Tags: Airlines | Accused | Trading | 'Safety | for | Victory'

Airlines Accused of Trading 'Safety for Victory'

Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM

The Airline Pilots' Security Alliance (APSA) accused the Air Transport Association (ATA) of influencing the government's decision.

"The ATA's problem is not liability or distraction or loss of cabin pressure or any other safety concern. In fact, all of the above problems are red herrings," APSA wrote in a press release Friday. "No, the reality is that the airlines are willing to trade safety for victory in the power struggle they have initiated with their own pilots."

APSA Chairman Capt. Tracy W. Price says the decision not to allow pilots to carry firearms is "great news for the terrorists and the ATA.

"For many years, airline managements have been on a campaign to minimize the authority and stature of pilots," Price said. "We are stunned that they are willing to compromise the safety of air travelers to further their interests in this power struggle they have initiated with their pilots."

As CNSNews.com previously reported, Undersecretary for Transportation Security John Magaw announced earlier this week that the administration would forbid pilots to be armed.

"After a lot of consultation and realizing my experience in law enforcement, I will not authorize firearms in the cockpit," Magaw told the Senate Commerce Committee. He gave no reason for the decision.

The ATA did not return calls requesting comment on the APSA allegations prior to publication of this story. An Internet search conducted Friday found published statements by ATA representatives opposing armed pilots.

However, a statement issued by ATA President and CEO Carol Hallett after the passage of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act contained no reference to the armed pilots provision in its praise of the legislation.

"We are pleased that Congress and the administration have reached consensus on comprehensive legislation that will place the federal government in control of aviation security," Hallett said. "ATA airlines have strongly supported, since 1973, a federally controlled and managed aviation security system."

The statement noted that ATA has consistently called for:

While the Air Line Pilots Association supports pilots having firearms to defend their cockpits, spokesman John Mazor disputes the APSA theory that the airlines' reluctance is evidence of a power play.

"We don't see this playing any significant role in the airlines' opposition to firearms," he said. "We think it still has to do with issues of liability and marketing concerns, and probably a healthy dose of misunderstanding of the risks."

ALPA has prepared a detailed response to the many objections made to arming pilots. APSA has a similar statement on its website.

Any objections to arming pilots that the airlines or Bush administration officials have, may be irrelevant if some members of Congress have their way.

Sen. Bob Smith, R-N.H., introduced a bill Friday to take discretion away from the administration and mandate the creation of an armed pilots program. S. 2554 is a companion bill to H.R. 4635 introduced by House Transportation Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, and Aviation Subcommittee Chairman John Mica, R-Fla.

Smith, who introduced the original armed pilots amendment to the transportation security law says he has no choice but to act to remove the discretion provided in the original proposal.

"The pilots want this program, the flight attendants support the legislation, and the American people want additional means to be protected against future acts of terrorism," he said at a press conference Thursday.

"Our legislation is the best way to allow the voluntary implementation of programs, so that pilots can provide the first line of deterrence and the last line of defense," Smith added.

Patricia Friend, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA), particularly likes the Smith bill, because it includes a training program in non-lethal self-defense techniques for flight attendants.

"Flight attendants and passengers in the cabins of the four hijacked aircraft were the first people to lose their lives on September 11," she said at the Thursday introduction of the proposal. "In any future hijacking attempt, the attackers will again start in the cabin, before they ever reach the cockpit."

Smith's bill is co-sponsored by Georgia Democrat Sen. Zell Miller and Republicans Jim Bunning (Ky.), Conrad Burns (Mont.), Frank Murkowski (Alaska) and Strom Thurmond (S.C.).

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The Airline Pilots' Security Alliance (APSA) accused the Air Transport Association (ATA) of influencing the government's decision. The ATA's problem is not liability or distraction or loss of cabin pressure or any other safety concern. In fact, all of the above...
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Tuesday, 28 May 2002 12:00 AM
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