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KEEPING PILOTS UNARMED ^ | January 28, 2004 | By Steven Bernstein

Posted on 01/28/2004 2:18:52 AM PST by Main Street

On November 19, 2002, the Homeland Security Act, H.R. 5005, was enacted into law, authorizing the training and certification of commercial airline pilots in the use of firearms, to protect the cockpit against hijackers.

The Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) training program, administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), graduated the first weekly class of 48 volunteer pilots in April 2003. However, the second weekly class of 48 didn't graduate until July 2003, and as of January 2004, more than two years after the horrific attacks of September 11, 2001, only "500 to 800" out of more than 100,000 commercial airline pilots, who fly 11 million flights per year, have been firearms certified.(1)

As mandated by Congress, the goal of the FFDO program is to quickly train and certify large numbers of pilots in the use of firearms, to provide a credible deterrent to hijackers bent on taking over an airliner. However, even if the TSA doubles the number of weekly graduates, less than 1% of commercial airline flights will be FFDO protected by October, 2004.(2) What are the reasons that so few pilots have been firearms-trained?

Simply put, the TSA's intimidating background screenings, which involve intrusive psychological tests; its threats of sharing its opinion of the pilot's psychological fitness with the FAA and the pilot's employer; its refusal to issue standard federal credentials to FFDO graduates; its ridiculous requirement that the firearm be carried in a lockbox onto the airplane, instead of on the FFDO's person; its use of only one distant training facility; its instructions to Federal Air Marshals to police the FFDO's; and its arbitrary and unnecessary disqualifications of FFDO candidates, have combined to discourage most of those pilots who would have otherwise volunteered.(3)

TSA has also refused to consider private firearms training academies, either as an alternative or as a supplement to their own training program.

All FFDO candidates must first complete a detailed and intrusive thirteen-page application form, then submit to a similarly intrusive and grueling three-hour written psychological exam, then submit to an interview with a government psychologist.(4) A large percentage of FFDO candidates are screened out by these procedures, however, making it through the pre-training exam and interview do not guarantee successful graduation. One FFDO candidate, a former DEA and US Customs Agent, was disqualified by the TSA one hour before graduation. No reason was given.

Concerning the fitness of those who are screened out, one FFDO candidate stated, "...the USAF trusted me for over 28 years to be responsible for several types of multi-million dollar jet fighters...The USAF considered me psychologically sound enough to be directly responsible for nuclear weapons...As a full Colonel and fighter wing commander I was responsible and accountable for leading and training (over 1000) warriors, maintaining F-16 fighters, and thousands of tons of sophisticated weapons. I find it ironic that I was responsible for...jet fighters and training...pilots, and yet a TSA psychologist has determined I am unreliable to carry a weapon in my own airliner..."(5)

No other federal law enforcement agency disqualifies so many highly competent people.

Airline pilots must fly at the sufferance of the federal government, and Airline Captains must earn and hold an Airline Transport Pilot's Certificate (ATPC), issued by the FAA. This certificate is subject to revocation, and pilots are subject to termination of employment upon their failure to meet any of the standards imposed by constant evaluations during their flying careers. However, the TSA has the power to summarily revoke the ATPC of FFDO candidates, resulting in termination of employment, if they consider him/her a "security threat."(6)

Everyone involved with the FFDO training program, except the TSA, is very concerned with the lockbox requirement, that is, how the firearm is carried onto and off of the airplane. According to John Mazor, of the Airline Pilots Association, the firearm is now carried onto the plane "in a lockbox,” which is itself in "an inconspicuous little bag." However, the FFDO must place the firearm in the box, every time he/she goes on or off duty, leaves the cockpit while on duty, or "deadheads"--flies as a passenger--in the passenger cabin.

According to Brian Darling, spokesman for the Airline Pilots Security Alliance (APSA), "No other federal Agent is forced to carry firearms in a lockbox. This may be why so many pilots have failed to volunteer for the program." In addition, the FFDO must carry the "inconspicuous little bag" at all times, marking him conspicuously and making theft of the firearm more likely. The APSA has estimated that the average pilot must put the firearm into or take it out of the lockbox 160 times per month, or roughly 8 times per day.(7) This practice is at best very burdensome, and increases the chance that the firearm might be lost, especially if the FFDO has to carry the boxed firearm to and from the aircraft cargo compartment for transport.

The TSA however, has acknowledged that FFDO bags containing firearms will be lost by airline baggage personnel, especially as more FFDO's graduate. Such a loss might entail the evacuation of the entire concourse area. The best way for the FFDO to carry the firearm onto the airplane, as Mazor stated, "is in the holster on his person,” which would eliminate the uncertainty and potential for chaos created by the FFDO having to carry his/her firearm around in a lockbox.

However, FFDO's are not issued standard federal credentials, because, as the TSA has stated, the FFDO's will use badges "to get out of traffic tickets."(8) TSA fails to acknowledge that lack of proper identification/credentials will not only make it difficult for other law enforcement officers to identify FFDO's, but could also prove dangerous.

