Marshals Are Good, But Armed Pilots Are Better


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FRIZ
January 2, 2004, 01:35 AM
The Wall Street Journal
January 2, 2004

Marshals Are Good, But Armed Pilots Are Better
By JOHN R. LOTT JR.

http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB107299581523057500,00.html

Another successful 9/11-type attack would make it very difficult to again restore travelers' faith in security and probably destroy the airline industry. Last week's cancellation of six Air France flights from Paris to Los Angeles made it clear that such a threat remains very real. Intelligence reports indicated that at least one of the would-be hijackers was trained to fly a plane.

Unfortunately, the European response has been slow. A year ago British transportation secretary Alistair Darling announcing that trained sky marshals "will be deployed where appropriate," but it was not until this past Sunday, just one day before the U.S. ordered foreign airlines to use air marshals, that any deployment was actually announced. While almost all other allies will follow along, with the possible exception of Sweden, they gave what has been described as a "frosty reception" to U.S. plans.

Given European governments' past heavy reliance on screening passengers and strengthened cockpit doors, sky marshals are a good start toward preventing terrorism, but they are not enough. Consider the following:

• Screening is hardly perfect. While many focus on the knives, box cutters and long scissors that all too frequently make it through security, the problem is even worse: no matter how carefully screeners monitor X-ray machines and metal detectors, many weapons are essentially undetectable without a full-body search. For example, there is no way to detect ceramic or plastic knives that are taped to an inside thigh. On Tuesday, a dead stowaway was found in the wheel-well of a British Airways flight from London to New York.

• Reinforced cockpit doors are now in place, but because of engineering constraints few experts have much faith in their effectiveness. Last summer, on a bet to test the doors' strength, an overnight cleaning crew at Dulles Airport near Washington, D.C. rammed a drink cart into one of the new doors on a United Airlines plane. The door reportedly broke off its hinges. The doors for European airlines generally provide even less protection.

When screening and reinforced cockpit doors fail, armed marshals can help prevent hijackings. Bill Landes of the University of Chicago found that between one-third and one-half of the reductions in hijackings during the 1970s could be attributed to two factors: the introduction of armed U.S. marshals on planes and the increased ability to catch and punish hijackers.

The U.S. experience can provide Europeans with some valuable lessons on the limitations of armed marshals. To effectively cover most flights today, the marshals program in the U.S. would cost $20 billion per year. Only a small fraction of flights to Europe have marshals and then only one day a week.

A cost effective additional layer of security is to let pilots carry guns.

There are many concerns that have been raised about letting marshals or pilots carry guns, but armed pilots actually have a much easier job than air marshals. An armed pilot only needs to concern himself with the people trying to force their way into the cockpit. The terrorists can only enter the cockpit through one narrow entrance, and armed pilots have some time to prepare themselves as hijackers penetrate the strengthened cockpit doors.

Pilots must also fly the airplane, but, with two pilots, one pilot would continue flying the plane while the other defended the entrance. In any case, if terrorists are in the cockpit, concentrating on flying will not be an option.

An oft-repeated concern is that hijackers will take the guns and use them against the passengers. Opponents in the U.S. note that police are sometimes killed with their own guns. Yet, in 2000 in the U.S., where police always carry guns, 33 out of nearly 700,000 police full-time officers were killed with a handgun, and only one of these firearm deaths involved the police officer's own gun. Statistics from 1996 to 2000 show that only 8/1,000ths of 1% (that's 0.008%) of assaults on police resulted in them being killed with their own weapon.

The risk to pilots would probably be even smaller than for marshals. Unlike marshals who would have to physically subdue terrorists, pilots would use their guns to keep attackers as far away as possible.

The fears of bullets damaging planes are greatly exaggerated. As Ron Hinderberger, director of aviation safety at Boeing, testified before Congress: "Commercial airplane structure is designed with sufficient strength, redundancy, and damage tolerance that a single or even multiple handgun holes would not result in loss of an aircraft. A bullet hole in the fuselage skin would have little effect on cabin pressurization. Aircraft are designed to withstand much larger impacts."

Arming pilots is nothing new. Until the early 1960s, American commercial passenger pilots on any flight carrying U.S. mail were required to carry handguns. Indeed, U.S. pilots were still allowed to carry guns until as recently as 1987. There are no records that any of these pilots (either military or commercial) carrying guns have ever caused any significant problems.

Putting sky marshals on a tiny percent of the planes is better than doing nothing, especially since they will be targeted on planes where we have some intelligence that an attack may occur. But do we really want to rely on advance intelligence to know which planes to guard?


Mr. Lott, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, has advised both the Airline Pilots Security Alliance and the Allied Pilots Association on security issues.

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foghornl
January 2, 2004, 11:13 AM
Letting everyone who is "CCW-Approved" carry on the plane is the best idea.

