Congress voted last year to allow the training of pilots to carry firearms on flights. The program calls for volunteer pilots to become "federal flight deck officers." But the requirements proposed by the TSA, which has until Tuesday to implement its firearm-training program and finalize its requirements, could discourage pilots from entering the program and all but gut it, frustrating congressional intent.
According to Tracy W. Price, a spokesman for the pilots group, the TSA wants each pilot who wants to carry a gun to submit to a wide-ranging background investigation, including interviews with neighbors, relatives, friends and co-workers, an interview with a TSA psychiatrist, a second government psychological exam and a medical evaluation.
Price said that many of the requirements were redundant because the Federal Aviation Administration conducts physical and psychological exams of pilots every six months.
"They're requiring us to jump through so many hoops so that we can't meet the requirements."
Price said APSA objected to some of the language in a draft of the TSA's guidelines for arming the pilots. That draft, he explained, shows that pilots have to "have the requisite mental, psychological and cognitive abilities as well as the discipline and judgment" to possess the firearms. The pilots also must "conduct themselves with maximum regard for the safety and security of the traveling public, crew" and federal air marshals.
" Our position is if you don't have those traits in abundance already, you have no business being an airline pilot," Price said.In a statement Price’s group said, The TSA (the same government bureaucracy that recently gave itself the power to unceremoniously revoke a pilot's certificate) will require from each Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) candidate:
1) A lengthy and probing application and resume.
2) A government-administered psychological exam, testing AIRLINE PILOTS for things like MENTAL ABILITIES, JUDGMENT, DISCIPLINE, AND THE ABILITY TO FOLLOW PROCEDURES, POLICIES, REGULATIONS AND LAWS. Airline pilots must prove each day that they possess an abundance of these traits. What would happen to a pilot that failed to meet the TSA standard? Would the benevolent government bureaucracy be merciful enough to let him continue to do the job he has been doing quite well for many years?
3) A one-on-one "interview" with a TSA psychiatrist. The TSA will be screening to make sure that AIRLINE PILOTS CAN "CONDUCT THEMSELVES WITH MAXIMUM REGARD FOR THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF THE TRAVELING PUBLIC, CREW AND FAMS..." No kidding.
4) A very probing, intrusive and exhaustive government sponsored background investigation to include"interview" with a TSA "security expert." They will call a pilots neighbors, friends, relatives, co-workers, previous employer and, in direct violation of the law, THEY WILL ASK HIS OR HER CURRENT AIRLINE EMPLOYER IF THEY THINK THE PILOT SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO PARTICIPATE IN THE FFDO PROGRAM. Considering the airlines longstanding and clear opposition to this program, we wonder what the answer might be?
5) A medical evaluation. Apparently existing FAA exams required every six months are inadequate for the TSA.
6) TSA agents will be skulking around FFDO training facilities with pencils and notepads OBSERVING THE BEHAVIOR OF FFDO STUDENTS DURING THEIR FIREARMS TRAINING and making sure they have the proper "mindset." Stand by for a hostile training environment.
7) ANOTHER "psychological assessment" after training is completed. Look forward to another TSA sponsored psychiatric grilling.
The time proven method, the one that is the safest and most secure way of transporting a firearm, is for the individual responsible for the firearm to carry it on his person. The TSA is not planning to allow this for FFDO's BECAUSE THEY WANT TO MAKE THIS PROGRAM AS CUMBERSOME, UNMANAGEABLE, UNWIELDY AND AS EXPENSIVE AS POSSIBLE in order to minimize the number of pilots that volunteer and to doom the program to failure even before it starts. GUNS IN UNATTENDED LOCK-BOXES OR IN UNSECURED CREW LUGGAGE WILL PUT ALL PILOTS IN JEOPARDY AND MAKE OUR TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM LESS SAFE, but these facts conflict with the TSA's true agenda: To scuttle the FFDO program.
Price said that a "TSA attorney-advisor, Mr. Stephen L. Cohen has made it clear that the TSA intends to make the program so difficult, intimidating and burdensome that no pilot will volunteer."
"Airline pilots want nothing more than a reasonable, effective and safe program," Price said. "It is obscene to subject airline pilots, who willingly volunteer for this unpaid duty so that they can defend their passengers and crew, to the TSA proposed minefield. Airline pilots are not the enemy, the terrorists are!"
And, it appears, so is the TSA.