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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 


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For the week of  October 3 - 9, 2001


The case for 
‘arming’ pilots

Although President Bush is not yet convinced that airline pilots should be armed, polls show the public supports the idea by nearly 70 percent and airline pilots by at least that much.

These are extraordinary times requiring extraordinary changes in attitudes and security measures, not just for today but for years to come.

Some changes already are in place ¾ armed and anonymous sky marshals are aboard more airline flights; airport security screening is tougher and more thorough, and the ages-old practice of acquiescing to hijacker demands has ended. Passengers are told by flight crews to resist and overpower anyone attempting to interrupt flight operations.

The most obvious change must be flight deck security, not just stronger reinforced doors that can resist battering, but pilots able to defend themselves while remaining in command and control of the aircraft.

Mind you, "arming" cockpit crews doesn’t mean sawed off shotguns and heavy caliber handguns of the sort kept at home.

"Arming" could involve a range of possible weapons and systems that can be safe when operated by trained crews, and at no risk of puncturing the aircraft’s hull and windows and causing explosive decompression of the passenger cabin.

A new Air Taser stun gun the size of a cell phone is a possibility: The 9-volt battery fires two probes with 50,000-volt charges that can penetrate leather and two inches of clothing at 15 feet to disable a person.

So, too, is a pistol with a new soft bullet that shatters but stuns a human target. Aerosol gas sprays that disable a cockpit intruder is another (cockpit crews have huge oxygen masks within reach to avoid being gassed).

Another system used in some overseas airlines is an electrified cockpit threshold that can shock an intruder with a charge.

Until the terrorism of Sept. 11, the United States had been naïve and complacent about air travel safety. Despite warnings of possible terrorism involving aircraft, the federal government ignored experts.

Drastic security programs being undertaken by airlines and the government should remain as permanent fixtures. Crews have another in-flight scourge other than skyjackers and terrorists ¾ hundreds of episodes of passenger air rage.

Electrified stun guns could quickly subdue disorderly passengers and thus avoid melees that threaten control of the aircraft as well as the safety of other passengers.

One need only look to Israel’s national airline, El Al, for a model of in-flight security and safety: El Al hasn’t had a skyjacking since 1964.

And as dreadful as the thought might be, the United States is now facing the same threats that has kept Israel alert and prepared to protect its citizens for several generations.

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.