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Thread: TSA failing pilots on FFDO Psych test

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    TSA Is Failing Armed Pilots on Psyche Test
    from The Aviation Nation by Annie Jacobsen

    My newest installment from Pajamas Media on TSA's secretive and bogus psyche testing policy — and why this should unnerve you: Unarmed Pilots, Unsafe Skies — Thanks to TSA.

    Pilots who are licensed firearms instructors have been deemed unfit to carry weapons in the cockpit. Yet the TSA is fast-tracking unqualified screeners to become air marshals:

    Last fall, I received a mysterious telephone call from a commercial airline pilot asking to meet me for coffee at an airport hotel. Pilots are prohibited from discussing security issues with members of the press. Before 9/11 most pilots wouldn’t have dreamed of such a thing. But in the years since, a growing number have felt the need to speak out. Many issues involving pilots have fallen into the hands of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including the program that allows pilots to fly armed.

    I met the pilot for coffee. Let’s call him Captain X. A veteran pilot for a major air carrier, he is licensed to fly DC9s, 727s, Airbus 320s, and 757s. Captain X has logged over 18,000 hours of accident- and incident-free flying time in twenty-one years of service. Presently, he flies thousands of people back and forth across the Pacific Ocean each week.

    Captain X faces a conundrum. As a volunteer for the Federal Flight Deck Officer’s (FFDO) program — pilots fly armed for free — the TSA gave him a psyche test and failed him. In other words, according to the TSA, Captain X is psychologically unfit to carry a gun. “At first I thought there was something wrong with me,” Captain X told me over coffee. “Now I think there is something wrong with the way the TSA runs the program.”

    What struck me as equally bizarre about Captain X’s predicament is that in addition to being an airline captain, he’s a firearms instructor in his home state. He’s been handling and using guns since he was old enough to hunt. And in order to keep his skills current, he maintains rigorous training with a personal firearms coach who is the number one competitive pistol shooter in the state. Captain X owns guns, he trains people to shoot guns, and his state licenses him to carry a gun. But the TSA says he can’t carry a weapon in a lock box in the cockpit of the aircraft he’s flying on any given day because he’s psychologically unfit to carry that gun.

    For over a year, Captain X kept this information private. He found the TSA’s results to be conflicting, confusing, and upsetting. There is no official recourse or review for a pilot who’s failed a TSA psyche test. The pilot can’t even find out why he failed; the agency considers the results of its psychological testing to be classified. I put the word out among my sources to find out what was happening with other pilots regarding this psyche test. Over the next few months, as various pilots reported back to me, I learned that Captain X was far from alone.

    Consider pilot Dean Roberts, a former federal agent. For ten years, Roberts flew as an armed agent/pilot for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Roberts failed to pass the TSA’s test. Then there’s pilot Robert Sproc, a former U.S. Air Force captain who held a “Top Secret/Special Compartmented Information clearance.” Sproc was also failed by the TSA.

    “Given the vast numbers of pilots found unfit to be FFDOs, [there is] strong anecdotal evidence suggesting a deep, institutional opposition to the FFDO program within the TSA,” says Captain David Mackett, president of the 23,000-member Airline Pilots Security Alliance (APSA). Mackett cited an example of a “nuclear-cleared” military pilot (i.e., someone who flies planes with nukes on board) whom the TSA deemed “unfit to fly armed.”

    The pilot’s psyche test is called the Hogan Personality Test and is administered by an Oklahoma-based company called Hogan Assessment Systems. From public records, I learned that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) first contract with Hogan was in July 2002. Their five-year contract was worth $5,162,761, or a little over a million dollars a year. In August 2006, Hogan signed a new, four-year contract specifically modified for the TSA. And then, sometime in 2007 — according to the public records — the TSA cancelled the Hogan Assessment Systems contract.

