CNN LARRY KING WEEKEND
Is it Really Safe to Fly?
Aired November 3, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KING: Tonight: Are you afraid to fly?
Here to tell us if the skies are really safe: From West Palm Beach, Florida, retired Chairman and CEO of American Airlines Robert Crandall. In Columbus, Ohio, aviation expert Mary Schiavo. In Dallas, one of the authors of the Senate aviation bill, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison. In Washington, former NTSB Chairman Jim Hall.
What's being done to ensure safety in the air? In London, Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways. In Dallas, Captain John Darrah, president of the Allied Pilots Association. In Washington: Flight Attendant's Association President Patricia Friend. And also in Washington: President of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association John Carr.
We've got some dramatic personal stories about flying. In Dallas, Steve Martin, who was on an American Airlines plane diverted after a threatening note was found. Also in Dallas, Janice Savage, who went through the same frightening experience.
In New York, Lisa Beamer, wife of Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer.
And in Boston, Stephanie Holland Brodney. Her mother was on the first plane that crashed into the World Trade Center. She says she may never fly again.
They're all next on LARRY KING WEEKEND.
We begin with our first panel. Start with Robert Crandall, the retirement chairman and CEO of American Airlines.
What did you think of the differing votes yesterday in the -- on Thursday, rather, in the Senate and the House?
ROBERT CRANDALL, FORMER CHAIRMAN & CEO, AMERICAN AIRLINES: Well, I was very disappointed, Larry. Both of these bills federalize aviation safety. That is, they put responsibility in the hands of the government. We're spending an awful lot of time arguing about whether these people are going to be federal employees, or whether we're going, as the Israelis do and as most European governments do -- whether we're going to let the government supervise private firms.
In either case, neither bill really addresses many of the elements of aviation safety that need to be addressed. We need to get that one behind us and get on with putting a real aviation safety system in place.
KING: What's the No. 1 thing it didn't address?
CRANDALL: I think it doesn't address the fact, Larry, that we need to look at passengers, and not at things. That is, we need a lot more intelligence about who is flying; who they are, are they on the FBI list, are they on the CIA lists, are they in this country on an expired visa? We need to focus on intelligence so that we can then focus our physical resources -- the people at the airport -- on those people who are -- represent the highest risk. And we need to get on with it.
KING: In Columbus, Ohio is Mary Schiavo. She is the former inspector general for the Department of Transportation, now in private practice as an aviation disaster attorney.
What were your thoughts on the two bills that they're going to have to work out some compromise?
MARY SCHIAVO, AVIATION SAFETY EXPERT: Well, surprisingly similar to Bob, but maybe for slightly different reasons. I thought the Senate bill was certainly the better-reasoned and well thought-out. The House had a sort of a new czar, if you will, an undersecretary for transportation which would deal with security.
But like Bob mentioned, they were really stuck in a previous decade. They are concentrating on baggage match and the baggage system. That, by the way, is not going to be finished, according to the bill, in 2003. And it has some really strange disconnect; things like the security companies don't have to be citizens, but the screeners do.
And also some mean season (ph) was inserted in there as well. Private citizens' insurance policies and their private pensions that they had in place before September 11 basically will be taken to reduce the liability of the airlines and the damage awards they might receive.
So there's a lot thrown in here that makes no sense. And we missed the would boat on things like intelligence in our systems.
KING: And Senator Hutchison, you were with us on Thursday night when the House defeated the Democrat-sponsored bill and turned against the Senate bill, which you supported.
How do you think the compromise is going to work out?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, let me first say that the Israeli-owned airline, El Al, does have government security screeners. And I think it is very important to note that, because they are considered the very best.
The contracting-out issue is very different in Europe than it is in the United States because they have -- they pay the pensions, they pay health care and it's a very different kind of a contracting-out. Now, I think we will end up with some contracting out. But where I see us going is perhaps a screener set that is trained, that probably are federal employees that would be able to be deployed to the security risk airports. And the security risk airports depend on what Mary said -- and that is intelligence, and knowing where the security threats will be at any given time.
And then I think you will also look at contracting out, perhaps, with law enforcement officials to do some of this work. So I think we have a long way to go; I do think we'll come together; and I think we must have a stronger system than is in place today.
KING: And let's get the thoughts of the former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board, who usually has to look at these things after the fact.
Jim Hall, what do you think of the two bills?
