KWAME HOLMAN: After September 11, heightened airport security began at the curb. Police kept traffic moving, and quickly towed unattended vehicles. Curbside check-in was prohibited for a time. National Guardsmen patrolled the concourses of many of the nation's largest airports, overseeing stepped-up passenger screening.
Last Fall, Congress passed new legislation creating a federalized force of security employees. Some of them began work this week at Baltimore-Washington Airport. That same law also required checked bags be matched with passengers on board each flight. Undercover, armed air marshals also were assigned to fly many flights, especially those using Washington, D.C.-area airports. The Federal Transportation Department hopes to hire air marshals sufficient in number to have one aboard every commercial flight. Also on board, the doors that separate the cabin from cockpit must be reinforced and allow access only by flight crews. The union that represents commercial pilots lobbied hard last fall for a provision that would allow pilots to have weapons, including handguns, in the cockpit.
But the final aviation security law left a decision on guns in the cockpit to the Transportation Department.
SPOKESMAN: The subject of today's hearing is arming flight crews against terrorism.
KWAME HOLMAN: Yesterday, at a House Aviation Subcommittee hearing, a pilots' union official called on Congress to legislate weapons in the cockpit.
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY, Air Line Pilots Association: The reason I'm really here today is because you know on 9/11, eight pilots were unable to survive an assault attack by 19 terrorists on four aircraft. Had they the tools, the training, and the tactical knowledge to meet this challenge effectively, I think history would reveal a different outcome. We'd have the World Trade Centers and we wouldn't have an industry that's hemorrhaging profusely at this particular time.
KWAME HOLMAN: Flight attendants did not testify at the hearing, but many of them, concerned about hijacking, have taken self-defense courses on their own. Their union says arming only the pilots could leave everyone else in the cabin isolated and vulnerable in a crisis. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and Homeland Security Advisor Tom Ridge both oppose allowing pilots to have cockpit firearms. A formal decision on the issue by the Transportation Department is expected next week.
RAY SUAREZ: Elizabeth Farnsworth takes the story from there.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: For more on this issue, I'm joined by: Captain Stephen Luckey, who, as we just saw, testified before Congress yesterday. He's chairman of the National Security Committee of the Air Line Pilots Association; Patricia Friend, president of the Association of Flight Attendants; and Michael Goldfarb, former chief of staff at the Federal Aviation Administration. He now runs an aviation consulting firm.
Captain Luckey, run through us your proposal for arming some airline pilots. Who would be armed with what training and in what part of the plane?
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY: Well, first of all, anyone who participates in the program would be a completely voluntary participant. He would be carefully screened according to their adaptability and their suitability for the job at hand. Then they would be going through an extensive selection process as a result of an interview, subject to the same standards, strict standards that most federal law enforcement officers are submitted to.
Following that, they would receive extensive training probably a week in length, some 48 hours, with many, many subjects. And basically they would get the same training that a federal law enforcement officer would, with the exception of investigatory stuff and driving skills, et cetera. But they would be more than ready to... readily prepared to defend the cockpit. And that's what we really want to do. We want to get the airplane on the ground.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Captain, the cockpit would only be defended under this scenario, right? You would keep the doors locked. Even if something is happening in the main body of the airplane you would stay in the cockpit?
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY: That's true. And this is an unfortunate choice dictated by the circumstance. Prior to 9/11, the policy was to cooperate with the hijackers, get the aircraft on the ground, but as was very graphically illustrated, the tragedies resulting from that particular modus operandi is no longer acceptable. We've had to-- and this is with the concurrence of the flight attendants unions-- we've had to go to what we call an encapsulated concept, where we don't open the door under any circumstances in order to manage risk. This is an acceptable risk business and unfortunately we have to make untenable choices to survive and minimize the liability and the risk to the passengers and crew.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Michael Goldfarb, what is wrong with Captain Luckey's proposal?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: Well, it is certainly the line of last resort in the cockpit. I think that we need to focus on security on the ground. It's quite a statement that I think 20,000 pilots all signed the petition. That concerns me that so many of the flight crews today still feel that there's that kind of concern to have it. You know...
