Piedmontgirl, a bullet hitting a window would cause a big problem. So would a bullet hitting any number of electricalor hydraulic componenets, not to mention 300+ passengers.
1) The ammunition used by AMs will not pierce the skin of the airplane. It is a specialized ammo made just for that purpose. It has been tested repeatedly.
2) Even if a window blew out, you would have a decompression. The masks would drop. Anytime a pressure outflow valve fails on any given airplane, you have a hole about 18 inches across. You can't see it from your seat. You have to be outside the plane and directly under it, but it's there. The plane doesn't stop flying because of this.
3) Hollywood does not have the first clue about decompressions. The ones in movies feature things flying all around the airplane and last for several minutes. I've been in decompressions. They last a few seconds at most and nothing flies around the cabin. The masks drop. The airplane descends to below 14,000, and that's that.
4) If hijackers manage to take control of the airplane and are behind that reinforced cockpit door, the F-16s are going to come up and shoot the airplane down. A frangible bullet hitting a window and going splat is nothing compared to the damage an air-to-air missile will cause. The best place, I understand, to hit the airplane is just forward or aft of the wing. This insures a large explosion and the immediate deaths of all aboard. If, say, only the tail were to be shot off, it might well leave the passengers conscious and cognizant of what is happening for 20 to 30 seconds. Time that off on your watch and see just how long it seems.
In the second place, the pilots did not do it to be "hero's" but to save the lives (deserving or not) of their passengers as a last-ditch defense. The FFDO's (armed pilots) guns must remain on the flight deck. We do not ever intend to come charging down the aisle like Wyatt Earp. If the FFDO ever has to draw his weapon it is because there was no FAM or other LEO on board and/or the bad guys have prevailed. AND, the bad guys have managed to break open the bulletproof cockpit door.
This is true. Totally accurate information. I find it odd that someone will put his life in the pilots' hands when he gets on the plane, but does not think the pilots can be trusted with a pistol.
Many, many pilots have top secret government clearances, and can be trusted to fly F-14s and F-15s and B-52s armed with nuclear weapons, but cannot be trusted with a pistol so that he can make a last ditch effort to keep himself, his crew, and his passengers (deserving or not) from being killed. I find that to be an utterly bizarre situation.
When I first started flying, every pilot I knew had a .45 in his flight bag. They didn't play Wyatt Earp then, and they're not going to do it now. Pilots are some of the most self disciplined people I know.
I put my own life in the hands of pilots every single day I worked a trip or flew for any other reason for well over thirty years. I have more than 30,000 take-off and landings, almost 45,000 hours in the air. The worst thing a pilot has ever done to me is be mildly annoying. Big whoop.
[Edited 2004-01-04 19:05:31]