JIM HALL, FORMER NTSB CHAIRMAN: Well, Larry, I think the process is working. Both of the bills have good elements. You know, we don't need to try to be come up with very quick solutions. The most important thing is where this responsibility is going to be placed, ensuring that there is accountability built into the system. And the thing that, for some reason, doesn't get enough attention -- and that is adequate funding.
The basic problem in government is, unless you have adequate funding for some of these systems, they never get implemented and they never get technology. We have the innovation and the ability in the United States to have the safest aviation security system in the world. We have the best technology. We have the best people, whether they're public employees or in the private sector. We need to adequately fund someone and place the responsibility -- to me, is probably the most important part.
KING: Robert Crandall, why isn't it American Airlines' responsibility for my safety, rather than anyone else, when I fly American?
CRANDALL: Well, one of the problems with that is you've got -- in the first place, the government has always made the rules; and then the government created a system where the airlines have to compete with one another in terms of the cost to provide this. I might say, one of the reasons that the airline system hasn't worked very well is the fact that the airlines are very cost-competitive, the fact that people stay home if they are charged more money than they can afford to fly.
Let my give you an interesting statistic. For every dollar that we charge customers as a security fee, or as a ticket fee, or as a price, 1 million people will not fly. Now, to me it makes no sense to say we're going to have a great security system, which we need to have, and then turn around and say we're going to charge the passenger for it, thereby discouraging travel and slowing the recovery of the U.S. economy. I don't think that makes any sense.
KING: Who do you charge? CRANDALL: I think those charges should be paid by the U.S. government, the general funds of the U.S. government. And if we're talking about getting the economy back, and getting jobs back, and getting revenues back, this is one of the things the government really could do to stimulate the economy.
KING: We'll be right back with Robert Crandall, Mary Schiavo, Kay Bailey Hutchison, senator from Texas, and Jim Hall.
This is LARRY KING WEEKEND. Our entire show tonight dealing with the airlines and your safety. Don't go away.
KING: Mary Schiavo, how much should we know about each passenger boarding a plane?
SCHIAVO: Actually, we need to know an awful lot about each passenger boarding a plane. And that's why it's important that it really remain -- or get transferred into, rather, law enforcement function, because only the law enforcement agencies of this country can add the intelligence overlay on top of it -- who's on the watch list, who's on the INS list, who's being watched out for by ATF, FBI? We have many, many agencies that do that but, unfortunately, that's a federal law enforcement function.
So we have to know all that plus, I think, a biometric; some kind of an infallible personal identifier.
KING: Do you favor that, Senator Hutchison, a personal ID for everyone?
HUTCHISON: I do. And I think that that is what is going to really solve this problem. People are not going to wait in line for three hours, but they would probably volunteer to give this kind of information in order to avoid the lines so that you would cut down on the number of people that you would have to do the added checking for.
KING: So if you don't have it, you don't board?
HUTCHISON: Well, or -- no, it's not that. It's just that you're checked thoroughly, and your bags would be checked and, you know, you would go through a different process. But people who would volunteer to do the biometric and give the information would be able to go through with a card that is absolutely identifiable and not transferable.
KING: Jim Hall, do you support the concept of zero tolerance? Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta vowed to empty airports and hold all flights at the first sign of a security breakdown.
HALL: Oh, I think as a result of what happened on September 11 we have to insist on zero tolerance for the safety of our citizens. So yes, Larry, I would support that.
KING: Now Robert, what about flying now? If things haven't changed -- no bill has been passed, things haven't changed much except we do have National Guard. The obvious question, you've got Thanksgiving coming: Is flying safe?
CRANDALL: I think it's very safe, Larry...
KING: Despite all this?
CRANDALL: Well, despite all this.
the fact of the matter is that, look, flying has always been relatively safe. It's safer to take a flight than it is to drive to work; it's safer to take a flight than it is to take a shower, and I don't think either of us wants to stop doing those things.
It is not as safe as it can be. And I think everybody on this panel would agree that we want to have optimized aviation safety and optimized aviation convenience. And I hope we will soon make some progress towards that.
KING: Mary, 23 percent fewer people are flying this year than last, and I think reservations for Thanksgiving are down about 23 percent, and that's the busiest airline weekend of the year. Are those people right?
SCHIAVO: Well, they are because a lot of information has come to light. True, the system is better, but now people know because it's been debated very publicly, and some people have had to fess up that there are tremendous holes that we haven't been able to plug. And the FAA is projecting 2003 for some things, and 2014 for others. So we have a long haul.
