A pro-gun-rights women’s group is circulating a petition aimed at encouraging airline pilots’ unions to ask members to suspend air service nationwide until Congress and the Bush administration allow pilots to fly armed.
The petition was written by Kathryn A. Graham, a Texas-based private investigator, author and director of the state’s Armed Females of America chapter. By signing it, participants “demand that the pilot unions initiate protest action including suspension of air service until an effective program to select, train and arm qualified airline pilots is approved,” the petition states.
“American citizens, flight crews and innocents on the ground continue to be exposed to the hazards of ineffective security and government policies that prevent qualified pilots from having the weapons to combat a hostile takeover of the flight deck,” says the document.
The petition comes amid growing calls from some lawmakers, pilots and the traveling public for the administration to allow air crews to fly armed. The idea of guns in cockpits is being touted as a “last resort” method for protecting planes against the kind of hijackings involved in the Sept. 11 attacks. At present, the administration’s policy is to shoot down commandeered airliners using fighter jets.
Supporters of armed pilots hope Congress eventually can pass a new law that would bypass Transportation Security Administration Director John Magaw, who decided earlier this summer not to implement a rule passed by Congress immediately following the Sept. 11 attacks authorizing pilots to be armed.
In the meantime, Graham’s effort seeks to force the issue.
“The pilot unions have the authority and responsibility to the flying public to call for a national suspension of service until an unsafe situation is corrected,” reads the petition.
Graham could not be reached immediately for comment.
But Capt. Bob Lambert, a spokesman for the Airline Pilots’ Security Alliance, or APSA, told WorldNetDaily that his group opposes an airline strike to force the issue, despite the group’s avid support for armed pilots.
“We cannot sanction any job action,” Lambert said, noting that since APSA officials work closely with allies in Congress to try to pass armed pilot legislation, “we feel like [calling for a strike] would be like stabbing them in the back.”
Other industry sources say a majority of airline pilots personally favor the idea, though Lambert said pilots were, for the most part, contractually bound to remain in their cockpits.
As an alternative to Graham’s petition, he suggested she and other groups organize a day in which Americans who support the issue refrain from flying to make their point.
“That way, the pilots wouldn’t have to bear the entire load,” he said, adding that pilots’ unions “wouldn’t support a suspension of service anyway.”
Administration officials aren’t the only ones leery about the idea; pilot groups say the airlines themselves are against guns in cockpits because executives fear they will be sued if a passenger is killed or injured in the act of a pilot attempting to defend the cockpit. Legislation sponsored by Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., however, seeks to address that issue.
Meanwhile, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents 13,600 American Airlines pilots, has released a “Lethal Weapon Demonstration” video that purports to show why non-lethal weapons such as stun guns are no match for determined hijackers.
The video, which was reportedly sent to key lawmakers, features two scenarios. Using U.S. Special Forces personnel, scenario one showed a team of four “hijackers” gaining entrance into the cockpit of an airliner through a non-secured door. Using a fire extinguisher, the hijackers gained entry in about 12 seconds.
Once inside, a pilot attempted to subdue the hijacking team using a single-use “stun gun” of the variety preferred by major airliners. However, the lead hijacker was shielding himself with a seat cushion and was unharmed. The hijackers easily overpowered the flight crew and took over the plane.
In the “lethal weapon” scenario, the second pilot was armed with a handgun and was able to “kill” the hijackers as they gained entry into the cockpit. The APA pointed out that the firing all took place near the entrance to the cockpit; passengers, the video said, were not in danger.
The video made three points: The cockpit door is breachable; only lethal capability can defeat lethal intent; and “one pilot flies while one pilot fights” to save the plane.
Producers said scenarios featuring cockpits with reinforced doors were in production but would not be released to the public “for security reasons.”
The APA said 85 percent of pilots and 79 percent of the American public support the idea of arming pilots who volunteer to carry a gun.