Fewer than 100 pilots were certified to carry guns on commercial flights in the eight months after Congress approved the idea, the Associated Press reports. Pilots blame the slow pace on the Transportation Security Administration.
Pilots say that with hiring halted in the air marshal program and the government warning al-Qaeda may try more suicide hijackings, it’s more important than ever to get weapons in the cockpit.
“We should cover a vast majority of the domestic flights,” said Capt. Bob Lambert of the Airline Pilots’ Security Alliance. “It just seems like we haven’t learned very much from Sept. 11.”
TSA says it costs about $6,200 for training, testing and background checks. Pilots are worried about the TSA’s plan to move the training academy to a federal law enforcement training center in Artesia, N.M., next month. They say that will further delay getting more pilots certified to carry weapons.
TSA said the New Mexico training center is better because it has three Boeing 727s configured for terrorism training. In the current training center in Georgia, “they were doing drills on lawn chairs,” said a TSA spokesman.
Congress gave the air marshal program more than $500 million last year. In April, TSA set aside $8 million to train pilots through September.