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Mon, Apr 21, 2003

Pilots Now Armed On Commercial Flights

First 44 Graduate Firearms/Combat Training

You'll probably never know it, but the next time you step onto a commercial flight, the guy driving may be packing heat. Saturday, the first 44 commercial pilots graduated from a special training academy in Glynco (GA), versed in the use of guns in the cockpit.

"I need to defend myself and my aircraft," a female pilot told the Associated Press during a break from practicing how to disarm a terrorist in close quarters. No one taking the course is allowed to give reporters their names or airline affiliations.

Capt. Fred Bates, an American Airlines pilot, member of the Allied Pilots Association (APA) and a driving force behind getting guns into cockpits, said eventually, about 30,000 pilots - one in three - could be armed inflight.

Still Controversial

Some pilots hate the idea of the additional responsibility for a firearm inflight. Some see it as more of a public relations move than an actual safety enhancement. Still others aren't thrilled about the idea of carrying their .40 caliber pistols and ammo in a locked box, which can only be opened in the cockpit.

But a poll last year shows 70-percent of flight crew members asked favor the idea - especially when they consider their aircraft and passengers could be targeted by terrorists for another round of September 11th style attacks.

FMI: www.alliedpilots.org

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