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay. Let's assume for a minute as much as can be done is done on the ground. What is wrong with arming pilots?
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: Well, there's plenty wrong with -- first of all, I would almost think the flight attendants, there should be a chief flight attendant armed at the cockpit door. Remember, all the doors are going to be reinforced. They will be impenetrable. That will be done in relatively near order. But I think that the crew needs to focus on flying the aircraft. It's the shady, it's the vagueness situation where, in fact, it's unclear.
We had an incident of a passenger on the flight from Miami to South America who attempted to get in a cockpit. If we had a stun gun, perhaps it would have disarmed the person. If they had a gun, when do you make the choice to use the firearm? If we are going to start having civil aviation become law enforcement function, I think we have a problem in this country about the ability to allow planes and passengers to fly without having an armed kind of situation.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Captain Luckey, what about the concern that you wouldn't necessarily be trained to recognize who is really a threat and who is just perhaps mentally unstable in some way?
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY: Well, force continuum reaction capabilities in training would be an integral part of our federal preparation for arming the pilots. You know, the most defendable place in the aircraft is the cockpit itself. The perpetrator is faced to a channelized, predictable narrow avenue area of approach where only one person can come through at a time. We know the status of the resources in the cockpit. We don't know about that in the cabin. Anyone who is armed outside of the confines of the cockpit would require much more extensive training, probably in the neighborhood of ten times the amount of training in order to adequately respond in the environment, in the passenger cabin.
The cockpit represents a situation of surgical precision, as far as the application of lethal force at a very, very close range. It would eliminate the proximity or probability of collateral damage from an errant round hitting something or somebody we don't want to necessarily target.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And loss of pressure wouldn't be a problem if the bullet hit the fuselage?
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY: No. The aircraft is literally full of holes. We control the pressurization through outlet valves, which are fairly significant size valves -- holes. These outflow valves would compensate even if an entire window were to be blown out of the aircraft, it could be accommodated through the closing of the outlet valves.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patricia Friend, tell us how the attendants feel about this. Your organization is on record as saying that you oppose guns being put in the cockpit if pilots are the only ones given the means to defend themselves basically, and that you want the means to defend passengers and attendants. Is that a proper statement of your position?
PATRICIA FRIEND: That's correct. We're very distressed that the only conversation going on right now about putting defensive capabilities onboard the aircraft is about putting that defense behind a barricaded cockpit door. There is no discussion about any defensive capabilities in the cabin, no personal defense training for flight attendants. We have called for non-lethal weapons, access to them in the cabin. We've called for something as simple as a personal emergency notification device so that we can immediately notify the pilots if there is a serious situation in the cabin. And that is not even being discussed. Instead, we're talking about putting guns behind a barricaded door and leaving the occupants of the aircraft cabin completely exposed.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So would it be fair to say you really have two concerns here? One is that you want a certain number of... you need some safety factors yourselves. And you're always worried about... are you worried about them having guns if you get everything else you need?
PATRICIA FRIEND: No. We're worried about putting some defense in the cabin. We don't believe that either passengers or flight attendants should have to be sacrificed, and that the only defensive capability is in the cockpit. So we will oppose that kind of a situation.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Ms. Friend, what is it you wanted? What is it you need?
PATRICIA FRIEND: We want personal defense training for flight attendants so that we have some understanding of how to deal with a violent situation, and can protect ourselves and live to protect our passengers. We want access to non-lethal defensive weapons in the cabin, and we want an emergency means of notification for each flight attendant.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And if pilots could leave the cockpit and come help you out, would you support them having guns?
PATRICIA FRIEND: We would certainly be more willing to talk about it if they were going to use it to defend the occupants of the cabin.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: All right. Now let's get this clear. You may have made this clear and I just missed it. If you get everything else you want, a non-lethal means of defense, this way of informing them quickly, then would you support them having guns?
PATRICIA FRIEND: We've never been actually opposed to it. Captain Luckey is correct. We understood the reason for barricading the cockpit door and not having the pilots come into the cabin. But we said we would accept that additional responsibility only if we got defensive capabilities in the cabin. That's not even part of the conversation today.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Captain Luckey, please respond to Ms. Friend and expand this a little bit to tell us how you think you can best make airplanes safe. Remember, we're out here. We're the everyday passengers. We want to know what you think should happen and how it can be done quickly.