    I reached Dr. Robert Hogan, president and co-founder of Hogan Assessment Systems, in his Tulsa office. Articulate, affable, and clearly dedicated to his work — Hogan says he published the first paper using personality to predict police performance back in 1970 — Hogan spent twenty minutes with me, anecdotally explaining why he thinks it’s important to personality test people who will carry weapons in high-risk situations, including in cockpits and inside nuclear facilities.

    “Here’s one story,” Dr. Hogan said, “There was this security guard in a nuclear power plant smoking weed. He came out of the bathroom just as something had gone wrong. The supervisor yelled ‘cut the valve!’ so the guard grabbed a pair of [pipe] cutters and literally cut the valve. That’s why we have personality tests.”

    I asked Dr. Hogan to speak about subjecting pilots — who are routinely drug-tested, by the way — to the Hogan Test. “There is a distinction between technical talent and emotional maturity. You can fly a plane and be crazy — or at least be a complete hot-head — which is what we find all the time,” Hogan said.

    Captain Tracy Price, vice president of the Passenger/Cargo Security Group (PCSG) disagrees. Captain Price lobbies on Capitol Hill on behalf of armed pilots and is an expert on the FFDO program and the Armed Pilots Against Terrorism Act of 2002. “Airline pilots are an incredibly carefully vetted group of professionals,” Price told me. “For decades, we’ve had psyche testing as a requirement of employment. The FAA requires us to visit a physician every six months. Our view is that it is entirely illogical to tell a pilot he is not stable enough to carry a weapon in the form of a gun when at the same time, he has access to the weapon we are all most in fear of after 9/11 — a plane loaded with thousands of pounds of jet fuel.”

    In my interview with Dr. Hogan, I asked him to respond to his critics, including me, who might see his logic as flawed. “We have our critics and our detractors,” Dr. Hogan said.

    I asked Dr. Hogan if he knew why the TSA cancelled his contract (TSA refused to be interviewed for this story). Hogan said, “They liked what we did. We had all kinds of data saying the quality of airport security was on the rise, and then they just said ‘go away.’”

    I asked Dr. Hogan if he had any idea who would be administering the new psyche test to FFDO applicants. What Hogan said next surprised me: “We still have the [TSA’s] FFDO and air marshal contract, but it’s small because the numbers of new hires in those programs are significantly lower now.”

    If Hogan Assessments still had the TSA’s FFDO and air marshals contract, then what million-dollar-a-year contract did Hogan lose? I asked.

    Dr. Hogan explained that the largest portion of his original TSA contract was to psyche test TSA screeners, also called TSOs. “The TSA shut down the TSO psychological testing program,” Hogan explained.

    So, who will be screening the screeners? I asked. Hogan told me, “TSA is doing that in-house.”

    What this means is that there will be no more outside psyche tests for the TSA employees who are searching your bags for weapons and bombs. And yet these are the same TSA employees who, CNN reported just last week, are being fast-tracked to become air marshals — to carry guns on planes. In the absence of logic, Captain X’s point is well taken. Perhaps there is something wrong with the way in which the TSA administers its programs.

    As one air marshal told CNN, “TSA screeners [who] have no college, no law enforcement, no military background,” are being fast-tracked to carry guns on planes. TSA acknowledges that 36 screeners recently became air marshals. Meanwhile, pilots are being turned down.

    In this evidence, Captain David Mackett sees a disturbing trend: “Ultimately, there is ample evidence suggesting the TSA is abusing the psychological screening process to unjustly dismiss FFDO candidates.” The TSA bills the American taxpayer approximately $350,000 per air marshal, per year. Armed pilots are volunteers and fly armed for free.


    Captain Mackett cited an example from the written part of the psyche test — since changed — that asked: “Would you like to be a fighter pilot?” Considering that many commercial pilots are and have been fighter pilots it’s natural that many would answer that question with a “Yes.” According to Mackett, the TSA concluded that these pilots “had overly aggressive personalities and disqualified them from the program.”

    In the absence of logic, Captain X may feel some relief. He’s not the only pilot who has been black-marked by TSA’s illogical, secretive, and draconian FFDO psyche testing rules. But this absence of logic should unnerve the rest of us.

