BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: World
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Mixed response to 'sky marshal' plan
Many believe the introduction of non-lethal weapons is the answer
Possible plans to introduce plain-clothes agents on flights and equip airline pilots with weapons have been met with a mixed response by News Online readers.

Hundreds of readers have responded to BBC News Online's Talking point on the subject.

This is another knee-jerk reaction dreamed up by gun-toting idiots

Max, USA
Many feel such radical measures would further endanger aircraft and would provide potential terrorists with more weapons.

But others believe the terrorist attacks in America could have been prevented if airline staff had been suitably equipped to fight back.

Many have suggested the introduction of non-lethal weapons such as CS gas or stun guns.


Max, who comes originally from the USA, believes the idea is "preposterous".

He said: "Guns cause far more problems than they resolve and the complications multiply when you add an airliner, passengers, pressurised cabin and the need for a safe landing.

"This is another knee-jerk reaction dreamed up by gun-toting idiots."

Robert Scurr, from the UK, believes that arming pilots would lead to a gun culture in all strands of society.

He said: "Providing pilots with guns would be the first step on a long road of arming numerous people.

"If the US armed its pilots then international flights would presumably have to be armed as well.

We cannot arm civilian pilots, the cascade effect would be disastrous

Robert Scurr, UK
"This would then filter into the UK domestic market.

"If we arm civilians we must arm the police.

"If we arm the police, criminal usage of guns would rise, the public would insist on the right to bear arms.

"We cannot arm civilian pilots, the cascade effect would be disastrous."

Caroline, from the UK, believes that arming pilots would be an admission of failure of other security measures to prevent terrorists boarding planes.

And Liz Tring, from the UK, also believes arming pilots is not the answer.

"I appreciate the need for tightened security but would armed pilots deter terrorists?

"Probably not. I think the prospect for accidents is greater than the need for pilots to be armed unless there is something they could be given that doesn't pose a massive risk to the aircraft and passengers."

Non-lethal measures

Others believe the answer lies in the introduction of non-lethal weapons.

James Goddard, from the UK, suggests CS spray or pepper spray, similar to those weapons used by some police forces.

Raymond Monk, from Germany thinks sealing cockpits to prevent terrorists gaining access to the controls of the plane would work.

And Spencer Finn, from the UK, said: "I do not agree with anyone carrying a gun on a plane for obvious reasons.

"I think an alternative that should be considered is the use of stun guns that would disable a hijacker without the risk of causing damage to the aircraft.

Paul Harding, from the UK, said: "Not guns, due to the obvious flight safety implications, but why not some other anti-personnel weaponry, suited for the purpose?

"Stun grenade, pepper spray, CS gas - all of which need not be hand held, but possibly released remotely - would perhaps go some way to solving the dilemma."

Full support

There are those, however, who fully support the idea of arming pilots and other cabin crew.

Drew, from Pittsburgh, in the US, said: "I'm all for it, as it would make an excellent deterrent.

The concealed carrying of handguns by citizens has reduced, not increased, crime

Ron Carroll, USA
"Pilots are already responsible for the lives of hundreds of passengers not to mention a multi-million dollar aircraft.

"In addition, they all must undergo psychological screening and many of them start their careers in the military.

"Low velocity ammunition could also be used to prevent a fuselage breach, and the depressurisation that would follow."

Ron Carroll from America believes that both pilots and passengers should be armed.

"The concealed carrying of handguns by citizens has reduced, not increased, crime," he said.

"A terrorist could expect violent and sudden opposition as soon as he declared his intentions."

And Gregg, from America, believes the US atrocities could have been prevented if the pilots had been armed.

He said: "In my heart I believe that if the pilots had been armed the planes used in the attacks would never have made it to their targets.

"The only way they did was due to the terrorists killing the pilots first.

"We should have trained people armed with bullets that would kill the hijackers and not damage the plane."

Ross H, from the UK, believes the idea is definitely worth pursuing.

"While some may argue against this, I think that this is really the only option we have to prevent any such catastrophe from ever happening again."

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Business
UN agency reviews airline security
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more World stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more World stories