Rules change for packing pilots
10:59 PM CDT on Friday, June 4, 2004
By MICHAEL GRABELL / The Dallas Morning News
The Transportation Security Administration said Friday that it is adjusting the way pilots who are authorized to carry guns in the cockpit must transport their guns while commuting between airports. Administration officials declined to release specifics about the policy change because of national security concerns.
The change: According to pilots familiar with the policy change, the trained pilots, known as "federal flight deck officers," will no longer have to stow the gun in the cargo hold when they fly as a passenger between airports. Instead, they will be able to carry guns with them in a lockbox when they board the plane.
The background: Congress has authorized the TSA to train volunteer pilots to use guns to defend the cockpit.
The controversy: A pilot's gun was lost this year after it was stowed in cargo. The Airline Pilots Security Alliance says that flight deck officers are being treated like second-class citizens and argues that members of other law enforcement agencies can carry guns when they travel. The TSA says it must balance pilots' wants with security needs, noting that an armed pilot's jurisdiction is in the cockpit, not in the cabin.
Pilots say: "If the TSA is in fact going to eliminate the requirement to put the lockbox in the cargo hold for nonflying pilots, that would be a good step," said John Mazor, Air Line Pilots Association spokesman. "However, we still do not believe that the requirement to carry the firearm in a lockbox is in the best interest of safety and security."
The TSA says: "We've adjusted the carry policy based on concerns that we've had from the pilots, but no way does this compromise security to benefit them," spokeswoman Andrea McCauley said.