[HTML1]

TTAG Commentator Eric S added the following underneath our Question Of The Day on guns on planes. After liberating it from the spam queue (sorry Eric), I’ve elevated it here for your consideration.

Okay, not that my opinion is more valuable than others, but I do work in the airline industry (pilot):

1. The airport is a controlled access area like a courthouse and other such places. Theoretically, everyone past the security checkpoint is gun-free except certain folks like the Air Marshals and other LEOs. Security is not 100% but it’s pretty good. Many folks on these comments have previously stated they’re okay with a “gun-free zone” as long as there’s some kind of controlled access to guarantee the promise.

2a. I’m not completely opposed to civilians carrying weapons on planes, but there’s a lot more to think about than carrying on the street. Some have mentioned the other folks within close proximity and the biggest thing is being mistaken for a bad guy. To prevent this, all LEOs have to know who the other weapon-carriers are and where they’re seated. You’d have to go through this system and technically the Captain can refuse to board you if he/she doesn’t like weapon-carrying (rare in the LEO world but might be more common with civvies unless they have “flying armed” training which LEOs are required to have).

2b. Allowing passengers to CCW would basically require some kind of Federal-level CCW permit with permissions to carry in areas that don’t normally allow it. This would be due to flight diversions which might take you to a state that doesn’t recognize your state’s permit. Most gun-carriers on aircraft are Feds so they have no problem. There’s legislation that opened up carry to State and Local LEOs but there’s nothing like that (yet) for civvy gun-carriers. Let’s say you take-off from Pittsburgh going to Denver. On the way there is an aircraft system abnormal and the crew diverts to Springfield, IL… “uh oh” for you if you were carrying on a CCW permit from the state of PA. If you made a Federal-level CCW the requirements would probably be pretty stringent because it would open-up every state and those state Reps and Senators from IL, CA, MA, NY, etc. would insist on maximum training (cost) to get one.

3. As others stated, a gun in such close quarters is not necessarily the best weapon for the job. Most hijackers would have edged weapons and at a close distance (arm’s length) a gun would not be the best tool. However, you could choose the moment of engagement when the hijacker(s) aren’t close to you and perforate them when they’re a few rows away.

4. Why do you believe that you are unarmed on an airplane? Every passenger is issued a foot-long blunt object and a shield for gladiatorial combat. One of the things that worries knowledgeable aircrews is that there’s no way to disarm someone when there’s tons of weapons all over the aircraft. You don’t have access to it, but my favorite in the cockpit is the crash axe. Trust me, I don’t feel naked without my gun on an airplane because I know where to get my weapons, even when I’m in the back.

5. Don’t worry about hitting some critical component of the aircraft in a shootout, after the first gunshot the crew will be doing an emergency descent and landing right now. There’s virtually no system that’s likely to be hit that would cause a unrecoverable problem. If you hit the bleed lines and cause a bleed leak then we’ll close the associated engine bleed (this will disable the associated PACK but we can maintain pressurization with one, but even if we had to depressurize, we’ll be on the ground within 15 min). Over the ocean might be more problematic, but most over-ocean flight are in twins (777, 767, 757, A330) that are ETOPS certified so you won’t be much more than 30-45 min away from land and less than an hour from an airport. Although, you probably won’t be carrying over-ocean since whatever country you’re flying to would not be happy with you carrying a firearm through their Customs.

I apologize for the long post, but I don’t think many people consider the total ramifications of CCW on aircraft. I will again state that I am not 100% against it, but the reality of the situation is that it would cost a lot to get that kind of permission. Consider that few CCW-holders carry often. Then consider that bad guys could use an easy system to bypass security and get firearms on an aircraft knowing that the likelihood that there’s another civvy good guy is not that high. The aircraft CCW system would have to be pretty tight to be accepted by those who would be in charge of it. In summary, don’t hold your breath.

