- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 25, 2001

We trust airline pilots with our lives in metal tubes hurtling through the atmosphere at 500-mph 35,000 feet up. So it's no great leap of faith to trust them with firearms now that such a precaution has become necessary. A new study commissioned by the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and the United Seniors Association, released yesterday, confirms this. According to the Airline Passenger Security Survey, which polled 800 registered voters across the nation:
Seventy-five percent of those polled favor arming airline pilots.
Forty-nine percent of those surveyed would switch to an airline that armed its pilots.
More than half (51 percent) would be willing to pay up to an additional $25 per ticket to pay for new security measures.
Seventy-eight percent of married women with children support arming airline pilots.
Seventy-seven percent of adults 55 and older support arming airline pilots.
The poll, which has a 3.46 margin of error, almost certainly is an accurate reflection of the views of most Americans. After all, we're not talking about handing out weapons to just anybody here. Commercial airline pilots are among the most intensely screened, highly trained professionals in the work force. A great many have prior military experience and are already familiar with the safe, effective handling of firearms. Those who lack such familiarity could easily be trained. The APA, which represents 12,000 pilots, has already passed a motion supporting a program to authorize, train and certify cockpit crews to carry lethal weapons in secure areas of airports and onboard flights.
But the salient point is that these are people who can be trusted indeed, they are people whom we already trust implicitly with our very lives every time we board an airplane. They are already our last line of defense in the event of an ordinary emergency. Providing them with the means to serve as our last-ditch defense against the new kind of emergency terrorism is simple common sense. Making the flight deck more secure with stronger doors, and so on, is certainly worth doing as well. But giving the pilots the ability to protect themselves physically and thereby us as well is clearly of equal importance. After all, once an airplane has left the tarmac, calling 911 won't do. Up in the sky, there's no safety net, no cavalry to save the day. Just a planeful of helpless, innocent passengers at the mercy of any terrorist who manages to smuggle a weapon onboard. Arming the flight crew improves the odds in favor of the good guys.
"We hope the House considers these important views of the American people when crafting their bill on airline security," said Charlie Jarvis, president of the 550,000-member United Seniors Association. As the House takes up the issue of airport and airline security as part of the debate over the Aviation Security Act, passed by the Senate last week, we hope so, too.


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