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APSA Responds to House Bill for Arming Pilots

June 27, 2002

Contact Information:
Capt. Tracy W. Price 
- Chairman

Home: (703)250-3568
Cell: (703)587-7811
Fax: (703)250-3568
Capt. Marc Feigenblatt 
- Vice Chairman

Home: (513) 232-8350
Cell: (513) 225-5996
Fax (513) 232-8349 (call first)

The House of Representatives is currently considering a test program for arming airline pilots. The bill passed by the full Transportation Committee is a mere shell of the original bill proposed by Congressmen Mica and Young and has significant problems. APSA strongly supported the original bill, which would have armed all airline pilots that volunteered and were successfully screened and trained. The bill that emerged yesterday from the full committee has significant shortcomings:

  • It only mandates the arming of 250 airline pilots nationwide. On any given day, 83 of them will be working. There are approximately 35,000 flights per day. While the program could arm up to 2% of the nations airline pilots, it will be the TSA's (John Magaw's) call and they have expressed opposition to arming any pilots. Even if they did arm 2%, that is an insignificant fraction of pilots that would provide zero deterrent against future terrorist attacks.

  • There is no deadline for getting the first pilot armed. The bill requires the TSA to begin the process of screening and training within four months. Magaw is adamantly opposed to arming pilots and he can be expected to take many months to accept applications, many more to review them, then interviews must be conducted, then the background checks, follow up interviews…

  • This "test program" is limited to airline pilots with a previous military or law enforcement background. In order to be a valid test, a true cross-section of pilots should be armed - including those pilots with a civilian background.

  • The "test" is over two years after the 250th pilot is armed. Then John Magaw will decide if the program is expanded, continued or cancelled. Again, Magaw has voiced his clear opposition to arming pilots. It is irrational to give him the final say on whether or not the program was a success.

Captain Tracy Price, Chairman of APSA said, "We thank Chairmen Mica and Young for their efforts on this bill and we are heartened to hear that they may consider amending this bill on the floor to correct some of its deficiencies. A true test program that arms a significant proportion of airline pilots, mandates a date by which they must be armed, allows for a true cross-section of pilots to be armed and takes the TSA out of the decision process at the end of the test period would be much closer to what pilots are demanding and we are hopeful that these good men will make these necessary amendments."

Price continued, "Congressman Oberstar's comment today that he views this program as a temporary measure to be cancelled when security systems are complete is ridiculous. Arming 250 pilots - or even 2% of the pilots - will never provide the deterrent that is required to prevent future attacks and if Congressman Oberstar thinks that we will ever be able to have an airtight security system, he is dreaming. Airline travel is a public accommodation and it will never be the pristine environment that exists in Mr. Oberstar's dream world. Arming pilots is the long-term solution to the problem of 9/11 style terrorist attacks and Mr. Oberstar should go to his constituents for an injection of common sense on this issue."

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