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P.C. Air Security - When will our pilots be armed?
National Review Online ^ | September 2, 2003 | John R. Lott, Jr.

Posted on 12/10/2003 1:51:06 AM PST by snopercod

It has been almost two years since 9/11 and yet recent news headlines warn "Al Qaeda May Be Planning More Hijack Attacks." Unfortunately, our air-travel system is still very vulnerable to hijacking, and quick measures need to be taken. Another successful attack would make it very difficult to again restore travelers' faith in security. Last week, pilots from around the country held rallies in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and Washington, D.C. to draw attention to their concerns. Consider the following:

For example, without full-body searches there is no way to detect ceramic or plastic knives that are taped to an inside thigh. People who have flown can readily understand that while the checks are troublesome, they are simply not patted down all over their body. Unless you are going to do full-body searches on people, determined terrorists are going to be able to get weapons on planes no matter how carefully screeners monitor x-ray machines and metal detectors.

THE COSTS
Despite the gaps, these three programs have proven to be very costly. Potential cuts in airport screeners have generated a great deal of concern. Mentions of possible financial problems involving the marshals program have also been in the news.

Yet, with the ineffectiveness of screeners and so few marshals, such cuts do not pose the real threat. In terms of cost effectiveness it is hard to think of a policy that produces the ratio of benefits to costs that arming pilots has. For example, the only real financial cost to the government for pilots involves a one-week training class. Even then pilots are training on their own time. There are none of the salaries required for marshals or screeners once the training is completed.

Only $8 million of the $5 billion available to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) for airline security is being spent on arming pilots. A five-fold increase in expenditures on arming pilots would reduce other expenditures by only about one percent.

UNDERMINING THE PROGRAM
Unfortunately, despite Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge recently voicing public support for arming pilots, the TSA has fought the program at every turn. After two years since the first attacks and two laws passed overwhelmingly by Congress to start training pilots, only about 200 out of over 100,000 commercial passenger pilots are licensed to carry guns.

Following what seemed like a successful first class of pilots this spring, the TSA fired the head of the firearms training academy, Willie Ellison, for "unacceptable performance and conduct."

Ellison, who won the praise of the students, was reprimanded for holding a graduation dinner for the first graduation class and giving them baseball caps with the program logo.

The training facility was closed down and relocated immediately after the first class, prompting Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the Aviation Subcommittee, to complain that the closing appeared to be "just another attempt to disrupt the program."

On top of all the delays, the administration has done what it can to discourage pilots from even applying for the armed-pilot program.

The intrusive application form pilots are required to fill out warns them that the information obtained by the Transportation Security Administration is "not limited to [the pilot's] academic, residential, achievement, performance, attendance, disciplinary, employment history, criminal history record information, and financial and credit information."

The information can be turned over to the Federal Aviation Administration and used to revoke a pilot's commercial license. As one pilot told me, "The Transportation Security Administration is viewed as hostile to pilots, and pilots are afraid that if they are not viewed as competent for the [armed-pilots] program, they may be viewed as not competent to continue being pilots."

The screening and psychological testing required of the pilots are also much more extensive and intrusive than that required for the vast majority of air marshals who are currently on duty. Some questions even appear designed to purposefully disqualify pilot applicants.

About half the pilots applying for the program were rejected in the initial screening process. No explanations for those rejections have been provided, making the entire system unaccountable. In the last week or so, the TSA apparently has come to reconsider some of those rejections and called pilots to tell them that the decisions had been made too quickly. But with all the secrecy surrounding the process it is impossible to evaluate whether those who continue to be rejected deserve to be. It is hard to think of any reason why the applicant can't be told even in even the most general way the basis for rejections. The initial high rates of rejection have certainly put a chill on applications.

HARDLY EXPERIMENTAL
Despite all the concern about hypothetical risks, arming pilots is not some new experiment. About 70 percent of the pilots at major American airlines have military backgrounds, and military pilots flying outside the U.S. are required to carry handguns with them whenever they flew military planes.

