Fight back or be shot down?
Prior to the 9/11 tragedy, little thought was given to the question of whether or not airline pilots should be armed. Apparently, the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continue to give little thought to this matter.
Weapons in aircraft are nothing new. In Alaska, bush pilots are required to carry a firearm. For protection from mountain lions or bears or to get food, our aircraft survival kit includes a firearm.
One of my friends works in the airline industry as a mechanic. Of late, he has been reinforcing cockpit doors. He tells me the reinforced doors are pretty strong, but the structure surrounding the doors is still the same as it was prior to 9/11. Ergo: determined terrorists wonít attempt to force the door open, the terrorists will just burst through the weak bulkheads that support the newly reinforced doors.
This means the currently unarmed pilots and their passengers will be just as defenseless as they were prior to 9/11. So why not allow those pilots who chose to do so and who are willing to undergo extensive weapons training to be armed?
It used to be said that firing bullets around inside the pressure chamber that forms the hull of the modern airliner would cause a catastrophic decompression. Yes, a few bullet holes will cause a loss of pressurization, but it would be relatively slow. Even so, some people will continue to believe in the myth of catastrophe decompression. And they are the ones who need to know that a new type of handgun ammunition has been developed that is powerful enough to stop a terrorist, but not powerful enough to poke a hole in the hull of an aircraft.
Still donít like pilots shooting bullets at terrorists? Then, there is the stun gun which only puts out enough high voltage to cause an attackerís legs to collapse and they fall to the floor. Hopefully, to be jumped on by other crewmembers or passengers.
Donít like stun guns? Then, there is a goo gun or slime gun that emits a sticky spray that functions like a gigantic handcuff.
Oh, you say the pilot needs to be concentrating on flying the airplane and not worrying about defending the cockpit with one of the devices mentioned above? Well, hereís a little secret. Most of the time the modern airliner is flown by its autopilot. About the only time the pilots fly is during the takeoff. During the en route phase of flight, the autopilot does about 99 percent of the flying.
How about landings? Some airliners do not have the Stage III auto land equipment as yet and must be hand flown during the landing phase of flight. But many airlines do have aircraft with the Stage III auto land feature. Some airlines even forbid their pilots to disconnect the autopilot during landings.
So, how about this choice? Assume the terrorists have taken over the airliner on which you or some loved one is flying. Would you rather have the airliner shot down by an F-16 fighter before it can hit the Capitol or the White House or some other key facility? Or, would you rather take your chances that your armed pilots can subdue the terrorists and land you or your loved one safely?
This observer doesnít know what the odds are that your pilots can successfully defend the cockpit and land you or your loved ones safely. But if fired on by an F-16, you have a 100 percent of going down in flames. And, that poor fighter pilot, although ordered to do so, will have to live with all those deaths for the rest of his life.
Most airline pilots are former military pilots. They have been around weapons before. And, if they are bright enough to have flown fighters or bombers or helicopters in the military, they are bright enough to excel at cockpit defense training.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy by William Penn Ė a novel about a terrorist attack on the vital water facilities of Coloradoís high country.