'Flying the friendly skies: ' Why US commercial airline pilots want to carry guns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Previous studies of social systems have shown that organizations develop mechanisms to defend against anxiety inherent in the system. This article uses field theory, systems psychodynamics and a participant observer methodology to examine certain defenses that became activated within a US commercial airline in the post-11 September 2001 period. In particular it analyzes forces affecting the event of arming pilots with handguns at work. This article's central claim is that pilots' desire to be armed resulted from a combination of external and internal pressures, personal valencies and work life changes.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-595
Number of pages23
JournalHuman Relations
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2004


  • 11 September 2001, Applied group relations, Commercial airlines, Field theory, Participant observer methodology, Systems psychodynamics, Tavistock Institute