Pistol-Packing Pilots Meet High-Tech Seats

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OK, which is a greater deterrent: armed airline pilots packing firepower or seats that can detect a nervous or even dangerous passenger? Well, they both might be coming to an airliner near you. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported this week that it began training its first set of airline pilots on the rigors of firearms handling. Air Line Pilots Association spokesman Captain David Butterfield reminded the media of the benefits of this $25 million project. "We do not want terrorists to take over the airplane and fly them into buildings as they did on 9/11. In other words, to turn the airplane into a weapon," he explained. While the TSA prepares to arm pilots against a possible airborne assault, a company in the UK is working on a passenger seat designed to help crews spot nervous terrorists or people at risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Believe it or not, the seat -- being developed by engineers at QinetiQ, formerly part of the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, in Farnborough, Hampshire -- will reportedly house technology able to sense a passenger's level of anxiety. In other words, heartbeat and even periods of immobility would be detected by a set of pressure sensors located within the seat. Development plans also call for the installation of an alerting screen that would notify crew members of a passenger's state of relaxation and help them determine if that person simply needs to relax, stretch his/her legs or be subdued for a variety of security reasons.