Arming Pilots against Terrorism: Implementation Issues for the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program [Updated January 9, 2004] [open pdf - 97KB]
"The Homeland Security Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-296, 116 Stat. 2135) contains provisions to arm pilots of passenger aircraft and gives deputized pilots the authority to use force, including lethal force, to defend the flight deck against criminal and terrorist threats. Participation in the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, established under the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act contained in P.L. 107- 296, was initially limited to pilots of passenger aircraft. However, a provision in the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] reauthorization act (Vision 100; P.L. 108-176, 117 Stat. 2490) expanded the program to include flight engineers as well as flight crews of all-cargo aircraft. During debate over legislation to arm pilots, proponents argued that the potential benefits of deterring or thwarting terrorist and criminal acts against passenger aircraft outweighed the inherent risks associated with arming pilots. However, opponents of policy allowing pilots to be armed with lethal weapons argued that such a program's safety risks and monetary costs significantly outweighed these potential benefits. Risks cited included potential distraction to the flight crew, dangers that a weapon discharge could pose to the aircraft or its occupants, and security concerns associated with carrying firearms in secured areas of the aviation system. Proponents countered that these risks could be effectively mitigated, but recognized that these are important issues to be addressed for successful implementation of the policy to arm pilots."
CRS Report for Congress, RL31674
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