Bri­tish pi­lots say no to armed mar­shals for U.S.-bound for­eign air­lines

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Au­drey Hud­son

Bri­tish pi­lots op­pose a pro­posed change in the United States’ vi­sawaiver pro­gram that would re­quire par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries to pro­vide armed se­cu­rity on U.S.bound for­eign air­lines or al­low U.S. air mar­shals to pro­tect such flights.

“Any need to carry weapons on air­craft should be rec­og­nized as a fail­ure of the air­port se­cu­rity sys­tems,” the Bri­tish Air Line Pi­lots As­so­ci­a­tion (BALPA) said.

Bri­tish pi­lots fa­vor “proper pas­sen­ger pro­fil­ing” through a “data­base of po­ten­tial ter­ror­ists, their known aliases and all their known as­so­ciates as well as known dis­rup­tive pas­sen­gers,” the as­so­ci­a­tion said in a state­ment pro­vided to The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Jar­rod Agen, spokesman for the Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment, said the pro­gram is in the early stages of be­ing re­vamped to strengthen se­cu­rity, and changes still need to be dis­cussed with for­eign gov­ern­ments and ap­proved by Congress.

“This is part of the is­sue, to have the abil­ity to have fed­eral air mar­shal­son­the­sein­ter­na­tion­alflight­sas part of the visa-waiver pro­gram,” Mr. Agen said.

The pro­posal says the United States will ask the 27 coun­tries that par­tic­i­pate in the visa-waiver pro­gram to co­op­er­ate with the air mar­shal pro­gram.

“The United States ben­e­fits from the en­hanced se­cu­rity of al­low­ing U.S. fed­eral air mar­shals to op­er­ate aboard in­ter­na­tional flights to and from the United States,” it states.

Theair­mar­shal­pro­gram­re­quires per­son­nelbe­sharp­shoot­er­swhoare able to re­qual­ify at a shoot­ing range sev­eral times a year and carry Sig Sauer 9mm pis­tols.

ArmedU.S.mar­shal­sal­read­yare per­mit­ted to fly on U.S.-owned air­lines over­seas. If air mar­shals in oth­er­coun­tries­donot­meetU.S.stan­dards, one op­tion is to pro­vide U.S. mar­shals for for­eign air­lines, Mr. Agen said.

Theair­mar­shalini­tia­tiveiso­neof sev­er­al­re­for­m­mea­sures­theHome­landSe­cu­ri­tyDepart­men­tis­push­ing for the par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries, in­clud­ing elec­tronic travel au­tho­riza­tions, a pas­sen­ger in­for­ma­tion ex­change­and­strongerair­port­se­cu­rity stan­dards.

“TheUnit­edS­tateswille­qually­ac­cept­the­bur­de­nofnewse­cu­ri­tymea­sures and will not re­quire cit­i­zens of visa-waiver coun­tries to adopt mea­sures that we are un­will­ing to un- der­take our­selves,” Home­land Se­cu­rity Sec­re­tary Michael Chertoff said.

The visa-waiver pro­gram al­lows trav­el­ers from par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries to en­ter the United States with­out a visa if they have an epass­port with bio­met­rics data, or a ma­chine-read­able pass­port is­sued be­fore Oct. 26.

“Long-dis­tance­flight­sarein­jeop­ardy”ifnot­pro­tect­ed­b­yarmed­mar­shals, for­mer air mar­shal Robert Ma­cLean said.

“Thekey­tothe[Fed­er­alAirMar­shal Ser­vice] be­ing suc­cess­ful is to have [mar­shals] on as many dif­fer­ent flights that can be cov­ered,” said Spencer Pickard, an air mar­shal in Las Ve­gas.

DavidMack­ett,acom­mer­cialair­linepi­lotand­pres­i­dentoftheAir­line Pilot­sSe­cu­ri­tyAl­liance,saidthereis no al­ter­na­tive to de­fend­ing air­craft with armed weapons, but that pro­tec­tion by mar­shals is too costly.

“With 30,000 flights a day, us­ing air­mar­shals,it­would­cost$14bil­lion per year and take a force the size of the U.S. Coast Guard — it sim­ply can’t be done,” Mr. Mack­ett said.

In­stead, he said Congress should re­vamp the Fed­eral Flight Deck Of­fi­cer pro­gram to en­cour­age more pi­lots to seek weapons train­ing.

“Us­ing armed pi­lots, we could pro­tect ev­ery flight in the sky for about$30mil­lion­ayear­be­causethe pi­lots ask no com­pen­sa­tion,” Mr. Mack­ett said.

The BALPA threat­ened to strike whenCon­gressvot­ed­toal­lowAmer­i­can pi­lots to carry weapons when fly­ing over­seas, and the mea­sure was with­drawn.

“BALPAisin­deed­stil­lop­posedto armed air mar­shals,” spokesman Keith Bill said two weeks ago.

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