Recently, a federal air marshal left a loaded gun in the bathroom of a transatlantic Delta flight bound for New York City. An alert passenger found the weapon and brought it to the Delta flight crew. The flight crew immediately returned the gun to the marshal. Apparently, the newly hired female air marshal had left it in the bathroom of the airplane.
The incident occurred on Delta Airlines flight 221, commencing from Manchester, England, and arriving at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on April 6. Why was this incident not reported to superiors for several days, and why does a leading expert claim that the new leadership at the TSA lacks "vision" and is to blame for this mistake?According to one unnamed former air marshal who spoke to CNN, the United States air marshal was a new agent. Although they did not disclose her name, a source claimed that she was not given the proper tools to succeed in her important job.
"She made a mistake because she wasn't given the appropriate tools to succeed."
President of the Air Marshal Association John Casaretti suggested that further training should be added for all new hires. A former air marshal himself, he recommended that the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) should create a mentorship program. This would mean that an experienced air marshal should always travel with a new hire. He suggested that a training program could prevent a potentially dangerous situation like this from repeating.
"These rare incidents must be thoroughly investigated and local managers should take appropriate corrective action. A field training officer program and thorough mentorship of new officers can reduce similar performance issues."
Casaretti also pointed out the challenging conditions that air marshals work in, including long days, a lack of sleep, and high stress in this high-risk position, along with weak leadership has been troublesome.
"Air marshals work in punishing conditions, labor under poor leadership and have seen their law enforcement functions curtailed by an administration that lacks vision. The problem is not the air marshals, it's the TSA."
The New York-based agent did not report this incident, but according to the news source, the TSA is aware of the situation. Without identifying the agent, TSA spokesman Mark Howell addressed the media about this matter.
Currently, they are gathering all of the information around this incident and indicated that they will take appropriate actions, once that information is analyzed.
"We take all reports of misconduct seriously and are reviewing the circumstances of this incident."
The use of the word "misconduct" was used twice in Howell's statement. It is unclear if this situation is a misconduct or if it was merely a rookie mistake. Unlike the leader of the Air Marshal Association, the TSA spokesman does not hint at any sort of extra training or mentorship with a senior agent.
"TSA takes prompt and appropriate action when allegations of misconduct are substantiated."
The position of federal air marshals was originally created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy to be used on high-risk flights. They went under the umbrella of the TSA after the events of September 11. Air marshals are currently used on most international flights out of New York, yet there is no data on what percentage of flights have air marshals on board to protect passengers and diffuse any dangerous situation.In 2008, CNN reported that the air marshal training program had many flaws. In this special report, they spoke to experts who stated that current training standards for air marshals were lowered so that the new hires could pass the rigorous program. In the report, they also stated that in 2006, they removed the psychological test requirement. The Federal Air Marshal Service disagreed with many statements given in this deep dive, but they also refused to speak to the Atlanta-based news source.
Are you concerned about the theory that this air marshal was not given the proper tools to succeed, as the interviewed former air marshal suggested?
[Featured Image by Scott Olson/Getty Images]