During a White House meeting with survivors of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, President Donald Trump made the claim that flights have become safer because some pilots are armed in the cockpit. Although the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program was instituted after the September 11 attacks, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to safer aircraft.
Are guns the direct reason America has not seen another aircraft hijacking since September 11, 2001? The Washington Post reports that President Donald Trump made that assertion during his meeting with Stoneman Douglas High School shooting survivors on Wednesday, February 21, 2018.
During his time with the group, Trump made the suggestion that educators should be trained to use a weapon as a measure of self-defense. He then went on to suggest that because weapons are allowed on some flights, the aviation industry is safer.
“You know a lot of people don’t understand that a lot of airline pilots now — a lot of them carry guns,” Trump claimed, according to the Washington Post. “And … I have to say that things have changed a lot. People aren’t attacking the way they would routinely attack, and maybe you have the same situation in schools.”
The President may have been referring to the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program, a voluntary initiative of the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA describes on their website: “The Federal Flight Deck Officer Program authorizes flight crew members to use firearms to defend against an act of criminal violence and air piracy while attempting to gain control of an aircraft.” Approved aviators receive one week of training in New Mexico before they are allowed to carry a cockpit weapon.
Under that definition, a TSA official speaking anonymously to the Washington Post declared that a weapon could only be used if someone attempted a hijacking. In any other situation, the flight crew could not remove the weapon from the cockpit, nor use it to resolve a situation.
Another potential scenario Trump could have been referring to is the increase of air marshals on flights. However, that program has also been under scrutiny for personnel issues. A 2015 report suggested the Air Marshal Service experienced trends of drug use, fatigue and even suicide among members.
Meanwhile, guns continue to be a problem at airports, particularly in the form of flyers attempting to bring them on their flights. The TSA reported a new record number of guns found at security checkpoints during the week ending February 11, 2018, with 104 guns. Of those, 87 were loaded, while 38 were chambered and ready to fire.