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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 January, 2004, 17:02 GMT
Are air marshals a good idea?
Heathrow scene
This is a second page of your comments on US calls to put armed guards on transatlantic flights.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Guns act as a deterrent. The more guns you have, the safer it is. I think all passengers should be issued with at least a hand-gun, plus heavy artillery for the air stewards. This completely eliminates the risk of anyone trying to smuggle weapons on board. What could be a greater deterrent for terrorists plotting to take over an airplane than knowing the person they are sitting next to is armed to teeth.
John, London

If air marshals were introduced would it be a private company involved or a section of the police/military?
Mark, Rustington

We're all wasting a lot of words on this, since the solution is so obvious. Everyone just stays at home in their own country - so no more tiresome travellers to 'protect', hassle, humiliate, or fingerprint in the first place. Air travel ceases; Greenies delighted; Good ol' Homeland secure at last! Tom Ridge gets knighthood from grateful Britain.(No odder than some recent awards, surely?)
Leonie, UK

I would only feel safe if these marshals are to be trained to SAS standards, which they clearly will not be
Glenn Robinson, Hythe, Kent
My concern is the type of people who will be employed as Air Marshals. To avoid posing an unacceptable risk to passengers they would have to be highly skilled weapons handlers and more importantly have the mental strength and discipline to know when to use a gun. We do not want a nervous, trigger happy Air Marshall shooting indiscriminately, particularly as a result of an air rage incident that got out of hand. I would only feel safe if these marshals are to be trained to SAS standards, which they clearly will not be.
Glenn Robinson, Hythe, Kent

Come on, people! Haven't any of you seen Air Force One? You can let off a few thousand rounds with a sub-machine gun and not one will damage the aircraft until the bad guy is stood in front of a small window. You'll be safe as houses!
Lee, England

All these terror-frenzy measures have simply convinced me that the US is a very dangerous country. I might get killed in a plane, on the Empire State Building, in a school, in a fast-food, getting out of the mall, in a parking, on the highway, not to mention earthquakes and hurricanes! I would also have to be treated as a potential criminal, giving fingerprints, being photographed, being body-searched, what else?

The US government has succeeded convincing us that we would be safer in some obscure Latin American or Middle East regime than in the US. Then the only sensible reaction is not to visit / have holidays / work in such a life-threatening country. That would have been an obvious reaction for any other country. Why not for the US? Just think about it...
Lia, Athens, Greece

Having been through a hijack many years ago, despite having air marshals on board the flight, I do not think they are a good idea. One of the most worrying times was when the hijackers - who knew marshals were on board! - were searching for them! One marshal was actually shot in the leg by his own gun and was permanently disabled because of this.
L. Mathers, York, