Armed Pilots Face
The number of armed
pilots aboard U.S. jetliners has steadily
expanded in recent years, and as a result,
the program is beginning to show signs of
growing pains. Pilots and their labor groups
are now complaining about a lack of supervision
and the difficulty in finding time to participate
in costly mandated training courses. The
pilots are required to attend a two-day
mandatory refresher course at a training
facility near Atlantic City three to five
years after getting their guns. Those who
participate are not paid for their time,
reimbursed for travel, lodging or food expenses.
Using a weapon is a perishable skill, and
we want to ensure they have the appropriate
training,' said John A. Novak, an assistant
director with the air marshal service told
The Washington Post.
To be allowed to carry
handguns in cockpits, pilots undergo psychological
testing and a seven-day training course.
They must visit a firing range to demonstrate
their shooting skills every six months.
The controversial gun program, which started
in 2003, was backed enthusiastically by
pilots and their unions as a way to prevent
terrorist hijackings after the Sept. 11,
2001, attacks. When the program began, union
officials said as many as 30,000 pilots
would eventually carry firearms in cockpits.
The number of armed pilots is well short
of that number,. While government officials
will not specify the number of federal agents
onboard aircraft, sources familiar with
the program claim there are now more armed
pilots than there are federal air marshals.