Bruce H
January 2, 2004, 11:57 AM
Quote:Letting everyone who is "CCW-Approved" carry on the plane is the best idea.

What I say What are you talking about foghornl. This would make entirely too much sense. This would deprive the government of all those worthwhile employees and make check in so much easier. I say son, have you really thought this through.

answerguy
January 2, 2004, 12:05 PM
Letting everyone who is "CCW-Approved" carry on the plane is the best idea.

That'll happen right after they start selling machine guns at Wal-Mart.

El Tejon
January 2, 2004, 12:08 PM
I was wondering when word on those slipshod "security doors" would get out. :(

I have a friend who is a commerical pilot. He said that a door on his ride was broken by a flight attendant unintentionally as she leaned on the door talking.:uhoh:

Security caused 9/11. Let the passengers defend themselves instead of treating them like cattle.

DaveB
January 2, 2004, 12:24 PM
I'm pretty much OKfine with arming the pilots, but I'd expect that their weapons would be used only as a last resort. I think that their job needs to be flying the airplane.

If the airlines and aircraft companies can agree on a secure cockpit door design, and the flight crews can be trained to operate securely, there's really no reason to arm the pilots. In other words, the pilots should not be expected to be first responders.

db

answerguy
January 2, 2004, 12:36 PM
A scenario that I can foresee is: terrorists killing passengers or flight attendants while demanding the cabin door be opened, how long could an armed pilot stay locked in his cabin watching this go on?

CAPTAIN MIKE
January 2, 2004, 01:18 PM
To me it is sensible to take a wholistic "integrated" approach to airline safety. That is, America should "lead the way" with a combination of improved screening, improved doors, armed & trained pilots, and sky marshals.

CCW permit holders are not all necessarily good shots. Some are lousy. I'd be in favor of an FAA approved training course for CCW types that would qualify us to carry aboard the flight, but I doubt it would happen.

None the less, if American airports required foreign-owned & foreign-based airlines to have a much higher degree of anti-hijacking security both on the ground and in the air before being allowed to land at USA airports, the situation would be better.

Glock Glockler
January 2, 2004, 08:32 PM
CCW permit holders are not all necessarily good shots. Some are lousy. I'd be in favor of an FAA approved training course for CCW types that would qualify us to carry aboard the flight, but I doubt it would happen.

Seeing how the US govt is such a friend to citizens bearing arms, as evidenced by scores of Federal Gun Control laws, I think it might be a better approach to let the Airlines determine their own security measures.

If someone can meet their standards they might give them a break on flying or even let them fly for free. Why stop at armed pilots, why not arm the entire crew? Instead of harassing 6yr old Jamacian boys and 89yr old Norweigan women in the effort to be "fair", allow them to take a closer look at Middle Eastern men if they so choose. In short, get the govt and it's Anti-Midas touch the heck out of airport security along with everything else except for defending the borders.

Standing Wolf
January 2, 2004, 11:13 PM
Letting everyone who is "CCW-Approved" carry on the plane is the best idea.

I guess I'm going to have to reread the Second Amendment, because I don't recall anything in it about the right of the people to keep and bear arms with proper government authorization.

rock jock
January 3, 2004, 01:15 AM
If the population of airline passengers mirrors that of the general public in a state with CCW, about 2% will carry. That means on a flight with 100 people, you and perhaps one other person will be in a gunfight against 10 terrorists who planned for this very contingency and are more than happy to sacrifice 3-4 of themselves to take out you and the other pistol-packing hombre. Given the fact that only about 2% of those who carry ever practice, your brother in arms will probably be more of a danger to the other passengers and yourself than to the bad guys. I know, I know, many of you are so uber-tactical that you could take out all 10 terrorists and still have time for your vodka martini shaken-not-stirred. However, in the real world, after you are dead, the remaining BGs will rush the pilot's cabin and take the plane. The irony is they will then proceed to crash it into a building where somewhere someone is posting on THR about how safe we would all be if only they got to CCW on commercial airliners.

Glock Glockler
January 3, 2004, 04:09 AM
You're right, rock jock, we'd be much better off without people being able to carry on a plane. Air security is so much better in govt hands than in private hands.

answerguy
January 3, 2004, 10:04 AM
Just a reminder:

Airlines are privately owned, privately owned businesses have a right to say who can carry on their property. If they say 'no carry' we have the right to choose another form of transportation.

Glock Glockler
January 3, 2004, 02:07 PM
answerguy,

Then why did I hear all that hoopla in Congress about whether or not pilots should be armed? If it's privately owned they should be able to make up their own security provisions, right, or is the govt not involved at all about what goes on?

SAG0282
January 3, 2004, 02:35 PM
As others have mentioned, I'm not so sure allowing EVERY CCWer to be on the plane armed is the answer. I do like the course idea, because having untrained, armed passengers might exacerbate any situation. Aside from poorly placed shots, they also do run the risk of being disarmed from lack of situational awareness and lack of weapon retention training.