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    MDA_II: Please remember to post the link to the original article. Thank you for the post, it's quite informative.

    Original source: http://www.theaviationnation.com/2008/04/30/tsa-is-failing-armed-pilots-on-psyche-test/

    From their front page:

    Air Marshals on No-Fly List

    False identifications based on a terrorist no-fly list have for years prevented some federal air marshals from boarding flights they are assigned to protect, according to officials with the agency, which is finally taking steps to address the problem.Federal Air Marshals (FAMs) familiar with the situation say the mix-ups, in which marshals are mistaken for terrorism suspects who share the same names, have gone on for years — just as they have for thousands of members of the traveling public.

    One air marshal said it has been "a major problem, where guys are denied boarding by the airline."

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    MDA_II wrote:
    Pilots are prohibited from discussing security issues with members of the press. Before 9/11 most pilots wouldn’t have dreamed of such a thing.
    The statuatory basis might be interesting.

    Once upon a time a 'fed' tried to convince 'us' that the mere mention of tritium was forbidden. For days, until his visit ended, we chanted "Tritium tritium tritium." at the mention of his name.

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    How about this... I'll volunteer to be an armed passanger (I'll even CC!) on flights around the country for two days every week, and save the TSA a good part of that $350,000 per year.

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    MDA_II wrote:
    Pilots are prohibited from discussing security issues with members of the press.
    If this is really true, Captain X might be in trouble.

    The article says he:
    • has qualified on: DC9, 727, Airbus 320, and 757;
    • has logged over 18,000 hours (meaning over 18,000 but less than 19,000 -- probably less than 18,500);
    • has been flying commercial jets for 21 years (again, meaning less than 22);
    • is currently flying a trans-Pacific route;
    • has applied to the FFDO program;
    • has failed his FFDO psyche test;
    • is a firearms enthusiast and instructor;
    • is licensed by his state to carry (means CCW permit); and
    • trains with a top competitive shooter.
    I don't think calling him "Captain X" really did very much to keep him anonymous. If someone wants to track him down, it's very likely that the above list of criteria only matches a single person.

    Maybe the reporter is smarter than I'm giving her credit for, and some of the above facts are deliberately misrepresented in order to protect his identity. My opinion of reporters isn't generally all that high, though.

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    Its the psych test.

    Do a little research on the pychiatric industry's main reference, the DSM. (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual).

    The so-called mental illnesses are voted into the book by a committee.

    The so-called mental illnesses are conveniently assigned (4-digit?) numbers to make insurance billing easier.

    Just read some of the so-called mental illnesses in the DSM.

    It is extremely arbitrary.

    I'll bet even money the psyche test is just as arbitrary. I don't mean that it is slanted. I mean that the psycho-babbleexplanations for why certainanswers are disqualifying will bejust as invented.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    swillden wrote:
    MDA_II wrote:
    Pilots are prohibited from discussing security issues with members of the press.
    If this is really true, Captain X might be in trouble.

    The article says he:
    • has qualified on: DC9, 727, Airbus 320, and 757;
    • has logged over 18,000 hours (meaning over 18,000 but less than 19,000 -- probably less than 18,500);
    • has been flying commercial jets for 21 years (again, meaning less than 22);
    • is currently flying a trans-Pacific route;
    • has applied to the FFDO program;
    • has failed his FFDO psyche test;
    • is a firearms enthusiast and instructor;
    • is licensed by his state to carry (means CCW permit); and
    • trains with a top competitive shooter.
    I don't think calling him "Captain X" really did very much to keep him anonymous. If someone wants to track him down, it's very likely that the above list of criteria only matches a single person.

    Maybe the reporter is smarter than I'm giving her credit for, and some of the above facts are deliberately misrepresented in order to protect his identity. My opinion of reporters isn't generally all that high, though.
    You know, I was thinking the same thing. He did everything but give the guy's supervisor's name and favorite flavor of ice cream!

    The TSA is just another in a long line of Communits plots to destroy American from within. Where oh where is J. Edgar when you need him?

