Posted: 5/24/2002 6:01:24 AM EDT
[I]This is an email that I received from ASPA. Please consider forwarding it to anyone who believes in making our skies safer.[/I]
This a must read, start to finish. We give the history of our effort and we all know it is critical to understand history.
APSA Armed Pilot Update, May 23, 2002
PLEASE PASS THIS UPDATE ALONG TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW THAT MAY FAVOR ARMING AIRLINE PILOTS!
Good to have you aboard for the APSA Update, Late May 2002 edition. If you've received this from a friend, (and that would be a good friend
indeed) why don't you go over to our web site at www.secure-skies.org and click the link for our free email updates. We'll keep you in the loop regarding the armed pilots issue.
Anyway, fasten up. Let's get to the Update.
Most people don't know that for many decades after the dawn of commercial aviation, airline pilots carried firearms in the cockpit without incident.
However, in late 1987, after a suicidal attacker broke into the cockpit of an airliner, murdered the pilots and crashed the airplane, the FAA started requiring pilots to pass through screening checkpoints to ensure that they
had no weapons. (Don't worry; we never understood that one either.)
After the FAA disarmed airline pilots in late 1987, it was only a matter of time before some terrorist organization took advantage of their foolishness.
OK, fast forward now to July of 2001. Airline pilots have been defenseless for over a dozen years and a flood of intelligence reports warn that Al Queda might hijack an airliner soon. Interestingly, in the thicket of the Federal Aviation Regulations, there remained a little known and completely unused provision that allowed individual airlines to arm their pilots.
Coincidentally, the FAA chose July of 2001 to start the process of removing that regulation from the books. The sad irony is that the process was completed in September of 2001. The very month that airliners were used as guided bombs was the month that the FAA made it official that no airline pilot could ever be armed.
A New Group Forms
Many airline pilots, like many ordinary citizens, saw the problem with defenseless cockpits on September 11th and knew that we needed to change the rules. We had to stop assuring terrorists that the pilots were easy pickings once you got past the cockpit door. In fact, we needed to promise the terrorists that if they did attempt a cockpit takeover, that they would be met with lethal force.
In October of 2001, these pilots formed the group that became the Airline Pilots' Security Alliance (APSA).
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Off To Work We Go.
APSA immediately started to lobby Congress. In November of 2001, Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire offered an amendment to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA) that allowed airline pilots to be armed. Representatives Don Young (Alaska) and John Mica (Florida) placed similar language in the House version of the bill. Unfortunately, the language in other provisions of the bills was not identical between the House and the Senate versions, and a conference committee was held on November to iron out the differences. APSA lobbied the conferees heavily and we fought hard to keep the armed pilot provisions in the final bill. It was in the conference committee that the language for arming pilots was diluted, giving the Bush Administration and the airlines the OPTION to arm pilots with firearms. On November 19, 2001, President Bush signed into law the ATSA, making it again possible (if the administration and the airlines approved) for pilots to be armed.
How Hard Can This Be?
To us, arming pilots was only common sense. Airplanes were used as weapons of mass destruction after the pilots were brutally murdered. Arm the pilots so they can defend their airplanes and you can deter future attacks. All we needed to do (we thought) was produce a well thought-out plan for arming pilots, present it to the administration and - voila - they will do the sensible thing. In December of 2001, the FBI produced its Special Operations and Research (SOAR) report and Cockpit Protection Program (CPP). Both recommended arming pilots with firearms and the SOAR report stated clearly that Tasers and Stun Guns should not be relied upon to defend the cockpit of an airliner. The FAA opened a period of public comment on the subject of arming airline pilots. Public response was immediate and overwhelming in favor of arming pilots with firearms. It seemed clear that the administration was moving in the direction of arming pilots.
Working completely independently, APSA, the Allied Pilots' Association (APA), the Coalition of Airline Pilots' Associations (CAPA), the Air Line Pilots' Association (ALPA) and the Independent Pilots' Association (IPA) produced programs for arming airline pilots. Interestingly, all of the programs reached very similar conclusions. First, the program should be voluntary and should include screening and training by a federal agency.
The firearms should be used only as a last resort, final line of defense of the cockpit when terrorists have broken through the cockpit door. Aviation and firearms experts should select specific firearms and ammunition.
Seeing that they had reached nearly identical conclusions, these groups began to work together toward the common goal of arming pilots.
[I](to be contd.)[/I]
Let's Show 'Em What We've Got
In February of 2002, the FAA public comment period closed with over 8,000 comments (an OVERWHELMING response, thanks to you), the huge majority favoring arming pilots. APSA, now free to lobby the government, set its sights on the White House. Between late January and April 25, 2002, APSA briefed the White House Domestic Policy Institute, The National Institute of Justice at DOJ, DOT, FAA, OIRA, OMB, TSA and the Director of the Federal Air Marshals. Each briefing included a thorough presentation of the proposed program, rational for arming pilots, public opinion, risk assessment and many other topics. We gave each participant a detailed written proposal that explained our program. We answered endless questions about the program and we made ourselves available for future consultation.
In short, we visited scores of people at the White House and made every attempt to explain the carefully crafted program that would safely arm pilots we were proposing.
In early April, the leaders of APSA, APA, CAPA, SWAPA and ALPA sent a letter to President Bush asking him to move quickly to arm pilots. We pointed out that his administration was dragging its feet on the issue and we needed to move quickly. Shortly after, when APSA briefed Deputy Undersecretary of the TSA Steve McHale, he told us that, "The threat is real and the clock is ticking. We need to make a decision on this very soon."
In late April, the White House made it clear to us that they did not intend to create any meaningful program for arming airline pilots. Very reliable sources told us that the White House was under intense pressure from the airline's lobby group - the Air Transport Association (ATA) - to keep pilots from being armed. Even though the ATA was publicly neutral, they privately lobbied powerfully against arming pilots.
What's The ATA's Problem, Anyway?
At first, everybody thought the ATA's (read airline's) biggest concern was liability and the pilot groups, especially APA, devoted large resources to solving the liability problem. With liability fully addressed, the ATA's opposition did not decrease; it strengthened. We then realized that liability was not the real issue. The real problem: Power.
Airline pilots are employees of the airline, but the relationship is not like a normal employee/employer relationship. Pilots have great autonomy and authority to make decisions about the operation of the airplane. For years, the airlines have been working to degrade that authority and the stature that comes with it by attempting to remove decision-making power from pilots, or at least dilute the decision-making authority pilots enjoy to the largest possible degree. The airlines would like to transfer decision-making authority to employees with less training and experience that are more susceptible to pressures from middle managers that have never flown an airplane but are cognizant of the bottom line.
[I](to be contd.)[/I]
Understanding the above realities, it becomes clear that the ATA's problem is not liability or distraction or loss of cabin pressure or any other safety concern. In fact, all of the above problems are red herrings and arming pilots with firearms will return us to the higher level of safety we enjoyed prior to 1987. No, the reality is that the airlines are willing to trade safety for victory in the power struggle they have initiated with their own pilots. Arming pilots will not degrade the authority and stature of airline pilots, it will enhance it and that is totally unacceptable to the ATA.
Where Does That Leave Us?
All along, we knew that it was possible that the administration might succumb to pressure from the ATA and refuse to arm pilots. In fact, this week's announcement by DOT Undersecretary John Magaw that the TSA would not allow airline pilots to be armed (it is the TSA's option under existing law) was an announcement we had been expecting for several weeks. We have always kept our Congressional options open and on March 25th, we briefed the House Aviation Sub Committee on our program for arming pilots. They were quite receptive and earlier this month, Congressmen Young and Mica (Mica is the Chairman of the committee) introduced legislation that would mandate arming airline pilots and take the option to say no away from the TSA and the airlines. Always ahead of the game on this issue, Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire was ready with a coalition of Senators (Murkowski - AK, Burns - MT, Miller - GA, Bunning - KY, Thurmond - SC) who introduced a bill today that mirrors the House bill.
Passage in the House of Representatives is very likely. The Senate will be an uphill battle, but it is a battle that can and will be won. It's going to take some work, persuasion and advocacy from you, our members, and we know we can count on you.
Stay With Us
Soon, we will have specific bill numbers for you to support and specific Senators for you to contact. Please watch closely for APSA Alerts; we'll need you to respond with your usual vigor. We know that we can depend upon you - you've come through for us before and we know you will again answer the call.
APSA will be back in the business of making presentations to people in congress very soon and the expense of producing proposals, banners, printed materials and of maintaining our communication links is substantial.
Donations to APSA are (1) NOT tax deductible, (2) never used for overhead or salaries (everybody works for free), (3) very much needed and (4) VERY MUCH APPRECIATED.
Please send whatever you can to:
8190 Beechmont Ave # 340,
Cincinnati, OH 45255-6117
We'll use every penny in the fight to arm airline pilots for the defense of our passengers, crews and innocent victims on the ground.
We Say Again: WE'RE NOT QUITTING UNTIL THIS IS DONE! It's the right thing to do and we are in this fight until we win it.