Until the early 1960s, American commercial passenger pilots on any flight carrying U.S. mail were required to carry handguns. The requirement started at the beginning of commercial aviation to insure that pilots could defend the mail if their plane were to ever crash. In contrast to the current program, there were no training or screening requirements. Indeed, pilots were still allowed to carry guns until as recently as 1987. There are no records that any of these pilots (either military or commercial) carrying guns have ever caused any significant problems.

TYPICAL OBJECTIONS
There are many concerns that have been raised about arming pilots or letting them carry guns, but armed pilots actually have a much easier job than air marshals. An armed marshal in a crowded cabin can be attacked from any direction; he must be able to quickly distinguish innocent civilians from terrorists. An armed pilot only needs to concern himself with the people trying to force their way into the cockpit. It is also much easier to defend a position such as the cockpit, as a pilot would, than to have to pursue the terrorist and physically subdue them, as a marshal would. The terrorists can only enter the cockpit through one narrow entrance, and armed pilots have time to prepare themselves as hijackers try to penetrate the strengthened cockpit doors.

Pilots must also fly the airplane, but, with two pilots, one pilot would continue flying the plane while the other defended the entrance. In any case, if terrorists are in the cockpit, concentrating on flying will not be an option.

An oft-repeated concern during the debate over arming pilots is that hijackers will take the guns from them, since "21 percent of [police] officers killed with a handgun were shot by their own service weapon." (Similar concerns are frequently raised when discussing civilians using guns for their personal protection.) But the FBI's Uniform Crime Report paints a quite different picture. In 2000, 47 police officers were killed with a gun, out of which 33 cases involved a handgun, and only one of these firearm deaths involves the police officer's gun. It is really not that easy to grab an officer's gun and shoot him. Assaults on police are not that rare, but only in a miniscule fraction of assaults on officers do officers end up losing control and being shot with their own gun. Statistics from 1996 to 2000 show that only eight thousandths of one percent of assaults on police resulted in them being killed with their own weapon.

The risk to pilots would probably be even smaller. Unlike police who have to come into physical contact with criminals while arresting them, pilots will use guns to keep attackers as far away as possible.

Unable to accept pilots carrying guns, the administration continues to float suggestions for Tasers (stun guns) instead of guns, ignoring their limitations. Not only are there well-known cases such as Rodney King who "fought off tasers" twice, but thick clothing can also foil their effectiveness. The New York City police department reports that: "Even Taser guns — which the department uses to administer electric shocks to people — fail about a third of the time." Because of these problems, even the Taser manufacturer recommends lethal weapons as a back up. Use against terrorists would be even less reliable since terrorists would prepare in advance to wear clothing or take other precautions to protect themselves from stun guns.

The fears of having guns on planes are exaggerated. As Ron Hinderberger, director of aviation safety at Boeing, noted in testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives:

Boeing commercial service history contains cases where guns were fired on board in service airplanes, all of which landed safely. Commercial airplane structure is designed with sufficient strength, redundancy, and damage tolerance that a single or even multiple handgun holes would not result in loss of an aircraft. A bullet hole in the fuselage skin would have little effect on cabin pressurization. Aircraft are designed to withstand much larger impacts whether intentional or unintentional. For instance, on 14 occasions Boeing commercial airplanes have survived, and landed, after an in flight bomb blast.

SKY MILES YET
The Bush administration can hardly claim confidence that its screening, reinforced doors and air marshals are enough. A successful attack will make it very difficult for the government to restore travelers' confidence for years. The damage to the airline industry would be even greater than after the first attack.

Protecting people should be as important as protecting the mail once was.

John Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of The Bias Against Guns.


TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Culture/Society; Extended News; Government
KEYWORDS: airlinesecurity; armedpilots; bang; banglist; faa; guns; homeland; johnlott; pilots; security; taa
If this was previously posted, I couldn't find it.
1 posted on 12/10/2003 1:51:06 AM PST by snopercod
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To: Southack
Unable to accept pilots carrying guns, the administration continues to float suggestions for Tasers...

