Is that you, John Wayne, is this me?

Look guys, pick a career, cop or pilot. Shortly after 9/11, airline pilots decided that the cockpit would be far safer if they were allowed to carry firearms. In response, the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program was born.

Ever since its creation, a few thousand airline pilots have gone through the weeklong training process in order to carry a firearm while in the cockpit – now they want to carry it everywhere, including through the airport and while deadheading in the cabin.

This is not without precedent – early airline captains also were armed under the premise that they carried U.S. mail. There was a time in the country where mail carriers were allowed to be armed (Pony Express?) and those laws remained on the books for years. And yes, it is an irony that postal employees were allowed to carry guns, considering that’s where the phrase “going postal,” came from, but I digress.

Carry a gun in the cockpit as a last line of defense. Okay, I’ll go along with that. It’s sort of like defending your home. Frankly, if the plane is being hijacked and terrorists are storming the cockpit, I hope there’s a trained professional at the controls of the flight (that’s the first priority, fly the plane) and that just maybe there’s an armed pilot who can shoot back. I don’t expect the next hijacking to be with box cutters and knives – no, if there is another serious hijacking, it’s probably going to be individuals armed with firearms, smuggled onto the flight by employees, just like on TWA Flight 847 back in 1985.

But guns in the cabin? This will not make the cabin nor the flight safer.

Sorry, but it took me awhile to go along with the FFDO program. Please understand that a properly trained individual knows how to take a gun off someone. I only made it to level 2 of Krav Maga, and even I know the techniques and am not half bad at it, even several years later.

Every year police officers are shot with their own firearms, which is why protecting their gun in a fight is a top priority. FFDO’s receive one week of training. Federal Agents and State and Local law enforcement officers receive up to 14 weeks of training – that’s 14 times more training than the FFDO. While some of the FFDO training is on how to prevent someone from taking your gun, it’s not enough to protect that firearm in the cabin of an aircraft.

There is a valid argument to be made that armed FFDO’s could help defend an passengers if there was an active shooter incident in the terminal building. However, if there is an active shooter incident, FFDO’s will likely pull their firearm out of their locked container and use it. Obviously, it takes a longer to extract a gun from a locked box, than from a holster. However, what’s the greater risk – a 30 second delay in responding to an active shooter incident, where others (real cops) are supposed to be on hand and responding, or allowing untrained individuals to move through the public area with a firearm readily available?

We haven’t even mentioned the Congressional issues here, such as whether the FFDO will have any other law enforcement authority such as search and seizure, the ability to detain an suspicious individual, and so on.

If pilots want to be real federal agents, then go through the 14 weeks of training that real federal agents are required to undergo. And, go through annual re-training on self-defense and protecting your firearm – not just a one week course. Really though – if you want to fly armed, join the DEA.

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One Response to Is that you, John Wayne, is this me?

  1. Hi, Jeff. Great article! I agree with you. After several years of working for the PD, I have learned that every fight I go to is a gun fight. I have to protect my weapon and be ready to use it at a moment’s notice, and I don’t have to fly a 300,000 lb plane at 500 kts while doing it.
    Also, LEOs are trained to “always be aware of the target, and beyond”. If anyone shoots a gun on plane, they are definitely going to hit something and probably someone, intended target or not.
    As far as an active shooter scenario, pilots have no police radio, no vest, no cover and could easily be mistaken as one of the shooters. Active shooter training teaches officers to quickly neutralize threats. Nothing good would come from someone with a pistol, and possibly in a trenchcoat in a Cat. X airport during an active shooter situation.
    JMHO

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