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    Citizen wrote:
    I'll bet even money the psyche test is just as arbitrary. I don't mean that it is slanted. I mean that the psycho-babbleexplanations for why certainanswers are disqualifying will bejust as invented.
    The first question is probably, "When you were growing up, did you dream of being a pilot?"

    A yes answer means you fail. Probably yields something like, "Applicant is subject to hallucinations involving flying objects."

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    How about a Breathalizer test ?:celebrate



    TJ

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    *

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    Tomahawk wrote:
    Citizen wrote:
    I'll bet even money the psyche test is just as arbitrary. I don't mean that it is slanted. I mean that the psycho-babbleexplanations for why certainanswers are disqualifying will bejust as invented.
    The first question is probably, "When you were growing up, did you dream of being a pilot?"

    A yes answer means you fail. Probably yields something like, "Applicant is subject to hallucinations involving flying objects."
    They'd cover it up with authoritative-sounding psycho-babble, but that would be about the gist of it.
    I'll make you an offer: I will argue and fight for all of your rights, if you will do the same for me. That is the only way freedom can work. We have to respect all rights, all the time--and strive to win the rights of the other guy as much as for ourselves.

    If I am equal to another, how can I legitimately govern him without his express individual consent?

    There is no human being on earth I hate so much I would actually vote to inflict government upon him.

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    The truly scary extrapolation of all of this ...

    Our government has identified people that it deems too unstable and/or psychologically unfit to carry a defensive firearm.

    It's perfectly OK, however, for these same people to command flying bombs full of hundreds of people.


    If a person is not fit to carry a fiream, what makes them fit to fly?

    It looks like the TSA wants it both ways.

    EGG




    "Never pick a fight with an old spy. If he doesn't feel like fighting he'll just kill you."

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    If oil speculators keep forcing the price up, this will all be a moot point by sometime next summer. Very few will be able to afford to fly by then.

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    We need deepdiver to weigh in on this.....

    He is the Psyco babbel expert in the group.

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    Doug Huffman wrote:
    MDA_II wrote:
    Pilots are prohibited from discussing security issues with members of the press. Before 9/11 most pilots wouldn’t have dreamed of such a thing.
    The statuatory basis might be interesting.

    Once upon a time a 'fed' tried to convince 'us' that the mere mention of tritium was forbidden. For days, until his visit ended, we chanted "Tritium tritium tritium." at the mention of his name.
    I used to be FSO of a NASA contractor. I once saw one classification guide SO poorly written that were it to be adhered to literally, every copy of the movie "Goldfinger" would have to be classified "SECRET". Combine that with the UTTER cluelessness of a lot of government and contractor employees, and it's no wonder that total chaos reigns in a lot of the government.
    --- Gun control: The theory that 110lb. women have the "right" to fistfight with 210lb. rapists.

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    All I can say is that is our lovely government at work.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    TheEggman wrote:
    The truly scary extrapolation of all of this ...

    Our government has identified people that it deems too unstable and/or psychologically unfit to carry a defensive firearm.

    It's perfectly OK, however, for these same people to command flying bombs full of hundreds of people.


    If a person is not fit to carry a fiream, what makes them fit to fly?

    It looks like the TSA wants it both ways.

    EGG



    I was thinking the exact same thing. An aircraft traveling hundreds of miles and hour, full of passengers, baggage, andjet fuel, essentially a very powerful missile,is piloted by people that are deemed unfit to carry firearms...

    Then again, a government entity probably thinks most people are "unfit" to carry firearms... :quirky


    Peace through superior firepower

    Luke 11:21
    "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.

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    Is the converse then valid? If you are certified to carry a firearm, you can fly a passenger plane?

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    Pointman wrote:
    Is the converse then valid? If you are certified to carry a firearm, you can fly a passenger plane?

    What is "certified to carry a firearm"? Is it another infringement like mandatory concealment or an outright ban?

