The Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program provides for the training and regulation of armed pilots. Legislation exists to support this program, in 2004 Congress considered, but did not vote on additional legislative efforts like the Cockpit Technical Corrections and Improvements Act, other legislation is pending Congressional action.
The United States Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains a section for Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs). It starts with a description of what a FFDO is, how they work with the Federal Air Marshal Service and the history of when the legislation creating the creation of the FFDOs was signed into law. .
The TSA describes the Selection and Training Process for a FFDO on its web site. the selection criteria begins with the applicant completing “ all selection assessments including any specified psychological, medical or physical ability requirements.” It further requires that the applicant meet all “established standards “of the Federal Air Marshal Service. Finally, the prospective FFDO trainee must be available to complete training within one year. The training and equipment is provided free of charge, however the trainee is responsible for travel and lodging expenses. .
The TSA describes the one week training course as physically demanding and recommends a pre-training fitness program that is available upon request. Trainees must complete the entire training curriculum prior to deputation as a FFDO. To remain certified as FFDOs, they must also pass bi-annual firearms re-qualification training activities. .
The TSA sets out the eligibility Criteria for FFDOs as:
- Possessing a FAA Airman’s certificate;
- Maintaining Class 1 or Class 2 medical certificates
- A United States citizen
- An eligible flight crew member flying for an eligible passenger or cargo company
- Passenger or charter air companies must be operating under 49 CFR part 1544.
- Cargo companies aircraft must be in excess of 100,000 pounds (45,500 kilograms, or 100,309.8 lbs). .
The TSA wants its applicants to realize that the training program contains sensitive security information and that the Federal Air Marshal Service determines which volunteers may be deputized for five years. This only takes place after the applicants completes all phases of application and training. .
The FFDOs accepted and deputized as Federal Law Enforcement Offers with highly specified and limited purposes that are quoted directly herein as follows:
- FFDOs are considered Federal law enforcement officers only for the limited purposes of carrying firearms and using force, including lethal force, to defend the flight deck of an aircraft from air piracy or criminal violence.
- FFDOs are not granted or authorized to exercise other law enforcement powers such as the power to make arrests, or seek or execute warrants for arrest, or seizure of evidence, or to otherwise act as Federal law enforcement outside the jurisdiction of aircraft flight decks.
- FFDOs are issued credentials and badges to appropriately identify themselves to law enforcement and security personnel, as required in the furtherance of their mission.
- FFDOs are issued firearms and other necessary equipment by the Federal Air Marshal Service.
- FFDOs are responsible for the readiness and daily security of their firearms, credentials and equipment.
- FFDOs are authorized to transport secured firearms in any state for a flight on which they are flying to or from as approved by the Federal Air Marshal Service as necessary for their participation and activities in the program. .
The section on Important Information concludes with a legal disclaimer stating that:
A federal flight deck officer shall not be liable for damages in any action brought in a federal or state court arising out of acts or omissions of the officer defending the flight deck of an aircraft against acts of criminal violence or air piracy unless the officer is guilty of gross negligence and/or willful misconduct. .
The application process starts with the applicant e-mailing their full name, FAA certification number, employment information and contact information to . .
The Airline Pilots Association, International found the United States program to be “A solid program.” It did make a few suggestions for improvements that included:
- Proceedures for transporting the assigned FFDO
- Clarification of Congressional intent regarding the FFDO’s mission
- Clarify any FFDO liability issues;
- Ensure FFDO training leave;
- Provide FFDOs with improved support and peer-to-peer communications especially regarding intelligence issues
- A more definative internal affairs and disciplinary process
- Reimbursement for costs incurred for training and lodging. .
The application and certification process for FFDOs as presented by the Transportation Security Administration seems to be a straightforward procedure. It is lengthy, but that is to be expected when one is considering intentionally placing firearms inside an airliner. The Air Line Pilots Association International found additional room for improvement in some of the elements of the Flight Deck Officer Program. However, these were more details that issues requiring sweeping changes. Unfortunately, the volunteer applicants have universally found this procedure complicated on all levels by excessive, duplicative paperwork and multiple background checks. , .
The 2006 revision of H.R. 1817 known as the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 (Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by House). This bill specifically requires the following improvements:
- Changes to the appeals, privacy and screen for volunteer FFDOs and applicants
- Standard federal credentials, this is often cited as an important issue among the FFDOs and the applicants
- The ability to carry an issued firearm full time. This is a particular issue for the FFDOs who can expect to be called up at any time, but still need the personal freedom to interact with their family and friends on their down time
- The legislation encourages, but does not mandate, FFDOs on International flights.
Other law enforcement officers have varying opinions, some of which are expressed on the Real Police web site. This site summarizes the issues as eliminating the lock box and allowing the FFDOs to carry their weapon on their person, to permit them to carry a weapon on an International flight to provide a standard metal badge, to provide due legal process and to hold the U.S. State Department liable to Congress regarding negotiations with foreign countries. The reactions expressed by fellow law enforcement officers was mixed as all individual reactions are, but in general law enforcement officials strongly support the FFDOs in their efforts to streamline and improve the FFDO program. .
