United Airlines Installing Stun Guns In Aircraft Cockpits
July 7, 2008
(1st Add: Includes comments by American Airlines.)
(CNSNews.com) - After losing two aircraft during September's terrorist attacks, United Airlines announced Thursday it will be the first major American airline to install advanced Taser weapons, also known as "stun guns," in every cockpit.
The weapons, which will be installed in electronically coded lock boxes on each United aircraft, will be available to pilots in case of a hijacking so the cockpit can be defended. In addition, all United flight attendants will undergo a special training program.
Airline officials said the stun guns add to other new security measures that have been implemented, including cockpit doors reinforced with an iron bar.
"United and its pilots believe Tasers are an important addition to enhanced cockpit security. Tasers will incapacitate an attacker without endangering the airplane," said Andrew Studdert, United's chief operating officer and executive vice president.
The weapons fire an electronic charge that instantly disables an attacker, allowing time for them to be restrained. A weapons expert told CNSNews.com that the stun guns are useful in situations where an attacker is in close proximity to the victim.
United also said Thursday it will introduce special training for their pilots on overall cockpit defense, including the use of Tasers.
The airline also announced the beginning of what they call the "first phase" of a flight attendant training program designed to enhance overall cabin security and to provide the attendants with knowledge on how to defend themselves as well as assist passengers in hijack situations.
Airline officials would not comment any further on what the training entailed.
However, Studdert commended the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants at United for "the leadership they have shown on security issues."
"United's pilots and flight attendants have provided invaluable input and feedback to all of our new security measures, processes and training," Studdert said.
United Airlines Flight 175, a Boeing 767 jetliner bound from Boston to Los Angeles crashed into the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11. It carried 56 passengers, two pilots and seven flight attendants.
United Airlines Flight 93, a Boeing 757 jetliner en route from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco crashed southeast of Pittsburgh the same day. It carried 38 passengers, two pilots and five flight attendants.
Delta, U.S. Airways nor Continental Airlines, according to their spokespeople, have any plans to install Tasers at the present time.
Mary Francis Fagan, a spokesperson for American Airlines said, "We are working with the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and various manufacturers to carefully evaluate technologies that exist that may increase security."
Northwest Airlines, however, is studying the Taser issue, according to spokesman Kurt Ebenhoch.
"At this point, we are still studying the issue and we are looking at all the recommendations from the (U.S. Transportation Department) rapid response team," said Ebenhoch.
The Transportation Department's rapid response teams consist of people from the private sector and the department's staff that makes recommendations on aviation security. One team worked on airport security while another worked on aircraft security improvements in the wake of September's terrorist attacks and sent those recommendations to Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
Also Thursday, the Kuwaiti embassy in Washington announced that Kuwait Airways signed an agreement with the U.S. government to increase its level of cooperation with the Advance Passenger Information System.
The state-owned airline company signed a Memorandum of Understanding with three U.S. government agencies charged with border protection, agreeing to provide them with advance lists of passengers coming to the United States.
Official compliance with the APIS will help U.S. government agencies streamline passenger processing on flights arriving from overseas destinations.
"This is one very small but important step in our overall cooperation with the U.S. efforts to wage war on terrorism," said Sheikh Salem Abdullah Al Sabah, the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States.
"We have also taken concrete steps to ensure that no money flows from charitable foundations operating in Kuwait to extremist elements," he said. "Our level of cooperation with the United States is at its highest."