Senate Committee Approves Arming Cargo Pilots

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On March 13, the Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation to arm cargo pilots. Part of S. 165, the Air Cargo Security Act, this provision was offered as an amendment by lead Democratic co-sponsors Senators Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Specifically, The Bunning-Boxer Arming Cargo Pilots Against Terrorism Act closes a loophole within last year's Federal Flight Deck Officer program included in the final Homeland Security Act. (more) Because cargo aircraft do not carry passengers, the requirements to strengthen cockpit doors and carry federal air marshals did not apply to their operations. However, some airline groups have long argued that these operations are a easy target for terrorist hijackings and therefore should implement the same protective measures. "I applaud Senators Boxer and Bunning for taking the first step towards closing the security loopholes that currently exist in our national security agenda," Captain Bob Miller, president of the Independent Pilots Association (IPA), said after hearing the legislation was approved. ALPA president Capt. Duane Woerth also applauded the legislation. "Cargo airline security frequently has been overlooked in the post- 9/11 rush to fix passenger security. We look forward to working with both the Senate and the House, where a companion bill, H.R. 765, has been introduced, as the next step toward improving security in cargo airline operations," he said. There has been no indication on when the legislation will move into the full Senate.