Protest TSA Roadblocks
26, 2003 will
be the day that airline pilots from around the country will
attend press conferences to protest what they say is Transportation
Security Administration foot-dragging on the Federal
Flight Deck Officer program.
Airline pilots believe it is time to remove roadblocks such
as prolonged psychological screening, background checks,
lockboxes and cargo pilot restrictions, and get pilots armed
as mandated by federal law.
is clearly non-compliant with both the letter and the spirit
of the law in regard to keeping our skies safer from terrorism.
airlines are specifically excluded from the provisions of
the Armed Pilot program. Cargo carriers who operate some
of the largest aircraft in commercial aviation do not meet
the same security requirements as passenger aircraft. And
operate from the most security weakened areas of the airports.
Most cargo aircraft do not have reinforced cockpit doors,
or in some cases, no door at all. These deficiencies are
ingredients for another 9-11 style disaster.
The lockbox requirement is probably the most preposterous
and potentially unsafe rule put upon the pilots by the TSA.
Pilots authorized to carry firearms must lock them in a
lockbox before leaving the cockpit to use the restroom.
Any time the cockpit door is opened, for any reason, a firearm
must be available for immediate use since that is the time
the cockpit is most vulnerable. And the more times a firearm
is handled you increase the risk of a negligent discharge.
when an FFDO is traveling as a passenger to pick up another
flight his lockbox with the firearm must be placed in the
cargo hold of the aircraft. This exposes the firearm to
theft by baggage handlers and other unauthorized persons.
Not to mention the fact that the firearm is out of the control
of the pilot if it is needed to prevent an act of air piracy
of the Homeland Security Act allows for all airline pilots
to be eligible for participation in the FFDO program. Enrollment
in the FFDO program has dropped since the TSA completed
their last class of pilots. The TSA claims that this is
because of a lack of interest from pilots. However, pilots
claim that the process is so intrusive and draconian that
they cannot chance being rejected for fear of losing their
The TSA has determined that any pilot who doesn’t pass the
ludicrous screening requirements, for whatever reason, he
or she will be reported to the Federal Aviation Administration
who may revoke the pilot certificate of the failed pilot.
are accustomed to frequent medical testing and proficiency
evaluations every six months and have been subjected to
FBI background checks in order to maintain their current
flying status. This makes most of the additional screening
requirements redundant and cost prohibitive.
Congress passed legislation last year authorizing the TSA
to begin selecting, training and arming airline pilots to
date less than 150 are flying with firearms.
It is apparent that the TSA and other government agencies
are more concerned about the illusion of security to the
traveling public and not the safety of passengers or innocent
citizens on the ground.
Airline pilots claim that this arrogance will come at a
big cost if terrorists again gain control of another commercial
airliner. With our terror alert level at “Elevated” and
the FBI issuing warnings to law enforcement that we are
risk of more terror attacks more could and should be done
to ensure that our pilots are equipped with all the tools
necessary to discourage any attempts to take over a flight
Captain Bob Lambert, President of the Airline Pilots Security
Alliance, recently made this statement: “While the Department
of Homeland Security warns that al Qaeda has threatened
to use commercial aviation here in the United States and
abroad to further their cause, their colleagues at TSA are
preventing the fastest and most effective deterrent which
is to arm pilots in the cockpit as a last line of defense
against an attack.”
The Transportation Security Administration is a new agency
that has never trained law enforcement officers in the use
of firearms and has been opposed to the armed pilot program
from the beginning. Pilot firearm training should be taken
out of their hands and conducted under the authority of
the US Justice Department and contracted to civilian firearm
academies. This alone will expedite the training process
and dramatically decrease the cost of the program to the
At the current rate it will take 15 years for the TSA to
train 40,000 of the nations 120,000 pilots at a cost of
$12,000 per pilot. Private schools can provide the same
standard of training for less than $2,000 per pilot and
have the pilots trained and back on the job much faster
than the TSA has been able to do.
One premier school, Front Sight Firearm Academy in Las Vegas,
NV, has offered to train airline pilots for free and another
school has presented a proposal to the TSA to train these
pilots at their facility at a cost of $800 per pilot. So
far the TSA has not responded to any offer to train pilots
even though the law allows private industry to train the
The TSA is even going so far as to move their training facility
to a more remote location. In September 2003 the TSA firearm
training center will be moved to Artesia, NM which is nearly
200 miles from the nearest large city. This move will increase
travel time and add additional costs to the pilot candidates.
These efforts are designed by the TSA to thwart any interest
from pilots to participate by making it even more difficult
for pilots to travel at their own cost to this remote location.
And this requirement will burden the airlines by having
them arrange for additional travel days. Even though the
additional time off will be at the expense of the pilot
candidate another pilot will have to cover the lost time.
This issue is becoming critical in the eyes of pilots who
are responsible for the safety of their aircraft and passengers,
and should be treated by our government as a serious national
You, the reader, may be opposed to pilots carrying firearms,
but what if you were on a hijacked airliner with terrorists
in the cockpit, wouldn't you want the pilots to have a fighting
chance? The situation could only be worse if they weren’t
Captain Jackson is a pilot for a major US airline. He
is also a certified firearm instructor and an advisor to
Armed Females of America.