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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill Photo: Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill
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Sacrifices of Security - 7.15.03
In Focus  :  Airport Security  :  Guns in the Cockpit Debate Transcript
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Flashpoints USA with Bryant Gumbel and Gwen Ifill is an innovative public affairs series from PBS that brings together both compelling examinations of critical issues and a dynamic pairing of two of the most respected names in journalism.


Television Poll What do Americans think about issues of security in the post-9/11 world? View the results of the Flashpoints USA nationwide survey.



Admiral James Loy
Guns in the Cockpit
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Profiling Airport Security USA Patriot Act


Bryant Gumbel moderates a debate between Jim Hall, former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety board and Steve Luckey, Chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association's National Flight Security Committee and strong proponent of guns in the cockpit.

Bryant Gumbel:
Well you heard Admiral Loy, TSA Chief. Guns in the cockpit for pilots…According to our poll most Americans think it's a good idea. But clearly not everyone agrees.

Jim Hall is the former Chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board…the group that investigates airplane accidents. And he's against arming pilots.

Why Jim?

Jim Hall:
Well essentially the flight crew has the critical responsibility of safely flying the aircraft. Anything that takes away from their time, their training, their primary responsibility, I think could have an impact on safety.

Gumbel:
These are professional people.
They can't do two things at once?

Hall:
I think asking them to do a law enforcement, perform a law enforcement responsibility will detract from their primary responsibility which of safely flying an aircraft.

Gumbel:
Even if it is only in the case of an emergency?

Hall:
Well introducing…we are spending ten billion dollars in this country as you know, to keep lethal weapons out of the cockpit. The public policy of placing a lethal weapon in the cockpit was someone…that this is just their part time responsibility….I just think is bad public policy and will eat at the margins of safety.

Gumbel:
Let me bring in Steve Luckey. Steve is a retired 747 Captain for Northwest Airlines. He's now Chairman of the Air Line Pilots Association, National Flight Security Committee and, like his union, favors guns in the cockpits.

Captain, thank you for being with us.

Steve Luckey:
Thank you Bryant.

Gumbel:
What do you think about Jim's concerns?

Luckey:
Well you know unfortunately we don't have the option of calling 911 or pulling over or accessing any other law enforcement capability up there. We close the door of the airplane, we seal the problems in and the resources out. And we have to protect that principal point or protection which is the cockpit.

And every layer of protection that we wrap around it from the airport all the way into that cockpit including the new door has a degree of poracity and when that door is open it is an access. There has to be something between that door and that F-16 or F-15 that is going to take us out of the air in a catastrophic consequential accident.

Gumbel:
But just because someone is a captain who well qualified to handle an aircraft does that necessarily make them well qualified to handle a firearm …effectively?

Luckey:
Absolutely not…we're not arming pilots Bryant we're arming federal officers who happen to be recruited and highly trained and highly selected for this particular mission. They just happen to be recruited from the pilot ranks for obvious reasons.

Gumbel:
If you've got armed marshals why do you need an armed pilot?

Luckey:
They're on the other side of the door. The cockpit is the most predictable place on the aircraft to defend. The perpetrator has to come through a narrow predictable channelized avenue of approach. We know the status of every thing, every piece of emergency equipment in that cockpit. We don't know the status of the marshals weapons in the back and in my estimation tactically their vulnerable.

Gumbel:
What's wrong with that logic Jim?

Luckey:
Well I think if you …following what the Captain says put the marshals inside the cockpit…if that is what is so important but I think however we have a thought out security program…that TSA has put in place that begins obviously with the investment we're making in screening, there are things that are coming online with cameras and other technologies that are going to, I think provide a safer and more effective skill and of course the pilots can use their own piloting skills were they to know through a camera that someone was actually going to penetrate the cockpit in order to keep them from doing that.

Gumbel:
Ok, but you are talking about down the road and certainly we might agree that ultimately reinforcement of the cockpit doors might make this a moot point but right now… right now… do you see any viable option that would be just as secure as arming a pilot?

Hall:
Well I think again we've spent 10 billion dollars on the TSA through out our country in order to provide security on our aircraft. To me this introduces again a lethal weapon into the cockpit and a lethal weapon into the homes of each one of these pilots that choose to volunteer into this program.

Gumbel:
That gets us down a whole different road. Do you have any problem at all with the introduction of a gun into the secure environment of an airport?

Luckey:
Oh not at all, as a matter of fact guns have proven to be a very effective deterrent in as well as an effective resource in combating a threat. Any unwanted cockpit intrusion has to be perceived to be a lethal threat, we have to have lethal capability to counter it.

Gumbel:
Why do you suppose the airlines then are so opposed to this?

Luckey:
Well I think that airlines are very economically stressed right now and I think that down the road almost every safety and security thing that has come along they've had to pay for…the costs ultimately goes down to the user and I think that the airlines look at this thing as just another cost thing down the road that they really can't afford.

Gumbel:
Bottom line…since perception counts…do you think people feel safer knowing that the pilots are armed?

Hall:
I think people feel safer knowing that the pilots are performing the safety responsibility that is their responsibility which is to safely fly the aircraft.

Gumbel:
I will have to let that be the last word. Jim Hall, Captain Luckey, thank you both.

Luckey:
Thank you very much Bryant.





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