- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Most of the public supports arming pilots and having federal air marshals aboard commercial airline flights to guard against potential hijackings, according to a survey.
Ninety-five percent of the public favored having air marshals on flights, according to the poll, conducted by the Winston Group of Alexandria. Also, 75 percent of respondents supported having pilots armed "as a precautionary measure" against terrorism.
The survey, which will be released today, was commissioned by the Allied Pilots Association, which represents pilots at American Airlines, and the United Seniors Association, a conservative activist group. The group collected information from 800 registered voters.
A federalized work force that includes armed air marshals is one of the provisions in an aviation-security bill being considered by the House this week.
Eighty-six percent of the respondents said pilots should be armed on all flights, whether international or domestic, and 60 percent of those surveyed said carriers need both air marshals and armed pilots.
"People understand the need for a layered strategy. They understand we need to do both," said Capt. Phillip Beall, chairman of the Allied Pilots Association's Dallas-Fort Worth branch.
Almost 60 percent of the respondents said they support gun control.
"This is not a gun-control issue. It's a safety issue. The concept of arming pilots makes people feel safer," said David Winston, who conducted the survey.
Seventy-five percent said they would be willing to pay for the extra security measures.
The airline security bill is stalled in the House, where the issue of federalizing airline screeners is divided along party lines. The bill was stuck in the Senate for more than a week before compromise led to a unanimous vote Thursday.
Some House Republicans are holding out for a private airport and airline-security force that is closely monitored by federal regulators. They say federalizing the work force would create another unnecessary government bureaucracy. Democrats say the job is too important to turn it over to private companies whose primary goal is profit.
"We must pull the system up by its roots and overhaul it," said House Minority Leader Richard A. Gephardt, Missouri Democrat, at a press conference yesterday at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. "And the only way to do that is to put it under the control of a federal law enforcement agency. Our airports are a national security issue and federal law enforcement has a role at our airports just as they do at our borders."
Mr. Gephardt was joined by other members of Congress who warned that a delay in passing the bill would endanger airlines and passengers.
"The Senate passed a very good bill last week by the unheard-of margin 100 to nothing," said Rep. Peter A. DeFazio, Oregon Democrat. "One hundred to zero. Every day the House does not act on this issue represents 24 hours of missed opportunity."

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