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APSA Armed Pilot Update, May, 2002



Armed Pilots Security AllianceWelcome aboard.  Many of you are new to our APSA Updates and ALERTS.  We try to send Updates twice per month, but often events overtake us and our communication slips.   So, we’ll apologize in advance but you can always check our Website for the latest happenings.  If you are a grizzled veteran with us, you will note a sharper edge to this Update.  We have been patient for eight months - far too long to be flying DISARMED AND DEFENSELESS.  It’s past time to get this done; the gloves are coming off. 

Tom Clancy would be envious of the plot since our last Update.  Frankly, for reasons we cannot discuss, as of a short week ago we believed an affirmative decision on arming pilots was imminent.  The Bush Administration has again retreated to its tired, endless and pointless, “We’ll have a decision in a few weeks” mantra.  The most successful terrorist attacks in human history are now almost eight months in our past, and President Bush and Transportation Security Administration boss John Magaw are still incapable of figuring out whether airline pilots should be armed.  This, while they simultaneously tell us that American citizens are on borrowed time for another 9/11 terrorist attack on U.S. Airliners.  Dr. John Lott, celebrated crime statistician and scholar at the American Enterprise Institute has told us that while it would be more difficult for terrorists to hijack airliners today than on 9/11, the reward to them for doing so is far greater and so their motivation is correspondingly greater.  If Al-Qaeda were successful in commandeering even one aircraft today, the airline industry would be devastated. 

Since the president is not doing what more than three-quarters of Americans want and law enforcement (including his own FBI) recommends, Congress is going to mandate that the Administration arm pilots.  We think the Bush White House has chosen the path of least resistance:  Bow to pressure from airline managements, refuse to make a decision and force Congress to mandate it.  He cannot afford to publicly oppose arming pilots because, in the words of our friends in Congress, rarely has there been an issue with such broad and overwhelming support.  Instead he hides behind indecision and endless analysis.

The major groups that oppose arming airline pilots are terrorists, airline managements, and some in the Bush Administration.  The opposition works quietly and in the shadows, those of us in favor shout from the rooftops.   What was that old axiom your mother used to repeat about things you had to hide?

Congress Picks Up Administration Slack

On Tuesday, April 30th, Representatives John Mica (R-FL) and Don Young (R-AK) introduced HR 4536 that will mandate an armed pilots program and also address airline liability anxieties.  Both Mr. Young and Mr. Mica are enthusiastic supporters of arming pilots, and APSA thanks them for their leadership.  On Thursday, May 2nd, Chairman Mica held a hearing in the House on our issue.  APSA, representing ourselves and Allied Pilots’ Association (American), Southwest Airline Pilots’ Association, Independent Pilots’ Association (UPS), and the Coalition of Airline Pilots’ Associations presented the then-current results of our on-line petition (at that point, 44, 575 signatures - visit for the present count) to the Chairman just before the hearing, in a media-covered event.  We are grateful for the vigorous spirit of cooperation between our groups.  Every pilot represented by these organizations can be proud of their selfless, a-political involvement.  Separately, four Senators (see below) are working on similar legislation.  Congressmen in both houses believe the bills have a good chance of passing.  Just how deeply the ATA has dug into the White House will be evidenced by the President’s action when presented with the final bill.  The world - and Al Qaeda - is watching.

Press Conference in Senate Office Building

Following Chairman Mica’s hearing, the above pilot groups held a packed press conference in the Senate Russell Office Building. Present also were two pilots who lost family members on aircraft on 9/11.  Senators Bob Smith (R-NH), Zell Miller (D-GA), Conrad Burns (R-MT), and Frank Murkowski (R-AK) and Representative John Hostettler (R-IN) spoke very eloquently in favor of arming pilots, and we are profoundly thankful for their leadership and support.  Captain Al Aitken, who is Vice-Chairman of APA’s Committee for Armed Defense of the Cockpit made excellent and direct opening remarks for pilots.  He and APSA Chairman, Captain Tracy Price, then fielded questions from reporters.  Congressional staffers told us this was the “mother of all press conferences” in that EVERY question was hit clear-outta-the-park. 

Media Coverage

APSA Board members are increasing tapped for media appearances.  APSA Chairman Capt. Tracy Price has been a regular guest on the Chris Core radio show on WMAL in Washington, DC, was interviewed by KSAT radio in San Antonio and KSFO radio in San Francisco.  Tracy was also a guest on MSNBC.   Al Aitken and Tracy appeared together on Fox News.  Tracy was a featured guest Sunday the 5th on CNN’s Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer in a live debate with former Northwest Airlines security boss Douglas Laird.  APSA Board member Bob Lambert has been regularly interviewed on television and radio in Pittsburgh.  APSA Board member Scott Lewis was on the G. Gordon Liddy show two more times for a total of nearly an hour.  Following the May 2nd press conference, Scott was on MSNBC’s Dan Abrams Show, debating an “aviation expert” who also failed to verbalize any coherent reason for opposing armed airline pilots.  Finally, in what is the Media Homerun of the Month, APSA Board member Joe Gennaro was interviewed on the revered BBC—yep, THAT BBC, worldwide.   Now we have to walk three steps behind him and to the right (or is it left in England?). 

