Give pilots a chance

The U.S. House has moved to do what the Bush administration, airlines and, unfortunately, the U.S. Senate won't do -- allow pilots to defend themselves in their cockpits.

The House voted last week to permit more than 70,000 pilots to undergo training that would allow them to be armed in the aircraft, if they so desire.

The legislation probably isn't going anywhere, as Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta has opposed the idea and there appears to be insufficient support in the Senate.

So the last line of defense against a hijacking and another potential terrorist attack from the sky won't be available. One would hope there is a very good reason for denying pilots a weapon, but there isn't.

The main argument has been that guns just aren't needed in the cockpit. With better security for cockpit doors, say the critics, there's just no reason for a pilot to be armed. The pilots should simply concentrate on flying the plane.

The critics might as well argue there's no need for security at all on jetliners because no weapons will get through airport screeners. Right.

We agree pilots' first priority should be safely flying and landing the plane. Having a gun in a lockbox in the cockpit will do nothing to distract them.

Pilots also should stay in the cockpit. A hijacker threatening to kill a hostage can't take priority over the safety of the rest of the passengers.

As has been noted elsewhere, if a hijacker does somehow gain access to the cockpit we now know the possible consequences not only to those aboard the jet but also to people on the ground. With no weapon available to the pilot, the only other option will be for a fighter jet to shoot down the airliner.

We'd rather give the pilot a fighting chance.


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