Korean Air gets OK to install stun guns as protection for crews
November 12, 2004
SEOUL — Flying home for the holidays on Korean Air? Under new rules announced by the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration, you might feel a little safer. Or not.
Last week, Korean Air became the first airline in the world to receive U.S. government permission to install stun guns as potential defensive tools for crews on flights bound for the United States. The carrier, which has put stun guns on some domestic and other international flights since 2002, has around 50 flights per week to the United States and is popular with servicemembers because of its generally lower ticket costs.
According to USA Today, which first reported the decision, the TSA decided last year that stun guns would be the only nonlethal weapons allowed on flights.
“TSA believes that less-than-lethal weapons, if properly deployed, offer a positive additional layer of security,” TSA spokesman Mark Hatfield told the paper.
He also said that, while other airlines have applied to follow Korean Air’s lead, the TSA did not foresee all airlines doing so.
“There’s no indication that there’s a large movement in this direction at this time. But we’ll give serious consideration of every application we get,” Hatfield said.
Korean Air declined to comment on whether pilots or flight attendants would be trained to use the stun guns.
United Airlines, for example, had drafted plans to buy 1,300 stun guns and install two in the cockpit of each of its planes. When United declared bankruptcy in 2002, though, that plan fell by the wayside.
According to the airline, it conducted tests with Taser brand stun guns to ensure the electric shock delivered by the weapons would not affect an aircraft’s electrical systems in the cockpit. Hundreds of tests were conducted before the TSA agreed the devices were safe to use in a cockpit, officials said.
Last year, Congress passed legislation to allow certain trained airline pilots to have access to handguns in cockpits.
The TSA announcement this week had another result. After the news circulated, investors sent the stock of the company that manufactures Taser stun guns soaring. The Arizona-based Taser International company saw its stock rise by more than $9 to end the day above $50, Bloomberg News reported.
The company president saw the new rules as an “exciting new opportunity” and told Bloomberg “there are approximately 17,700 passenger aircraft in the world that could use this nonlethal technology to provide an additional layer of security.”