Whistleblowing pilot: Uproar may have already made skies safer

7:42 PM, Dec 24, 2010   |    comments
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SACRAMENTO, CA - The airline pilot who lost his federally-issued cockpit gun and badge because he posted video on YouTube critical of airport security, believes uproar over the incident may make holiday travel safer.

Meantime, the pilot's attorney is inviting a Congressional inquiry and says his client is prepared to testify.

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"This might actually stop something that might otherwise have happened this Christmas," said the pilot, who News10 is not identifying to protect his job with a major U.S. airline.

The 50-year-old Army Reserve helicopter test pilot who has flown with the airline for more than a decade was deputized by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to carry a firearm in the cockpit on domestic flights.

Several days after he posted a series of six videos on YouTube pointing out what he believes are serious flaws in airport security, a team of six federal agents and sheriff's deputies arrived at his home outside Sacramento to confiscate his gun and badge.

The enormous attention the incident received after News10 broke the story on Wednesday will likely lead to increased vigilance at airports and discourage any attacks-- at least in the short term, the pilot said in a telephone interview on Christmas Eve.

In a letter to the pilot dated Dec. 6, the TSA said its employees discovered the YouTube videos on Nov. 30. The pilot told News10 the airline revealed his identity to the TSA under threat of subpoena.

The pilot said his supervisors know about his role in the national controversy and have been generally supportive, although they did ask him to remove public access to the YouTube postings and to not directly involve the airline.

The pilot resigned his position as a Federal Flight Deck Officer on Thursday, and his attorney, Don Werno, said he had been assured by the TSA the resignation would end any discussion of further disciplinary action.

However, the pilot's state-issued permit to carry a concealed weapon (CCW), which was taken from him by sheriff's deputies the same day that his federally-issued handgun was confiscated, remains suspended.

A letter from the sheriff's department quoted two sections of California law dealing with convicted felons and mental health in justifying the suspension.

A spokeswoman for the sheriff's department said it was normal procedure to suspend a CCW while a permit holder was under investigation by another agency. She could not say when and if the suspension would be lifted.

Werno sent a letter to Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, telling him his client would be honored to share his insight.

The pilot said he was overwhelmed by the public support that has resulted from the incident and said he would be eager to become involved in security discussions with federal officials in Washington.

"Sure, as long as I get to fly first class on (my airline)," he said with a laugh.

By George Warren, GWarren@news10.net


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