Hijacking Prevention Measure Named After Area Pilot Killed In 9/11 Poised To Become Law

The legislation will require a new safety measure in passenger planes.

File photo Credit: U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Elvis Umanzor

Portions of a proposed legislation named after a Bucks County pilot killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks are expected to become law.

Provisions from the Saracini Enhanced Aviation Safety Act will be enacted with President Joe Biden’s expected signature on the larger FAA Reauthorization Act of 2024.

The reauthorization act, which passed the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, includes language that mandates the retrofit of older commercial passenger planes with secondary barriers, a safety measure designed to increase cockpit security and hinder potential hijackers.

In 2018, legislation required airlines to install secondary barriers in all new commercial passenger planes.

The latest measure extends this requirement to older planes, addressing longstanding objections from the aviation industry.

United Flight 195 Captain Victor Saracini, of Lower Makefield Township, was killed when five al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked his plane and crashed it into the South Tower of the World Trade Center in New York City.

Ellen Saracini, Victor’s wife, has lobbied for years to have this safety measure included in all commercial passenger aircraft.

Ellen Saracini speaking the families and public at a past memorial for September 11.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

“Twenty-three years after the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, Congress has finally enacted a requirement for secondary cockpit barriers to be installed on all passenger aircraft operating in the United States,” said Ellen Saracini. “Reaching this milestone, after a long journey of advocacy and lobbying efforts in the honor and memory of Vic, leaves me feeling relieved but also somewhat sad that it has taken so long for the wheels of Congress to finally move in the right direction.”

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican, and U.S. Senator Bob Casey, a Democrat, have joined forces with Saracini to get these safety measures mandated. Late Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick worked with Saracini on the safety measures in years past.

Fitzpatrick proposed the measure in the U.S. House, and Casey proposed it in the U.S. Senate.

Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick speaking.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

“This victory stands as a significant milestone in improving aviation safety while honoring the legacy of Captain Victor Saracini and all the American heroes we tragically lost on September 11th,” said Fitzpatrick. “I am profoundly grateful for Ellen’s resilience and unwavering dedication to being an unrelenting champion for air safety and for the support of Senator Casey and my colleagues in our ongoing initiative to safeguard our skies.”

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey during a December 2022 visit to Bristol Borough.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

“Congress has an obligation to make air transportation safer, more efficient, and more accessible for all passengers and airline workers,” said Casey. “In this legislation, we have taken an important step to improve airline safety by honoring the memory of Captain Saracini and approving my measure to prevent airplane hijacking.”

The reauthorization act also includes several key consumer protection measures, according to Casey’s office.

It includes eliminating junk airline fees, establishing a right to refunds for delayed or cancelled flights within the United States, requiring airlines to have customer service agents available 24/7, and setting standards for airline reimbursement credits. Additionally, it mandates that children under 14 can sit next to parents or guardians without extra fees.

A Frontier airliner flies over Core Creek Park in Middletown. File photo.
Credit: Tom Sofield/

The bill increases the annual authorization for the Airport Improvement Program, the primary federal funding stream for airport infrastructure, by more than $600 million. It also incorporates a provision from the bipartisan Air Traffic Controllers Hiring Act, which Senator Casey co-sponsored, to increase the FAA’s hiring target for new air traffic controllers and address shortages in this field.

Following advocacy by Senator Casey to the Commerce Committee, the package maintains the mandatory pilot retirement age at 65, rather than increasing it to 67. It also includes provisions to better accommodate airline passengers with disabilities, such as establishing training standards for employees who assist these passengers, updating standards for aircraft boarding and deplaning to improve accessibility, and requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to investigate complaints of discrimination against people with disabilities in a timely manner.

About the author

Tom Sofield

Tom Sofield has covered news in Bucks County for 12 years for both newspaper and online publications. Tom’s reporting has appeared locally, nationally, and internationally across several mediums. He is proud to report on news in the county where he lives and to have created a reliable publication that the community deserves.