The Federal Flight Deck Officers Association (FFDOA) was created to give a voice to the professional association of Federal Flight Deck Officers (FFDOs). It provides a forum for members to connect with each other and them to provide a unified voice to Congress. It also offers member benefits including discounts on training and equipment, insurance, and legal counsel. Membership os free, however officers must commit to donating time and additionally be active, flying FFDOs. . Links on the site include news items of interest to FFDOs including the FFDOA president’s testimony before the Senate regarding Homeland Security. .
On January 10, 2008 the U.S. Department of Homeland Security produced a Privacy Impact Assessment for the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program. This white paper assesses the Federal Flight Deck Officer program established by the Arming Pilots Against Terrorism Act (APATA) that is Title XIV of the Homeland Security Act (Pub. L. 107-295, Nov. 5 2003, 116 Stat. 2300), codified at 49 U.S.C. It views the mission of the program to be to deputize qualified pilots and crewmembers who volunteer to carry a firearm and use force to deter air piracy and criminal violence. It observes that FFDOs are trained and authorized to act and to carry a firearm. It also deals with issues regarding the collection of data and other administration issues. It concludes that the FFDO program was created ot provide commercial aircraft with an added layer of security and that “protection of a FFDOs identity and privacy is part of the essence of the program.” .
The Airline Pilots Security Alliance subheads its website with the phrase, “The Truth about Airline Security from the Pilots Themselves.” . This Home Page also provides a links to Articles & Publications that includes selected, security-related United States Government Reports going back to 1996 and legislation regarding the Federal Flight Deck Officer training, funding and regulation. The Airline Pilots Security Alliance supports improvements to FFDO and cites statistics, projected training costs, annually recurring costs, annualized program costs and cost comparison figures that show how this program compares favorably to other security alternatives. . They also created a Powerpoint presentation on the FFDO Legislation that summarizes why Congress should have supported the 2004 legislation. This presentation includes issues regarding; public support, flaws in the current program, need for a FFDO program and legislation supporting it, and details of what the legislation should involve.
The National Rifle Association posted its concerns regarding funding cuts to the FFDO program in its on line magazine “America’s 1st Freedom. This article includes extensive details on the importance of the FFDO program and why it deserves funding. Since it is viewed as a political statement it is presented from the author’s point of view. However, the numbers and statistics are cited accurately and in detail. . CNN reported in lesser detail regarding the 2012 budget cuts, however their reporting confirms the amount, level and significance of these budget cuts. . These proposed budget cuts were subsequently.
At the time of this writing in 2013, any questions regarding application procedures may be rendered moot as the program itself is subject to budget cuts that could eliminate its existence. These proposed budget cuts are the subject of objections by various pilot. At the present time, it is not known if the budget cuts will be instituted or what form they will take.
Ahlers, M. M. (2012, 02 13). Budget Ax Falls on Armed Pilot Program. CNN U.S.
Airline Pilots Association International. (2007, 07). Recommendations to Improve the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Airline Pilots Association International: http://www.alpa.org/portals/alpa/pressroom/inthecockpit/FFDOWP_7-2007.pdf
Airline Pilots Security Alliance. (2013). Airline Pilots Security Alliance - Home. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Airline Pilots Security Alliance: http://www.secure-skies.org/
Airline Pilots Security Alliance. (2004, 02). APSA Powerpoint Presentation on FFDO Legislation. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Airline Pilots Security Alliance : http://www.secure-skies.org/ppt.php
Airline Pilots Security Alliance. (n.d.). Standardized Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) Program Costs. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Airline Pilots Security Alliance: http://www.secure-skies.org/armedpilotcosts.php
Davenjay, J. (2008, 10 01). Privacy Impact Assessment for the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Department of Homeland Security: http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/privacy/privacy_pia_tsa_ffdo.pdf
Federal Flight Deck Officers' Association. (2013). Federal Flight Deck Officers' Association - Home Page. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Federal Flight Deck Officers' Association: https://www.ffdoa.org/
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Kopel, D. (2012, 04). Poof The Obama Administration Seeks to Gut Funding for the Federal Flight Deck Officer Program. America's 1st Freedom , pp. 91-103.
Moak, L. (2013, 04 10). Administration Proposal to Cut Federal Flight Deck Officer Funding Threatens Security for Airline Passengers and Cargo. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Pilot Partisan: http://pilotpartisan.com/2013/04/10/administration-proposal-to-cut-federal-flight-deck-officer-funding-threatens-security-for-airline-passengers-and-cargo/
Napolitano, J. (2013, 04 17). Written Testimony of U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for a Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs hearing titled "The Homeland Security Department's Budget Submission of Fiscal Year 2014". Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Official Website of the Department of Homeland Security: http://www.dhs.gov/news/2013/04/17/written-testimony-us-department-homeland-security-secretary-janet-napolitano-senate
Paul, R. (2013, 04 17). Rand Paul Questions Secretary Napolitano at Homeland Security and Government Affairs Hearing. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Paul.Senate.Gov: http://www.paul.senate.gov/?p=press_release&id=772
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Transportation Security Administration . (2012, 12 16). FFDO Eligibility Criteria. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from Transportation Security Administration : http://www.tsa.gov/about-tsa/eligibility-criteria
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United States Federal Government. (2006). H.R. 1817. Retrieved 04 18, 2013, from secure-skies.org: http://www.secure-skies.org/ffdobill.php