In addition, FFDO candidates must pay their own way to and from the training site, pay for their own room and board while training, and sustain the loss of one week's income, which in some cases amounts to well over a thousand dollars. In September 2003 the training site was relocated from Glynco, Georgia, fairly close to Atlanta, to the remote location of Artesia, New Mexico. Artesia is 186 miles from the nearest city, Lubbock, Texas.(9) Presumably the training was relocated to Artesia because that site has jetliner mock-ups for training. However, jetliner mock-ups could conceivably be installed at another, more convenient site, and there is no reason why Artesia has to be the only site for FFDO training.

Congress mandated the FFDO program to train large numbers of pilots in a short period of time: two years or less. Unless the number of FFDO graduates increases dramatically between January and November, 2004, the number of graduates will not even amount to two percent of the total number of commercial airline pilots, and will not even begin to provide a deterrent to hijackers targeting the 11 million commercial airline flights occurring annually.

The responsibility for this pathetic state of affairs lies squarely with the TSA, an out-of-control and irresponsible government agency that has done everything it can to intimidate and threaten FFDO candidates. TSA has also placed a myriad of obstacles in the way of armed pilots successfully defending the cabin against hijackers, thereby giving the green light to terrorists bent on flying another jetliner into a skyscraper, and increasing the chances that a U.S. plane will be forced to shoot down a terrorist-commandeered airliner.

As Brian Darling states, "The TSA's implementation (of the FFDO training program) is woeful. We (APSA) are really concerned about the TSA's implementation of the program."

Americans can only ponder why the TSA, a U.S. government agency, has so blatantly abdicated their congressionally mandated responsibility to protect the lives of American citizens, and to stop those who are trying to destroy Western civilization.


1. Article, "Pilots Still Unarmed," by John Lott Jr., New York Post Online, 1/6/04

2. Airline Pilots Security Alliance-Report to the House Aviation Subcommittee on the Status of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, October 29, 2003.

3. Ibid.

4. Article, "Where are the Armed Pilots?", by Captain Tracey W. Price, at www.


6. Article, "Where are the Armed Pilots?" as in #4

7. ASPA-Report to the House Aviation Subcommittee on the Status of the FFDO Program, as in #2

8. Ibid.

9. Article, "Where are the Armed Pilots?" as in #4

Other Sources

Authors conversation with John Mazor, Airline Pilots Association, Herndon Virginia, November 2003.

Authors conversation with Brian Darling, Airline Pilots Security Alliance, Washington DC, 1/9/04.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Culture/Society; Editorial; Extended News; Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; Government; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: airlines; airseclist; armedpilots; banglist; ffdo; firearms; government; guns; pilots; terrorists
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"The Transportation Security Administration was supposed to train and arm thousands of pilots. Where are they?"
1 posted on 01/28/2004 2:18:52 AM PST by Main Street
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To: Main Street
Blame anti-gun bureaucrats in TSA. Congress should pass a shall issue CCW law that would force the TSA to give permits to pilots in a manner similar to that in states where there's a uniform shall issue CCW permit system in place. In other words, take away the bureaucrats' discretion to throw up roadblocks in the way of our pilots being armed.
2 posted on 01/28/2004 2:23:17 AM PST by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
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To: Main Street
Just because (supposedly) conservative people run the government does not mean that the rank and file government drone is conservative. Liberals tend to thrive in the unionized government labor pool and they don't want (little) people to have guns.

Another observation is that arming every pilot might just might reduce the number of government employees that would be hired, and that'd hurt the union.

Personally I think this is a sack of dung that needs to be spread across the media, but you'll only see it on Fox or read it in the Post.
3 posted on 01/28/2004 2:24:47 AM PST by kingu (I vote Republican in the general, conservative in the primary.)
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To: Main Street
A terrorist cell in waiting reads this and just smiles.
4 posted on 01/28/2004 2:24:54 AM PST by leadpenny
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To: Main Street
Why not replace stewardesses with burly trained guards? They could hand out drinks and meals as well as anyone.
5 posted on 01/28/2004 2:43:02 AM PST by tkathy (The islamofascists and the democrats are trying to destroy this country)
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To: Main Street; backhoe
Geographic nit:

>>In September 2003 the training site was relocated from Glynco, Georgia, fairly close to Atlanta, to the remote location of Artesia, New Mexico.

The Glynco Federal law enforcement training center is a heckuva lot closer to Jacksonville or Savannah than it is to Atlanta, being roughly mid-way between the two, off of I-95.
6 posted on 01/28/2004 3:06:20 AM PST by FreedomPoster (This space intentionally blank)
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To: FreedomPoster
The Glynco Federal law enforcement training center is a heckuva lot closer to Jacksonville or Savannah than it is to Atlanta, being roughly mid-way between the two, off of I-95.

Jacksonville is a 1 to 1 1/2 hour drive from here ( depending on how deep you need to go into it ) and Savannah is more like 2 hours away.

By contrast, Atlanta is a 6 hour drive, easily, unless you really burn the road.