As long as a fairly stringent course requirement is satisfied though, I'd support fully the ability of lawful CCW holders to be able to carry weapons onboard the aircraft. Sadly, I have a better chance of Britney Spears seeing me, falling in love with me, and spending the rest of her life with me.

Fly320s
January 3, 2004, 04:37 PM
If the population of airline passengers mirrors that of the general public in a state with CCW, about 2% will carry. That means on a flight with 100 people, you and perhaps one other person will be in a gunfight against 10 terrorists who planned for this very contingency and are more than happy to sacrifice 3-4 of themselves to take out you and the other pistol-packing hombre. Given the fact that only about 2% of those who carry ever practice, your brother in arms will probably be more of a danger to the other passengers and yourself than to the bad guys. I know, I know, many of you are so uber-tactical that you could take out all 10 terrorists and still have time for your vodka martini shaken-not-stirred. However, in the real world, after you are dead, the remaining BGs will rush the pilot's cabin and take the plane. The irony is they will then proceed to crash it into a building where somewhere someone is posting on THR about how safe we would all be if only they got to CCW on commercial airliners.

Well, I guess we could save a step and do away with all security precautions. That way the terrorist wouldn't need to have 10 men to crash the plane. Those extra seats could be sold to you and your family.

I prefer to "go down swinging", if you know what I mean.

answerguy
January 3, 2004, 05:10 PM
Then why did I hear all that hoopla in Congress about whether or not pilots should be armed? If it's privately owned they should be able to make up their own security provisions, right, or is the govt not involved at all about what goes on?

Point taken.

Another question. Can foreigners get a CCW in the USA? If they can then it would be a ticket to another hijacking.

Glock Glockler
January 3, 2004, 05:59 PM
Are you familiar with Marko Kloos, one of our people here on THR? I dont know if he got his citizenship here yet, but for years since he came here he would be considered a "foreigner", do you think he should not legally be allowed to pack?

If RKBA is a right, just like freedom of religion, do "foreigners" not also have that right?

answerguy
January 3, 2004, 07:36 PM
If RKBA is a right, just like freedom of religion, do "foreigners" not also have that right?

There in lies the rub. As someone else mentioned less than 2% of people have CCW. So on a plane of 100 people 2 citizens are carrying but ten terrorists are too. Who wins this fire fight?

Idaho
January 4, 2004, 12:43 AM
A scenario that I can foresee is: terrorists killing passengers or flight attendants while demanding the cabin door be opened, how long could an armed pilot stay locked in his cabin watching this go on?

After 9/11, I think a pilot would sacrifice the entire cabin before allowing the jet to be crashed into a building killing thousands.

To my way of thinking, that's why there will never be another 9/11, it will come in a different form. Now that people realize that a hijacking doesn't simply mean an unexpected detour to Cuba, the masses (and the pilots) wouldn't let it happen again.

Patrick Bateman
January 5, 2004, 12:17 AM
All I can say is the bullet resistant door is a joke. Nothing else is reinforced. So if they wanted to shoot through the door, just move to the side. Also, so many lavatories are located behind the captains seat and anyone can go up there and close the lav door and do whatever they want in privacy (mile high club, put together a weapon). But it does slow bad guys down so that is invaluable in that regards. No matter what they do though, it won't be perfect. Better security means being able to react to well made terrorist plans that defeat certain static obstacles. Doors can't think.

rock jock
January 5, 2004, 06:49 PM
Well, I guess we could save a step and do away with all security precautions. That way the terrorist wouldn't need to have 10 men to crash the plane. Those extra seats could be sold to you and your family.
Fly, your answer makes no sense.

Fly320s
January 7, 2004, 05:21 PM
The point I was trying to make is that your statement sounds like that you would rather have no security than security that can be breached.However, in the real world, after you are dead, the remaining BGs will rush the pilot's cabin and take the plane. The irony is they will then proceed to crash it into a building where somewhere someone is posting on THR about how safe we would all be if only they got to CCW on commercial airliners.

That sounds to me like you are saying, "Well, armed passengers won't prevent terrorists from taking control of the aircraft so we shouldn't even consider having armed passengers." Would you rather settle for having armed air marshalls on one in one hundred flights? Or having the military shoot down a suspected hijacked aircraft?

My statement: Well, I guess we could save a step and do away with all security precautions. That way the terrorist wouldn't need to have 10 men to crash the plane. Those extra seats could be sold to you and your family. was very sarcastic, even flippant. But my point is that having some type of security on the aircraft, even us lowly CCW-authorized civilians, is better than no security. I'd rather have Joe Bob Billy Ray and his Bersa .380 on my airplane than a bunch of people who think guns are only for the government.

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