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Andy Downs

Speaker / Trainer / Author / Producer, 58 November FIlms

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Should the Captain of an Aircraft HAve Command Authority over Law Enfocement in a Hijacking or Crisis

I lecture to law enforcement and they think a captain has no more right than a gas station manger over the plane during a crisis or hijacking.
Captains, since 9/11, no longer have the right to refuse armed intervention if they choose...Is this a wise change in policy?


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  • Mar 17 2013: Captains, since 9/11, no longer have the right to refuse armed intervention if they choose...Is this a wise change in policy?

    I suspect the policy is in regards to Air Marshals and It's exactly the right policy. No captain should be allowed to deny boarding to any air marshal or advise him on his/her duties.

    If you're concerned about hijacked flights without air marshals, it's still the correct policy.

    Pilots have absolutely zero training for this situation and possibly are no more capable of dealing with it than any other passenger on board. They are most certainly compromised. Any decision they make will be suspect. They don't have the complete picture of the situation inside and outside the plane. They don't know what resources are available to them nor how to deploy them. I can go on on on but you get the point.

    They are responsible for the plane and the passengers and only insofar as operating the equipment (the plane) so it doesn't kill any of them. That's it. Perhaps they can assist law enforcement in some way with communications and as an intermediary but when the time for armed intervention comes their first job is to help and assist passengers and other crew.
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      Mar 18 2013: Actually what you are saying is a common misconception.
      The policy did not refuse air marshals from boarding a plane. If an air marshal is on board, they do their job. In the event no law enforcement is present on the plane, law enforcement tactical actions have killed more than they have saved over the years from trying to read a crystal ball rather than coordinating with the captain.

      The fact is that captains are training to handle crisis and face crisis on a daily basis. They are training to handle the crisis not not let knee jerk actions take over along with emotions.

      The idea that any officer outside the plane knows better than the y captain has resulted in many people being killed worldwide.

      Again, there has never been a case where an innocent person has died as the result of a captain's decision in one of these situations. When law enforcement has that type of record, perhaps we can trust them to know more than others who are facing the danger with calm cool reasoning.
      • Mar 18 2013: Well I stand corrected then.

        As for Captains and HRT training - Haven't even remotely heard of such a thing at all and I deal with Airlines, TSA, customs, FAA etc almost daily on flight safety issues. Any info you can pass on would be of interest.
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          Mar 18 2013: I have been in the business as well for over 20 years as an owner and operator on part 135/121 operations. I work on these issues full time now and lecture across the country to LEO and special teams.
          Please feel free to email me at Andy@58November.com
          I would enjoy sharing the stats and info I have with you.

          I think you;ll find the details behind US1267 in PHL last Set very interesting and a microcosm of what needs to be addressed for the future.

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