East Texans React to Armed Pilots - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

04/21/03 - Tyler

East Texans React to Armed Pilots

Starting this week, the person flying your plane may be packing heat. Some pilots can begin carrying loaded weapons on-board airplanes after completing a training course. The program is designed to make crews and passengers feel more comfortable in the air.

Josh Law is on his way from Tyler to Milwalkee. While he may never know, there is a chance his pilot could be carrying a gun. "I guess it's a pretty good idea. If things get out of control, then maybe they can prevent problems from happening. So, I think it's a pretty good idea."

Last week, a group of more than 40 pilots completed a training course in close combat. While training with .40 calibre hand guns, the pilots learned how to prevent attackers from taking the weapons away during a hijacking.

 "They're trained. Most of them are military anyway," says  Don Matthews.  Matthews flies on business from Tyler all over the world.  "I think it will make them feel safer, which in turn would make me feel safer also."

Jill Parker also does a lot of business travel in the skies.  "I think that the government has put them through the correct training, background checking, psychological checking, so I'm comfortable with that."

Ironically, it's the security measures designed to take weapons off planes, not the guns now being allowed on which provide the best piece of mind for Parker. "It doesn't make me feel more comfortable that they have a weapon, a gun. I was fine after September 11th with the changes they put in."

There are 90,000 pilots in the U.S. So far, only 46 have completed the training. And Congress has only set aside enough money to train this first group of recruits.

Stephen Parr, reporting.

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