FAA Seeking Advice on Arming Pilots

— Is asking people like you to send comments

You will remember that your hard work at the end of last year helped pass an armed pilots provision into law soon after the September 11 tragedy. Well, your help is needed once again.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking advice from the public on how to implement this new law. Of special concern is the fact that former BATF head John Magaw is now the Transportation Security Chief (who is in charge of enforcing the law).

It is important, therefore, that the FAA hear from concerned citizens like yourself. The deadline for responding to the FAA is February 14.

The FAA is asking the public to comment on several questions. Some of the questions do not involve firearms, but many of them do. For example, the FAA wants to know:

  1. Whether pilots and other flight crew members should carry firearms or less-than-lethal weapons, and if so, whether it should be on a voluntary basis;
  2. Whether and how the weapons should be stored on the aircraft or carried on board;
  3. The types and numbers of firearms that should be carried on aircraft for use by qualified pilots and the types of ammunition;
  4. The amount and type of weapons training that [FAA] should require, including whether there should be initial and recurrent training;
  5. Whether the qualifications for using less-than-lethal weapons or firearms should be integrated into the existing systems for establishing and maintaining airman qualifications, such as pilot certificates and ratings.

TALKING POINTS to consider in your letter to the FAA:

(1) It was the clear intent of Congress to arm pilots for the defense of their crews and passengers. This was also the clear intent of the provision’s sponsors, including Sen. Bob Smith (R-NH) and Rep. Don Young (R-AK). Thus, the FAA should implement this law in good faith.

Senator Smith (along with several other Senators) stated last month in a letter to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta that:

Both houses of Congress, as well as the Airline Pilots Association and Allied Pilots Association, have demonstrated support for providing pilots the means to effectively protect commercial aircraft from violent acts by terrorists…. We believe that armed pilots are a first line of deterrence to terrorism, because terrorists will know that armed pilots will be behind that reinforced cockpit door to defend the aircraft. We further believe that armed pilots are the last line of defense against terrorism, because when all else fails, an armed pilot will be provided with the most effective means to disable a terrorist. Accordingly, we hope that you and the new Undersecretary will move expeditiously to implement Section 128 [of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act].

Likewise, Representative Young (along with more than 60 other Representatives) told Secretary Mineta that, “We hope that you and the new Under Secretary will move expeditiously to implement Section 128 [of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act], in order that these indispensable provisions [allowing pilots to carry guns] can be carried out seamlessly and without delay.”

(2) According to the new law, the Transportation Security Chief must approve firearms training for pilots. Thus, the FAA could incorporate one to two hours of training into the standard curriculum that pilots must already receive when they complete their four-to-five day annual training requirement — a course of study mandated for pilots every nine months. (Firearms training could also include former military training or private entities capable of training at or above the standard set by the under secretary of transportation security.) Pilots could also be trained with respect to aviation-related issues such as Rules of Engagement.

(3) The federal government should not try to second-guess the airlines with respect to the types and numbers of firearms which may be carried. Rather, this determination should be delegated to the airlines. In particular, the airline should be allowed to choose to purchase firearms or to require pilots to purchase a standardized model of firearms. Given that American Airlines, for example, could order 14,500 firearms at one time, the FAA is hardly is a position to determine what type of firearm would be available in those quantities, let alone what firearms could be quickly and economically procured in those quantities without driving costs to a prohibitive level.

(4) The McClure-Volkmer law (passed in 1986) may already allow pilots to carry firearms in locked boxes. However, a better solution would probably be for the FAA to certify pilots who have successfully completed annual training as law enforcement officers for the limited purpose of allowing them to carry firearms on their persons, nationwide. With 1500 pilots sleeping over in hubs such as Dallas and Chicago, an airport armory could accumulate long lines of pilots which would make “security checkpoint” lines look tame by comparison. In addition, armories might raise security concerns, both in terms of their robbery potential and in terms of claims by non-pilots with forged credentials.

In foreign airports, such as London, the number of American pilots or American carriers may total no more than 80 or 90, making an armory more of a management issue and less of a potential security concern. Not coincidentally, the insertion of armed pilots onto the streets of New York and Chicago will make these cities safer and will help dispel the notion that a new class of armed citizens will turn American cities into “shooting galleries.”

ACTION: Please send comments to the FAA before February 14. You can read the entire FAA posting by going to http://www.gunowners.org/faaregs.htm on the internet, or by getting a paper copy when you submit a request to the Federal Aviation Administration, Office of Rulemaking, ARM-1, 800 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20591. You can also get the rule by calling the FAA at (202) 267-9680. Make sure to identify the docket number of this rulemaking (Docket No. is FAA-2001-111229).

Submit your comments to:

Public Docket Office
Department of Transportation
400 Seventh Street, SW.
Room PL-401
Washington, DC 20590-0001

When submitting your comments, make sure to identify the docket number of this rulemaking. The Docket No. is FAA-2001-111229; the title is “Firearms, Less-Than-Lethal Weapons, and Emergency Services on Commercial Air Flights.”