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Have We Forgotten?

by Nicki Fellenzer

October 19, 2001 -- In the wake of the monstrous terrorist attacks on America September 11, 2001 we have issued a renewed and stronger call for pilots to be armed.

This call was met with assertions from the Brady Bunch that allowing pilots to be armed would perpetuate the violence.

The Association of Flight Attendants has issued an official statement claiming that arming pilots would do more harm than good.

Gun grabbers everywhere began a mamby-pamby clamor that they that they don't feel comfortable or safe with anyone but federal marshals being armed aboard a plane?

Have we forgotten William Bonnell?

I guess July 6, 1954 is a long time ago. It's easy to forget. As for me, I wasn't alive then, and I never heard of Captain William "Bill" Bonnell... 

...until recently.

Bill Bonnell was an American Airlines pilot who shot an armed hijacker when this teen-ager, armed with a pistol, tried to commandeer his DC-6 at the Cleveland Airport.

Back in those days, pilots were required to carry handguns, because they hand carried mail from the plane to the terminal.

Back in those days, no one questioned the Post Office regulations that required all pilots be armed.

Back then, thanks to one corageous pilot and extremely skilled shot, 58 passengers and a number of flight attendants walked away alive that day.

Here's what happened that fateful day, according to a recent article in the Houston Chronicle.

Bill Bonnell had flown from Fort Worth to Cleveland the morning of July 6, 1954, and he was preparing for the return flight. The plane was carrying almost a full load.

A fifteen-year-old punk, Raymond Kuchenmeister, armed with a stolen pistol entered the cockpit and told Bonnell, his co-pilot and the engineer he wanted to go to Mexico. "No stops," he said. Kuchenmeister didn't listen when the co-pilot tried to explain that the plane didn't have enough fuel to make the trip.

The flight engineer told Kuchenmeister it was necessary to throw a switch behind Kuchenmeister before the plane could taxi. 

That's when Bill Bonnell reached into his flight bag, removed his Colt .380 and shot the would-be hijacker twice, fatally wounding him in the process.

He saved a plane load of passengers. 

He saved the lives of 58 innocent people who were preparing to fly to Forth Worth that day.

He saved the lives of his crew.

So to those people screaming that pilots should not be armed I pose the following questions: 

What would have happened had Bill Bonnell not shot the gun-wielding would-be hijacker?

What would have happened to the innocent men, women and children aboard that plane if the plane had been forced to make a fateful trip to Mexico with not enough fuel?

What would have happened if one person on each of the planes hijacked on September 11th - JUST ONE - had been armed?

Bill Bonnell shot dead a hijacker, who was armed with a stolen pistol. He was an acknowledged expert with a gun. Do you think pilots today, most of whom are former members of the US military, unable to handle firearms?

The September 11th hijackers were armed with box cutters. Could one armed pilot or passenger have prevented this tragedy and the death of 6000 innocent people?

And finally -- had you been aboard that DC-6 at Cleveland Airport on July 6, 1954, would you still shrilly demand that all pilots and passengers be unilaterally disarmed?

William "Bill" Bonnell was armed that fateful day in 1954. He shot an armed hijacker dead and saved innocent lives.

And not one passenger - not one pilot - on the four hijacked planes was armed September 11th. 

Not one.

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