KING: And Senator Hutchison, what happens if some tragedy happens, waiting for the haul?
HUTCHISON: Well, Larry, first of all let me say I don't think we're going to find something happening in an aircraft again. I think that passengers now are more savvy. I think -- I've noticed the flight attendants use those carts more. They really guard the cockpit. I think we are going to have to plug some other holes.
And I think the technology is there to screen the bags going into the belly I of the plane. We've just got to get it on-line and we've got to do it fast. We've got to plug holes at the airport. And I think that will come. We're working on it. I think we will get a get a good strengthening evening of the system.
And until we do that, I think that things are going well, but they could be better.
KING: Jim Hall, is it a good idea to, when you go to an airport, to worry? To watch, to look, to worry, and if you feel apprehensive, don't fly?
HALL: What the American people need to do is demand that the members of the House and Senate come together, give us a structure that's adequately funded. We have highway user fees in which all of us contribute for safety on our highway. There isn't a passenger out there that wouldn't be willing to pay a fee for adequate security in the system.
So I think the American people need to be active, following what's going on in this upcoming conference. And we need to come up with a long-term solution for this important issue.
KING: Of course, Robert Crandall, we do have a nervous clientele, don't you?
CRANDALL: Yes, we have a nervous clientele, Larry. And I don't blame people for being nervous, but I do think that although the system lacks many of the things we've talked about -- and I hope we'll get on and get those things done promptly -- nonetheless, the probability of having a safe flight is enormous. And I hope people will go ahead and take the trips they're going to make Thanksgiving and Christmas. I certainly plan to. I think it will be good for them, and I think it will be good for the U.S. economy.
KING: Mary, when you board a plane, what do you look for?
SCHIAVO: Actually, I have to confess, I'm like everybody else out there: I'm looking at other passengers, I'm listening to the announcements. I was on a flight a couple days ago out of Chicago, and they couldn't find the owner of some bags that had been loaded on the plane. And I said I want off the plane; and the flight attendant said, I'm going with her.
So like everybody else, I'm checking everyone else out, but I'm also listening to see what's going on.
KING: What kind of passenger are you, Senator Hutchison?
HUTCHISON: I feel very good about the safety of the system. And I have flown every weekend and during the week since September 11 because I see that people are trying. I see that there is more of an effort made. I see the added security.
It's not perfect. It will be better. But I think that today you are safe. And particularly the top part of the plane. I think we've got to get the machines for the baggage screening, which Mary has mentioned before as well. And if we can get those biometric identifiers, then we're going into what is really going to work for the long term.
KING: Jim Hall, what kind of passenger are you?
HALL: Well, I'm a frequent flyer. But like all Americans, I have ingrained in my mind the images of September 11. And it's extremely important that we do everything at all levels to assure Americans that the government is fulfilling its responsibility to provide adequate security. And I'm confident that the House and Senate can come together with a solution to this problem.
But again, Larry, it is -- it's got to be addressed in a responsible manner, and it's got to be adequately funded. KING: Thank you all very much. We appreciate it. We'll be calling on you again. Our entire program tonight looking at the airlines.
When we come back, the chairman of a major international airline, plus a flight attendant, plus a pilot, plus an air traffic controller. Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND: In London, Richard Branson, the chairman of Virgin Airlines. In Dallas, Captain John Darrah, president of the Allied Pilots Association. That's the association associated with American Airlines. In Washington, Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. And also in Washington, John Carr, president of the National Traffic -- of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Start with Richard Branson in London.
Is airline safety better handled in Europe?
RICHARD BRANSON, CHAIRMAN, VIRGIN ATLANTIC AIRWAYS: Yes, and I think that the UK in particular, because we've had the problems with Ireland. We've had some of the tightest, toughest safety regime perhaps anywhere in the world, maybe bar Israel. And therefore, international flying out of the UK has an impeccable safety record.
Having said that, in order to make our passengers feel more comfortable, Virgin Atlantic is introducing extra profiling on all our passengers. We put bulletproof doors on all our planes. And we're just adding those extra things to make absolutely sure that people feel comfortable and enjoy their flights.
KING: And you have done that without need for legislation to do it. Does Virgin airlines -- do you feel safe when one of your planes flies out of the United States to go somewhere?
BRANSON: I think on international flights, America has also been very good. And the safety record, again, on international flights is very good. I think everybody accepts that on domestic flights it has been lax in the past. And obviously that's what the debate is about.
