There are many lessons to be learned from the terrible events which happened on September 11, 2001. For the airline industry, a rude awaking into the new age of terrorism and an end to the previous threat of peaceful hijackings that pilots had been taught to deal with. The aviation community must adapt to fight the new threat.
The FFDO (Federal Flight Deck Officer) program was implemented by the Bush Administration working with law enforcement, airline management and pilot unions. Pilots with guns were a way to augment the Federal Air Marshall Service which was already in place and quickly expanded. Recent rumors indicate that the Obama administration will attempt to de-fund the FFDO program. I think it would be a huge loss to security and a big mistake.
With regards to an aircraft accident, there are multiple layers of protection to prevent a crash. Most of the layers formulated from previous incidents, utilizing Air Traffic Control, dispatch, mechanics and redundant aircraft systems along with two highly trained pilots. The same logic in preventing a crash is to be used for arming pilots in flight. We must learn from the current terrorist strategy and implement solutions. A final layer of security is absolutely necessary to prevent another tragedy like 9/11.
The mainstream media continues to use one main reason to not arm the pilots; a rapid decompression in the airplane caused by a bullet exiting the aircraft at altitude. My Mom has mentioned that one after reading the typical misinformation reported as news by the media. I explained to her, in the first place, a decompression is the least of my worries as a pilot with a terrorist trying to take over the cockpit by force and then attempting to fly the plane into a building. Secondly, the exploding plane theory has been debunked, most recently on an episode from the show MythBusters on Discovery Channel in which the crew does a test by shooting a gun inside a pressurized plane in the desert with basically no damage as a result. For additional proof, this summer a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 had a structural problem at altitude when a football sized hole occurred during a flight. The aircraft landed safely and no one was injured.
Of course politics is part of the problem as well. The anti-gun organizations effecting policy decisions of Congress and the President have unlimited access to the White House. These liberal groups just can’t stand the Second Amendment or when good people successfully use guns to defend themselves. Have you ever read an article in the paper or seen a video on TV of a citizen being interviewed who had used his rifle or handgun to stop a crime or save a life? I’m reminded of a story from an NRA magazine: Liberals in a neighborhood were so proud of their progressive thinking that they put up anti-gun signs in their yards. So guess whose houses got burglarized? The signs came down. Why would the anti-gun crowd be against arming pilots when they travel on airplanes too? They think emotionally and not logically so there is no way to present a reasonable answer. It is sad to let politics interfere with decisions regarding safety.
The military uses a strategy of peace through strength with a multiple force deterrence to prevent an attack on the United States. Nuclear and tactical weapons, modern/upgraded ships, vehicles, and jets along with well trained troops. Many of the pilots flying today are ex-military and understand the concept. We have to be pro-active in defending the traveling public while considering the current global threats affecting the world today. Exhibiting a strong deterrence on commercial aircraft by means of Federal Air Marshalls and FFDO’s will be continually required. There is something about the possibility of looking down the barrel of a Heckler and Koch pistol during an unauthorized opening of the cockpit door will keep a terrorist from repeating another 9/11 type event.
At the front of my company’s flight manual it states that safety is the number one priority for the operation of our aircraft. The U.S. and the Obama administration must uphold safety as a priority as well. The final layer of safety and security of commercial airplanes relies on having armed pilots in the cockpit.