Federal Flight Deck Officer Program
When dealing with terrorism, the deterrent value of an armed presence within the cockpit cannot be overstated. The Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) program provides a critical layer of defense intended to protect airline flight decks from hostile takeover and, thereby, ensure the survival of the aviation industry.
Since its inception in 2003, the FFDO program has been tremendously successful, primarily due to excellent basic training and the quality of the pilots who comprise its ranks. This success notwithstanding, the program suffers from vital needs that potentially threaten its long-term existence. ALPA remains focused on improving these “lifeblood” issues to ensure that the FFDO program not only survives, but flourishes.
Today, more than 10,000 FFDOs protect the flight decks of our nation’s airliners and defend more than 100,000 flight segments per month. In spite of the program’s tremendous growth and value, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has relegated it to a “caretaker” status. TSA has supported the increase in FFDO ranks, but has not increased the funds necessary for logistical support and infrastructure. In essence, the Federal Air Marshal Service (FAMS), which administers the program, is provided only the minimal resources required to sustain it.
This lack of investment in and commitment to the FFDO program by its parent agency has resulted in significant deficiencies in the following areas:
Appropriately sized and organized managerial structure
Ongoing guidance and provision of information
Weapons carriage and transport protocols
Reimbursement of out-of-pocket training expenses borne by FFDOS
In order for the FFDO program to thrive and maintain its record of reliability and success in accomplishing its mission – protecting airliners from becoming human-guided missiles – these critical, core needs must be addressed. ALPA will remain focused on these issues in 2009 and looks forward to working with the new Administration, the Congress, the Department of Homeland Security and the TSA, in this regard.