But I think -- I believe that flying internationally out of America, people can feel comfortable and safe. And the most dangerous part of the journey is the car ride to the airport.
KING: Captain John Darrah, president Allied Pilots Association in Dallas, what do the pilots want that they now do not have?
CAPT. JOHN DARRAH, PRESIDENT, ALLIED PILOTS ASSOCIATION: The pilots want to make sure we have ensured an enhanced safety system out there, not like we had on September 11. I think what we can all conclude out of what's happened since that time frame is that the system we had in place at that time wasn't adequate for what we need in our safety of our national transportation safety system.
What we need is a layered type of system that starts out from the time a passenger checks in to the time they disembark at the end of their flight. A different-layered system that has -- a passenger checks in, that will have a profile in that will allow the agents to determine any type of background checks. Enhanced security systems. Checks at the gate to ensure that the passenger IDs match the boarding pass. Also screening of all of the passenger freight, the passenger mail, and also the bags.
Also, once they get on the airplanes we need to have enhanced safety items on the aircraft, such as training of our flight crews, both pilots and flight attendants in hijacking, anti-terrorism and defense. And also enhanced air marshals, which everybody is pushing for which, obviously, we support.
But also in addition to that, items such as cameras that monitor the cockpit so we can be ensured of what's occurring in the back of the aircraft. A system that allows a flight attendant to notify the cockpit crew that something is occurring in back of the cockpit. And also additional layers that prevent access into the cockpit, such as reinforced cockpit doors. And finally, arming of our pilots, which is the last line of defense for our crew members.
KING: And Patricia Friend, what do the flight attendants want they do not now have?
PATRICIA FRIEND, PRESIDENT, FLIGHT ATTENDANTS ASSOCIATION: We con concur, basically, with everything that the captain just listed. We believe it has to be an integrated system. The first line of defense has to be on the ground.
Really -- what really is missing, I think, in this debate is the fact that so many ground personnel have access to the aircraft and to the secure areas of the airport. And without any kind of screening they can carry anything in, and it's never X-rayed. We have moved very quickly to fortify the cockpit doors, a move that we support wholeheartedly. But that has essentially left us, the flight attendants and the passengers, without any means of defense in the cabin. And so we have got to move, and move quickly on training for flight attendants and some defensive means in the cabin.
KING: And John Carr, what's the effect of all this on the traffic controllers? One would think that they're in their rooms, they're highly trained, they're skilled, and they're just guiding planes in and out. Does it effect them whether the pilot can see into the rest of the plane?
JOHN CARR, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLERS ASSOCIATION: Well actually, Larry, we wholeheartedly support and endorse all of the recommendations, both from our brothers, the pilots, and the flight attendants as well. We believe that all of those measures are prudent.
But more to the point of our issue, we believe that we had need to increase security around air traffic control facilities nationwide. There are 325 air traffic control facilities that stretch from Guam to St. Thomas, and every single one of those has been tasked with additional duties and responsibilities as a result of the acts of September the 11th.
And we patrol the skies over nuclear power plants, large city centers, sporting events and other large areas that are critical to homeland security and national defense. And we think that those facilities, actually the guardians of that airspace, should at least have the same level of security as the ticket counters.
KING: Do you fear that a terrorist could take over a tower?
CARR: It's not necessarily that we fear a terrorist could take over a tower, but I have to tell you that the level of sophistication of the people that did those acts suggests to me that they are certainly cognizant of air traffic control procedures and technology; and it is not beyond believability to suggest that it's entirely possible that they might try to disable an air traffic control facility in order to have free reign.
KING: Richard, is an airline only as safe as the baggage that's checked on to it?
BRANSON: Well, again, all the baggage in the UK is properly screened. If a passenger doesn't turn up, the plane doesn't fly. So obviously it's very critical that you stick by that rule, and you never break that rule. And that's a rule that's existed in the UK for maybe 20 years.
KING: Do you know what's in the bag?
BRANSON: The bags are X-rayed, so we know the bags are safe that are on our planes. And as importantly, we know that the passengers of the bags are on the planes as well.
KING: Captain Darrah, frankly, are the pilots profiling?
DARRAH: Yes. Obviously, all the crew members, flight attendants, and our agents and all of our employees are making sure that we're cognizant of who is boarding our airplanes, who's in our terminals, and who's in our surroundings on the ramp. That -- actual profiling to determine if they see anything that's suspicion that they can highlight in any instance to some security officials to make sure we are operating in a safe manner.
