ARTESIA, N.M. – Commercial jet pilots aren’t the only ones getting certified to carry weapons in the cockpit. Now those who command cargo planes are also training to defend themselves against inflight terrorist attacks.
Those who pass the rigorous Transportation Security Administration (search) course in Artesia, N.M., will become federal flight deck officers (FFDOs) and will be authorized to use deadly force to protect the cockpit if necessary.
The program teaches range shooting and hand-to-hand combat techniques, and simulates terrorist attacks so pilots know how to handle them in a split second if they really happen.
This is the first month that cargo pilots are joining the class, but they’re doing it voluntarily and at their own expense.
Though passenger pilots have been coming to the remote training center for a year and get $1,600 each from the government, the initial version of the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (search) didn’t include cargo pilots in the funding. Their unions are fighting hard to get that changed.
Cargo plane pilots would be particularly vulnerable in terrorist attacks. Their cockpits are constructed without reinforced doors and take off and land without the comprehensive ground security or passenger screening used for commercial flights. If they take people along for the ride, the guests are seated in the cockpit right behind the pilots.
The 56-hour FFDO course lasts one week. Pilots who pass are issued 40-caliber Hechler and Koch handguns and deputized as law enforcement for five years.
Click here to watch a report by Fox News Channel's Jamie Colby.