WASHINGTON: America's commercial pilots are tired of waiting for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to begin training them in the proper use of firearms. So they're taking steps to speed up the process.As part of the airline security bill signed by President Bush last November, the DOT was to set up a training program that would teach pilots how to use firearms in case of a terrorist attack. The program was intended as a first step toward making pilots the last line of defense in a repeat of a September-11-type situation. Each individual airline would then be allowed to decide for itself whether its pilots could carry guns.
But almost five months later, the program remains hypothetical. Many blame DOT Secretary Norman Mineta, who has publicly declared his opposition to arming pilots, for intentionally dragging his feet.
So the five pilots unions, not always known for working together, have culled their government-relations forces and descended upon Washington to pressure the administration into action.
The Allied Pilots Association (APA), which represents American Airlines pilots, retained Arlington, VA-based firm Craig Shirley & Associates last month to help push the issue through PR and lobbying support.
"There was a timeline for almost everything else in the bill, but none for this,
said partner Diana Banister. "That's why these guys have started putting a lot more pressure on the administration, especially the DOT."
Last week, USA Today, CNN, ABC, and CBS covered the issue.