KING: How has September 11, Patricia, changed the role of the flight attendant?
FRIEND: Well, it has increased the responsibilities incrementally. We have always been responsible for the safety of our passengers. Now we've added a new element of potential violence and brutality into the aircraft cabin. And we have become the -- one of the last lines of defense against that violence to protect -- defend ourselves and protect our passengers.
So we think that it really is inconceivable at this point that this is a safety and a security position that still remains unlicensed by the FAA.
KING: We'll be right back with our panel on this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND.
John Carr of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, what has changed inside the tower? What do -- what are the controllers thinking about now that maybe they didn't think about pre- September 11?
CARR: Well, Larry, air traffic control has -- it is an inherently governmental function. And as federal employees, we have always viewed our responsibility, not only as one of safety of flight, but also as one of national defense.
What has changed since September the 11th is that the procedures for ascertaining an aircraft's movement that perhaps is not exactly what was intended have been tightened down, and we are a lot quicker to take action, I would say, against aircraft that deviate from what we consider to be the accepted norms.
KING: So, in other words, if someone goes slightly off course, you're jumping in right away?
CARR: Yeah, that's substantially accurate. I mean, there are some things that, quite frankly, I can't discuss due to national security concerns, but if somebody goes slightly off course we are a lot quick to ascertain it, to take remedial action and then to take some other steps if necessary.
KING: And really off course, you take extreme action?
CARR: Yes, sir, that's correct.
KING: Richard, I know that airline owners, they are very competitive, but they are brothers in arms as well. Do you share the grief with your friends at United and American? I know that you're very interested -- Lisa Beamer is going to be with us in a little while. She lost her husband in that famed flight United Flight 93. Do you feel like brothers in arms?
BRANSON: Of course. I mean, I think in a situation like this, you know, competition is obviously put on one side, and you know, just trying to imagine that if it were one of our own planes or our own staff on board. I mean, it's sort of too unbearable to consider. So, what the staff of American and United have been through has been absolutely unbearable.
KING: And you know about the Lisa Beamer case, of course. Don't you?
BRANSON: I do. She's a remarkable woman, and we are doing collections on our planes at the moment for the Red Cross. We were also going to talk to her about maybe doing collections for her own charity, you know, some of the relatives of those people who have lost their lives in the planes.
KING: That's terrific.
BRANSON: But anyway, she's a remarkable lady.
KING: Captain Darrah, you want to be armed. Why?
DARRAH: We want to be armed as a last level of defense, if you will. We talked about the different layers that we would like to have within our system, but we think ultimately that the last line of defense of the cockpit would be the pilots, and given the situations we had on September 11, that given that if we weren't armed it would be a different scenario than if we were armed, that we would obviously hope that we put in situation in layers -- webs, as we call them -- to prevent a terrorist to commandeer an aircraft, but if it ever came to that point we would like to be able to defend ourselves so we did not have a recurrence of September 11.
I might add that daily we carry all types of different law enforcement officials, whether they'd be border patrol, customs, CIA, Secret Service on our aircraft, in addition to air marshals. So what we are advocating that it would be a voluntary basis and that we would have to go through adequate training procedures to ensure that there was a level of training and understanding before we were able to carry these weapons.
KING: Patricia, do you and your fellow members profile?
FRIEND: Every flight attendant in this country is on edge whenever we are at work these days. Alert to anything out of the ordinary, to any unusual behavior. And if you call that profiling, then I suppose that's what we do.
KING: What do you do if you spot someone that, frankly, you're suspicious of? What's the procedure? You just don't like this particular person, something rings wrong?
FRIEND: Well, one of the problems is that we have no clear procedures. There are -- we are getting no direction either from our airlines or from the FAA. It is handled on a case-by-case basis in discussion between the lead flight attendant and the captain about whether or not this person is, in fact, removed from the flight.
We had an incident over the weekend where, in fact, a passenger was removed from the flight for making a direct threat. However, the captain made the decision to go without removing the person's bags from the aircraft. So, these are the situations we are dealing with, the inconsistencies that we are dealing with on a day-to-day basis in the absence of any clear direction from the FAA.
KING: John, do the pilots have any special way to tell the controller they're in trouble without saying they've been hijacked?
