After September 11, 2001 some US airline pilots were granted the authority to carry guns while on duty in the cockpit. Some of the pilots are trained on how to use the weapon in the unlikely event a person were to enter the cockpit and threaten the safety of the flight. Now a group representing the armed pilots wants to expand their authority so pilots who have the training can carry their hand guns while riding in the back of the airplane as well as in airport terminals, Wired.com reports.
The president of the Federal Flight Deck Officers Association told a Senate committee that there are five times as many airline pilots flying as passengers on airliners as there are Federal Air Marshals. The Air Marshals are the specially trained federal officers who travel undercover as security on a random selection of flights. But Marcus Flagg, president of the FFDO, told the Senate committee the Marshals cost about $3,300 per flight and the cost limits the number of Marshals on board aircraft. Flagg said expanding the authority of armed pilots would significantly increase the number of armed officers on board flights.
“A FFDO as a flying pilot at the controls would defend the aircraft from the cockpit only, and not exit the cockpit” Flagg told the committee: “If one or more FFDOs are riding as passengers in the back of that same aircraft, they may be the only trained law enforcement on board (including cockpit crew).”
Flagg said limiting the pilots to having an unlocked gun only available in the cockpit limits the usefulness of having the armed pilots. Currently pilots must have their weapons locked when carrying them to and from the cockpit and they cannot carry their weapons outside the cockpit such as during a visit to the lavatory.
The number of pilots who have been through the training and are authorized to carry a gun in the cockpit has not been released. But Flagg told the Orlando Sun Sentinel that the number is just under the FBI which has 13,800 armed officers according to the paper.
No armed pilot has had to use a gun to defend against a threat since the program started in 2002. There has been one accidental discharge of a gun in the cockpit of a US Airways flight while the airplane was on approach to land. There flight landed safely. In another incident a JetBlue pilot lost his hand gun when it was picked up by a passenger who mistakenly picked up the wrong backpack containing the locked weapon at John F. Kennedy airport in New York. The passenger realized she had the wrong bag after boarding her flight and returned it to a flight attendant.
Pilots undergo six days of training on how to use a gun for defending the cockpit. This compares to the many months of training for the Federal Air Marshals or typical police officers.
Source: Wired.comBoeing forecasts a need for 466,650 new pilots and 596,500 maintenance personnel to enter the industry over the next 20 years. According to a crew assessment forecast from Boeing, airlines will need an average of 23,300 new pilots and 30,000 new maintenance personnel per year from 2010 to 2029.
However, there is “no clear, long-term industry standard on how the next pilot generation will be trained to command the large fleet in the manufacturers’ orderbooks“, Flight International emphasizes.
British Airways changed its pilot recruitment strategy last August after it foresaw a potential flightcrew shortage. The UK carrier wants to employ about 800 pilots during the next five years. While it needs about 100 new employees per year to maintain its approximately 3,200-strong cockpit workforce, BA wants to employ 150 flightcrew members every year for growth. Half of these recruits should come via direct entry from other airlines and the military, while the other half will be career starters from ab initio level. This is BA’s biggest pilot recruitment initiative in more than a decade.
The main difference lies in the renewed interest in ab initio students. BA employed fresh air transport pilot licence (ATPL) holders before, but those graduates had undertaken and financed their training independently and were hired from the open market after qualification.
Airlines, including BA, previously pre-financed the training of a limited number of ab initio students after they had undergone an initial selection process, with the young pilots repaying the fees later during employment. This changed, however, with the aviation downturn after 9/11 and the concurrent rise of budget carriers such as EasyJet and Ryanair, which had always drawn cockpit personnel from the open pilot market. Petteford points out that the shift to this “retail” training model has moved control over cadet enrolment numbers from airlines to individuals.
BA still does not pay for the flight training in three selected academies, but now helps its students secure the required funding by guaranteeing a bank loan. Access to credit has become a main hurdle for pilot aspirants because of the financial crises since 2008, threatening to turn the profession into a career option mainly for children from sufficiently affluent backgrounds. BA worked with banks to devise a loan scheme because it feared the pool of applicants made of the right stuff was becoming too limited.
BA sister carrier Iberia is also recruiting a large number of flightcrew, although this will only be for its planned low-cost subsidiary Iberia Express, due to begin operations with four Airbus A320s at the end of March, which will gradually take over the parent’s short- and medium-haul network. While 125 pilots are needed for the start-up phase, this is set to increase as the new airline is scheduled to have 13 aircraft by year-end and 40 by 2015. Iberia has traditionally recruited qualified pilots from a military or civilian background.
A number of flightcrew will transfer to Iberia Express from the parent carrier, which will concentrate exclusively on long-haul flights. The latter’s approximately 1,500-strong cockpit workforce will gradually move up the ranks and convert to the A330/A340 fleet as senior flightcrew members retire. However, Iberia has no plans to recruit new pilots for the mainline operations. Whether it will be possible for Iberia Express flightcrew to transfer to the parent carrier is as yet unclear.
Lufthansa expects to take on about 300 new pilots this year. The German airline mainly recruits ab initio cadets who learn their trade at the in-house training campuses in Bremen and Goodyear, Arizona. Only if demand exceeds the available supply of career starters does the airline fall back on direct-entry pilots.