Wednesday May 29, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 142



Pilots must be armed to protect U.S. airplanes

Fredrick Walker

Every time there is major act of violence or terrorism we are faced with questions about how our country should change in order to prevent
further conflict. A popular topic concerning the "imminent" terrorist attacks on American soil is whether we should arm our pilots. For the last
few weeks the media, and President Bush have discussed this issue.

The airline security law enacted after September 11 enables the new Transportation Security Administration to decide whether or not pilots
should carry firearms. The agency has since voted against the proposition, with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge outwardly opposing the idea.

Due to recent events, in the future, if any plane is hijacked there is a good probability that it will be shot down. So then, why not at least give the
good guys a chance? If the pilot or co-pilot had a gun, the chances of retaking the plane would improve dramatically.

Think about it. What terrorist would configure a scheme like the one used September 11 and be dumb enough to try it if the pilots had guns.
Maybe some, but I would like to see the size of a box knife that would scare a pilot from blowing the terrorist's head clean off. I do realize that
these terrorists we are dealing with are not exactly the sanest people in the world, so I would not put it past them. I'm saying the possibility they
would succeed would drop considerably.

There are some major concerns regarding the outcome of allowing pilots to carry guns. In various scenarios it could lead to an innocent
bystander or important piece of equipment being shot. However, I fail to see how one person dying of a stray bullet or an engine being
destroyed compares with thousands of people from all nationalities and religions being murdered.

In a recent discussion on KSEV talk radio there was one caller who said, "even if I got shot while they (the pilot and co-pilot) are trying stop the
terrorists, I wouldn't mind." And I would have to agree. If it means the plane not being slammed into a building with thousands of innocent
people I would be perfectly willing to take that chance.

Pilots would have to go through extensive training, but I'm sure many pilots would be willing to make it safe to fly, especially since the attacks of
September 11 in which the pilots were among the first to be killed.

In early history books it is stated that pilots used to be required to carry guns when they where responsible for delivering the U.S. mail. If it was
mandatory for pilots to have guns to protect small pieces of paper, why are they not given the right to protect human lives?

On the downside the question was raised "What if the pilots were the crazy people?"

In 1997 Air Force One hit the box office in the number one slot. The premise behind it, as one reviewer said, is as follows: "Harrison Ford plays
a U.S. president who single-handedly employs his rigid antiterrorism policy when a band of Russian thugs hatch a takeover of Air Force One."

Now that everyone has had ample time to view this movie on late night television, we all know who started it. An American traitor used his
position inside the plain to secure a majority of the weapons for the terrorists; however, after helping to raise the death toll he is left in the
crashing special effects montage.

So what if this scenario were to happen in real life? It is possible that there are some American pilots who could get greedy and decide to take
an offer in exchange for control of the ship, but where do they think they are going? It is not likely that terrorists are going to drop off a pilot before
they go on a suicide run. Though it could make an interesting plot twist in a summer movie, it holds very little bearing here in the real world.

Arm the pilots; give them a fighting chance before you force another pilot to kill hundreds of innocent victims.

Walker, a sophomore creative writing
major, can be reached at


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