DARRAH: Well, obviously, we have procedures in place, Larry, that we deal with on an emergency basis, but I think in the interests of national security that we don't go into those types of details that we use.
KING: John Carr, what do you fear the most?
CARR: Well, actually we stand supportive of the pilots and the flight attendants and their need to engage in self-defense mechanisms that will ensure the safety and the security of their aircraft.
From my perspective, I'm most concerned about protecting our air traffic control facilities. I believe that they serve as a network, as a web, as it were, that is inherently governmental in nature and that serves a key function in homeland security and national defense. And my number one priority is to try to get armed guards at all of our nation's air traffic control facilities, and that's job one for my folks.
KING: Richard Branson, do you want your pilots and flight attendants to be so cautionary as to say, "I want that person off the plane"?
BRANSON: Oh, it's very difficult. I think it would have to be a very, very, very rare occurrence, and there would have to be a very good reason for it. And I think it would be better to have them (UNINTELLIGIBLE) than actually ask them to get off the plane.
And what we are doing with our flight attendants, we are putting them all through a self-defense training course so every single one of our flight attendants within a month will have gone through a self- defense course, and that just makes them feel that much more comfortable. And if you've got 18 flight attendants on your plane who have been through that, it obviously gives an extra line of defense.
KING: Thank you all very much. Richard Branson, Captain John Darrah, Patricia Friend and John Carr.
And when we come back, we have heard the viewpoints of the people who fly and people who fly them and government officials. Next, we will talk with passengers. Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, in Dallas, Steve Martin and Janice Savage. They were passengers on American Airline Flight 785. That was the flight that left from New York and was diverted to Dulles out of a fear because of a note. Steve says he would fly again; Janice is not sure.
In New York is Lisa Beamer, the wife of Flight 93 hero Todd Beamer. He was one of those brave men that took down that flight in Pennsylvania. Lisa wound up taking that same flight later on.
And in Boston is Stephanie Holland Brodney. Her mother died aboard American Flight 11, that's the plane that hit the World Trade Center. She's trying to overcome her fear of flying. Let's start with Steve Martin and Janice Savage. Steve, is it true that you only went to New York in response to the plea of the mayor to come visit New York and have a good time, right?
STEVE MARTIN, ON FLIGHT DIVERTED FOR BOMB THREAT: Yes, Larry. Actually, I was given the trip from my chamber of commerce there in Duncanville, and we decided to go take this, and I had to do a little coaching to get Janice on the plane originally, and plus the fact that Rudy Giuliani's commercials -- he convinced her to go. So that's why we were there.
KING: Now Janice, you go to New York. Did you have a good time?
JANICE SAVAGE, ON FLIGHT DIVERTED FOR BOMB THREAT: It was great. It was great. It was really neat seeing the city. And it's really a small community, they just have lots of people there.
KING: Good way to -- excellent point of view about New York. All right, you take off, you're flying back non-stop New York to Dulles. What happened, Steve? New York to Dallas. What happened, Steve?
MARTIN: Well, we were about 25 to 30 minutes into the flight, and our captain had come on and told us it was going to be a beautiful night to fly, and we were at our cruising altitude, and they had started our drink service, and also we were looking for, you know, a comfortable flight. A little later he came back on and said, just as he promised, that it was going to be a great flight, that he was going to have to make a change in plans, and that a passenger aboard the plane had become uncomfortable about a note or something that she had heard, and he said he wanted everyone to be comfortable and safe in their transportation and in their flying, so he felt that we needed to make a stop in Dulles.
And that's all that we were told there, until we got on the ground, but we immediately stopped beverage service and we went through the crash procedures and evacuation procedures as we were approaching Dulles International Airport.
KING: Janice, what was that like for you?
SAVAGE: Very scary. Immediately, I grabbed the information packet out of the seat in front of me to read about evacuation, and they did go over crash procedures. They didn't tell us to get in the positions, though, but they did tell us that we were going to have to do an emergency evacuation.
KING: And you slid down the chute, right, Janice?
SAVAGE: Slid down the chute. I was in a seat that was close to the exits that were over the wings, and fortunately a lady was assisting us there that taught airplane evacuation to flight attendants. And she said to stay up and walk for a little while, which I was really glad because I just assumed I was supposed to get out and just start sliding. And when I came to the end of the wing portion, ready for the slide, which is truly a chute, I thought I can't go down there because, you know, my back. But I did think, it flashed across my mind, I said, "there's four other planes that didn't even have the option of going down a slide, so I can go down this slide."
