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Malaysia Rejects Idea of Arming Pilots: Minister (25 Jul 2002)

(KUALA LUMPUR) The Malaysian government has rejected the idea of arming airline pilots with guns as a means of countering hijacking, according to Transport Minister Ling Liong Sik.

Malaysia would use other measures to ensure security in the air, including installing locks on cockpit doors as suggested by the International Air Transport Association.

The Malaysia Airlines Pilots Association, representing 85 per cent of pilots in the country, has also rejected the idea of carrying guns, saying it would be a futile exercise.

The state of affairs in Malaysia was not conducive to implementing the use of firearms as Malaysians were generally unfamiliar with the use of weapons.

Earlier this month, the US House of Representatives passed a Bill allowing airline pilots to arm themselves after undergoing training. The Bill had originally called for a pilot programme covering 1,400 pilots over the next two years, but when it came to the floor, House members decided to expand it to any pilot interested in carrying a gun.

However, the Bill was passed as debate on the efficacy of the proposal was taking place. Aviation experts have argued that guns in the cockpit would be a distraction to professionals whose attention ought to be devoted to flying the airplane. They urged authorities to explore other methods which are more effective.

Some also raised questions about the effect of stray bullets on cockpit control panels.

But US pilots themselves have supported the Bill. House staff members say that there are about 70,000 airline pilots and that about half of them are military veterans, a background that proponents say makes arming them a good idea.