By Will Van Sant and Keith Herbert
Rep. Peter King has asked the Transportation Security Administration to review security procedures -- including the use of restraints on commercial aircraft -- after plastic handcuffs apparently failed to subdue a disturbed pilot on a flight from New York City to Las Vegas on Tuesday.
King (R-Seaford), who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said Friday that "use of plastic restraints will be one of the many things that will be fully investigated."
After flight captain Clayton Osbon had been locked out of the cockpit by a wary co-pilot, a flight attendant gave plastic restraints to alarmed passengers to help control Osbon, according to several accounts. A few of the passengers who helped tackle the pilot are Long Islanders.
Osbon was charged Wednesday with interfering with a flight crew and faces up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine if convicted of the federal charge.
"I have contacted TSA and have insisted on a complete update concerning all security matters related to this incident," King said in a statement.
There is no federal requirement that aircraft have restraints such as plastic handcuffs on board, although airlines and independent aviation security experts say it's industry practice to carry such devices, and that flight crews are trained in how to use them.
John M. Cox, an airline consultant, said the failure of the handcuffs on JetBlue Flight 191 appears to be a manufacturing problem. The restraints are routinely used successfully and the government does not need to change its hands-off approach, he said.
"The times that I have been involved in their use, they have worked very well," Cox said. "This is one of the only cases that I have ever heard of them having failed."
A JetBlue spokeswoman declined to answer specific questions, but said in an email that crews are trained to use "strengthened plastic flex-cuffs." The devices, the spokeswoman said, are approved by government regulators.
Don Davis, 53, of Massapequa, who was aboard Flight 191, described the devices as "wraps," not the familiar metal handcuffs police carry.
"They literally broke 30 seconds after they were on," Davis said. "In the world we're living in today, how could you not have at least a couple of pairs of handcuffs?
That was completely ridiculous. I couldn't believe it."Jason Levin of Farmingville described the restraints as 12-inch-long yellow straps that slipped off. Levin, like others involved in helping restrain Osbon, was on his way to a security conference in Las Vegas. "We all felt it would just not hold," Levin, 39, said of the device.
"They're good as garbage."
Paul Babakitis of Jericho, a retired NYPD sergeant, said he tried to make the restraints work, but they were defective. "It put us and him in more danger," Babakitis said. "They were useless."