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November 14, 2002
ALPA President Blasts Industry for Watering Down Cargo Security
WASHINGTON, D.C.---The head of the nationís largest pilots union and the chairman of the unionís pilot group at FedEx today blasted a last-minute lobbying maneuver that would exempt cargo airlines from a federal mandate in the Homeland Security bill to arm airline pilots.
"Yesterday, in an act that defies logic and creates a serious threat to public safety, the air cargo industry managed a back-room deal to get the word Ďpassengerí inserted in the House billís provision for arming pilots. A similar change is expected in the Senate version. The effect of this single word change is that it exempts all cargo carriers from the federal mandate to arm pilots in a bill that was intended to enhance the pilotís ability to protect the airplane," said Capt. Duane Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA).
"The Republican leadership is totally ignoring the will of the House and Senate, both of which already have voted overwhelmingly to mandate firearms for all airline pilots, not just those in passenger service. And with votes of 310-113 in the House and 87-6 in the Senate, support was fully bipartisan," Woerth said.
"The mandate provides a significant increase in security, and that is a very positive development. However, that the Republican leadership would intentionally create such an obvious loophole in cargo security is mind-boggling. This is an insult to Representatives Don Young and John Mica, Senators Bob Smith and Barbara Boxer, and the other members of the House and Senate who worked so diligently to provide all airline pilots with a last line of defense against terrorist hijackers," Woerth said.
"This follows an all too familiar pattern. The air cargo industry tries to circumvent safety and security regulations through waivers and exemptions. It was bad enough that cargo airline security had been overlooked in the rush to beef up airline anti-terrorist procedures after 9/11. Despite the fact that a hijacked cargo airliner makes just as deadly a guided missile as one full of passengers, not enough has been done to protect this segment of the industry from terrorist attacks," said Capt. David Webb, chairman of ALPAís FedEx unit.
"A cargo aircraft is devoid of cabin attendants and air marshals. However, at airlines such as FedEx, employees and vendors are routinely boarded. Political maneuvering by the cargo industry has shielded them from the level of security screening mandated for the passenger terminal. The entire burden for the security of the aircraft rests on the two or three pilots in the cockpit. There is little we can do to defend the aircraft against a terrorist attack. Stripping us of the ability to carry firearms in the post-9/11 environment is an appallingly irresponsible act. And the worst part is that it is our own managements that did this to us, with no discussion, no warning, no justification whatsoever," Webb said.
In addition to FedEx, ALPA represents pilots at cargo carriers Atlas Air, DHL, Gemini Air Cargo, and Polar Air Cargo, all of whom would be affected by the change.
"There is no basis for this blanket exemption from a needed improvement to security. It was done without regard to the needs of safety or security, but rather, as a concession to corporate CEOs. I fear that this is a harbinger of things to come, actions taken not because of the public interest, but in response to business lobbying in the post-election environment," Woerth said.
ALPA represents 66,000 airline pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site at http://www.alpa.org has a link to numerous documents and other items on the issue of arming pilots.
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ALPA CONTACT: John Mazor, (703) 481-4440