23 Responses to Flying the Unfriendly Skies: A Pilot on Guns on Planes

  1. I guess there aren’t many “gunnies” left who are old enough to remember the days when the airlines (at least the ones that didn’t fly to New York or Newark) wanted you to tell them if you had a firearm in your carry-on and sometimes the Captain would take it up to the cockpit for safekeeping, and sometimes not. Everything seemed to work out fine until some crackpots decided they wanted to go to Cuba, to their everlasting regret if they actually got there.

    In those days a CCW permit, albeit of the “may-issue” kind, granted a lot more privileges than the current ones do.

    • Thanks for the post/column, very interesting take. Sounds like we need legislation for national CCW and snakes guns on a plane training. There is no problem that more laws can’t solve. Ok so that last bit was sarcastic, but sincerely, nice post.

    • Love it. I’ve had one flight where we were going to or from some large police convention and 20% of the passengers were carrying heaters. I would’ve loved for some jackass to try something that day.

  2. Please excuse my stupidity…

    “Every passenger is issued a foot-long blunt object and a shield for gladiatorial combat.”

    Is this a magazine (rolled up) & a pillow?

    Please inform this uninformed passenger what these weapons are.

    • Well, the shield is likely the seat cushion/floatation device, but I must also admit to being stumped on the footlong blunt object.

    • The arms which attach the tray table to the seat in front of you could be decent stabbing/slashing tools once snapped off. The tray might be a shield, though I am not sure how you could hold it with one hand and use it as such.

  3. In-flight magazine / SkyMall rolled up and your seat cushion. If you look at the cushion there’s handles on the underside so you can hold onto it as a floatation device, but you could also hold it like a shield.

  4. [i]I apologize for the long post, but I don’t think many people consider the total ramifications of CCW on ___.[/i]

    What happens if we fill in the blank with “the mall”, “the DMV”, “Luby’s”, “the bus”, “the subway”, etc? Is there a person-density level, above which CCW becomes problematic?

    • Most of those places don’t transit multiple state lines (bus, yes). That’s what I see as being the most problematic about CCW on aircraft. There’s stories of guys checking weapons in their luggage legally, making a connection in NY/NJ (LGA, EWR, JFK) and having that connection cancel. Now they have to claim a weapon at baggage claim which they aren’t legally able to possess in that state.

      I have no person-density issue, I don’t think I brought that one up in my post.

  5. I respectfully disagree. Here are my counter points:

    1. I am never comfortable with so called “gun free zones” even if the criminals are disarmed as well. There are hundreds of thousands of improvised lethal weapons in airport terminals, not to mention empty hands can be a lethal threat. In tests, 9 out of 10 bombs get through–so much for security.

    2. Being mistaken for a bad guy on a plane is no different than on the street. LEOs are NOT trained to fly armed. The Police Officers Flying Armed class that you mentioned has NOTHING to do with how to shoot on a plane, the entire class is about how to get through the controlled access areas. Unlike what you see in the movies, a bullet hole will not cause the side of the plane to explode. Best way to plug a bullet hole in a plane is with the dead body of a terrorist.

    3. Short of national CCW (which, I unfortunately doubt is coming anytime soon–here’s hoping that I am wrong) all that is needed is for a federal legislation to allow CCW in airports and to allow citizens to lockup their guns if they unintentionally find themselves in a state they are not licensed for.

    4. A foot-long blunt object and a seat cushion may have value in certain cases, but I prefer a firearms. Also, my preference for defense is not foam and a thin sheet of plastic of masonite.

    Knives were used in the past because they were legal to carry on planes. We can now carry knitting needles and scissors with 4″ or less blades.

    While completely logical for CCW on airplanes, I am NOT holding my breath.

    • 1. I agree with you on this one. A lot of pilots in the FFDO program want full-time carry but that will not likely be approved. I would also like to carry my weapon wherever I go in public without having to worry about no-guns signs, but then I’d have to become a Federal LEO. One thing that always worries me is the fact that I can’t take my CCW weapon on my flights. I’d have good reason to as well since we’ve had quite a few crews get robbed, assaulted, and even raped (and at least one murdered about 8 years ago at my airline) on overnights. We are effectively disarmed since we can’t even take a pocket knife with us. We can’t check luggage since we have to transit gates quickly and there’s not enough time to go to claims between every flight.

