Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Boerne, TX, USA
Re: A question for commercial pilots.
Dick, et al,
I don't think coverage today is what it was a few years ago, and I imagine money has a lot to do with it. Also as with many hastily instituted government programs there are internal problems and the TSA is not without theirs. However, if you know what to look for and when to look, the FAMs are fairly easy to spot if they're covering a flight. Watch for two casually dressed folks identify themselves, with credentials, to the gate agent and board before the pre-boarders. This will happen very early in the evolution, usually right when the gate agent gets there, because the FAMs have to go to the cockpit and identify themselves to the crew as well. The ID process is especially important because there may be other LEOs on the plane and the crew and all LEOs need to know where everyone is sitting, for obvious reasons. Back to the FAMs. Once on the plane, look for those same two people sitting a row or two apart on opposite sides of the aisle, on the aisle, reasonably close to the cockpit, but not generally in 1st, or Business.
They're on many of the flights in and out of DC, especially Reagan. Coverage elsewhere is scheduled, but I have no idea what drives the schedule. Incidentally, the ID process can be cumbersome at Reagan as at times there are lots of LEOs coming and going out of there. Once, I had 7 LEOs including, 2 FAMs, packing out of there on a flight to Chicago and that didn't include the Secretary of HHS and his armed escort.
International coverage on US carriers is spotty and depends on individual agreements the US has been able to work out with the various countries. Not all of our friends are receptive to allowing an American with a gun into their country whether LEO or not. Foreign carriers flying into US airspace do not have US FAMs, flying in an official capacity, aboard at all.
This process may have changed some but that's the way it generally went as little as 4 years ago.