CNSNews has a great piece exposing the bureaucratic mess the Transportation Safety Administration has made of the federal program to arm commercial airline pilots. OF the 40,000 pilots who initially expressed interest in the program, only 4,000 ended up joining.
One FFDO [Federal Flight Deck Officer], who agreed to comment on the "carry protocol" for armed pilots' handguns only if CNSNews.com did not disclose the person's identity, said the regulation is "designed to deter participation."What's more, the TSA's regulations appear to purposefully impare the usefulness of the weapons even for the few pilots who do carry them.
"A lot of my coworkers have watched what I go through and they say, 'You know what? I'm not signing up,'" the FFDO explained.
The FFDO also believes such comments are the result TSA desires. "I've had so many pilots tell me, 'I'm not signing up for this. I'm not putting myself through this kind of agony to go through what you go through.'
"That is the thing that's really deterring participation," the FFDO added.
Unless the pilot is behind the locked cockpit door, TSA requires that the weapon be holstered, locked inside a hard-sided gun case and stored inside "a bag that is non-descript."The TSA also prohibits the pilots from discussing any "classified" aspects of the program, forbidding them from revealing any flaws and failures to anyone other than TSA bureaucrats -- even Congress!
The policy leaves pilots defenseless during the time when law enforcement and security experts agree that the cockpit is most vulnerable.
"The weapon needs to be re-secured in the locked box if the cockpit door is open," Rosenker explained, acknowledging that the regulation would include times during flights when one of the pilots leaves the cockpit to use the restroom or get food. ...
Dean Roberts, a former federal law enforcement officer and pilot, now flies for a commercial passenger airline. He told CNSNews.com that even some pilots with federal law enforcement experience would not apply for the FFDO program because of the lock box requirement. ...
"When I carried a gun as a federal law enforcement officer on an airplane, it was a hassle carrying a gun [on board]," Roberts explained. "The FFDO program has got about 20 more unnecessary steps in the process that make it more hassle than it is worth."
Does the TSA actively discourage pilots from applying? Some pilots apparently think so.
Capt. Tracy Price, a founding member and current advisor to APSA [Airline Pilots Security Alliance], is one of the thousands of pilots who say they will not apply to become an FFDO, fearing reprisals from the TSA, their employers or both. ...And the psych examination?
"They maintain this kind of thinly veiled threat that it is always a possibility that you could apply for this program and find that, not only are you not in the program," Price added, "but also that your employer-airline has been notified or the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] has been notified that you've lost your pilot's certificate."
The first question with which pilots take exception is, "Would you like to be a fighter pilot?" The question is allegedly intended to identify individuals who might be "overly aggressive" and "prone to risk taking behavior." ...The TSA opposed the FFDO program, so it shouldn't be a surprise that they're implementing it poorly now that Congress has forced it on them. The American bureaucracy is far too powerful.
"We're still getting emails, to this day, from highly, highly qualified pilots, F-16 pilots, B-1 bomber pilots who are being turned down," Price said, adding that many of those pilots routinely have access not only to the firearms they carry on their person as a military pilot, but also to nuclear weapons transported in the aircraft for which they are responsible.