KING: And you flew again back home, right?
KING: Lisa Beamer, were you ever afraid of flying?
LISA BEAMER, HUSBAND WAS ON FLIGHT 93 HERO: No, Todd flew all the time, and people would ask me if that bothers me, and I said, "no, he's much more in danger driving to work every day to his office here in New Jersey on the Turnpike." And it was true before September 11 and it's still true, so we were never afraid.
KING: By the way, when are you going to be a mother again?
BEAMER: Middle of January.
KING: All right. He -- that tragedy we all know about, he calls the GTA operator, she eventually tells you the whole story, and then you decide to fly that same flight. Weren't nervous at all?
BEAMER: Not really. Obviously, there's been a lot of things put in place that weren't in place on September 11. And listening to the people on the show prior to me, there's a lot of things that are continuing to be put in place. And we have a lot of work to do from a government level and an airline industry level, but, as an individual flyer, it's somewhat irrational to say I'm not going to fly anymore because four planes were taken over by terrorists on the 11th.
You know, even though I knew Todd was in the air on the morning of the 11th, even at that point I wasn't too afraid, because, you know, even if you did board a plane when Todd did, your chances of being on one of those plans that was hijacked was still relatively small. So, you know...
KING: You have an amazing way of looking at things, Lisa.
BEAMER: I try to be rational.
KING: You sure are.
In Boston is Stephanie Holland Brodney. Her mother died aboard American Flight 11. It hit the World Trade Center. Stephanie has been with us before. We know she is afraid of -- have you flown since?
STEPHANIE HOLLAND BRODNEY, MOM DIED ON AMERICAN FLIGHT 11: No, I have not. In fact, I was supposed to go to the family memorial service for the World Trade Center this past weekend, and I have a five-month-old daughter who hates the car, so flying was my only option, and I decided three days beforehand I just could not put myself and my five-month-old on that plane, even though it would have only been a 45-minute flight.
KING: Stephanie, are you afraid of terrorism, or are you afraid of flying itself?
BRODNEY: I think a combination of both. I think a lot of it is psychological. You know, I would go to the same airport that my mom had left from, and -- I know I will fly again. I don't want to be scared of flying. I don't want my children to grow up with a mother who is, you know, fearful of flying, but I'm really very concerned about aviation security, and I don't feel, at least at this point in time, that Boston's Logan Airport is doing everything that they can. And I would not feel comfortable flying out of that airport at the moment.
KING: Were you an comfortable passenger before your mother was killed?
BRODNEY: Yeah, it seemed like it. You know, when there were dips and stuff in the plane, I'd always sort of hold of, you know, hold my husband's hand, but I flew quite frequently. And so, no, I really wasn't scared of flying.
KING: We will be right back with our panel on this special edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Don't go away.
KING: Steve Martin, after that experience, which turned out to be a hoax, that note, are you afraid to fly?
MARTIN: Not at all.
KING: OK. What would you say to Stephanie?
MARTIN: That's a tough situation because of her ordeal, but I feel like that I am a lot safer in the air, Larry, in an airplane than I am driving down the Dallas North Tollway going home to Duncanville today.
KING: You totally feel that?
MARTIN: Totally feel that, 100 percent.
KING: And Lisa Beamer, what would you say -- or first, Janice, have you flown since?
SAVAGE: Just back from Reagan National to Dallas.
KING: OK. So Janice has not flown since. And are you fearful of flying?
SAVAGE: Yes, I am. It would be an effort to get on another plane right now.
KING: Lisa, what would you say to Janice? BEAMER: I totally understand her mentality, and people should do what's right for them and where their own minds and hearts take them, but, you know, just like I said, looking at things rationally and statistically, it's probably the safest way to travel any great distance. And truly, as I said the day I took the flight to San Francisco, the terrorists had some victories on September 11 and if we allow them to take over and change our daily lives anymore than they have already, we are only enabling to have more victories.
So that's kind of my thought process in flying, and it may take people longer to get there, but you know, they should do what makes them comfortable right now.
KING: Janice, apparently, the facts don't help, right? Steve says he's safer on the highway. You're not so sure.
SAVAGE: Right, well, just like in our situation it was a note, I'm not sure any of the improvements that they're going to be making or talking about making would solve that situation. That's just a person pulling a prank that -- at a really critical time, and I don't know how you solve that.
