Are pilots armed to defend themselves in event of a terrorist attack? It seems that in view of terrorist attacks and hijackings since 9/11 they would be.
Some pilots are armed, like casey says. Most, however, are not. And they have very little reason to:
- After 9/11, a lot stricter security measures have been made on all airplanes to limit the access non-essential staff has to the cockpit. This includes measures like a reinforced locked door between the cabin and cockpit.
- Because of the improved measures, terrorists these days are less inclined to use the plane as a weapon, choosing instead to use bombs in their shoes, underwear or carryon luggage to detonate the plane.
- A gun on a plane can be dangerous, especially in the cockpit. it can hit vital instrumentation, damage the fuselage or a window, or cause friendly fire.
- In the confined space of an airplane, some self-defense training is likely to be more useful than a gun. in addition to collateral damage, a gunshot can cause the passengers to panic. An assailant can also steal the gun, giving even more cause for concern.
Some are -- in the US. The TSA has a program called Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) that involves training from the US Federal Marshals. The pilots who participate in this program are armed but will not display that status when in view of the public so you will normally be unable to identify them.
The problem with a gun is that if staff are the terrorists then everything becomes that much more dangerous.
In some cases such as FedEx hijacking, and other ones, the chance of the hijacking being an inside job is higher. Therefore it was much more easier to overpower one hijacker who wanted to assault crew physically, than it would be if he were carrying a gun.
Guns usually make things much much worse.
EDIT: Even if the pilot has a gun. It still gives opportunity for the hijacker to snatch the gun. Pilots are usually busy flying the plane rather than constantly inspecting who is behind them and having a gun on the ready. And if the flight is a long one and pilot retrieves into the bed to sleep then likelihood of having the gun snatched is even higher. And if you look at some hijackings, the hijacker usually has the jump on the victims, so him obtaining a gun would not be too difficult.