More disinformation?

2 posted on 12/10/2003 1:52:26 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: snopercod
Is the Secretary of Administration trying to help the President or harm him?
3 posted on 12/10/2003 1:56:28 AM PST by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
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To: snopercod
The Clintonistas in the TSA are fighting tooth and nail to make sure we can't prevent another 9-11. Its almost like they want to prevent armed pilots from flying by design. One has to mystified by their rejection of the best and surest way to keep terrorists from hijacking aircraft in U.S airspace in the future.
4 posted on 12/10/2003 1:57:14 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: goldstategop
The President is in charge of the TSA, is he not?
5 posted on 12/10/2003 2:00:17 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: snopercod
Excuse me but anyone qualified to fly the damn plane is qualified to carry a weapon.
6 posted on 12/10/2003 2:00:40 AM PST by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: snopercod
Yes. Isn't it time to clean house over there? Or do we have to wait for more Americans to be killed before it happens? The solution to our security problem happens to be the simplest - and also the most obvious one. Political correctness will be the death of us all unless its gotten rid of quickly.
7 posted on 12/10/2003 2:02:26 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Kozak
Agreed. None of the objections to armed pilots are persuasive.
8 posted on 12/10/2003 2:03:03 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: snopercod
Pilots must also fly the airplane, but, with two pilots, one pilot would continue flying the plane while the other defended the entrance. In any case, if terrorists are in the cockpit, concentrating on flying will not be an option.

Actually most likely "George" the autopilot will be flying the plane under these conditions. Freeing both pilots to defend the cockpit.
9 posted on 12/10/2003 2:05:18 AM PST by Kozak (Anti Shahada: " There is no God named Allah, and Muhammed is his False Prophet")
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To: goldstategop
The solution is to arm the passengers, not the pilots.
10 posted on 12/10/2003 2:12:43 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: snopercod
Following what seemed like a successful first class of pilots this spring, the TSA fired the head of the firearms training academy, Willie Ellison, for "unacceptable performance and conduct."

Ellison, who won the praise of the students, was reprimanded for holding a graduation dinner for the first graduation class and giving them baseball caps with the program logo.

There has to be more to this part of the story than that.

The training facility was closed down and relocated immediately after the first class, prompting Oregon Representative Peter DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the Aviation Subcommittee, to complain that the closing appeared to be "just another attempt to disrupt the program."

Just a WAG, but was the training facility located in DeFazio's district?

11 posted on 12/10/2003 2:32:09 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: leadpenny
Pilots will be armed and gun control issues will be abandoned when politicians fear terrorism MORE than the possibility that armed citizens might stage a rebellion against the politician's insane spending and regulation.
12 posted on 12/10/2003 3:40:05 AM PST by meenie
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To: snopercod
Since his inaurguration, Bush has continually failed to sweep the lefty Clintonistas from Federal agencies.

Bush's stated policies are continually undermined by them.

Maybe it's just that he does not realize how much the lefty Clintonistas hate him and want him to fail.

Nevertheless, it's time to take a really big broom and clean house; it's nearly too late.

13 posted on 12/10/2003 3:46:02 AM PST by auntdot
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To: meenie
I'd go further than that. I still believe that anyone authorized to carry a gun (federal, state or pvt citizen) should be allowed to carry a weapon on commercial flights. The only stipulation (as it is now), each armed individual needs to know where every other armed individual is sitting. BTW, I'm not authorized to carry.
14 posted on 12/10/2003 3:46:14 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: leadpenny
Virginia is a "shall issue" state.
15 posted on 12/10/2003 3:57:17 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: goldstategop; Kozak
It's just a damn shame that too many people in our society are afraid of guns. Did you two hear about that school drug raid in a South Carolina High School where police officers went in the hallways with their pistols drawn? It's debatable if the actions of the police were over the top - I happen to think that the only reason it's viewed that way is because it happened to be guns and not nightsticks.

