For Immediate Release
September 27, 2001
The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Federal Air Marshal program is integral to assuring the safety of the flying public by preventing and thwarting hijackings and terrorist attacks on U.S. civilian aircraft. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in which four U.S. airlines were used as weapons of destruction against the World Trade Center and Pentagon on Sept. 11, the agency has received funding to greatly expand the Federal Air Marshal program.
The FAA is augmenting the Federal Air Marshal program with law enforcement officers from other federal agencies within the Department of Justice and the Department of Treasury. Training is under way and some of these agents have already been deployed as Federal Air Marshals. At the same time, FAA is actively recruiting Federal Air Marshals and has received thousands of applications from around the country. The job vacancy announcement is posted on the FAA’s employment Web site at http://jobs.faa.gov. The site gives information about the job, compensation, qualification requirements and directions on how to apply.
The Federal Air Marshal program began as the Sky Marshal Program in 1968, and continued through the 1970s as a program designed to stop hijackings to and from Cuba. The current program was created shortly after the hijacking of TWA 847 in June 1985. During that incident, two Lebanese Shiite Moslems hijacked a Boeing 727 departing Athens and diverted it to Beirut where they were joined by additional hijackers. During a two-week confrontation, the hijackers demanded the release of the Shiite prisoners held by Israel and murdered Robert Stethem, A U.S. Navy diver who was a passenger on board the plane.
In response to this hostage ordeal and the upsurge in terrorism in the Middle East, then-President Ronald Reagan directed the Secretary of Transportation, in cooperation with the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, to explore immediately an expansion of the FAA’s armed Federal Air Marshal program aboard international flights for U.S. air carriers. On August 8, 1985, Congress enacted Public Law 99-83, the International Security and Development Cooperation Act, which established the explicit statutory basis for the Federal Air Marshal program.
The Federal Air Marshal program provides specially trained, armed teams of FAA civil aviation security specialists for deployment domestically and worldwide on anti-hijacking missions. The program is based on minimum use of force, but that force can be lethal. The FAA, therefore, sets a premium on the selection, training and discipline of this elite corps of employees. Those who volunteer for the marshals must first pass initial psychological screening and fitness testing. Those who make the force must then undergo sophisticated, realistic law enforcement training. All Federal Air Marshals must meet stringent physical fitness requirements and the highest firearm proficiency standards. In addition, before every mission they fly, the marshals go through recurrent training and standardized preparation.
The Federal Air Marshal tactical training facility and operational headquarters is located at the William J. Hughes Technical Center in Atlantic City, N.J. The marshals’ training facilities are extensive and include three different outdoor ranges with moving targets, a 360-degree live-fire shoothouse configured as both a narrow-body and a wide-body aircraft with computer-controlled targets and a bulletproof observation platform, an indoor laser disc “judgment pistol shooting” interactive training room and a close-quarters countermeasures/personal, defense training room with protective equipment and dummies. The program also uses an inactive five-story air traffic control tower, a retired B-727 narrow-body aircraft and a retired L-1011 wide-body aircraft for on-board exercises, a modern classroom, a state-of-the-art fitness facility, and an operations center capable of secure communications worldwide. The Federal Air Marshals also train at other undisclosed locations throughout the country.
As with most areas of civil aviation security, only limited information about the Federal Air Marshal program can be made public. The FAA will not reveal the number or identity of the marshals, the details of their training, their budget, nor the routes they fly. What can be said publicly is that the Federal Air Marshals are a full-time dedicated force that continuously deploys throughout the nation and world on all major U.S. carriers. Federal Air Marshals fly every day of the year.