Yet the idea that those responsible for flying an airplane might also take on crucial security duties struck some travelers today as an extreme response, perhaps foolhardy.
In nearly four dozen interviews in seven major airports, opponents of the idea outnumbered supporters by a ratio of roughly 3 to 2, and expressed deep concern about the consequences of using a gun on an airplane. People who favored the plan said the presence of an armed pilot provided an added layer of safety and confidence.
Caroline St. Antoine, a student from Atlanta waiting for a flight at La Guardia Airport in New York, liked the idea, noting that a pilot was ultimately responsible for the safety of a jet's passengers.
''Everyone else's life is already at stake,'' she reasoned. A program to arm pilots ''is just offering more protection for passengers.''
Elise Pryor, 68, of Phoenix, who was on her way to Philadelphia, said the prospect of on-board firearms ''wouldn't bother me at all.''
''I would feel more secure if they took a gun into the cockpit,'' Ms. Pryor said. ''At my age it just wouldn't bother me.''
Almost no traveler who was interviewed about the proposal was ambivalent.
''I'm not fond of arms anywhere, so my initial reaction is, there has to be a better way,'' said Cynthia Shapiro, an eyeglass-frame designer on her way from Phoenix to Chicago. ''I'd like to see security tighter, but this is not the way to do it. We have air marshals; they're trained. I think pilots should concentrate on flying the plane. Someone else should protect them. It's not necessary to have them protect us.''
''And what do you do,'' she asked, ''if the pilots have been drinking?''
The Phoenix area, where gun ownership is popular, is still reeling from the recent arrest of two pilots for America West, which is based here, for being legally drunk as they were about to fly a jet from Orlando to Phoenix. The pilots were subsequently fired, but Ms. Shapiro shuddered at the thought that intoxicated pilots could be armed.
That view was shared by another Phoenix traveler, Lisa Price of Denver, N.C., who said that even if pilots were given guns, ''they also ought to get breathalyzer tests.''
Cindy Dunlop, a technical manager for DHL Worldwide Express flying from Phoenix to Toronto, said she would fear that a shot fired inside the cockpit might cause unanticipated consequences, from damaging equipment to killing the co-pilot.
Like others interviewed at Sky Harbor, she recalled the final scene in the 1964 James Bond movie ''Goldfinger'' when a bullet fired in the cabin of a plane in flight pierced the skin of the jet and Auric Goldfinger, the villain, was sucked out a window by the change in air pressure. (In reality, aeronautical engineers say, that would never happen.)
Ms. Dunlop said she favored a less drastic approach, like a Taser, the stun gun that police use to subdue violent suspects. After the attacks, United Airlines bought Tasers and trained its pilots to use them, but the federal government has not yet approved their use.
In opposing in-flight firearms, Samantha Michael, a student who arrived at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago from North Carolina, cited assailants who attacked police officers and stole their guns. The same, she said, could happen to a pilot.
''It happens to cops all the time,'' Ms. Michael said.
In fact, Ms. Michael was supported by at least one study, by the Violence Policy Center, a Washington-based gun control group, that found 21 percent of police officers killed with a handgun were shot by their own service weapon. The group opposes the plan to arm pilots.
Adam Dutko, a college student from Maryland flying into Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina, echoed Ms. Michael's thought, saying: ''It's almost like arming a terrorist. I don't think any of them are highly trained in military combat. You're just basically putting a gun in the terrorist's hands.''
Waiting for a flight at Sky Harbor, a woman who said she was a former American Airlines flight attendant said she did not favor arming pilots, suggesting that they lacked something at least as important as weapons training.
''They don't always know how to handle people, how to read people,'' said the woman, who would not give her name. ''I flew for almost 20 years, and learned quickly that they couldn't deal with situations as well as we could. I didn't like it when they walked back into the plane, and any flight attendant will tell you that.''
In Logan International Airport in Boston -- the departing airport for two of the hijacked Sept. 11 flights -- Joseph Oliveri, a senior vice president of Vision Systems of Hingham, Mass., said that in-flight safety could be better achieved using other means.
In addition to more air marshals and better secured cockpit doors, he suggested installing a surveillance system to provide pilots closed-circuit video feeds of what was going on inside the passengers' cabin.
