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United pilots training with stun guns

From Patty Davis
CNN Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- United Airlines has begun training its pilots to use stun guns for self-defense in the cockpit, becoming the first U.S. airline to take that step in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

"Our goal is to make sure we keep the bad guys off the airplane, [and] if they get on the airplanes, to keep them out of the cockpit, and, if they try to get into the cockpit, that we have a way of absolutely stopping them," said Hank Krakowski, United's vice president for flight safety, who is also a pilot.

However, while United pilots are being trained to use the stun guns, the airline must have the approval of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta before it actually puts the devices in cockpits. The department has yet to weigh in on the idea.

In the wake of the terrorist attacks, the Transportation Department and airlines have been looking into ways to stop potential hijackers and restore travelers' confidence in flying.

Pilot groups want to go even further than stun guns, asking transportation officials to allow pilots to carry actual firearms.

"You could run out of power on the stun gun," said Capt. Dennis Dolan of the Air Line Pilots Association. "Or in the case of September 11, there was more than one terrorist. There's an issue with recharging and reloading the stun gun. It's a single-shot type of weapon."

"If we've learned any lessons from September 11, the answer is, 'No, it's not good enough. If we're going to do this, we should do it right.'"

The former head of the Federal Aviation Administration's security division, Billie Vincent, agrees, calling stun guns merely "feel-good security."

"There's no way that a person with a stun gun, regardless of how well they're trained -- forget about the movies-- would ever stand up after the second hijacker. They're dead. So you have to have a standoff weapon," Vincent said.




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