Liability—the Passion is Gone

APSA and other pilot groups, most particularly our good friends at the Allied Pilots’ Association, have worked hard to make certain that an arming-pilots program addresses managements’ liability (read money) worries.  For our time, energy, and financial investment for the sake of the airlines, some airlines, along with the ATA, have thanked us with relentless, staunch obstruction.  We know that their resistance has iceberg-like proportions:  what can’t be seen is a lot more significant that what is above the surface.  We have abandoned our hope of showing the ATA where they can benefit from our program for arming pilots and how they can easily solve their liability problems.  Let the airline managements fret about liability.   They have put profits ahead of people’s lives; we’re asking to protect our passengers and crew without any additional compensation.

Tasers—More Bad News

We know many of you have been up to speed on this debate, but its political significance is growing exponentially and we need to tell you why, and what YOU can do to combat this silliness.  At Chairman Mica’s hearing, United Airlines VP of Corporate Security Captain Hank Krakowski used his allotted five minutes to hold a Taser worship service.  In fact, he went so far as to ridiculously claim that, “The Taser is the best overall weapon system.”  Best for whom?  If he’s concerned about the well being of the terrorists, we’d have to agree.  But we think he is more worried about…Money!  The airlines want the traveling public to forget the horrors of 9/11 and come back out for an airliner ride.  United hopes that putting stun guns in the cockpit will make potential travelers “feel” better.  The airlines want travelers to keep their heads in the sand and pretend that all is well; arming pilots with lethal force will not work toward that end.  Capt. Krakowski was correct on one point—and only one point—that the cockpit must be defended.  He’s dead wrong if he thinks that a stun gun will defend against a team of trained and coordinated terrorists – LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCIES ARE CLEAR IN THEIR OPINION THAT TASERS AND STUN GUNS WILL NOT DEFEND AGAINST THIS THREAT.  Air Taser Inc., in their own literature states that if you are attacked from behind, or by multiple assailants, you must be prepared to use the M26 as a stun gun, i.e. hand-to-hand combat.  With the lives of thousands hanging in the balance, it is clear that lethal force is warranted.

Since Krakowski brought up the issue, we can address it here.  United pilots are being subjected to what some call a blatant hours-long sales promotion for Tasers.  We cannot discuss the particulars of the training but we will characterize it, in our view, as biased to the extreme, not giving a “fair and balanced” view of the device’s capabilities and, much more importantly, its weaknesses and limitations.  Neither Airtaser Company nor United discuss what each and every law enforcement official APSA has consulted has stated unequivocally:  Tasers are NOT to be employed against multiple OR armed OR trained attackers; and today’s terrorists meet ALL THREE of those criteria.  Also, we have been told that every law enforcement agency that uses Tasers requires at least one other officer present with a firearm ready as a backup.  APSA believes that United Airlines is eager to sacrifice well-established, universal law enforcement engagement rules on the altar of economic anxieties.   Even the FBI has stated, “Less-than-lethal devices, including stun guns and Tasers, should not be relied upon to defend the cockpit of an aircraft.”  The National Institute of Justice, which exists to study non-lethal weapons, stated during the Mica hearing that none of the other available types (chemical, etc.) should be used to defend cockpits; and they said of Tasers that they are perhaps suitable against a single attacker.  NO ONE without a financial interest in the matter recommends Tasers to defend cockpits.  Is that clear?  We would love to—and we damn sure can—debunk the particulars of the United training here, but we cannot without jeopardizing some pilots’ jobs.  Even the previously mentioned Mr. Laird said of Tasers that they are not suitable and give a false sense of security.  Make a copy of this, or material from our Website, and give it to United pilots when you hear them gushing over their new toys. 

A dozen international airlines arm their pilots without incident.  Pilots in this country were armed for decades without a single unsafe gun incident.  When arming pilots with firearms has been shown to be a safe course of action, why are we even discussing less-than-optimal weapons?  Why are some willing to forfeit the obvious benefits of firearms?  Have we already forgotten the consequences of failing to defend the cockpit? 

What Now?

The ball is STILL in President Bush’s court, as it has been since he signed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act on November 19th of last year.  Actually, it has been in his court since 9/12, when he could and should have issued an Executive Order arming pilots.  Given the White House’s stonewalling and hand wringing to date, we are not optimistic. 

The Congress, once again, holds the most promise, but time will elapse to boil down various bills to one that will be presented to our President.  For the foreseeable future, airline pilots and our passengers will be flying DISARMED AND DEFENSELESS.  Al-Qaeda, and other terrorists that we don’t even know about yet, must be thrilled.


As you can see, APSA has done a lot and continues to be a key player in the fight to arm airline pilots with firearms.  Your donation will make a difference.  Even though your donations to APSA are NOT tax deductible, every single penny goes directly to the fight for arming pilots.  No salaries, no admin costs – it’s a good value for your donations dollar.  Please send your donation to:

8190 Beechmont Ave # 340
Cincinnati, OH 45255-6117

As we have stated many times, we are in this until we are armed.  Relentless and Right.  Stay the course.  With your continued support and pressure on Washington, we will prevail over those who cannot see past their wallets.


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Printer Version

Those, who have the command of the arms in a country are masters of the state, and have it in their power to make what revolutions they please. [Thus,] there is no end to observations on the difference between the measures likely to be pursued by a minister backed by a standing army, and those of a court awed by the fear of an armed people. — Aristotle, as quoted by John Trenchard and Water Moyle, An Argument Shewing, That a Standing Army Is Inconsistent with a Free Government, and Absolutely Destructive to the Constitution of the English Monarchy [London, 1697].

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