Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Michael Bane Blog: TSA Stupidity Puts Pilots At Risk!

TSA Stupidity Puts Pilots At Risk!

Did you read the news articles about the armed airline pilot who put a round through the bulkhead while supposedly 'flying' the airplane? (Here is the original news story.)

Were you confused? Did you wonder why the Main Stream Media (MSM - you know, the newspapers and their internet equivalent) didn't give us enough information to properly evaluate the news? Did you jump to the conclusion that the pilot was mucking about with a loaded pistol, and was completely responsible for his negligence?

So did I. In fact, so did one of my most respected 'favorite bloggers', Xavier, as is noted in excruciatingly embarrassing detail here.

I give myself no credit for restraint; I might easily have been as critical of the pilot had I been swayed by the paucity of information available from the MSM.

Leave it to Michael Bane to wade through the incomplete early reports and uncited references to dig out the truth of the matter.

That is, that TSA regulations requires armed Flight Deck Officers to holster weapons AND PUT A PADLOCK THROUGH THE TRIGGER GUARD to secure the weapon. (Click on the link at the top of the page for the full Bane treatment.)

Bane rightly compares this with IPSC/USPSA safety regulations, and the absolute need to keep pistols (especially DAO) in holsters which completely cover the trigger. Instead, TSA encourages holstering a pistol with a round in the chamber and then attempting to insert the hasp of a padlock through the trigger guard to insure holster retention.

Look for a big shake-up in TSA ... again. Now that they have allowed Flight Deck Officers to carry weapons during flight, they need to start listening to people who know something about carrying loaded pistols and the best ways to keep the bang-switch protected.

In the meantime, consider this scenario: The FDO was holstering his pistol and locking it in place, as is required by the TSA regulations. Insertion of the padlock hasp bears upon the trigger, and the gun goes off ... resulting in a hole in the bulkhead.

What would have been the consequences if the pistol, rather than being pointed toward the port bulkhead, had been pointed at the controls or the pilot who was engrossed in the actual pre-landing piloting?

I think it speaks volumes for the FDO who knew enough to watch the muzzle.

And I wouldn't want to be responsible for the consequences if I had to (mandatory) put a padlock through the trigger-guard of a pistol cased in a (mandatory) exposed-trigger holster.

It can't be done ... safely.
UPDATE: 31-MAR-2008
Xavier has this short article, accompanied by a video which shows just how EASY it is to cause a Negligent Discharge using the "Holstervault" holster for pistol retention.

The conclusion by Xavier is that " ... The problem with the shot that was fired through the skin of an A319 Airbus over Charlotte North Carolina is the responsibility of the man who caused the firearm to discharge. "

Well, yes. And no.

I agree that it IS the responsibility of the man with the gun in his hand to prevent Negligent Discharges, which is why I term it a "Negligent Discharge" (N.D.) rather than the more common term "Accidental Discharge" (A.D.). The FDO should have recognized that the arrangement was a certifiable POS and should have taken more care in handling the gun ... especially in the process which was obviously, as they say, "fraught with peril". Still, I take exception to the implied assignment of 100% of fault on the FDO, for several reasons.

Not least of the reasons for my seeming forgiveness of gun-handler error is that the pistol/holster/lockup combination was mandated by TSA; any reasonably competent firearms owner would have seen that there were design flaws, but the TSA refused to bend on this decision.

That still doesn't absolve the FDO, and it shouldn't He should have perceived the problematic nature of the combination, and have been more aware ... and therefore, more careful.

Add to this, though, the TSA regulatory requirement that the FDO must secure the firearm every time he leaves the flight deck, and then re-establish the firearm as an easily accessible resource upon his return (holster off the belt, padlock positioned secure the firearm in the holster; conversely, padlock removed, holster returned to belt.)

This feeds into what Micahel Bane has colloquially referred to as the "Futz Factor". Informally interpreted, this is the principle that "The more you futz around with your gun, the more likely that Something Bad Will Happen. (The precise definition of the term "Futz" is left as an exercise for the Student.)

Here we plainly see that the FDO has Futzed Around with his gun so frequently that it has become a matter of habit, and he has lost all sense of danger in this common occurrence. He has failed to perceive that the firearm has been cocked, and has been moved within the holster, and as a consequence he does not take the time or trouble to thoroughly insure that the gun is 'safe' before inserting the padlock. More, it has become a common practice which he feels confident that he can perform while he is flying the airplane.

Clearly, the FDO is not focusing his attention on the gun safety requirements which should be a significant event; instead, he is distracted and complacent.

His failure to properly assign securing the gun as his primary responsibility is inexcusable, but understandable. The TSA's regulations must be assigned some part of the responsibility for the resultant mishap, and it is left to pure dumb luck that the N.D. did not result in the wounding of the FDO, fatal damage to critical instruments in the console, or both.

TSA is responsible for the egregious procedures which are to be followed, and the abysmal equipment which it has mandated. More, it is responsible for the training and the lack of follow-up training afforded to the FDO.

While the individual is responsible for his own actions, the organization is responsible for equipment and training.

Both have failed miserably here, and until that fact is recognized and accepted we cannot expect
that the failure will not recur.

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