Paul Jacob

Pilots and passengers won the congressional battle over authorizing pilot self-defense. But the agency charged with the implementation isn't implementing. The TSA is actively deterring pilots from applying for arms training. In pursuit of its obstructionist agenda, TSA is:

  • Allocating, reluctantly, only miniscule funds to the urgent task of training pilots. The agency is much more worried about training and mis-training the tens of thousands of airport security personnel charged with patting down grandmothers and ten-year-olds.

  • Arbitrarily relocating class sites to make life harder for instructors now training pilots.  "No sooner had the first class of armed pilots graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia," report Dave Kopel and David Petteys, "than the TSA announced the program would be relocated to Artesia, New Mexico. Experienced instructors in Georgia have the option of quitting their jobs, or moving their families to a remote town which is 186 miles by car from Lubbock, Texas, the nearest major city."

  • Subjecting applicants to a seemingly endless barrage of checks and tests. As Captain Denny Breslin, a spokesman for the Allied Pilots Association, has pointed out: "The TSA has forced the [Federal Flight Deck Officer Program] to conform to its own bureaucratic image of a weak, perfunctory program in reluctant compliance with a law they did not like in the first place. [T]he TSA has TSA has made the program so onerous for pilots with ludicrous levels of background and psychological testing that it is obvious they are trying to intentionally discourage participation."

So today, two years after 911, less than 150 pilots are qualified to bear arms in the cockpit. It's as if the terrorists have found a way to infiltrate the Transportation Security Administration.

Thousands of pilots could be trained in short order if the agency simply farmed out the job to private training academies. But that's too easy and sensible for government work.

There are over 66,000 members of the Air Pilots Association. On any particular day there may be anywhere from 4,500 to 7,500 commercial planes in the air at any one moment. Basically, we're telling the terrorists: "Don't worry. The chances are vanishingly low that either pilot on the flight you pick is going to be armed."

No in-flight announcement needed.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.