KING: Yes. Now, Stephanie, you mentioned about Logan. Is it something about Boston's Logan that particularly bothers you? Might you be able to fly easier out of Dulles in Washington?
BRODNEY: Oh, absolutely. I mean, two of the hijacked planes left Logan Airport. And, you know, within -- right -- a week after September 11 some guy just -- you know, a passenger on a plane walked right through without -- you know, not being stopped by anybody.
It's very -- I'm very disappointed in the slow change that's been taking place at Logan. I have a friend who just flew, and she had her baby in her backpack. And she expected that, you know, they're going to take the baby out and to check all the compartments in the backpack. She just walked right through; they didn't stop her. And you know, when she was flying home from Cleveland they took the baby out, they took apart the backpack.
And so I just feel that Logan, you know, should be a step ahead of everybody else, especially since two of the jets left there. And they're not.
KING: Good point. Steve, are you -- you're not concerned about anything going wrong with the airplane and you know how safe it is. Are you concerned about terrorism?
MARTIN: Not, actually. The security measures -- I've never seen anything like what we went through. In fact, on our return flight trying to get home, the American Airlines agent actually gave us -- wrote on my boarding pass from the prior 785 flight and said take this to Gate 28 and pick up your boarding passes there. Well, when went through the checkpoint the lady wouldn't allow us because we didn't have proper boarding passes. And I explained that, hey, we were on the flight. She didn't let us go still. She said, I'm sorry, I have a job to do; and I respect that. KING: Janice, you think it's going to take time?
SAVAGE: Yes, I do. You know, I love to travel. I really do. And that's the quickest way to get there. And whatever the government and everyone that's been on your show comes up with to solve, you know, our problems and go on to the next step, I'm all in favor of it.
If it's the taxpayer paying, if it's as an individual that flies pays, I don't care, because I'm interested in the safety. I'd like them to check all of our bags, not just a random 10 percent. I'd do whatever measures are necessary. It's kind of interesting though, the morning of the bomb threat I was taking a ride in a carriage through Central Park. And then that evening, just an unreal situation. And I'd pick the carriage ride right now.
KING: Stephanie, are you -- eventually you say you will fly; you don't want to grow up being nervous. What steps do you take? Do you get help, or do you just hope the government takes more action? Would that impress you?
BRODNEY: Oh, absolutely. And, you know, I don't know the particulars of the aviation bill they passed yesterday. But, I mean, it has to -- you have to do something. And I think that the steps are being taken. And as Lisa said, you know, everyone has their own timeline. And I definitely -- I will get on a plane again because I am not -- you know, all the larks in the family live in southern California, and I am not driving cross country with two children under the age of 3.
So I will get on a plane again. It's just going to take some time.
KING: And Lisa, as you now fly and try to live a kind of normal life, your life will never be normal will it, ever?
BEAMER: It might go back to some shade of normal, but not what we had hoped and dreamed that it would be. And that's kind of the reality that I'm now dealing with day to day, just kind of living in this new life and kind of starting to look forward to some of the realities of how it will change, and admitting those, and getting ready to make the best of them. So that's kind of my perspective right now.
KING: Do you want to go to work? Do you want to...
BEAMER: I have a really great job. I was a full-time job with two boys before this, and soon to be three, so that's kind of my job for the foreseeable future, and...
KING: Have you received moneys already from the airlines or other people or anyone for your own living?
BEAMER: The Red Cross was real helpful with their initial gift to families, all the families involved in this, and United Airlines gave us an initial amount to cover some expenses, so those two have been there. And obviously, they'll be litigation, some things coming down the road in the future that we are not sure about right now.
KING: Steve and Janice, they at least fly you free?
MARTIN: Well, our flight almost paid for it, so that part -- we had some problems with American, but hopefully we will get it all taken care of.
KING: And Stephanie, we wish you the best, and we are sorry about your mom, and, of course, Lisa, sorry about your husband. Happy Steve and Janice are safe. And thank you all for participating in this, we really appreciate it.
We tried to give you an overview of this airline security problem with people at all ends of it. Hope you liked this edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND. Tomorrow night, we are going to present highlights of all the journalists who have appeared on this show over the last six, seven weeks. And one of the guests on Monday night will be Ed Bradley of CBS News.
We want to dedicate tonight's closing music to the memory of those who died aboard American Airlines Flight 11 and 77 and United Airlines Flight 175 and 93. Our thoughts and our prayers are with their families and their friends.
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