Hong Kong's Dragonair pilots protest over armed guards on China flights


Hong Kong (XFN-ASIA) - Dragonair pilots have lodged a formal

complaint about the deployment of armed guards on flights within China, according

to a report in Hong Kong daily the South China Morning Post.

"The carriage of armed personnel not responsible to the commander [of the plane] is the cause of particular unease," the Hong Kong Airline Pilots Association wrote to the city's aviation authority, according to the daily.

"There appears to be no legal indemnity for the commander should one of the security personnel take actions that result in the death of or injury to passengers."

The crew have queried the need for guards armed with regular military-issue semi-automatic pistols and knives on Air China planes leased through the Hong Kong airline.

The report also said Dragonair - owned by Cathay Pacific - had applied for permission from the Civil Aviation Department (CAD)to carry armed personnel.

It said pilots were concerned the guards would be carrying regular arms, unlike the US Air Marshals, whose guns are specially modified so as not to puncture the sides of a plane.

The report said that while the guns are supposed to be carried onto the plane with their chambers empty, the only time a captain checked his guard's weapon he found it fully loaded.

The Post quoted the CAD as saying it had granted permission so that the airline could meet the requirements of the mainland's authorities.

These "require that all domestic flights within mainland China should be deployed with in-flight security officers and that for flights carrying senior government officials, armed bodyguards should also be deployed," it said.

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