The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks tragically demonstrated the need for a multi-layered approach to securing commercial airliners — and in particular the cockpit — from terrorist and criminal assault. In addition to improved security at airport checkpoints, the use of federal air marshals, and the hardening of cockpit doors, the Transportation Security Administration developed the Federal Flight Deck Officer program as an additional layer of security.
Under this program, eligible flight crewmembers are authorized by the Transportation Security Administration to use firearms to defend against an act of criminal violence or air piracy attempting to gain control of an aircraft. A flight crew member may be a pilot, flight engineer or navigator assigned to the flight.
In December 2003, President George W. Bush signed into law legislation that expanded program eligibility to include cargo pilots and certain other flight crewmembers.
Federal Flight Deck Officers are trained by the Transportation Security Administration on the use of firearms, use of force, legal issues, defensive tactics, the psychology of survival and program standard operating procedures. Flight crew members participating in the program are not eligible for compensation from the Federal Government for services provided as a Federal Flight Deck Officer.