Pilots and flight attendants from each airline have forums and Facebook groups in which company policy can be discussed and stories can be exchanged. One United Airlines FA apparently shared too much, in posting a numeric door code online used to access the cockpit.
When I heard about this, my first thought was, “Do all the planes have the same door code?”
United won’t say.
Can United remotely reset the codes or must each door be re-programmed individually?
United won’t say. (One pilot told CBS it must “likely” be done manually)
Is a numeric door code all that is necessary for flight deck access?
Probably not, but United’s won’t say.
United won’t say much of anything, but did release a statement stating:
The safety of our customers and crews is our top priority. United utilizes a number of measures to keep our flight decks secure beyond door-access information.
The Wall Street Journal confirmed the information was posted on a public website by a FA, but did not share which one. The leak is not related to the worldwide ransomware attacks.
In an internal note to FAs and pilots, United stated that corrective actions are already underway.
Here’s what I know–United uses a peephole rather than a camera, but protocol is for a pilot to verify who is coming in even if the correct code is entered. The code itself does not unlock the door, it simply signals to the pilot that it likely someone trusted.
Then again, and this is only me speculating as a first class passenger having watched hundreds of pilots come in and out of the flight deck for bathroom breaks, it seems that sometimes pilots simply quickly enter the code and pull door open.
So perhaps there are a various security settings, one of which allows for immediate access and the other which requires the flight deck door to be opened from the inside even with a correct code.
A lot of speculation, but United promises it has taken corrective action already and you are not in jeopardy. No flights were delayed or canceled as a result of this security breach. Still, you’d think someone would think twice before posting that info online…
(top image Paul Martin Lester / Wikimedia Commons)