Federal Flight Deck Officer

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The Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program is run by the Federal Air Marshal Service with the aim of allowing volunteer pilots of commercial airline flights to carry firearms for the purpose of defending the flight deck against criminal activity.

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. [1] Under this program, 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 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. Any pilot or flight engineer employed by a commercial airline is eligible to volunteer for the FFDO program. Program size quickly exceeded TSA expectations after the program was opened for volunteers in early 2003.

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.[2]

The TSA is accused of having a "deep, institutional opposition to the FFDO program" by the Airline Pilots Security Alliance. [3]


On March 24, 2008, a US Airways pilot's gun 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.[4] 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.[5]

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 hers, she notified a flight attendant. The FFDO's firearm was appropriately locked and secured and could not have been accessed or fired even when found.[6]

In June 2015, a United Airlines pilot threw live ammunition in the trash, then flushed it down a toilet on an international flight from Houston to Munich.[7]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Mooney, Kevin (2007-03-28). "More Armed Pilots Needed, Aviation Experts Say". Cybercast News Service. Archived from the original on 2008-04-17. Retrieved 2008-05-15. 
  2. ^ "TSA:Federal Flight Deck Officers". 
  3. ^ "APSA's Testimony to the DHS Inspector General". Airline Pilots Security Alliance. 
  4. ^ The discharge was the result of the TSA mandated weapons carriage protocol in place at that time. There were no similar incidents before the protocol was mandated or since it has been eliminated. "US Air pilot's gun accidentally goes off on plane," Reuters
  5. ^ "Gun was being stowed, pilot tells police," Associated Press
  6. ^ http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/41077319/ns/travel-news/
  7. ^ http://edition.cnn.com/2015/07/10/travel/united-pilot-ammunition/index.html?sr=cnnifb