- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

Several senators said yesterday they were willing to consider legislation that would allow pilots to carry stun guns or other weapons to stop airline hijackers.
"I'm open to that," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat. "The pilots have been asking us to consider pepper spray, tasers, stun guns. I wouldn't rule it out at all."
He said pilots have been advising each other in Internet chat rooms to remove the airliners' escape axe from its mounting in the cockpit and lay it on the floor next to them to be used as a weapon if they are attacked.
"We've got to be able to do better than that," Mr. Durbin said.
Sen. Jon Kyl, Arizona Republican, said stun guns for pilots are one of several security options.
"I think the pilots ought to be able to do more," Mr. Kyl said.
Mr. Kyl said airline-security experts and lawmakers also should consider a system that would identify any U.S. military personnel on a civilian flight so the flight crew could call on them in a hijacking to help subdue hijackers.
Pilots' organizations, however, are asking permission for more extreme measures. The Air Line Pilots Association, a pilots' union, yesterday said they want Congress to deputize pilots as law enforcement personnel and allow them to carry firearms onboard aircraft.
Meanwhile, airport employees are undergoing a new round of background checks as the Federal Aviation Administration tries to prevent more terrorist attacks. In addition, the FAA grounded crop-dusting planes for a second day yesterday as evidence grows terrorists intended to use them to spread deadly chemicals or viruses over populated areas.
FAA chief Jane Garvey yesterday said a ban on early seat selection and carry-on baggage for airline passengers were among options being considered by the Transportation Department to increase security. Two Transportation Department task forces are scheduled to make recommendations on airline security Oct. 1.
"Things that two weeks ago would have been perceived as a significant inconvenience are now being perceived as essential security measures," Mrs. Garvey said during a trip to New York to assess security at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.
FAA inspectors are checking employment histories, immigration status and security risks of baggage handlers, food-service workers and any employees who have access to ramps, airplanes, tarmacs and other secure areas.
"We can't speak about any security measures, but they are just recertifying badged employees," said Melanie Miller, spokeswoman for the Maryland Aviation Administration, which oversees Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "They're just going through all the paperwork."
FAA spokeswoman Allison Duquette said, "Basically, we want the airports to make sure the ID is current, genuine and that they're tamper-proof."
Business for the nation's $129 billion a year airline industry is still depressed after the Sept. 11 attacks that destroyed New York's World Trade Center and damaged the Pentagon.
"As of the end of last week, they were at about 80 percent," said Diana Cronin, spokeswoman for the Air Transport Association, the Washington-based trade organization for major airlines.
Business groups in the Washington area are urging the federal government to reopen Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport to help airlines and the local economy recover from the terrorist attacks.
The airport remains closed because of security concerns created by its nearness to key buildings in the nation's capital.
"The region cannot get back to business as long as Reagan National Airport remains closed," said Mary Anne Reynolds, spokeswoman for the Greater Washington Board of Trade.
The Board of Trade estimates the Washington region is losing about $5.5 million per day in direct income as a result of the airport's closure.
"The region's three airports are one of the most important jewels in our ability to attract and hold business," Miss Reynolds said.
"Removing one of those jewels from the crown, greatly diminishes our sparkle."

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide