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Discussion Starter #1
Closing the Cockpit Loophole

by Captain Duane Shaw
[email protected]

September 19, 2001

Could four handguns have saved thousands of lives?

The short answer is yes. Airplanes are controlled by pilots. Without pilots, airplanes are 150 ton 500mph guided petroleum missiles. We have just seen the potential of aircrafts used as assault weapons.

Let me introduce myself. I am an airline Captain for the worlds second largest airline. I have been flying airplanes professionally for twenty one years. I have dealt with engine failures, aircraft system failures, aircraft navigation equipment failures, Air Traffic Control failures and airline management failures. Through it all, nothing has scared me more in aviation than the people I carry in the back of the plane. Why? Because I have had to deal with drug crazed and drunk passengers, air ragers, and people who are just scared. I have learned that all these people are unpredictable and dangerous. (just the opposite of law abiding gun owners). And now we have a new type of passenger. A diabolical warrior filled with more hate than ten Tim McVeighs.

What about Air Marshals? Not the best idea. An Air Marshal in the back of the aircraft can be identified, distracted and overwhelmed, even if armed. The pilots however have a cockpit door to get through. And a kevlar cockpit door would be a formidable obstacle for anyone to breech. Also, there are over eight thousand flight segments per day in the U.S. The cost of putting an Air Marshall on each flight would be prohibitive. Especially when you have two highly qualified professionals in the nerve center (cockpit) of the airplane who can do the job.

Is it dangerous for pilots to carry guns? No. Pilots are some of the most mentally, physically and psychologically tested people on earth. Additionally we are drug and alcohol tested all the time. We are highly educated, have a unique understanding of how mechanical things work, and have eye/hand coordination second to none. We are also required to undergo rigorous recurrent training and checkrides every nine months. (A great place for firearms requal.) There is no safer group of individuals to issue defensive firearms to.

What about shooting in a pressurized cabin? Will the airplane blow up? No. Do not be fooled by movies showing an explosive decompression in the cabin after a gun is fired. The pressurized fuselage of an aircraft already has many holes in it for regulating pressurization and air flow. The aluminum alloy skin of the aircraft is a quarter inch thick and capable of taking direct hits from most handguns without fracture. Even the cabin windows are incredibly thick and strong and capable of taking hits without failure, especially if using a frangible bullet. Even if they did penetrate the fuselage, several additional small holes would not make any difference in the ability to maintain pressure.

But let's not lose the forest for the trees here. Just remember the scenario that would require gunfire in an aircraft. It would be the last line of defense before turning the aircraft over to a terrorist for him to complete his mission - to kill hundreds or thousands of you.

Fights between pilots in the cockpit? Does not happen. In twenty one years of professional flying with five different airlines, I have never been involved in an altercation with another pilot. I have never even heard of this happening. How many police get into arguments, draw their weapons and kill each other while on duty?

Still do not want guns on airplanes eh? In any given week of flying I will carry one to five armed individuals on my aircraft. They are IRS agents, Postal Inspectors, DEA agents, FBI agents, Secret Service agents, state and local law enforcement, and virtually anyone else authorized by the government to carry a weapon. There is no restriction on the size or type of gun they carry.

All I am asking is to not be defenseless. Give me a fighting chance to save my passengers, crew, aircraft and people on the ground from a psycho or terrorist. Lets close this cockpit loophole.

I am hearing over and over on TV and the radio from elected officials how we are going to have to give up freedom and liberties for additional security provided by our government. This is not acceptable. I have a right to defend my family from harm at home. Why can't I have the same right in my aircraft at work? If we adopt a bunker mentality and start voluntarily giving up freedom, then we have already lost. Let me defend my aircraft and cockpit with the best tools available.

So, would four handguns have saved thousands of people from knife wielding terrorists? Please respond to this letter, and if you agree, please start making demands on your elected officials.
 

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I am all for it. I hope you carry now. You should. You should be required to. And you should have a bullet proof door that cannot be opened from the passenger side. And perhaps an ether cannister plumbed into the cabin ventilation system.

And no more stupid government regulations.
 

