Government to Begin Arming Cargo Pilots
Tue Feb 3, 6:20 PM ET Add Politics - U. S. Congress to My Yahoo!
By LESLIE MILLER, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - The government said Tuesday that it will begin recruiting cargo pilots to carry guns in the cockpit for the first time, extending to them a right enjoyed by passenger pilots for almost a year.
Congress created the program to deputize pilots as federal law enforcement officers in late 2002, but excluded cargo pilots at the last minute. A year later, cargo pilots successfully lobbied Congress to allow them to join passenger pilots, who fly the same planes that they do.
The Transportation Security Administration says it is now ready to accept applications online.
Sloan Davis, who flies a Boeing 767 for a major cargo airline, said he'll be one of the first to sign up. "This is a welcome move," he said. "It closes a huge gap in national security."
Davis said he was concerned that cargo security was largely left up to private companies.
The government only requires a small percentage of freight to be checked before being shipped in cargo planes. Air marshals don't fly aboard cargo planes, and freight-handling areas at airports are not as secure as passenger terminals.
Sen. Jim Bunning, the Kentucky Republican who sponsored the bill to arm cargo pilots, said he's "extremely pleased" by the news. Bunning's bill passed in November.
Classes for pilots who volunteer and pass the psychological testing will begin in the spring, said Mark Hatfield, TSA spokesman.
A little more than a thousand passenger pilots have been trained and deputized, Hatfield said. The TSA recently doubled the number of 50-person classes it holds every week, to 100 pilots, and will have thousands more graduated by the end of the year, he said.
For some, that's not soon enough.
Capt. John Safley, president of the Coalition of Airline Pilots Association, a pilots group, said the agency needs to remove obstacles to the program.
Pilots, for example, say the psychological testing is excessive, they don't like carrying their guns in lockboxes when they're not in the cockpit, and they're concerned that the TSA can share confidential information about them with their employers.
"There's still work to be done to make this a truly effective program," Safley said. "We're still not at the level we need to get to."
TheFLCowboy From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 406 posts, RR: 0
Reply 1, posted (12 years 3 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 3174 times:
Aside from the maybe 5 people who would ride on a cargo plane, are they afraid the cartons of buttons are going to attack them?
I'm all for a uniform code for pilot safety, but this is kind of comical. The people who ride jump on cargo work for the company. I didn't think they would be that much of a threat.
Another stupid question... Has anybody ever thought about a pilot hijacking a plane? Now youv'e screened all the weapons from everybody and he's the only one with a gun, threatning to down the plane. And before you start saying that won't happen look at Egypt Air off the coast of NY. The co-pilot was thought to be saying some sort of prayer as he pushed the column forward. Now you all in one big ol heap o trouble because the wack-job has the gun and all you have are plastic knives and forks.