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Pilots blast TSA to speed more guns into cockpits

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  • 8/25 Associated Press
    Published Monday, August 25, 2003, by the Associated Press Pilots want administration to speed weapons training to put more guns in cockpits By Leslie Miller
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 26, 2003
      Published Monday, August 25, 2003, by the Associated Press

      Pilots want administration to speed weapons training to put more guns
      in cockpits

      By Leslie Miller
      Associated Press Writer

      WASHINGTON (AP) -- Capt. Phillip Beall thinks 10,000 of his fellow
      airline pilots should have been given guns by now and trained to use
      them while in the cockpit.

      Instead, he said, fewer than 200 have weapons because the agency in
      charge of arming pilots is dragging its feet.

      "They've turned it into a bureaucratic nightmare," said Beall, a
      member of the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance, a grass-roots
      organization that includes pilots from all the major U.S. airlines.
      Beall flies out of Dallas.

      Pilots are stepping up their campaign to pressure the Bush
      administration into arming and training more of them.

      The pilots planned news conferences Tuesday at airports in Miami,
      Washington, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Cincinnati to urge the
      Transportation Security Administration to speed up the program.

      Brian Turmail, TSA spokesman, rejects the claim that the agency isn't
      moving fast enough. He said the TSA quickly created a training
      program and application process for pilots, and now that those
      elements are established, the pace of training will pick up.

      Full classes are booked through the end of September, he said. The
      number of pilots in each class is kept secret for security reasons.

      Pilots lobbied Congress hard last year, arguing that guns would allow
      them to supplement air marshals, who cover only a small percentage of
      the 35,000 daily flights in the United States. The TSA, seeking to
      address a budget shortfall of nearly $1 billion, froze air marshal
      hiring in May.

      The agency had opposed arming pilots, believing tighter airport
      security, bulletproof cockpit doors and more vigilant passengers made
      it unnecessary. Critics also said adding guns to airplanes was
      inherently dangerous.

      But after it became obvious that Congress would support the program,
      TSA chief James Loy reluctantly went along.

      Pilots who volunteer for the program take a week of classes, weapons
      instruction and hand-to-hand combat drills at a federal law
      enforcement training center. Background checks and psychological
      testing also are conducted.

      Capt. Bob Lambert, president of the pilots' security group, said at
      the current rate of 50 pilots a week it will take 15 years to arm the
      estimated 40,000 pilots who want to carry guns.

      The first 44 pilots to complete the program were designated "flight
      deck officers" on April 19 and began flying with weapons. The second
      class finished in July, and now classes are conducted weekly.

      An upcoming move to a training center in Artesia, N.M., from Glynco,
      Ga., will allow the agency to train more pilots, Turmail said.
      Pilots, though, don't like the new location because it's difficult to
      get to.

      Former Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., will speak in support of the pilots at
      Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport.

      "The government is throwing roadblocks in the way of fulfilling what
      was a very clear congressional mandate," Barr said. "If the White
      House would simply make a clear statement that this must be done, it
      dramatically improves the chances of it happening."

      On the Net:

      TSA: http://www.tsa.gov
      Airline Pilots' Security Alliance: http://www.secure-skies.org
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