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Fri, Apr 19, 2013

Airline Pilots Protest Loss Of FFDO Program

Pilot Unions Urging Members To Write To Congress

One of the cuts being made in President Obama's FY2014 budget is the complete elimination of funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program, which puts armed pilots on board airliners.

The FFDO program trains qualified pilots, flight engineers or navigators in use of firearms, use of force, defensive tactics and other survival procedures. Federal Flight Deck Officers are sworn and deputized federal law enforcement officers commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security/TSA Law Enforcement Division.

The unions say that FFDO has been one of the most cost-effective initiatives aimed at protecting the nation's aviation system. Created in response to the unprecedented attacks on September 11, 2001, the FFDO has added a vital layer of security with minimal federal investment, they say.

The Coalition of Airline Pilots Association (CAPA) is calling on its members to write to Congress in an effort to have the funding restored. On its website, CAPA says that the FFDO program is "undeniably the most cost-efficient airline security program to date.

"Every day thousands of armed airline pilots are on board our Nation's airliners serving as FFDOs, and the last line of defense, by preventing aircraft from being used as weapons of mass destruction. The $22 million annual budget for the FFDO program has not changed since training began in 2003, despite a 100-fold growth in the number of FFDOs. The Federal Air Marshal Service, which covers only a small fraction of the flights compared to the coverage protected by FFDOs, has a budget of nearly one billion dollars. Currently, taxpayers spend only $15 dollars per FFDO per flight, compared to $3,300 per Federal Air Marshal to provide protection on the same flight.
 
"The FFDO program is already underfunded, and should be strengthened with increased funding over current levels, not eliminated.
 
"Additionally, with the TSA's recent decision to allow knives back on passenger aircraft, the FFDO program is needed now more than ever as it represents a critically important role in protecting passengers, crewmembers, cargo and aircraft," CAPA says.

The Southwest Airlines pilots joined the call as an individual union. In a news release, SWAPA president Mark Richards said "While it is unlikely that the President's budget will be adopted as written, any attempts to defund an effective, cost-efficient program should be flatly rejected by Congress. Our union and pilots will continue to make the case that this is simply one of the best federal programs to protect passengers, pilots and staff, and the general public from acts of terrorism.

"As the voice of pilots serving the largest domestic U.S. airline, SWAPA will work with Representatives and Senators to fight to avert these cuts," Richardson continued. "The effort is reminiscent of an attempt to cut the program in half last year, which was successfully fended off when we teamed with other pilot groups, aviation safety experts, and our friends in Congress to restore funding to this vital aviation security program."

FMI: www.capapilots.org, www.swapa.org

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