to seize the controls before being subdued on a flight from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco.
''The events of Sept. 11 hastened that resolve, and now we are convinced Raisbeck Engineering has found an excellent solution,'' Ayer said.
Alaska Airlines is the nation's 10th largest carrier and the largest in passenger traffic on north-south routes along the West Coast with service from Alaska to Mexico as well as flights to Chicago and Washington, D.C.
Company officials described the reinforcement as follows:
Kevlar, a high-technology composite that is five times tougher than steel, is being installed on the cockpit side of the doors and kickproof grilles designed to withstand 1,500 pounds of force are being installed on the cabin side.
A new locking mechanism can be used by pilots from a seated position.
Bullet-resistant acrylic windows that are 1 1/4 inches thick allow pilots to see into the cabin.
New door handles are more difficult to grip and gain leverage.
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