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    Pointman wrote:
    Is the converse then valid? If you are certified to carry a firearm, you can fly a passenger plane?
    Obviously not. I don't know how to pilot aircraft and there are paying customers that expect to get to their destination safely.

    Regardless, I didn't say "certify", I was talking about psychological tests. I think that one could make an argument that if you are not deemed mentally stable to carry firearms because you might be a danger to yourself or others, then how can you be expected to fly a passengeraircraft?

    Of course, that'sif you believe in the whole "psychological test" thing, which I am sure is a farce.
    Peace through superior firepower

    Luke 11:21
    "When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are undisturbed.

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    Of course the standards they set for carrying a handgun are unrealistic, which was my point. Anyone who can pilot complex aircraft under all sorts of adverse environmental conditions and emergency situations surely has the mental capacity to properly determine when they are being hijacked. I haven't heard of a pilot beating a passenger for no good reason, and I'm sure they are no more likely to shoot them.

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    Perhaps there is something wrong with the way in which the TSA administers its programs.

    Duh -- ya think?? They dont' do anything else well why would this one thing be any different?

    “Would you like to be a fighter pilot?” Considering that many commercial pilots are and have been fighter pilots it’s natural that many would answer that question with a “Yes.” According to Mackett, the TSA concluded that these pilots “had overly aggressive personalities and disqualified them from the program.”

    Nice... Hey, did you serve in the United States military in a combat MOS?
    Yep, sure did.
    Cool, did you carry huge amounts of very lethal ordnance and never abuse the trust so placed in you and did you have 20 mm cannons on your plane?
    Yep, sure did.
    Did you sometimes even carry the most deadly weapons known to mankind such as nuclear weapons?
    Yep, sure did.
    And now you just want to cary this little .40 caliber handgun which we will make you lock up in 3-4 stupid, accident waiting to happen ways that would be almost impossible to use to bring down an aircraft unless you killed the co-pilot and yourself.
    Yep, sure do.
    Yeah, well we, the bureaucrats of TSA who have never done anything more dangerous in our lives than clip a hangnail, think you are too unstable. Instead, we are going to take a bunch of formerly $7.50 per hour security guards, who turned into $35,000/yr TSA screeners overnight and fast track them to make them Air Marshalls thereby allowing them to carry a gun in all 50 states and on aircraft even though they have never, ever in their entire work history have had to face 1/10 the amount of situtional stress you face on a typical stormy day at work.

    Jackass3s. I suddenly have an overwhelming desire to wear grey and carry a rifle.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    DeepDiver, I think you just hit on something. Anyone who would want to carry a weapon in such an unsafe manor probably shouldn't.

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    Pointman wrote:
    DeepDiver, I think you just hit on something. Anyone who would want to carry a weapon in such an unsafe manor probably shouldn't.
    Excellent point, Pointman!

    I grew up around military and commercial pilots. Most of these guys are so Type A, anal retentive by the book at work that they would wear suspenders and a belt together just in case. That is how they fly safely. They may be "seat of the pants" in a combat maneuver, but those pants are documented thoroughly in their flight logs. Admittedly, I wouldn't want some of them to have a loaded gun at a Saturday night poker game at my house if my wife and children were home, but I'd trust them with a BAR and a case of hand grenades in the cockpit of their plane.
    Bob Owens @ Bearing Arms (paraphrased): "These people aren't against violence; they're very much in favor of violence. They're against armed resistance."

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    Doug Huffman wrote:
    MDA_II wrote:
    Pilots are prohibited from discussing security issues with members of the press. Before 9/11 most pilots wouldn’t have dreamed of such a thing.
    The statuatory basis might be interesting.

    Once upon a time a 'fed' tried to convince 'us' that the mere mention of tritium was forbidden. For days, until his visit ended, we chanted "Tritium tritium tritium." at the mention of his name.
    I don't see anything that forbids me from telling you the regulations telling me I can't talk to you about security information (haha).

    49 C.F.R. Parts 15 and 1520. Also covered partly by 5 U.S.C. 552 (some rules for government agencies).

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