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I am certain that most pilots are quite capable of defending themselves with a handgun, and those that may lack expertise can easily learn it. But help me out. What is the need for a door between the cabin and the cockpit? You would know better than me if there is. Seems to me that the door could be eliminated completely, without losing any function of the crew or purpose of flight. Put the cockpit door on the outside of the craft, "if you want to see the pilot, take the hallway to the left, and watch your step."  Eliminating any chance of imposing their will on the pilot would go a long way to stopping incidents such as we saw Sep 11. They would be limited to simply bombing the plane, if they could get one on board, but flying into a structure, stadium, power plant etc. would be impossible.

I also like the idea of issuing everyone a single shot pistol as they board. Not enough firepower for one person to start anything but surely enough for stopping anything. Or how about a compartment right below the telephone on the back of the seat that pops open when there is trouble with say a mak 10 in it. While these examples are a tad bit ludicrous, I do believe that more guns are better than futile attempts to eliminate all the guns. The scum of the earth whether they be a foriegn terrorist or a common street thug will always seek to gain unfair advantage on the weak. We should all be stronger and use every advantage to level the playing field.

You stated that it is not right to have to give up freedoms for security. I beleive that it was Thomas Jefferson who stated (I'm sure I won't nail this exact) That...."any man who is willing to sacrifice liberty for security deserves neither!" Please don't take my idea of removing the door to mean that I don't think pilots should be armed. By all means, if the door has some function that cannot be done without...leave it in and arm the pilot. But any door, no matter the strength or which side it can be opened will not acheive the same effect as eliminating it entirely. Some pilots may not have the constitution or fortitude to face down a fanatical killer, having not been put in that position I don't know how well I would perform myself. Eliminating the door has the final word. The pilot doesn't have to consider whether the screams he hears from the other side outweighs opening the door or not. He is off the hook so to speak, and the people in the cabin will have no doubt who will be responsible for the outcome. They will be the only ones there.

Sorry to be so long winded but this is an interesting topic.

ammohead
 

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Seems the latest news stories are stating that at least one hijacker was in the cockpit before takeoff.

He simply produced false pilot credentials to take advantage of a widesread professional courtesy to other commercial pilots to ride in the cockpit cabin if they desire to do so.

If this is so, this program should be immediately terminated and noone except the bonafide flight crew should be allowed in the cabin area.

I would also be for arming the flight crew and also teaching the martial arts to flight attendants as a secondary measure if they opt for the training.

Be advised however, that the flight crew's main objective is flying the plane. To engage one or more hijackers and fly the plane also can become problematic to say the least.

A bullet proof/barricaded/reenforced cabin door is also an excellent suggestion and should be implemented.

Also airport security is fine on the passenger side but ALSO on the facilities side should be considerably beefed up. Somewhat like a military airbase.

Regards, Ray
 

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Capt. Shaw,

Would like to hear your insight on removing the door. Am I way off base?

What calibers do you shoot and reload for. Seeing as where you are posting I assume you are a shooter.

ammohead
 

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Capt.
I would love to see the crew armed. The only problem is that it provides a reason for opening that bullet proof door to go back where the bad guys are killing your crew or passengers. As a guy who flies 20K to 60K per month, I would be happier if I knew you would never open that cockpit door once the passengers are on board.

Putting the pilot's entrance outside the passenger cabin on new aircraft seems to make some sense.
Regards and good luck
 

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Hmmmm, nine days and no reply. Could it be that Capt Shaw isn't interested in our replys, just his own agenda?  

My vote is remove the door and arm the passengers!

ammohead
 

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Also airport security is fine on the passenger side but ALSO on the facilities side should be considerably beefed up. Somewhat like a military airbase - from Ray

I don't think airport security is fine, and neither do our lawmakers.  Otherwise why would the only airport to receive air marshal's on every flight be Reagan?  Screening doesn't work, and never will.  It was proven on 9/11, and has been proven many times since.  The answer is arming the pilots, securing the cockpit (I like the idea of no door at all to the passenger area), and arming the flight attendants.  If we don't get the same protection as our lawmakers, then we become subjects, not citizens.  All of us, as US citizens, are just as important as they are.
 
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