The issue of pilots carrying weapons, while flying, is not new. Since the earliest days of pilots flying the U.S. Mail, they carried guns to protect themselves and the vital cargo of mail. Today, pilots are authorized to fly with weapons to protect the aircraft, their passengers, and themselves from hijackers and terrorists. It has become a last line of defense in case of a hostile takeover of the aircraft, turning it into a weapon of mass destruction, as we witnessed, during the devastating attacks on the World Trade Center (9/11). The controversy surrounding this issue today has grown into heated debates with anti-gun lobbyist protest, and even the pilots themselves proclaiming their objections. However, through legislation, new laws have been passed to give pilots the option to undergo training and become a deputy federal officer. There are several legal and liability issues surrounding the controversy, as well as many objections people have against arming the pilots. In addition, other security options have evolved since 9/11.
Arming Airline Pilots
In order to create a last line of defense against terrorism every airline pilot should be armed. Since the attacks on the World Trade Center (9/11), many people support arming airline pilots; however, many think it is more dangerous and puts passengers’ lives at risk. Some people think that a bullet hole in an airplane will cause a crash, or that reinforcing the cockpit door is enough to keep out hijackers. Others think that putting a Federal Air Marshal on every flight is the answer to hijackings. Most airline pilots are prior military and are fully capable of handling a weapon, and it does not take much training for others. There are also several legal and liability issues involved; however, the bottom line is that the most effective anti- terrorism measure would be to arm every pilot. On November 25, 2002, President Bush signed the Arming Pilots against Terrorism Act. This Act required the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to establish a program to train, deputize, and equip volunteer pilots of air carriers for the purpose of defending the flight decks of commercial aircraft against acts of criminal violence and air piracy. The law evolved into the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. Before 9/11, weapons were carried by federal air marshals only, whose numbers have been dramatically increased since 2001. Federal air marshals, like the guns they carry, are deterrents, but are not on board every airliner. Robert Mark (2004) stated “History could very well have recorded 9/11 much differently if a sky marshal had been in the back of any of the hijacked aircraft” (para. 3). However, the cost of putting a Federal Air Marshal on every flight is extremely out of reach, seeing as how it would exceed the FAA’s annual budget. Tracy Price (2008) said, “Armed pilots protect many times the number of flights that the agency does at 1/25th of the cost per flight” (para. 4). The cost savings of arming pilots, when weighed against the annual salaries and training of Federal Air Marshals makes it a very cost effective security measure. The Cockpit door is another complicated issue. In a report by Captain Tracy Price (2008), he states: By the time the first pilots were armed through the FFDO program in April 2003, all airliners had been retrofitted with the reinforced cockpit door, but few were willing to bet the lives of hundreds (or thousands) of people on the hope that the door would withstand a sustained attack from killers who had been trained to quickly breach it. Terrorists know what security experts have long known: There is no such thing as an impenetrable door. The reinforced cockpit door will slow terrorists from breaking into the cockpit, but it is foolish to blithely assume that it will stop them. (para. 3) There are times when the pilots have to open it on long flights, just to...