In light of recent events, the pilots union, at least here in the States, is considering a proposal that will allow them to carry guns into the cockpit on upcoming flights. Now, I'm not either for or against gun control of any kind, (although I would never personally own or carry one, sorry NRA), but I do see some problems inherent in this proposal.

1) Accidents happen - whether they be in a home or in a cockpit, guns have a tendency to go off.

2) Under what scenario would a pilot be called upon to exercise the use of a gun. Would it have prevented the tragedy that recently occurred? I don't know, there's people a lot smarter than I am that get paid way more money to figure this kind of stuff out. All I do know is that I will not feel any safer knowing that I'm in a plane travelling at some unimaginable speed with loaded guns in the cockpit.

3) Let's suppose that a terrorist decides then to threaten the lives of the passengers unless the pilot turns over his weapon. What is the pilot to do? Have the passengers killed or turn over his weapon? That's a decision that I know I wouldn't want to be faced with. Dead passengers or armed terrorists - what's the lesser of the two evils?

4) What training, if any, will the pilots be subjected to?

5) Will all pilots be forced to adhere to this policy? If I've got a philosophical difference regarding the use of guns, will that disqualify me from being or becoming a pilot?

I'm sure that there are plenty more reasons, both pro and con, that this extreme measure should be considered. I just don't know how much of an effective deterrent this measure will be. I will however invoke the immortal words of Archie Bunker of All in the Family fame. I think it went something like this:

Okay Meathead, I got a way to stop all these hijackings.....just arm all the passengers!!!!!!

Arming the pilots with guns is probably a bad idea. Namely because guns aren't actually all that practical in the enclosed space of the cockpit.

The issue of bullets putting a hole in the airplane does not matter much. Special bullets exist which are still effective enough against a human target, but will not pierce the side of an airplane. Sky marshals have been armed with these for some time.

However, arming the pilots with police-style batons may work better. In an enclosed space, the trigger-finger reflex on a gun becomes a severe bottleneck, because that reflex is among the slowest in the human body. If the pilots were prepared (as they undoubtedly would be, given the new safety requirements for cockpit doors), they should be able to handle anyone who comes through the door quickly and effectively.

On February 18th, 1969, four armed terrorists attacked an El-Al (Israel’s national airline company) aircraft in Zurich airport. An armed security officer that was on board the plane killed one of them and held off the other three till Swiss security forces reached the area. This was the first public indication that El-Al employ armed sky marshals on its flights.

In addition to security men, El-Al has employed other safety measures such as sealed double doors to the cockpit, a luggage area that is blast-protected to a certain extent and, according to some reports, measures to avoid heat-seeking missiles. It’s worth noticing that while Israel has been a prime target for terrorist attacks ever since 1948, and certainly since 1967, no Israeli airplanes were kidnapped. Strict security measures taken by El-Al personnel in airports help protect the plane from bombs, too.

While this has made flight prices slightly higher, it seems to be worth it. Other airline companies can adopt many of these measures that have already proven themselves useful.

On a side note, I seem to recall that in the afore mentioned incident in Zurich airport the Swiss police acted in their usual friendly way and arrested the security man along side the terrorists…

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