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December 24, 2004

Arming Pilots: The Dept. of Transportation Fights Congress

Human Events tells us of a good example of bureaucratic blockage of the will of the voters and Congress. I'd like to know more; usually the bureaucracy can't succeed in such obvious disobedence. Probably Secretary Mineta was on telling it what to do.


Members of Congress are becoming frustrated with bureaucrats who have put roadblocks in the way of a program to arm airline pilots that Congress first authorized months after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Three years later, only an estimated 4,000 of the more than 95,000 commercial pilots have participated in the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program. But this lack of participation does not indicate a lack of pilot interest, proponents say. They claim the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has intentionally stymied the program.

A soon-to-be-released poll from the pro-gun Airline Pilots Security Alliance indicates upwards of 50,000 commercial pilots would like to become FFDOs, but are reluctant to participate because, as the program has been implemented by TSA, they can only train at a remote desert facility in Artesia, N.M., and they aren't allowed to carry their firearm in a holster outside the cockpit of their plane. Instead, they must carry it around in a bulky 6-pound lockbox.

The program has faced an uphill battle from the start. Anti-gun Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta, the lone Democrat in the Bush Cabinet, refused to establish the program after Congress authorized it in November 2001. It took additional congressional action a year later, in December 2002, to force TSA to act. Problems remain, however, that lawmakers say TSA has refused to fix....

Even though lawmakers and pilots have complained about the lockboxes, TSA spokeswoman Deirdre O'Sullivan said they're not going away. "The way in which the legislation was written originally said that the area of jurisdiction for federal flight deck officers is the cockpit," she said. (Earlier this year, however, TSA took the liberty of changing its practice of requiring the lockboxes to be stowed with checked luggage. After several firearms were reported missing, pilots were told to carry the lockbox at all times.)

Posted by erasmuse at December 24, 2004 03:33 PM

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