WASHINGTON (AFA) -- The Air Line Pilots Association is easing off its request to let pilots carry firearms in cockpits in favor of stun guns after getting a lukewarm reception from Congress.
"We've had pretty wide support for stun guns", Duane Woerth, the union's president, said Friday. "I haven't had too many arguments about getting that. . . at least (in) the cockpit."
Government officials also have put airlines on notice that some of their planes might be needed by the military, he said.
"They've started circulating notices -- not activating them, but started noodling with airlines -- with what they're anticipating . . . so they can start making some plans," he said. "But that is classified, and I know it's happened, but I don't know what the numbers are."
Woerth testified at a congressional hearing this week about a need for arming pilots under a voluntary federal program administered by the FBI. Congressional reaction was mixed.
"It's probably unlikely they're going to go with our program, but it's out there," Woerth said. "I'm just kind of washing my hands of it."
Woerth is on a panel scheduled to recommend to Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta on Monday ways to improve airport security. Stun guns stand a more realistic chance in Congress, he said.
Stun guns deliver nonlethal, high-voltage shocks to the nervous system to immobilize an attacker temporarily. The guns would be battery-operated and installed in the cockpit, and every pilot would have access to one. The panel has not decided whether the guns should be in cabins for flight attendants, he said.
President Bush proposed on Thursday expanding the number of air marshals on flights, setting federal standards and procedures for airport screeners, helping airlines pay for fortified cockpit doors and new security technology such as surveillance cameras and deploying the National Guard at airports until new security measures are in place.
Bush's speech "had very good language, but he didn't say a lot," Woerth said. He dismissed Bush's idea of radio controlled airplanes, saying it was "so far over the horizon it will make the missile defense system seem cheap."
Woerth said he supports an idea being talked about in Congress of a passenger tax of $5, or $2.50 each way, to pay for security.
"My belief is that's inevitable. We're just negotiating the amount and not the fact," he said.
Bush wants to create a new agency to upgrade and oversee screening procedures. But most Democrats and some Republicans say the system should be federalized, with airport screeners becoming federal employees similar to immigration or customs agents.
"That's an argument I'm going to let the Congress fight out," Woerth said. He just wants improvements in training and retaining security personnel.
Any security changes to passenger travel also should be made to cargo, which he said was the "weakest link" of the aviation system.
On the Net: Air Line Pilots Association: http://www.alpa.org/