Air Marshal Operations
Hank Investigates: Air Marshal Operations
It looks like a hijacking in progress, but these masked gunmen using dummy passengers but real bullets are air marshals in training mode. Some of hundreds now training to protect passengers at 35,000 feet.
Jim Tully flew as a marshal for years.
- Jim Tully, Former Air Marshal
"We were armed. We were undercover."
Now, Uncle Sam may want you. This FAA ad, which offers a challenging position in the field of aviation, is recruiting hundreds of new air marshals. Benefits: top secret clearance and up to 80 plus thousand a year. The drawbacks: extended travel, on call 24 hours a day, and high probability of terrorist or criminal activity. The job application is pages long, and asks about training in investigative and surveillance techniques, hostage negotiation, and sabotage response.
Some critics worry about putting armed agents on planes, fearing increased danger to passengers.
- Hank Phillippi Ryan
"Do you think its a good idea?"
- Jim Tully
"That's why judgement was so important, knowing when to shoot and knowing when not to shoot."
Now, air marshals will use these special hollow point bullets, deadly, but designed to disintegrate against the cabin walls, protecting cabin pressure.
These newest trainees are masked to protect their identities. That's because soon, training complete, they may be sitting in the seat beside you looking like any other passenger unless something goes wrong.
- Jim Tully
"If you can't stop them from getting on the only place to stop them is in the air."
Though officials say they hope to put marshals as many flights as possible, there clearly wont be enough for every one. So the feds are relying on the element of uncertainty, that would-be terrorists could never know which planes are carrying special passengers.
State officials here in Massachusetts are now reviewing airport security, as are their counterparts in Virginia and in New Jersey. But unlike here in Massachusetts, people we talked to in those states indicated, there's no move to blame the hijackings on the people who run the airports.