Tags: Save | the | Economy | Arm | the | Pilots

Save the Economy – Arm the Pilots

Sunday, 23 September 2001 12:00 AM

The looming question is whether America and the world can avert an economic calamity – a depression.

The recession, and worse, are being assured largely because Americans aren't traveling.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told CNN it was important for Congress to "make sure that America keeps flying because that's very, very important to keep this country going."

Air flight for many individuals and businesses is just plain a necessity. America is so huge it takes a jet five hours flying almost 500 miles an hour to go from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The airlines are vital connectors for almost every aspect of the U.S. economy.

But many Americans remain fearful of flying.

Already suffering from falling passenger loads before the attack, the airlines have witnessed a precipitous fall-off since then.

The industry is estimating a 60 percent fall-off in passengers for September and a 40 percent fall-off for the remainder of the year.

J.W. Marriott Jr., chairman of Marriott Hotels, appeared on CNN Sunday and said his company estimates airline passenger loads will be off by at least 25 percent for the rest of the year.

The U.S. government has stepped in to keep the airlines afloat, to the tune of $15 billion.

That was a positive step, but let's not forget it's just a drop in the bucket of what will be needed for a myriad of businesses that have, and will be, affected.

Hotels, auto rentals, restaurants, resorts, hundreds of service businesses and their workers will be hit – hit so hard they may go out of business.

In just a week, approximately 100,000 airline employees have been laid off. That number is just a fraction of the millions who will lose their jobs in related businesses – in just months. The economy could go into a free-fall depression.

So far, the U.S. government has not moved quickly enough to restore confidence in the public to fly.

Talk of sky marhsals is still talk. It may take months to organize this effort, and it will be costly. Sporadic use of sky marshals will not instill public confidence.

America is at war. We are in a war where the first battle took place inside airborne aircraft.

All of the scanners and X-rays and armed guards at airport entrances won't make flyers confident enough to return in the numbers needed to forestall an economic fall-off.

Continued reports of knives, of smuggled box cutters, of arrests of airport employees are unnerving to many.

Consumers have to wonder if someone does get a knife onto a plane, who will defend them and maintain control of the plane? What happens if next time one or more guns are smuggled onto a jet by terrorists?

At this moment, airplanes are not fully secure.

Unimaginable acts took place on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

The U.S. government must take appropriate steps. Our military is planning reprisals against terrorist networks in Afghanistan. We can only assume the terrorists are planning still further attacks here in the U.S.

There is only one step that will immediately increase public confidence in the airlines: The U.S. government must move swiftly to allow the airlines to arm their pilots while in the cockpit.

Also, current U.S. government rules stating that the pilots and crew should obey all hijackers' demands must immediately be changed. Under no circumstances should the plane be turned over to the control of a hijacker.

These measures are not extraordinary, they are war measures taken in light of the attacks of Sept. 11.

Airlines and their passengers have been the first targets in this war.

These defensive measures have already been taken by one airline: El Al, Israel's carrier. In recent memory, not one hijacking has taken place on an Israeli plane.

Tough decisions need to be made in difficult times. We know the president has ordered military jets to shoot down hijacked civilian jets. We agree with that decision, but it is one that does not comfort the flying public.

The president needs to take a dramatic step to restore confidence in flying.

Knowing that one or more of the pilots is armed will be a comfort to passengers and a necessary deterrent in time of war.

Note to readers: You can let Pres. Bush and Vice-President Cheney know how you feel about this.

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The looming question is whether America and the world can avert an economic calamity - a depression. The recession, and worse, are being assured largely because Americans aren't traveling. House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told CNN it was important for Congress to ...
Save,the,Economy,Arm,the,Pilots
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2001-00-23
Sunday, 23 September 2001 12:00 AM
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