Guns on a plane
Obama secretly ends program that let pilots
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
September 11 attacks, commercial airline pilots were
allowed to carry guns if they completed a
federal-safety program. No longer would unarmed pilots
be defenseless as remorseless hijackers seized control
of aircraft and rammed them into buildings.
President Obama is quietly ending the federal
firearms program, risking public safety on airlines in
the name of an anti-gun ideology.
Obama administration this past week diverted some
$2 million from the pilot training program to hire more
supervisory staff, who will engage in field inspections
like completely unnecessary harassment of the pilots.
The 12,000 Federal Flight Deck Officers, the pilots who
have been approved to carry guns, are reported to have
the best behavior of any federal law enforcement agency.
There are no cases where any of them has improperly
brandished or used a gun. There are just a few cases
where officers have improperly used their IDs.
one percent of the officers have any administrative
actions brought against them and, we are told, virtually
all of those cases “are trumped up.”
Take a case
against one flight officer who had visited the Virginia
Department of Motor Vehicles within the last few weeks.
While there, the pilot noticed that federal law
enforcement officers can, with the approval of a
superior, obtain a license plate that cannot be traced,
a key safety feature for law enforcement personnel. So
the pilot asked if, as a member of the federal program,
he was eligible. The DMV staffer checked and said “no.”
The next day administrative actions were brought against
the pilot for “misrepresenting himself.” These are the
kinds of cases that President Obama wants to
Obama's election, pilots have told us that the approval
process for letting pilots carry guns on planes
slowed significantly. Last week the problem went from
bad to worse. Federal Flight Deck Officers - the pilots
who have been approved to carry guns - indicate that the
approval process has stalled out.
cannot openly speak about the changing policies for fear
of retaliation from the Transportation Security
Administration. Pilots who act in any way that causes a
“loss of confidence” in the armed pilot program risk
criminal prosecution as well as their removal from the
program. Despite these threats, pilots in the Federal
Flight Deck Officers program have raised real concerns
in multiple interviews.
pilots after Sept. 11 was nothing new. Until the early
1960s, American commercial passenger pilots on any
flight carrying U.S. mail were required to carry
handguns. Indeed, U.S. pilots were still allowed to
carry guns until as recently as 1987. There are no
records that any of these pilots (either military or
commercial) ever causing any significant problems.
airplane passengers is hardly perfect. While armed
marshals are helpful, the program covers less than 3
percent of the flights out of Washington D.C.'s three
airports and even fewer across the country. Sky marshals
are costly and quit more often than other
are a cost-effective backup layer of security.
Terrorists can only enter the cockpit through one narrow
entrance, and armed pilots have some time to prepare
themselves as hijackers penetrate the strengthened
cockpit doors. With pilots, we have people who are
willing to take on the burden of protecting the planes
for free. About 70 percent of the pilots at major
American carriers have military backgrounds.
a matter of pure politics, we cannot understand what the
administration is thinking. Nearly 40 House Democrats
are in districts were the NRA is more popular than House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi. We can't find any independent poll
in which the public is demanding that pilots disarm. Why
does this move make sense?
anti-gun extremists and terrorist recruits are worried
about armed pilots. So why is the
Obama administration catering to this tiny lobby at
the expense of public safety?
Gun program for pilots set for
expansion, officials insist - Audrey Hudson
Backers take exception to inaccurate
administration has no plans to end a program that trains
commercial airline pilots to carry guns and thwart
terrorist attacks, and in fact is seeking to expand
resources for oversight and training, government
officials and pilots organizations say.
looking for new resources and more money to bring in for
next year. The benefits of the program are obvious. The
pilots are an intrinsic part of our whole
aviation-security strategy and one of our layers of
security," said Robert Bray, director of the Federal Air
Marshal Service, which oversees the program.
Flight Deck Officers (FFDO) program was created after
the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and has since
trained 12,000 pilots on how to carry weapons and defend
their aircraft against an attack. Among the planned
expansions, Mr. Bray said, is the construction of a new
center in Dallas, where armed pilots can receive
Mr. Bray and
the pilots groups disputed a March 17 editorial in The
Washington Times entitled "Guns on a plane: Obama
secretly ends program that let pilots carry guns," which
suggested that recent discussions about spending some of
the program's money for supervisory jobs amounted to
killing the program.
completely false," said Capt. John Prater, president of
the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), the largest
pilots union in the U.S. and Canada, with 53,000
editorial appeared, Capt. Prater said, his group called
a meeting with Transportation Security Administration
(TSA) officials and were reassured the new
administration supports the program.
seeing anything other than cooperation, and certainly
the fact that as soon as this opinion piece came out,
ALPA and TSA met immediately, and from what we've
determined, there is no truth to the fears that were put
forth in that opinion piece," Capt. Prater said.
PRESS A Transportation Security Administration
instructor trains a pilot to disarm a potential hijacker
during a weapon-retention class at the Federal Law
Enforcement Training Center, in Brunswick,
Times' editorial pages recently were brought under new
management and operate separately from the newsroom.
Editorial writers produce content that is not reported
or overseen by newsroom employees.
Editorial Department has been in transition these last
few weeks. We're aware of the error and are
investigating what happened so we can learn from the
mistake and not repeat it," Associate Publisher Richard
Amberg Jr. said.
Security officials and pilots say that the program has
proven to be an important security layer and that they
are interested in making the program more efficient.
forward to working with the Obama administration to
improve the management and funding of the program to
make it what Congress originally intended it would be,"
said David Mackett, president of the Airline Pilots
Security Alliance, an organization that lobbies Congress
on behalf of the program.
editorial cited information from pilots it did not name,
claiming that the approval process for letting pilots
carry guns on planes has "slowed significantly" and that
the "approval process has stalled out."
said the approval process did slow last fall during the
final days of the Bush administration, but it was before
the election and possibly a result of dwindling funds at
the end of the 2008 fiscal year.
editorial also said the Obama administration recently
"diverted some $2 million from the pilot-training
program to hire more supervisory staff, who will engage
in field inspections of pilots."
pilots are supervised by the airlines, not Homeland
Security, and Mr. Bray added that no funds were
diverted; rather, he said, additional money is being
sought to manage gun-training programs.