...But There's Still Target Practice

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But while the training gives a pilot's mental ammunition a workout, there are, of course, practical lessons in how best to put the 9-mm Heckler and Koch semiautomatic to use in saving an airplane full of people -- and maybe hundreds or thousands on the ground. Trainees learn hand-to-hand combat (moves designed specifically for the confines of the aluminum tube), disarming techniques and, of course, take target practice. They also go through simulated scenarios on three Boeing 727 "shoot houses." But the biggest weapon they have in the war against terrorism is the terrorist's own risk calculation. As more pilots take the training (figures aren't released but there are believed to be about 1,650 armed pilots) the odds of a terrorist coming up against someone trained to deal with him are increasing. That makes the terrorist's planning more difficult and the outcome less certain. "It throws out a gamble," said one trainee. As would-be hijackers need not rely on reports like this one, or any other media account of the training, as a guide to what to expect if they attempt to personally breach the cockpit, only a fraction of the training is revealed publicly.