Risk Management of Aviation Security

Published 21 Feb 2017

On September 11, 2001, airplanes hijacked by terrorists, slammed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and crashed in a field. With the severity and tragic “success of these terrorist conspiracies which claimed over 3,000 lives combines with the fear of another similar attack, has created a sense of urgency for increased airline security, including the use of lethal force (Emling, 2002).” I believe had pilots been, armed terrorist would not have accessed the cockpit.

The presence of Air Marshals on commercial airlines has increased from 50 to 1000s, since the September 11 attacks, pilots express the need of flying armed along with the Air Marshals. “Arming pilots with handguns has become the most popular concept for implementing airline security, especially among the pilots (Rider, 2003).”

“Although pilots already bear the enormous responsibility of safely flying the airplane, assigning them the additional responsibility of carrying a firearm, and maintaining security is the only immediate, practical solution to secure aircraft, which do not have a reinforced cockpit door and multiple air marshals aboard (Irvine, 2002).”

Pilots have the responsible for operating and landing the plane, and the safety of crew and passengers. “Armed pilots will help increase the safety of passengers, and crewmembers (Plante, 2009).”
The “Air Marshals program has created an elite group of highly-trained aviation security professionals who work in teams and in very close co-ordination with airlines and flight crews (St. Johns,1991).”

Many concerns “about arming pilots or letting them carry guns, but armed pilots actually have a much easier job than Air Marshals. An armed marshal in a crowded cabin is attacked from any direction he or she must be able to quickly distinguish innocent civilians from terrorists. An armed pilot only needs to concern himself with the people trying to force their way into the cockpit. It is also much easier to defend a position such as the cockpit, than to have to pursue the terrorist and physically subdue them, as a marshal would (Lott, 2003).”

“The only way it would be possible to have armed pilots is if they were government employees of a government airline (Kince, 2002).”

“Armed pilot is easily identifiable because he is always located in the cockpit and wears a uniform. For this reason alone, pilots should not be armed, and should never exit the cockpit (Wald, 2002).” The September 11 terrorists were able to access the cockpit because the pilots are unarmed and unable to defend their cockpits.

“Exhibiting a strong deterrence on commercial aircraft by means of Federal Air Marshalls will be continually required. There is something about the possibility of looking down the barrel of a gun during an unauthorized opening of the cockpit door will keep a terrorist from repeating another 9/11 type event (Plante, 2009).”

Several disadvantages to pilots not being allowed to fly armed for example, terrorists could gain control of cockpit and take over the aircraft, insufficient training of pilots to fly armed, insufficient funding to place air marshals on all flights, and hijackers could overpower pilots and law enforcement and take guns from them.

If airplanes had reinforced cockpit doors and have one or two Air Marshal’s on board every flight, this would meet the public “demand for improved safety requirements. Until these measures are implemented airplanes can only be considered safe if the pilot is armed. Because of these serious implications, the feasibility of the proposed security measures must be considered (Lott, 2003).”

“The Federal Air Marshal Service, a TSA agency that runs the armed-pilots program, reports that 85,000 to 90,000 pilots and crewmembers flying domestic passenger and cargo planes are eligible to carry a gun. That puts the number of armed pilots at about 9,500. The TSA projects the program to grow to 16.5% of eligible pilots by the year 2011 (Frank, 2005).”

While, doing the research for this paper I discovered “All armed pilots are trained and deputized federal law enforcement officers. Airline pilots have been (re)armed for nearly five years now (Price, 2008),” I honestly did not know pilots have been flying armed.


  • Emling, Shelley (2002) “Ground Zero: The Solemn Salute” Retrieved November 19, 2009
  • from The Plain Dealer.
  • Frank, Thomas (2005) “More than 10% of pilots allowed to fly armed” Retrieved November 19, 2009 from USA TODAY
  • Irvine, James M (2002) “Pilots Need Guns for Protection” Retrieved on November 19, 2009 from The Plain Dealer.
  • Kince, Thomas (2002) “Armed Pilots Mean Nationalized Airlines” Retrieved November 19, 2009 from SuppressedNews.com
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