5 Things You Didn’t Know About Air Marshals

You have heard of Air Marshals, but you might not know certain facts about them. They’re meant to be mysterious figures who only show themselves when they’re needed. Marshals blend with their fellow passengers and assess threat levels and keep vigilant for the entire flight.

1. The Air Marshals Have Intensive Training

The marshals have to be able to assess a situation calmly and have superior marksmanship skills. The confines of the aircraft and the number of innocent bystanders means that missing a target in a plane can have catastrophic consequences. With this fact in mind, marshals go through intensive training in two phases. First, is the general training that all marshals receive for their base skills. After the first phase, which is approximately 7 weeks, they’ll be sent to another facility where they’ll have advanced training in the area where they’ll be assigned.

2. Air Marshals Fly in Advance of the President

Many people don’t realize that along with the Secret Service protecting the President of the United States, Air Marshals are doing their part too. They’ll fly in and out of the area where the president will be heading, so they can see who is flying into the area and potentially stop an attack on the president. They have a weapon and handcuffs on them when flying as well as an expandable baton for subduing a passenger. While the service knows when the president will be flying into an area, the marshals are often sent out at a moment’s notice.

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3. Over 600 New Air Marshals after September 11, 2001

Prior to the attacks, there were fewer than 3 dozen marshals flying through our skies. In the month after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush ordered the Federal Air Marshal Service to expand their ranks and bring on new recruits. In the thirty days after the attacks, the FAM trained 600 new Air Marshals immediately. This amount of new trainees has never happened before or since. After that first month, there have been an undisclosed amount of actively recruited marshals, but the estimate is approximately 4,000. The hires came from many other federal agencies like the DEA, FBI and Border Patrol.

4. There are Always 2 Seats Available for Air Marshals

On every flight, there are 2 extra seats that are not booked in case an air marshal is sent on the flight. The crew of the aircraft doesn’t always know whether a marshal will be assigned to the flight, but they know when the seat has been filled. The airline is required to keep the seats open, but there are cases where the flights have been booked completely. In those times, if a marshal were to be assigned, a passenger would have to be bumped from the flight completely.

5. A Computer Decides Where Air Marshals Should Travel

The flights that a marshal will board depends on a few factors. If the president is headed to an area or during major events where there will be lots of people like the Olympics, marshals will be assigned by their superiors in the agency. In other cases, a computer will assess the likelihood of a threat based on the destination and departure cities. The amount of fuel on the aircraft can dictate whether a marshal will be assigned by the computer too.

Air Marshals are tasked with keeping the skies safe from terrorists and violent people who wish to do harm. They are highly trained marksmen who can diffuse a situation quickly before it becomes life-threatening.