I happen to think that the officers did the right thing; God knows what kind of debate we would have had had no weapons been drawn and an officer been injured or killed by a student's weapon. In the end, this queasiness of guns we have in our society and the hostility towards the 2nd amendment have no business existing in this day and age of terror. But since it does exist, it doesn't surprise me any that three of four passenger planes were taken over, by force, by individuals with box-cutters.

The president should make this one of the many issues he'll run his reelection campaign on. The weak sisters out their need to have the dangers and the solutions spelled out for the @$$es.

16 posted on 12/10/2003 4:00:05 AM PST by LowCountryJoe
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To: ArrogantBustard
I don't know what that means.
17 posted on 12/10/2003 4:00:43 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: meenie

Yes!


18 posted on 12/10/2003 4:03:18 AM PST by LowCountryJoe
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To: leadpenny
You're flying a Virginia flag on your profile page. I ass-u-me that means you are a legal resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia, USA.

If that is, in fact, the case, you are most fortunate. If you are older than 21 years of age, are not legally barred from owning a firearm, and have received certain minimal firearms training, then upon receipt of your application the judge of the circuit court in the county of your residence shall issue to you a permit, good for five years, to carry a concealed handgun.

Interested? Mash here for the application form SP-248.

19 posted on 12/10/2003 4:10:43 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: ArrogantBustard
Kinda figured it was something along those lines. I have just not felt the need to have the authorities know anymore about me than they already do. If someday I feel the need to be armed, I guess I'll go through their "blessing" process.
20 posted on 12/10/2003 4:15:38 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: snopercod
Pilots of cargo jets should be required to carry.
21 posted on 12/10/2003 4:18:20 AM PST by aculeus
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To: leadpenny
FWIW ...

Virginia is also an "open carry" state. IOW, it is legal to carry a handgun, no permit required, if it is not concealed. In most urban areas, though, that's probably inviting hasslement from the cops for "disturbing the peace" or some such nonsense. For more information on being personally armed in Virginia, check out the Virginia Citizens Defense League.

22 posted on 12/10/2003 4:23:15 AM PST by ArrogantBustard
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To: snopercod
I believe pilots should be allowed to keep firearms in the cockpit. That being said, I also believe that it would be a near impossibility for any muslim terrorists to take over another American aircraft as they did in 2001. At that time, the mantra was "stay calm, give them what they want, nothing worse will happen". They caught the flight crews and passengers by surprise, cowing them into submission with extreme violence against passengers and crew, and having their way - until the word got out and on Flight 93 the crew and passengers resisted. Yes, they died, but the muslims did no further damage to structures and people on the ground.

Today, in the air, "stay calm" is not an option. Many passengers, in my experience, carefully eye boarding individuals, I know I look at everyone sitting in 1st class (I don't usually fly there), plus I look down the length of the cabin to see if there are any obviously arab or muslim elements. Especially to see if there are any seated together or in close proximity to one another and to cabin choke points. I keep potential weapons (carryon bag strap with buckle, two Uni-Ball fine point pens, my own belt with buckle) at the ready and "sleep" with one eye open. I look for individuals moving about the cabin and locate male passengers who I believe would be valuable allies in a tussle. It's up to us, people, to assure our own safety today. The US government, try as it may, cannot make things perfectly safe. But, I'm not about to let any muslims pricks take me and my family down without a fight to the death.

We are all Minutemen in this war, just like in 1776. It's the same thing now as then - a war for independence against Islam that we cannot lose.
23 posted on 12/10/2003 5:11:19 AM PST by astounded
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To: leadpenny
There is a proposal for just that. The requirements to carry onboard an aircraft are 1. A CCW permit, 2. Frangible ammunition, 3. Self-training by reading a pamphlet, 4. Some secret means of identification to other legal carriers.

I posted the link earlier, but can't seem to find it.

In the meantime, this is a good site: Project: Safe Skies

24 posted on 12/10/2003 5:23:32 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: aculeus
Pilots of cargo jets should be required to carry.

