Firearms On Board Aircraft: A Risk Or Survival Factor?

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Pablo Edronkin

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Is it really useful for a pilot to carry a gun? Isnīt it needlessly dangerous?

Firearms always have consequences by their mere existence: They can be used to impose oneīs own will by treath or action, but it is quite common that whenever they are used they cause terminal damage to those involved in the struggle, goods and property around them and even worse, innocent bystanders. It is very difficult to judge A priori any combat survival situation, but due to the controversy that has erupted since the U.S: government announced that pilots may transport guns on commercial airliners, the issue deserves some thinking over.

And the first that we have to say about it is that anyone who has ever been inside an airlinerīs cockpit knows that space there is rather limited, that pilots cannot jump from their seat to confront an agressor just like that, without probably causing the lost of control of the plane, that the door to get ito the cockpit is behind the pilots, that they would need then not only ot get out of their seats to fight, but also to turn around in a confined space, and that almost any bullet can punch a hole thorough a pressurized fuselage. To all this we should add that close quarters combat requires a high degree of skill and constant training.

Considering all this we could quickly conclude that taking firearms onboard aircraft would be preposterous and an added danger. However, the true answer to this dilemma is not so simple, since carrying guns in such circumstances also offers certain benefits.

First of all, if you think about a weapon as a survival tool instead of a pure killing device, and think that you could use it as part of a survival kit along a life vest, emergency rations or an ELT device, a gun becomes a useful thing that hopefully will never have to shoot in anger, but if the time comes to that, it may actually save lives and give significant services to survivors of an airplane crash or incident.

Secondly, within the context of commercial air transport the very notion that pilots may or may not carry guns can act as a powerful deterrent to many would-be assailants and terrorists and can even help crew members maintain order under strenuous circumstances in which their professional criteria must be applied against the "vote" of the majority which, by inexperience or anger, may easily be misguided. This could happen if, for example, the plane is forced to land and survivors begin to quarrel, or if the forced landing is performed in hostile territory. Then and there - and planes often fly over such places on a daily basis - a gun may prove to be extremely useful to defend the integrity and lives of the people involved, their belongings and the cargo.

And in the case of small, GA aircraft flying over dangerous area, carrying a weapon becomes essential: If you fly over Alaska with a Piper Cub you may need a gun to defend yourself against bears, and in places where there are natives, having a gun means also to posess more negotiation muscle. At worst, a weapon can be used for signalling.

So the decision of carrying weapons onboard airraft should not be determined by love or hate of firearms; the main deciding factor would be whether crew members are prepared to handle them properly in every sense. A firearm is jut an object tht cannot act on its own, and if it is properly maintained it will never fire off accidentaly. It is true that the mere presence of a gun entails a risk onboard, but many other things are far more dangerous, like the tons of fuel usually carried on each trip of a commercial plane; on the contrary, a revolver or pistol may constitute quite an insurance policiy as long as pilots never fall into recklessness or irresposibility in handling their weapons.

Without much space to fight or shoot, but with a credible deterrent nevertheless.
Without much space to fight or shoot, but with a credible deterrent nevertheless.

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