Cargo Pilots Armed, Controversy Fully Cocked
After a yearlong battle to be included, cargo pilots can now apply to carry guns on their flights. However, the expansion of the Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDO) program seems to have stirred up more criticism than it has calmed. The TSA announced the move on Tuesday, about a month after the president signed it into law as part of the FAA Reauthorization package. "Expanding the FFDO program [to cargo pilots] adds yet another layer of security ... to protect against those who would do us harm," said Acting TSA Administrator David Stone. But pilots groups and even pilots who have already been through the program apparently fear the it has a better chance of ending their careers than stopping a terrorist act. Pilots groups maintain that the TSA has never liked the idea of guns in the cockpit and was forced into it by legislators. They say the TSA, as the system's sole administrator, is trying to actively discourage pilots from going through the gun training by demanding an intimidating array of psychological and personality testing. Former military pilots are hardly impressed by a system that previously allowed them command of nuclear weapons but now may refuse them a sidearm for "psychological reasons." The TSA also tells prospective applicants that if they find anything amiss in the tests, they'll report it to other authorities, including the FAA, which might affect their flying privileges. About 1,200 of the U.S.'s 100,000 airline pilots have passed the course and they are told not to discuss the program or they could face dismissal. A few have spoken anonymously and most complain about the requirement to carry the gun in a lockbox instead of having it more readily available in a holster.