Armed pilots – what’s up with the Federal Flight Deck Officers program?

A Washington Times editorial notes the Obama administration’s FAA budget has diverted $2 million from the Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDO) program to provide more funding for supervision of pilots.

Some suggest this is an administration attempt to disarm pilots, but my quick research indicates this probably is not true. I read the editorial yesterday, but I elected not to write about it since the opinion piece was so vague.

… President Obama is quietly ending the federal firearms program, risking public safety on airlines in the name of an anti-gun ideology.

The Obama administration this past week diverted some $2 million from the pilot training program to hire more supervisory staff, who will engage in field inspections of pilots.

In fiscal year 2007, the program received $25 million in funding, and in 2008 it was suggested that funding increase by $2.5 million. If the Obama administration is diverting $2 million from the program elsewhere, this is not an attack on the concept of arming pilots.

What does concern me is statements noted in the editorial from program participants.

Since Mr. Obama’s election, pilots have told us that the approval process for letting pilots carry guns on planes slowed significantly. Last week the problem went from bad to worse. Federal Flight Deck Officers – the pilots who have been approved to carry guns – indicate that the approval process has stalled out.

Pilots cannot openly speak about the changing policies for fear of retaliation from the Transportation Security Administration. Pilots who act in any way that causes a “loss of confidence” in the armed pilot program risk criminal prosecution as well as their removal from the program. Despite these threats, pilots in the Federal Flight Deck Officers program have raised real concerns in multiple interviews.

For those of you involved in the FFDO program – is this true?

Since less than 3 percent of flights have air marshals, I’m quite fine with pilots having access to a firearm as a last resort to keep hijackers off the flight deck.

FFDO training is not your everyday gun safety and shoot at a few targets class. For a full week, pilots review legal issues, use of force, firearms training and defensive tactics. They are trained specifically for protection of passengers – by keeping hijackers off the flight deck.

Training is provided by the Federal Air Marshall Service, which is the right organization since they too, deal with guns inside pressurized tin cans at flight level 250. (Little ATC lingo for you there…)

The Times notes program participants are – for a lack of a better phrase – very well behaved.

The 12,000 Federal Flight Deck Officers, the pilots who have been approved to carry guns, are reported to have the best behavior of any federal law enforcement agency. There are no cases where any of them has improperly brandished or used a gun. There are just a few cases where officers have improperly used their IDs.

Fewer than one percent of the officers have any administrative actions brought against them and, we are told, virtually all of those cases “are trumped up.”

stupid-holsterOther than the stupid holster design – click on image to enlarge  – FFDOs need to deal with, this is a good program that should be continued.

Ed at Hot Air asks if we are disarming pilots, as does Malkin and Atlas Shrugs.

5 replies
  1. Erik Blazynski
    Erik Blazynski says:

    I don't care either way but can you explain how a pilot carrying a gun keeps a flight  safer? I think you have a greater risk of accidental firing of the gun than you do of the pilot ever having to actually use it.

    • Steve McGough
      Steve McGough says:

      In my opinion, there is no such thing as an accidental discharge – it's a negligent discharge (ND). There may be more of a chance of a ND in a home compared to actually needing it for home defense, but that does not mean we should not have the option to have them.

      Hindsight is 20/20, but you've got to admit that if one pilot or more were armed (or if trained LEOs were on board) on 9/11, it is a possibility things could have turned out better for some. Same thing at VT or other shootings in public places. Not saying it would have definitely made it better, but it's hard to say it would have been worse.

      I'd want the opportunity to defend and use a firearm as a last resort, and from what I've read about the training the pilots receive, and the required continuing education, I'm comfortable with them defending the cockpit.

      • Erik Blazynski
        Erik Blazynski says:

        It is possible that things could have been different on 9/11. There was a case about a year ago in a mall where an off duty cop shot one of these nut jobs that shooting up the mall.

  2. Lazybum
    Lazybum says:

    Looking at the holster, it is more likely that the pilot would lose a finger trying to unholster the gun.

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