7 posted on 01/28/2004 3:11:14 AM PST by backhoe (--30--)
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To: goldstategop
There is no dought that the many road blocks put up are to make sure that as few as pilots are arms as possible. If we had more armed pilots we would need fewer air marshalls cutting back another government program.

We could do away with the air marshall program saving millions of dollars in taxs by arming all the pilots.

8 posted on 01/28/2004 3:18:36 AM PST by riverrunner
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To: riverrunner
As a former FAA Air Traffic Controller I totally understand why things are so screwed up.
I and other retired Air Traffic Controllers consider it one of the eights wonders of the world that any one in the FAA had the guts to close down all air traffic on 9-11.
This one fact probably thwarted several other hijacking.
I have read other incidents on this forum that convinces me of this.
The strike by Air Traffic Controller was not what media presented. I left the system a fews years earlier for essentially the same reasons but I am afraid President Reagan was quite misinformed.
I left the system because of lack of air traffic safety. A poll should be taken of how many Air Traffic controllers fly on commercial aircraft. Results likely would be eye opening.
I am also a former Air Force Pilot who flew in the Strategic Air Command. I knew relatively nothing of the system until I got into Air Traffic Control.
9 posted on 01/28/2004 3:36:10 AM PST by southland
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To: tkathy
You have to deal with the stewardess union before you fire these lovely ladies. Ever wonder why in domestic airlines you no longer see attractive young women but old and fat ones?
10 posted on 01/28/2004 3:37:15 AM PST by FirstPrinciple
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To: Main Street
Time to renew the calls to Impeach Mineta.
11 posted on 01/28/2004 3:44:22 AM PST by Fixit
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To: backhoe
I was thinking 5 hours. ;-)

Of course, I'm doing the used 'bahn-burner thing, car-wise. High-end European motoring on the cheap - as long as you can do your own maintenance and repairs (which I can), otherwise it would be expensive as all get out. Here we are in long trip / extra luggage capacity travel mode:

And to bring all this back on-topic, travelling like that sure beats air travel for anything under 500 miles. Especially given generally good CCW reciprocity laws for most locations in that radius.
12 posted on 01/28/2004 4:07:25 AM PST by FreedomPoster (This space intentionally blank)
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To: Main Street
In this case, our chief executive has been (dare I say it?) a miserable failure at carrying out the wishes of the people as expressed through a law passed by congress.

If one didn't know better, one might think that his agenda was to destroy the American airline/aircraft industry.

13 posted on 01/28/2004 4:16:53 AM PST by snopercod (When the people are ready, a master will appear.)
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To: Main Street
Campaign Finance Reform thread-day 47

14 posted on 01/28/2004 4:19:04 AM PST by The_Eaglet (Conservative chat on IRC:
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To: FreedomPoster
Son of a Gun! An Audi! Good car.

The last time I "burned the road" on the old Atlanta route was coming back from a gun show in Macon in 1986- on the way up I had noted a long stretch of clear road on the back route I used from Lumber City, so on the way home, and eager to get back, I got my old supercharged Nova up to 120- where the speedo pinned. Still had about a quarter-throttle left.

15 posted on 01/28/2004 4:25:34 AM PST by backhoe (--30--)
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To: Main Street
If a Pilot is responsible for the safety of hundreds of people he should easily be approved for a concealed carry permit.
More crap from the fed govt. where every idiot has something to say,where is Tom Ridge and the Homeland security folks .
Seems to be all bull**it, typical for the Feds.
16 posted on 01/28/2004 5:52:15 AM PST by chatham
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To: Main Street
The TSA was set up by two groups, former FAA people and retired US Secret Service agents and their buddies. Within a year nearly all the former FAA people (some of whom actually knew something about aviation safety) were castrated and the “Secret Service Mafia” was clearly in charge.

The problems with the FFO program is not liberal gun haters, it’s the Secret Service Mafia’s view that only they (or maybe former FBI buddies) should have anything to say about what TSA will or will not do, and TSA (the “SSM”) was against the FFO program from the start. The problem is almost totally ego and elitism. Thank God that the Federal Air Marshal Program was taken out of TSA, although it is still a prisoner of the “SSM”.
17 posted on 01/28/2004 5:55:46 AM PST by GeauxMan ("Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy" - Ben Franklin)
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To: leadpenny
A terrorist cell in waiting reads this and just smiles.

You betcha. You would think, wouldn't you, that the airlines would be terrified of another 9/11, but apparently they aren't, otherwise they would be doing everything--especially arming their pilots--to prevent it.

Sad to say, but it could happen again, and if it does, the airline industry will be decimated. And the executives of the airlines can blame only themselves...just as they collect their huge exit bonuses and head out the door.

18 posted on 01/28/2004 6:22:16 AM PST by OldPossum
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To: *AirSec_List; *bang_list

19 posted on 01/28/2004 6:34:10 AM PST by Joe Brower ("What chance of survival does a culture have when its own elites actively seek its destruction?")
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To: snopercod
It is easy to blame Bush but the reality is that neither the pilots nor the airlines want the liability.
20 posted on 01/28/2004 6:40:13 AM PST by Ben Ficklin
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