''I'm not talking about an elaborate camera system, just something so the pilots could see what's happening back there,'' Mr. Oliveri said after arriving from Fort Lauderdale. ''If they have to get out of the cockpit, it's too late.''
Mr. Oliveri's point was supported by two flight attendants based in Boston for American Eagle who would not give their last names. One, Rose, conceded that if an incident forced a pilot to leave the cockpit, ''it would be pretty bad.''
For that reason, her partner, Chris, said, ''If anyone should be armed, it should be us. Maybe with a stun gun. If we're fighting to get the guy down and there were bullets flying, it would be dangerous.''
But letting pilots serve as ultimate protectors of the planes they fly was heartening to many passengers.
''My dad was a pilot. My brother's a pilot,'' said Frank Nicholson, of Clemmons, N.C., before heading home at Honolulu International Airport. ''I'm all for it if they know what they're doing.''
Even better, said George Woodruff of Columbus, Ga., owner of a real estate company who was in Boston for a flight to Halifax, Nova Scotia, give the pilots more fire power.
''They need a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun about this long with number eight shot,'' he said, holding his hands a foot apart. ''With a pistol they can miss. But with a 12-gauge, no way. It would splatter them all over the cockpit, and there's no way you can miss, either.''
He added: ''If you're going to hijack a plane and you know the pilot has a sawed-off 12-gauge shotgun, wouldn't that deter you?''
Also in Boston, Warren Haren, a pilot for Flight Options, an East Coast charter service, who was headed back to his home in Cleveland, strongly supported the proposal.
''I was opposed when flight attendants were screaming for guns,'' he said. ''They're out in the cabins where passengers can get at them. We're behind a locked door. I don't think we should walk around the terminal with them, but, yes, we should have them in the cockpit.''
''If they can make it through the doors,'' Mr. Haren added, ''we can defend ourselves.''Continue reading the main story
Should pilots be armed?
While this argument has lived for some time, it became especially applicable in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks contrary to the United States. Many contended, if the pilots of the 9/11 planes had tools for fighting, they could have repelled their terrorist assailants. In view to prevent future terrorist attacks of this kind, or hijackings, numerous people contend that pilots should have hand-guns. Others propose that the risks of inadvertent mistakes with such weaponry are just as large as the likely benefits. (Ted P.15) When a hijacking occurs, what good is deploying fighter jets over major cities when the only thing that can be done is to take down the plane before it crashes into a sensitive location?
The alternative to pilots having guns in the cockpit is for the Air Force to shoot the plane down. Pilots should be allowed to carry weapons in the cockpit. (Dave P.12)
Pilots should be armed
Airline pilots should be equipped because if the plane is being hijacked, that may be the only way to save inhabits if the plane has been overtaken by hostiles. As factual airline pilots should be equipped to defend themselves and the travelers from hostiles. There are numerous U. S. Marshalls which are put on airplanes to hold a hijacked plane from occurring, but I still believe it is a good concept for the pilots to be armed. The hijackers could get past the Marshall and make their way to the cockpit which would be a very unsafe scenario. If the navigate was equipped, this could save hundreds of inhabits as the hostiles would not anticipate the navigation to have a weapon. (William P.14)
Airliners offer a very "soft" goal to promise terrorists. Since the 1970's, all travelers have been screened to double-check that tools for fighting were not conveyed aboard an aircraft. Since late 1987, pilots have undergone the identical screening. The outcome is a virtual assurance to terrorists that if they can convey any kind of tool for fighting on board, they will be the only equipped individuals on board and will be, in detail, in order of the aircraft. (Elliot p.29) As it has glimpsed, the tool for fighting can be little, effortlessly concealable and apparently innocuous. On September 11th, terrorists utilized box-cutters and little knives. Sharp, hefty ink ballpoints, hair accessories, plexus-glass and artificial tools for fighting are a couple of demonstrations of pieces that could be utilized to hijack an airliner. (William P.14)
Security can and should be advanced, but we should identify that even the best security is restricted and imperfect. Airline journey is a public accommodation; it is in detail mass transit. Gaining get access to an airliner is not ever going to be as tough as profiting get access to a perceptive construction on an infantry setting up and any security scheme we construct will have to identify the public environment of airline travel. (Ted P.15)
APSA suggests that supplying the pilots of financial airliners with firearms and ...