Federal authorities approved using electric stun guns on commercial aircraft in the United States, shooting Scottsdale-based Taser International’s stock price up nearly 17 percent Monday.
Last week, the Transportation Security Administration approved an application from Korean Air to use the guns. The airline has 50 flights a week to the United States.
This is the first time the agency will allow specially trained personnel on board aircraft to have access to the guns on commercial flights in the United States, the company said in a statement released Monday. It took three years to receive the approval, said Taser president Tom Smith.
“It’s another government approval on a very high-profile security industry and that’s the airlines,” he said. “It just further enhances our credibility and helps make people more aware of this as we’re going out of the police and military markets into the private security and the consumer market.”
The news sent the company’s stock up $7.62 a share on Monday, or more than 16.5 percent, to $54.12 a share on the Nasdaq.
A Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman said other airlines are considering the idea of using stun guns, but none has applied to do so.
“Korean Air is the only carrier that is going to move forward with these Tasers, but we’ve got an application process set up that is available for any air carriers, and I’m assuming down the road there will be more,” Jennifer Peppin said.
A Transportation Security Administration working group studied the safety of the guns early last year, along with other nonlethal weapons including bean-bag guns and chemical weapons. “It concluded . . . deployment of the electric shock devices could be used to enhance safety,” Peppin said. “We were comfortable with its effectiveness.”
She did not know who would be authorized to use the weapons or how they would trained. The guns give off a jolt of electricity that incapacitates the victim.
Smith was unsure how many airlines would be interested in using his weapons.
“That industry is really battered right now financially, so it’s hard to say,” he said. “I can tell you there’s been a handful of them that have been interested in this over the years.”
In recent months, the company has secured big orders from the Army National Guard and major U.S. police departments. Police forces throughout England and Wales approved the Tasers in September.
Pilots on U.S. airlines are allowed to carry handguns if they undergo special training. Thousands have done so, although the exact number is classified.
The Air Transport Association, the trade group for the nation’s largest airlines, has yet to take a position on whether Tasers should be in aircraft, but a spokesman said the group is a strong supporter in expanding the federal Air Marshal program. A Korean Air spokeswoman said the company would not comment about its security measures.
“We can only say there will be specially trained personnel in the aircraft,” Penny Pfaelzer said. “It’s really important to keep the safest and most secure environment for our people, and the only way we can do that is by keeping our mouth shut about what we do.”
Korean Air has been using Tasers on flights outside the United States for several years, Pfaelzer said.
The company has a fleet of 118 aircraft, making it one of the world’s top 20 airlines. It operates nearly 400 flights per day to 86 cities in 30 countries. It has marketing alliances with AeroMexico, Air France, Alitalia, CSA Czech Airlines and Delta Air Lines.
According to the statement from Taser, there are about 17,700 passenger aircraft in the world that could use the guns to provide an additional layer of security for passengers, airline employees and the public.
- The Associated Press contributed to this report