Until the early sixties, pilots of any aircraft carrying U.S. mail were required to carry.

25 posted on 12/10/2003 5:26:01 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: snopercod
Our pilots should be armed as soon as possible. I think tasers should also be at their disposal, should they choose. However, the gun is necessary for the protection of the passengers.
26 posted on 12/10/2003 5:28:14 AM PST by mysterio
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To: astounded
We are all Minutemen in this war, just like in 1776.

Exactly. Now if we could only convince the federal government of that. They are making the situation much more dangerous by disarming law-abiding passengers. Perhaps even worse is that they are killing off the airlines.

What I propose is a free market in security. Let airline A run it's own security. Let them perform whatever screening and profiling they want, and let law-abiding passengers carry. Allow them to put video cameras anywhere they want in the cabin.

Airline B can disarm everybody and let the TSA drones perform all security.

Then let the flying public decide on which airline they want to fly.

27 posted on 12/10/2003 5:32:48 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: snopercod
About half the pilots applying for the program were rejected in the initial screening process. No explanations for those rejections have been provided, making the entire system unaccountable.

As usual, almost everything coming out of the TSA is insane. Bush needs to get over there and clean house before another airplane attack. This is a real trojan horse.

I would bet Federal Air Marshalls aren't as highly screened as most commercial pilots - nor after they are hired, are half consequently turned down for their most important duty!

There is an agenda at work here, and it has nothing to do with aircraft security.

28 posted on 12/10/2003 6:05:33 AM PST by Gritty ("Arms of individual citizens may be used at individual discretion in private self-defense-John Adams)
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To: snopercod; ArrogantBustard
Thanks to you both. Gotta go make a buck.
29 posted on 12/10/2003 6:12:33 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: goldstategop
The Clintonistas in the TSA are fighting tooth and nail to make sure we can't prevent another 9-11.

So, Clintoon created and staffed the TSA? Wouldn't you consider that to be a bit of a stretch? Give credit/blame where it's due, this is a G W Bush monster, pure and simple. Blackbird.

30 posted on 12/10/2003 7:38:12 AM PST by BlackbirdSST
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To: *bang_list
Bang
31 posted on 12/10/2003 7:56:54 AM PST by Atlas Sneezed (Police officials view armed citizens like teachers union bosses view homeschoolers.)
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To: snopercod
Then let the flying public decide on which airline they want to fly.

"I, Pencil". Let the free market decide. Economic Darwinism. I would absolutely REFUSE to fly on an airline that restricted my Right to carry, if there were an airline available that welcomed my addition to their security. Heck, I'd even buy my own frangible "airplane safe" rounds should they so require it.

32 posted on 12/10/2003 8:07:12 AM PST by Dead Corpse (For an Evil Super Genius, you aren't too bright are you?)
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To: snopercod
What I propose is a free market in [passenger airline]security.

Have you wrote Senator Dole in order to propose your idea? What about contacting pundits like Water Williams, Thomas Sowell, or Bruce Bartlett? Believe it or not those three do read their e-mail and sometimes even respond either directly or in what they write in their columns. This would be a very worthy and viable subject to be debated in a larger, national forum.

33 posted on 12/10/2003 8:45:03 AM PST by LowCountryJoe
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To: snopercod
"The solution is to arm the passengers, not the pilots."

Hear hear! Works for me . IIRC didnt Archie Bunker say that???
34 posted on 12/10/2003 8:48:51 AM PST by JETDRVR
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To: LowCountryJoe
Good idea. I'll do that.
35 posted on 12/10/2003 10:13:36 AM PST by snopercod (The federal government will spend $21,000 per household in 2003, up from $16,000 in 1999.)
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To: AmericanVictory
Whoops! It should be Transportation.
36 posted on 12/10/2003 8:28:25 PM PST by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
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To: AmericanVictory
Whoops! It should be Transportation.
37 posted on 12/10/2003 8:28:46 PM PST by AmericanVictory (Should we be more like them, or they like us?)
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