Armed in the Cockpit?

This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, July 26, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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Other guests and topics for 
July 24 included:
• Wendell Goler: President Bush spends the day prodding, poking and pushing. He seemed to draw a line in the sand on the Homeland Security Bill, saying he "will not accept" the bill now making its way through the Senate
• Carl Cameron: A Senate committee investigating Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., for ethics violations adjourns its meeting without making any decisions
• Steve Harrigan: Four Israelis on their way to spend the Jewish Sabbath with friends in a nearby settlement are killed in the West Bank when Palestinian gunmen ambush their cars
• Catherine Herridge: Zacarias Moussaoui's case is set to go trial at the end of September, and now the public defender appointed to help him says he believes Moussaoui is starting to realize he can't face his legal problems alone
• Brian Wilson: Thirty five years ago, a deadly blaze killed more than a hundred men aboard the USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin. And, while the Forrestal accident has become little more than a footnote in the history of the Vietnam War, the Navy has never forgotten it
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JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: Support is growing in Congress for letting airline pilots carry guns. The House has already given its OK. And there are now 23 cosponsors for guns in the cockpit in the Senate. And the administration, which had opposed it, has now agreed to take another look.

Would guns in the cockpit be a valuable new weapon in airline security? Or would it mean a shootout at row five on a plane loaded with passengers? To discuss that, I'm joined now by First Officer Rob Sproc, Miami Vice Chairman of the Allied Pilots Association, who joins us from our bureau in Miami.

Rob, thanks for coming on.


ANGLE: Let me ask you first, why is it that pilots want the right to carry guns?

SPROC: Well, obviously, we want to be able to protect the lives of our passengers. And we consider this to be the last line of defense, one of the critical layers of defense, in the multi-layered defense strategy that we have for ensuring the safety and security of our passengers.

ANGLE: Now, I'm from Texas, so I grew up not being all that squeamish about people having firearms and carrying firearms. But it's hard for me to imagine the circumstances under which a pilot would emerge from the cabin and use a pistol on board an aircraft at 35,000 feet. What are the circumstances under which you envision a pilot actually having to use a pistol?

SPROC: Well, actually, it's very hard for us to imagine that also.  The cockpit protection program, which was developed by the FBI shortly after Sept. 11, has yet to see the light of day.

We encouraged some of the senators to actually subpoena that program to get it out there. It's merely and strictly for defense of the cockpit alone, where pilots would defending nothing more than just the small opening of the cockpit door to prevent intruders from coming in and using the aircraft as a weapon of mass destruction.

ANGLE: So, you are saying that the pilots would not go out into the cabin. They would not open that door and emerge into the cabin if hijackers were trying to take control of the aircraft.

SPROC: You are correct. At the first sign of trouble, our mission would be to land the airplane. And the division of duties that we have right now that pertain to emergency situations — for instance, an engine fire or failure, something like that — one pilot continues to fly the airplane, while the other pilot handles the emergency by accomplishing a checklist, flipping the switches, and solving the problem there. In the situation of an attempted cockpit intrusion, one pilot would attempt to land the aircraft as soon as possible while the other pilot defended the cockpit.

ANGLE: Now, there was some testimony on Capitol Hill. I want you to listen with me on the testimony of one airline pilot, who thinks this is not a particularly good idea for reasons that will be obvious. Let's listen to what Captain Ed Davidson had to say yesterday on the Hill.


ED DAVIDSON, CAPTAIN, NORTHWEST AIRLINES: Any pilot in uniform would be viewed as being a potential repository of a lethal firearm. Air marshals, on the other hand, do not present the same threat because they are anonymous. Onboard the aircraft, the legislation would simply draw a roadmap straight to the cockpit for terrorists seeking lethal weapons.


ANGLE: In other words, Rob, he is saying that terrorists may not be able to get guns onto airplanes, but pilots would bring them on. And terrorists would know exactly where to find one if they needed a weapon.

SPROC: Well, it's kind of interesting that the opponents of arming pilots now can only find somebody such as Captain Davidson, who is a management pilot and preaches the management line on this. And it's also interesting that as this debate has gone on now for 10 months — we've been doing our research for 10 months — that every time that we find a new opponent, they try to drag in a new argument.

Obviously, Captain Davidson hasn't seen our research. He hasn't done the research himself. He's throwing out what we call in the industry a fear grenade.

Obviously, with a voluntary program for the pilots, not every pilot is going to be armed. It's not going to be obvious to the passengers or the terrorists which pilots are armed, much in the same way that the federal air marshals or folks who are currently authorized to carry weapons onboard aircraft are carrying firearms, all the way from folks that you expect such as U.S. postal inspectors, the Secret Service, and the FBI, all the way down to folks like the Bureau of Engraving and the Department of Education are currently carrying weapons onboard aircraft.

ANGLE: Now, I've seen that of the 90,000 pilots who might be eligible for this, only about 25,000 to 30,000 are thought to be interested in doing it. Why so few? And doesn't that really in a way defeat the whole idea, that you wouldn't have all pilots carrying weapons?

SPROC: Actually, no. We figure that the 30,000 would be the folks that would actually end up probably being qualified. And that's the number that I believe the FBI came up with in their estimates for their cockpit protection program, a much higher percent than the two percent out of the House Transportation Subcommittee version does provide a large deterrent effect to folks who aren't afraid of dying, but who are afraid of not being able to accomplish the mission.

ANGLE: Now, the administration has sort of reopened a look at this, a study of this. And they're talking about perhaps looking at non-lethal alternatives such as stun guns or rubber bullets, or perhaps arming pilots on a specific number of flights but not opening it up to the entire country. What do you think about that? Is that a problem?

SPROC: Well, again, it's unfortunate that we are 10 months now after September 11. And a debate over stun guns versus lethal capability is still going on. The Allied Pilots Association has produced a video that you can see on our Web site, which is, that clearly demonstrates the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of stun guns in such a situation. Folks who are bringing that up — and all we're trying to do really is just continue to delay the implementation of a program that 79 percent of the traveling public say they want to have in place.

ANGLE: Now, there's a lot of talk about training. And the administration worries there would be a great cost involved. One, how much training are we talking about? What would it cost? And who would pay for that?

SPROC: Once the cockpit protection program feasibility study sees the light of day, you will see that the FBI took a quick look at this and back after September 11 because at the time the law was such that this would fall under the Department of Justice. And they wanted to be prepared in case they did get tasked to do this.

They ran a program that was roughly five days, 48 hours worth of training, where individuals fired between 1,700 and 2,200 rounds and covered all the necessary areas of the very limited idea of protecting the area of that cockpit door entrance.

ANGLE: Now, would those rules, essentially the rules of engagement, be written out, and that is what all pilots would be expected to do is simply defend the cockpit?

SPROC: Absolutely. We expect to have the limited authorization of protecting the passengers from criminal acts while airborne and acts of air piracy. That's part of the language.

ANGLE: OK, Rob, got to stop you. First Officer Rob Sproc of the Allied Pilots Association, thanks for joining us.

SPROC: Thank you very much.

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