Program Churns Out First Federal Flight Deck Officers

Program Churns Out First Federal Flight Deck Officers


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Jed Boal reporting The September 11th terrorist attacks forever changed the way airline pilots consider the safety of their passengers.

9-months ago, the Transportation Security Administration trained its first class of pilots to carry guns. The program is accelerating.

We traveled to New Mexico to check out the training.

Not everyone thinks it's a good idea for the pilot to carry a handgun in the cockpit...or the flight deck as it's called.

Program Churns Out First Federal Flight Deck Officers

But, the T-S-A this is one layer of security that's critical when a terrorist tries to take over the plane.

Defend the flight deck, with deadly force if necessary. One of the tough lessons learned from the terrorist attacks of September 11th.

Some commercial airline pilots think the best way to defend the plane and passengers is to be prepared with a gun.

Commercial Airline Pilot: When there's a guy banging on the cockpit door...not one pilot I know would say, I'd rather not have a gun..not one."

The federal government agrees.

Since April, the TSA has trained thousands of pilots to shoot a 40-caliber handgun.

When they leave the training facility in New Mexico, they are deputized as Federal Flight Deck Officers.

More than 100-thousand pilots fly commercial routes...a small percentage is armed today.

The T-S-A won't reveal specific numbers.

John Moran/T.S.A. Deputy Asst. for Training: The probability of running into a Federal Flight Deck Officers will increase. We want the bad guys to know a new layer is there."

But, the T-S-A doesn't want them to know which pilots are armed.

The pilot of nearly 20 years does not think he can defend his cockpit against attacks like those of September 11th, without proper tactics and equipment.

"Commercial Airline Pilot: I was supposed to fly the same day over President Bush.. I think my plane would have been targeted as well that day."

A personal friend of his piloted one of the fateful planes.

Commercial Airline Pilot: There was no doubt in my mind, we were under attack...we were caught with our guard down...hopefully that will never happen again."

The trainers put the pilots through a wide range of scenarios to prepare them for a variety of attacks.

Program Churns Out First Federal Flight Deck Officers

A simulator training challenges pilots to make split second decisions about whether to shoot...and, it's not easy, I tried.

My adrenaline spiked...my mind raced...and I fired.

I killed the attacker with six shots...and the trainers grilled me about why I did what I did.

The pilots must answer for their decisions.

Commercial Airline Pilot: “Everyone is more aware...has more tools...has more defense mechanisms."

The pilots volunteer for the program, and have to do it on their own time.

The T-S-A spends nearly five-thousand dollars to evaluate and train each federal flight deck officer.

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