Shotgun Forum banner
1 - 1 of 1 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
96 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
After Rugged Training, New Era Could Begin Sunday By Sara Kehaulani GooWashington Post Staff WriterFriday, April 18, 2003; Page A01 GLYNCO, Ga., April 17 -- Seated in a classroom chair, the 25-year veteran captain of a major airline raised a red plastic gun in two hands and twisted to his side to confront his assailant.Within seconds, the pilot was locked in a tug of war for the weapon in a scenario envisioned to take place at 30,000 feet in a space the size of two bathroom stalls."Nobody knew how tough it would be," said the weapons trainee, a Boeing 767 pilot who was not allowed to give his name for security reasons. He and 45 other commercial pilots had spent days in a padded room practicing physical combat techniques, emerging with bruises and scrapes on their hands, knees and elbows. "It's brutal work," he said.The volunteer group was taking part in the first training program to certify pilots to carry guns in the cockpit. Those who qualify will be able to fly with their .40-caliber semiautomatic pistols holstered to their bodies by as early as Sunday. The weapons program is the latest in a series of security measures since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackings that are changing the nature of American air travel. The pilots are learning a range of tactics, including shooting over the shoulder, a maneuver that worries some security experts."If you're shooting over your shoulder while the cockpit door is open, there's a good chance you're going to miss," said Doug Laird, a Nevada-based security consultant who used to run Northwest Airlines' security division. "If you miss, where is that round going? It's going into the cabin." In the new uncertain skies, airline passengers never know whether a bank executive or an undercover armed federal marshal is seated next to them. Travelers also have grown accustomed to federal security screeners rummaging through their luggage. In an added mystery, pilots will not reveal to passengers whether they are armed.Not even the pilots' employers, the airlines, know if a pilot is in the training program. Once the pilot passes the course and is armed, he or she must notify the airline within 24 hours of flying. First, the volunteers must pass a battery of tests, including a thorough background check, a psychological evaluation, and classroom exams on liability and legal rules. The pilots also must graduate from precision firearms training by the end of the week. Just days into the program, two pilots dropped out, for reasons the federal government won't discuss.Inside classrooms and outside at the bug-infested firearms range here at the sprawling Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, pilots are learning to shoot from the same instructors who teach sky marshals and other federal agents before they are deputized.Pilots have lobbied aggressively for the program, insisting it was their duty to protect the cockpit with a lethal weapon. Congress overwhelming passed a bill last fall that gave any airline pilot the option to train and become an armed "federal flight deck officer.""This is the first time we have done something like this," said Robert Johnson, a spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration. He added that the program will evolve and probably change after the first group has finished. "We are going to learn as we go."Trainees who were interviewed today said they volunteered because they believe only a gun would help them protect their aircraft, for which they feel personally responsible.One female pilot who has flown for a major airline for 14 years said she appreciates the reinforced cockpit door and the better screening of passengers and luggage. "But the ultimate link in that safety chain is me," she said. "And I need to defend myself and my aircraft."Johnson said armed pilots will not reveal their identities for their own safety and as an element of deterrence to terrorists who might try to break into cockpits. Some security experts said that heightened precautions after the Sept. 11 attacks make arming pilots unnecessary. Congress passed the law allowing guns in the cockpit at a time before federal security screeners had taken up posts at every airport checkpoint in the nation and before passenger luggage was screened for explosives. Earlier this month, airlines were required to super-reinforce cockpit doors with a strengthened material throughout the door -- not just with a metal bar as was required after Sept. 11.Pilots will be trained on Saturday in firing over the shoulder. "The threat is probably every time coming from behind" the pilot, Johnson of the TSA said. "It literally is shooting with limited information to stop the target."Johnson said the pilots will use paintball guns to learn a variety of tactics for shooting over the shoulder. Laird, the former Northwest security chief, wondered whether arming pilots won't do more harm than good. He said pilots already have a crash ax they keep in the cockpit, which could be used to fend off an intruder. Using a gun at close range creates the opportunity for an assailant to grab the pilot's weapon, he said. "When they talk about firing at point-blank range you've got a problem, because if the person is that close to you he'll probably grab the firearm," Laird said.A former chief executive for Israel's El Al, which is considered one of the most secure airlines in the world, said his carrier considered arming pilots but decided it was better to protect the whole plane instead. That meant training flight attendants, adding air marshals and reinforcing cockpit doors."Pilots themselves may feel safer with guns in the cockpit," said Joel Feldschuh, former El Al chief executive and now president of security consulting firm GS-3. "But ensuring the safety of the entire cabin, nose to tail, should be the priority. Arming pilots on U.S. planes will be just one part of that overall solution."Flight attendants also are concerned. They still fear that a terrorist in the cabin could attack passengers, and they have received only a few hours of training in how to defend themselves and enlist the help of travelers."There are going to be pilots with guns, and flight attendants will not have been trained on how a pilot is going to react in a certain situation with a gun," said Jeff Zack, spokesman for the Association of Flight Attendants. "We won't even know if they will come out of the cockpit" if there's a disturbance in the cabin, he said.The TSA said it recognizes there are many possible dangerous scenarios and is moving cautiously in arming the pilots. The training probably will evolve as the agency learns more and gets feedback from pilots and law enforcement personnel.The TSA is using $500,000 to fund the program and has asked for $25 million next fiscal year to continue it. The agency is aiming to begin a full-scale program by mid-July, but the number of pilots it will be able to train -- at a cost of $6,200 each -- will depend largely on how much it gets from Congress.The agency's approach has calmed some critics of the program -- principally at the airlines -- who opposed the idea while it was being debated in Congress. Some said they are now more comfortable with the program because they don't have to pay for it and it seems the TSA is moving cautiously.United Airlines' Hank Krakowski, who heads the airline's safety and security division, said he would prefer that United pilots carry non-lethal stun guns, which emit electric shocks. But United has five pilots attending the TSA's training program and, from what he has heard so far, Krakowski said he approves of the way the TSA is going about it.John Hotard, a spokesman for American Airlines, said the carrier approved of the program, particularly since it doesn't have to pay for it. Airlines also are exempt from liability if a pilot accidentally shoots a bystander on board.Researcher Margaret Smith in Washington contributed to this report. Mike RossThe Cartridge GuysLife Member, North American Hunting ClubMember, National Rifle AssociationMember, Meeker Co. Historical Society
 
1 - 1 of 1 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.
Top