Mesa wants tasers in cockpits

 - October 4, 2007, 9:05 AM

Never one to shy away from controversy, Mesa Air Group chairman and CEO Jonathan Ornstein has announced that his airline will begin training its pilots to carry taser weapons in the cockpit. A Mesa spokesperson said the airline expected to complete training and FAA coordination for the plan within three months. Mesa on October 17 began placing private security personnel on its airplanes based in Albuquerque, N.M. According to Ornstein, arming his pilots with the non-lethal electric-shock device represents another step in his airline’s plan to ease concerns over security. “Traffic across the industry has dropped significantly since the attack of September 11,” said Ornstein. “We need to do everything we can to regain the confidence of our passengers to ensure the future of commercial aviation. We believe that enhancing on-board security will go a long way toward reaching that goal.”

The Air Line Pilots Association has advocated arming pilots with guns, a position that has met with considerable resistance from regulators and legislators. Similarly, Mesa’s chances of gaining approval for its alternative plan remain a matter of debate. First, the question of a pilot’s legal right to carry and use such a device remains unanswered. Second, the FAA must perform testing on the effects a taser could have on cockpit avionics, particularly fly-by-wire flight controls. Similar concerns led to a ban on electronic devices that emit far less electromagetic energy, such as cellular telephones and radios.