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Pilots' Alliance 'Shocked Beyond Belief' by TSA Disclosure
By Jeff Johnson
CNSNews.com Congressional Bureau Chief
February 25, 2003

Capitol Hill (CNSNews.com) - Airline pilots supporting the law that allows them to carry guns to defend against potential terrorist hijackings said Monday they are "shocked beyond belief" that federal aviation security officials have publicly revealed weaknesses in the Bush administration's plan to implement the law.

As CNSNews.com previously reported, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) acknowledged Friday that pilots who participate in the program will only be allowed ready access to their guns when they are inside the cockpit with the door locked.

"The jurisdiction of use of the weapon is in the cockpit and the cockpit only," explained TSA spokeswoman Heather Rosenker. "The weapon needs to be re-secured in the locked box if the cockpit door opens."

Capt. Tracy Price, a commercial passenger airline pilot and chairman of the Airline Pilots Security Alliance (APSA), was livid upon learning that the TSA had disclosed the vulnerability.

"[T]he TSA is advertising that to would be terrorists and telling them and pointing out to them that the best opportunity that they will have to take over the cockpit is just then, when the cockpit door is open because they know that the weapon will not be accessible to the pilot," Price said.

The disclosure caused Price to "seriously question the TSA's motives" for allowing the information to be made public.

"Are they truly concerned about airline security, or are they concerned about building their own empire?" he asked. "If they had a serious concern with airline security, they would have never let that information out like they did. We're shocked beyond belief."

TSA has justified the decision based on its interpretation of the legislation that mandated the arming of qualified commercial airline pilots. The law calls for the creation of a "Federal Flight Deck Officer Program."

"They are called 'Federal Flight Deck Officers,'" Rosenker explained. "If somebody tries to intervene into the cockpit of that aircraft, they have the right to use their weapon."

Asked if there were no other circumstance, under which a pilot would be justified in using the weapon, she replied, "That's correct." Rosenker acknowledged that the regulation would include times during flights when one of the pilots leaves the cockpit to use the restroom or get food.

Price rejected Rosenker's explanation.

"We agree that our jurisdiction is strictly in the cockpit," Price acknowledged. "Just because we don't have federal law enforcement officer jurisdiction and liability protection when we're carrying the firearm to and from our homes, doesn't mean we're not authorized to carry the firearm."

The Homeland Security Act of 2002, which created the Department of Homeland Security and mandated that TSA create the armed pilots' program, supports Price's claim. Section 1402 (f) of the law states that: "Notwithstanding any other provision of federal or state law, a federal flight deck officer, whenever necessary to participate in the program, may carry a firearm in any state and from one state to another state."

The law also states that: "In consultation with the Secretary of State, the Under Secretary may take such action as may be necessary to ensure that a Federal flight deck officer may carry a firearm in a foreign country whenever necessary to participate in the program."

Price believes TSA's narrow interpretation of the statute and their public disclosure of that information amounts to a serious threat to the safety of pilots.

"It's a massive, huge hole and it's a huge problem, and it's something we had hoped and everyone had agreed, we thought, that it would be something that we wouldn't let out," Price explained.

Cargo Planes Vulnerable Due to Exclusion from Program

But the firearm storage and transportation requirements are not the only problem that pilots have with the federal flight deck officer program, as Price explained.

"At the 11th hour, cargo pilots were removed from the legislation that authorizes pilots to be armed, and they were removed by simply inserting the word 'passenger' before the word 'airline,' so passenger airline pilots only are the ones that are authorized to carry firearms," Price said. "We've got serious, grave concerns about that because cargo pilots have at least as strong a requirement for being armed, or maybe even stronger than passenger airline pilots."

There are a number of differences between passenger and cargo airliners that Price believes support his argument, including:




Cargo planes never have Federal Air Marshals on board;

Cockpit doors of cargo planes have not been retrofitted to make them
stronger, some cargo planes have no cockpit doors at all;

Stowaways on cargo flights are not as rare as the public might imagine;

Cargo ramp areas are not as secure as passenger ramps; and

Thousands of people, many of whom are unknown to one another, work on
cargo ramps during nightly sorting of cargo, creating a ready opportunity for
terrorists to stowaway on a cargo flight.


"The airplanes are ... as big as passenger airliners and they're carrying very, very large quantities of fuel," Price elaborated. "So it's a very attractive target, it's a very soft target - as far as a terrorist would be concerned - and it will do just as much damage crashing into a building as a passenger airliner."

APSA believes the exclusion of cargo pilots should be removed from the law and they have already found support in Congress.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.) have introduced a bill, (H.R. 765), to allow cargo pilots to participate in the federal flight deck officer program. The legislation simply removes the word "passenger" from in front of the word "airline" throughout the relevant sections of the law.

"America's airline pilots - both commercial and cargo pilots - know best that they can both control their aircraft and defend their cockpits when necessary," Mica said while introducing the legislation. "They have asked for the ability to defend themselves and their aircraft from terrorist attacks.

"Cargo pilots often carry passengers on flights and fly some of our largest aircraft like 747s," he added. "Our legislation will increase aviation security by closing the loophole that excluded thousands of qualified cargo pilots from protecting their aircraft from terrorist takeovers."

Young agreed.

"We've already passed legislation allowing 60,000 commercial airline pilots to seek qualification for this program," he said. "It's time we allow cargo pilots to have the same protections for their aircraft."

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), a licensed pilot and ranking minority member of the Aviation Subcommittee, is also an original cosponsor of the bill. The proposal has been sent to Mica's committee for consideration.
 

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A good example of the response of the government of the "greatest nation on earth"...what a laugh. These bungling bureaucrats are fools, and unqualified to dig latrines for the homeless population that sleeps on the heating grates outside their castles. This is the same mentality that allowed box cutters and penknives to bring down the World Trade Center. Within minutes of the attack, PASSENGERS challenged the terrorists face to face and ended it in a field in PA. Without their bravery, this aircraft would have been shot down by our military.

In 1967 a group of graduate students from George Washington University conducted an assessment of the need for National Airport in view of the proximity of Dulles and Baltimore International. They cited the potential for terrorists to take over the cockpit of an approaching aircraft and crashing it into the White House or Pentagon. Admittedly, they were also concerned with noise, land use, and the general safety of persons and property on the ground, but they had no trouble seeing the terrorist threat.

Now we are restructuring this bureaucracy for homeland security when a $200 million computer system would have accomplished the same thing at a small fraction of the cost. We are told to buy duct tape and stock up on food and water. Pilots remain unarmed while accountants and administrators for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation regularly fly carrying loaded firearms.

Our Congress has delegated to our President the authority to unilaterally engage in a war to prevent war…a war of aggression…largely based on the fear instilled in Americans by misguided thinking and inflammatory rhetoric.

Terrorists don't scare me, but they have terrified our leaders. They do scare me...
 

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Discussion Starter #3
loader,

You are free to comment on the subject of the article, however, please refrain from the all encompassing comments back to the War on Iraq which have nothing to do with the subject of arming pilots and the efforts thereof which the article addresses.

Let's not have this thread boil down into another shoving match on foreign policy and other subjects not immediately pertaining to the article posted above.


Regards
 

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It would seem that things are looking up for airline pilots. Unless I have misread, they have to qualify, but then they may "carry" to and from any state and the "carry" to from different countries is in the works.

In my opinion, there never should have been a question about pilots being armed in the first place. They obviously pass a rigorous background check, and are of good mental faculty, and should know enough not to shoot through the side of the aircraft if at all possible.

Contender - I am not so sure that loader's last paragraph was aimed towards the impending hostilities with Iraq. I do believe (and I could be wrong) that President Bush himself has used the phrase "War on terror..." a few times, quite possibly along with the phrase"...a war of aggression..." not at all refering to a country.

Loader - I hope you are wrong about the terrorists.
 

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Contender -

My apologies, the second to last paragraph is a reference to the Iraq conflict, and is definitely outside of the scope of the subject at hand.

I hope the rest can stand on its merits. Arming pilots, and the regulation thereof, says a lot about our government's response to terrorism in general and attitude toward gun possession in particular.
 
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