      2. I don’t know what all is in the Flying Armed class. I do know a FBI agent who told me the extent of it having to do with shooting was, “if you can avoid it, try not to shoot forward or down, focus your shots upward and rearward… or just try not to miss.” As far as being mistaken for a bad guy, I just said you’d have to make yourself known to the other armed folks on the airplane as well as the crew, just like everyone else who is carrying. This is usually done very discreetly.

      3. I’d like to see this type of legislation: a way to check your gun in a locker in a secured location if you are diverted to a non-gun-friendly state. Most airports are run by the city government which might not be happy with the Feds making laws that force them to allow something that they don’t want. If HR 822 passes, it could eventually be amended for something like this, but you’d need a really motivated Congress.

      4. Many pilots agree and want to be able to carry when deadheading (riding in the back as a passenger) to be quasi-Air Marshals but, alas, they are not permitted.

      Trust me, Rabbi, if I saw you getting on one of my flights I would wish you were armed. I’m one of those gun-loving pilots who think that the more armed good guys we have the better. We have a much harder fight over this than with other restoration of rights issues (legislatively speaking).

      • “2. …As far as being mistaken for a bad guy, I just said you’d have to make yourself known to the other armed folks on the airplane as well as the crew, just like everyone else who is carrying. This is usually done very discreetly.”

        This could be done discretely by requiring passengers to notify the agent when checking in or notify the agent at the gate, in which case that information could then be passed on to the flight crew and the air marshal.

  6. I’m opposed to arming the pilots on commercial flights. I don’t want the bad guys to know where they can find a gun and who they can take it from.

    • Good point. That’s what most who were opposed to the Armed Pilots Act argued as well: that if the bad guys get in the cockpit before the armed pilot(s) have a chance to draw and start defending then they would now have better weapons to defend the cockpit from a passenger counter-attack. There are many pilots still opposed to the program for that reason and they think the pilots who do go armed are just paranoid gun nuts… like what many people think of CCWers.

    • Yes, if they got control of the cockpit quickly they would have better weapons to defend it from the passengers making a counter-attack. This is one of the biggest arguments against arming pilots and there’s still some Government folks who would like to see the program ended.

  7. There’s virtually no system that’s likely to be hit that would cause a unrecoverable problem.

    …aside from the pilots, who are likely to be in the line of fire in a scenario where the Bad Guy tries to gain access to the cockpit and you don’t realize he wasn’t just going to the lavatory until he starts pounding on the cockpit door.

    Rule 4: Be sure of your target and what is beyond it.

    I doubt they’re going to be adding a bulletproof barrier between the cockpit and the passenger cabin anytime soon.

  8. I’m not opposed to most CCW, but I think there are obvious places they need to be left out of. Commercial aircraft just seem like a no-brainer. Ultra-confined space sitting on hundreds (thousands?) of gallons of jet fuel. A single miss is likely to hit an innocent passenger. I just can’t see what could convince me it’s a good idea at all.

  9. I good friend use to carry on planes when people didn’t check. When they started checking, he wore a custom mad belt buckle with a “decorative gun” which actually detached and was a .22 derringer style pistol. When security got tighter he improvised. Then improvised again. And again. Now he carries a newspaper that has been folded enough time to give and extremely hard point to it. It hurts. A lot. Especially when he hits you in the head with it to showcase how much it hurts and how disabling it is.
    He is also a champion kickboxer and professional asskicker. You are right, airplanes are full of weapons. I am sitting on a couch in my apartment and there are four weapons within easy reach that I can use that don’t involve triggers. There are probably more, but it is almost 2 AM and I’m not thinking. Hope nobody breaks in.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *