Union presses Congress for law allowing armed pilots

By Leigh Strope

Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Air Line Pilots Association is urging Congress to pass legislation allowing pilots to carry firearms in cockpits, a move the union says could prevent more terrorist hijackings.

The union’s president, Capt. Duane Woerth, is scheduled to testify at a House aviation subcommittee Tuesday and will press for the legislation.

“This is a reflection on how much the attack on September 11 has changed everything we thought about hijackings and terrorism,” said union spokesman John Mazor.

He said armed pilots in cockpits was a “radical step” for the union, but the idea has had overwhelming support from its pilot members.

“Under the old model of hijackings, the system worked well. That strategy was to accommodate, negotiate and do not escalate,” Mazor said. “But that was before. The cockpit has to be defended at all costs.”

The union envisions an armed pilots program that would be strictly voluntary and would require extensive background screening and psychological testing of pilots. Pilots also would receive classroom and practical training in the use of firearms that is the equivalent of what armed sky marshals receive.

The union has asked the FBI to handle the program and training, and is awaiting its response, Mazor said.

“Before September 11, on balance it was thought that guns brought more risk than benefit to the cockpit,” he said.

The union has urged pilots to act aggressively in terrorist situations. For example, all cockpits are equipped with a crash ax. The union advised its members that they should consider using it as a weapon in a suicidal hijacking.

“The pilot must be prepared to kill a cockpit intruder,” the union advised.

The union also is exploring new standards for secure cockpit doors designed to protect the flight crew against attacks.

ALPA represents more than 67,000 pilots at 47 airlines in the United States and Canada. It is based in Herndon, Va.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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