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY: Well, actually, I agree with Ms. Friend's analysis of the threat. It's very real, and I'm personally, along with my organization, very actively lobbying for the very things that she has recommended.
Unfortunately, pilots are faced with an untenable position and decision that has been forced upon us by the results of 9/11. You know, I spent 33 years in the cockpit of a commercial aircraft and never hurt a passenger or a flight attendant. I'm very proud of that. It is very unfortunate that we have to make this decision of isolating ourselves from them, and at the same time we have to protect the aircraft, the passengers, and the crew to the best of our ability through resource management in an acceptable risk situation.
In order to do this, we have to be faced with an untenable position of being shot down or maintaining the absolute control of that aircraft in order to get it on the ground. And that can take hours or minutes. You know, the minimum time from altitude to the ground is about 20 minutes. We could be out over the water. And if the cabin is compromised and the perpetrators are trying to get into the cockpit, we have no means to stop them. They could have three or four hours to perpetrate an attack on the cockpit. And the only thing that we have that separates us and the catastrophic loss of the aircraft, the passengers and the crew, including all the flight attendants is the ability to defend ourselves as a last line of defense before the 15s and 16s come up and shoot us down.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Patricia Friend, respond to that.
PATRICIA FRIEND: Aviation security today has to be an integrated process. It has to start on the ground, and you have to be prepared at every step to try to prevent terrorism on board the aircraft. Captain Luckey is right. The cockpit should be considered the absolute line of defense.
And until we have done everything that is necessary, everything we can possibly do at every step, from the ground to the cabin of the aircraft, I think it's premature to be talking about arming the last line of defense when we haven't sufficiently strengthened all of the other lines of defense.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And, Michael Goldfarb, come in here and summarize this for us and tell us what you really hope happens.
MICHAEL GOLDFARB: Well, I think Patricia really hit on it when she said that we have to focus on the 98% of aviation security on the ground. We have to move quickly. We don't yet have an integrated system in this country. If we have to rely on the last round of defense in the cockpit, I think we're not going to have a system that the public will have confidence in to allow air travel to return in this country. It has to occur at the airports. It isn't happening fast enough. We're not there yet. Those changes, the explosive detection systems need to get in there and the baggage screening needs to be more robust.
And the idea of asking our flight crews to become law enforcement officials worries a lot of people in aviation safety because it's always the unexpected thing that occurs that creates accidents. It won't be a 9/11 the next unfortunate incident. It will take a different form. And to train for all those things when the main function is aviation safety and flying the plane, I think diverts the attention of civil aviation certainly.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Captain Luckey, look forward for us here. There is legislation and a chance you'll get a decision from the Transportation Security Administration. What are the prospects? Are you optimistic you'll get to carry guns? By the way, you used to carry a gun, didn't you, when you were a pilot?
CAPT. STEPHEN LUCKEY: Yes. I did. In 1961, the FAA amended the federal air regulations to have a provision for arming pilots in concurrence with the carrier. In the '70s I was recruited to do that, and trained by the FBI to do that, and carried a gun for several years on the aircraft. This was a confidential program; it wasn't a deterrent type program that we're talking about now. It is a very well defined program.
Unfortunately, all of the things that have just been mentioned, all of the remedial efforts and the things that we call layers, we're trying to back them up as far as we can from the cockpit. Remember the reason that 9/11 happened is because eight pilots died, they lost their lives. They were unable to accurately repel the 19 suicidal terrorists. We need to make sure that doesn't happen. And, you know, as many layers as we put into place, they're only as good as their weakest point.
I don't believe that we can make a system, including the barrier itself, that can't be defeated by a dedicated, motivated individual that's willing to pay the ultimate price. We're facing suicidal people who are highly trained, professional, well-financed and determined. They're intoxicated with fear, and this is something that... they're very addicted to fanaticism. We're faced with that challenge. We have to go to the ultimate means to ensure everything is available and everything is in place. The last thing, if it all fails, we have to be able to get that aircraft on the ground and protect our passengers and crew.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Thank you all three very much.