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Tuesday, 5 March, 2002, 15:44 GMT
US pilots demand cockpit guns
Virgin Atlantic Airways Captain Ian Belmore shows a new reinforced cockpit door
Doors are not enough, say the pilots
American pilots are pushing their claims to be allowed guns on the flight deck despite opposition from the Bush administration.

Firearms are necessary to protect cockpits from hijackers, according to the US's largest commercial pilots' union.


As long as cockpit doors have to be opened for pilots to gain access to meal service and lavatories, there is a risk that a terrorist can slip through

Duane Woerth, pilot union president

The Air Line Pilots Association (Alpa) wants the government to consider arming flight crews as part of its overhaul of aviation security following the 11 September attacks, when hijackers crashed passenger jets into buildings, killing thousands.

Transport Secretary Norman Mineta has said he is opposed to having guns in the cockpit and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is also against the idea.

Union support

But Alpa president Duane Woerth urged officials to put their personal opinions aside and consider all options.

"As long as cockpit doors have to be opened for pilots to gain access to meal service and lavatories, there is a risk that a terrorist can slip through security and get into the cockpit," he said in a statement.

"These steps must be taken and the regulatory process must be given an opportunity to work."


I don't feel we should have lethal weapons in the cockpit

Transport Secretary Norman Mineta

He said giving pilots the option of carrying guns had strong support within the union, which represents 64,000 pilots at 45 airlines in North America.

Mr Mineta said he did not want pilots to be armed, but acknowledged using stun guns could be an alternative, as the cockpit had to be secure.

He backed measures already taken by airlines to strengthen cockpit doors with steel bars.

"The cockpit has to be secured, whether it's the bars or other kinds of retrofits of cockpit areas or stun guns," he said.

"I don't feel we should have lethal weapons in the cockpit."

'Impractical'

United Airlines has bought 1,300 stun guns and is training its 9,000 pilots to use them.

But the pilots' union says the weapons - which use an electrical current to disable an attacker temporarily - would be impractical against a group of hijackers.

Alpa has filed a petition with the Transportation Department formally asking for a rule allowing pilots to have firearms in the cockpit.

See also:

15 Nov 01 | Americas
United to give pilots stun guns
11 Sep 01 | Americas
US airport security under fire
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