FFDOA President Advocates For Armed Pilots In And Out Of The Cockpit


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FFDOA President Advocates For Armed Pilots In And Out Of The Cockpit

By Daniel Baxter

January 30, 2012 - Marcus Flagg, President of the Federal Flight Deck Officer Association (FFDOA), in a radio interview advocated that pilots that have been certified by the Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program be able not only to carry a handgun in the cockpit but be allowed to carry their firearm concealed on their person to and from work.

In addition, Flagg is requesting that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) expand the Federal Flight Deck Officer program funding which would allow more pilots to participate in the program and be certified Federal Flight Deck Officers. Currently the TSA program is turning pilots away due to lack of funds for training and certifying pilots as FFDOs.

Flagg testified before congress in November 2011 (see testimony) stating that FFDOs provide five times the coverage of the Federal Air Marshal Service at 1/25th the cost. The cost of each Federal Air Marshal is around $3,300 per flight. A pair of FAMs cost roughly $6,600 per flight. FFDOs cost roughly $15 per flight. Comparing the two, the same expenditure allows 440 FFDO missions to the single FAM mission. Which program is more cost effective?

Marcus Flagg is a United States Naval Academy graduate, a former Navy fighter pilot and a graduate of the Naval Post-Graduate School on Aviation Safety. He is currently an airline pilot with UPS Airlines.

On September 11, 2001, Flagg?s father Bud Flagg and his mother Dee Flagg died aboard American Airlines flight #77, when it was commandeered by terrorists and crashed into the Pentagon. Since 2001, Flagg has been proactive in improving aviation security to help protect our country against terrorism. Flagg serves as President for Federal Flight Deck Officers Association (FFDOA), a not-for-profit and non-compensated trade association.

FFDOA represents Federal Flight Deck Officers (armed pilots), which now ranks the fourth largest Federal Law Enforcement organization in the United States. The FFDO program is an extremely viable, cost effective, and successful element of our national aviation security effort today.

The FFDOA is a non-profit association which advocates on behalf of its member pilots. The association provides a unified voice to Congress and government agencies on issues relevant to cockpit and passenger safety and security. The Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program is run by the Federal Air Marshal Service with the aim of allowing select pilots of commercial airline flights to carry firearms. 

Following the September 11 attacks in 2001, the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act, part of the Homeland Security Act of 2002, directed the Transportation Security Administration to develop the Federal Flight Deck Officer program as an additional layer of security. 

There are some who advocate that if a pilot carried his gun outside the cockpit that a passenger could disarm the pilot of his weapon. However, Flagg said, "Yes, there is that possibility but you're trained to protect against that." 

Upon completion of the Federal Flight Deck Officer program, eligible flight crew members are deputized Federal Law Enforcement Officers authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to use firearms to defend against acts of criminal violence or air piracy undertaken to gain control of their aircraft.  

A flight crew member may be a pilot, flight engineer or (if this obsolete position existed today) navigator assigned to the flight. Participants in the program are meant to remain anonymous, and while armed, are prohibited from sharing their participation except with select personnel on a need to know basis. In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law legislation that expanded program eligibility to include cargo pilots and certain other flight crew.

Federal Flight Deck Officers are sworn and deputized Federal Law Enforcement officers commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security/ TSA Law Enforcement Division. Officers are trained on the use of firearms, use of force, legal issues, defensive tactics, the psychology of survival and program standard operating procedures. Flight crew members participating in the program are not eligible for compensation from the Federal Government for services provided as a Federal Flight Deck Officer. The TSA is accused of having a "deep, institutional opposition to the FFDO program" by the Airline Pilots Security Alliance. 

On March 24, 2008, a US Airways pilot's gun accidentally went off on Flight 1536 from Denver to Charlotte, North Carolina. The pilot was a Federal Flight Deck Officer and was authorized to carry the weapon by the US Transportation Security Administration. No one was injured and the aircraft landed safely. According to the pilot, the gun fired while he was trying to stow it. The bullet went through the side of the cockpit and tore a small hole in the exterior of the plane. The plane was pulled from service for repairs. 

On January 13, 2011, a JetBlue pilot's bag carrying his gun was accidentally picked up by a passenger flying to West Palm Beach, Florida. When the passenger realized the bag wasn't his, he immediately notified a flight attendant. 

To be eligible to volunteer for and participate in the Federal Flight Deck Officer program you must: 

- Have and maintain a current FAA Airman's certificate.
- Have and maintain a current Class 1 or Class 2 medical certificates.
- Be a U.S. citizen.
- Be an eligible flight crew member flying for an eligible passenger or cargo air carrier.


For Passenger Flight Crew Members: You must currently be employed by a passenger air carrier or private charter company operated under 49 CFR part 1544 (i.e. passengers are screened by TSA). 

For Cargo Flight Crew Members: You must currently be employed by a cargo air carrier operating aircraft with a gross takeoff weight in excess of 100,000 pounds and serve as a flight crew member for aircrafts of that weight.

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