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February 20, 2003
ALPA Criticizes Serious Deficiency in TSA Firearm Carriage Recommendation
WASHINGTON, D.C.---The Air Line Pilots Association, International today criticized a key component of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) preliminary Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program recommendations announced yesterday. The TSA has recommended that FFDOs carry a pistol in a holster while in the cockpit, but would require the pilot to secure and carry the pistol in a "lock box" secured in a flight bag or other container at all other times.
"Congress created the FFDO program with the intention that airline pilots would be the last line of defense against airborne terrorism," said ALPA president Captain Duane Woerth. "In passing the legislation, Congress mandated a program that would deputize airline pilots as federal Law Enforcement Officers (LEOs). Our members, most of whom have military and/or law enforcement backgrounds, will readily accept LEO training. However, they demand a TSA program that reflects their responsibilities, as well as their skills and professionalism. The horrible events of 9/11 identified the cockpit as a battleground and the need for qualified airline pilots to be trained as LEOs. Congress specifically mandated that FFDOs be trained to ensure that the officer maintains exclusive control over his or her firearm at all times; the TSA’s preliminary recommendation appears to thwart that statutory requirement."
"The issue of weapon carriage also has tremendous practical implications," said ALPA First Vice-President Captain Dennis Dolan. "Everyday, thousands of LEOs fly as passengers on our aircraft with their weapons safely secured on their person. This certainly is the safest procedure, and it is one that most, if not all, other federal law enforcement agencies require of their officers while traveling on commercial aircraft. Personally carrying a weapon means less chance of loss, theft, or accidents. Alternatively, a situation in which the FFDO is required to relinquish control of the weapon and have it stowed out of his or her sight creates the potential for all three problems. For many reasons related to security and the normal movement of flight crews, it would be impossible for an FFDO to accomplish the TSA’s weapon carriage recommendation."
"The TSA’s preliminary recommendation on weapon carriage gives ALPA concerns that the agency is failing to implement the FFDO program as Congress directed. We are also troubled that the TSA’s delay in developing the program to an acceptable degree will correspondingly hinder the training and deployment of the FFDO protection that the flying public deserves," said Captain Woerth. "ALPA hopes that the TSA is willing to continue a dialogue to address these concerns."
ALPA represents 66,000 airline pilots at 42 airlines in the U.S. and Canada. Its Web site is http://www.alpa.org .
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ALPA CONTACT: Henry Gasque, (703) 481-4440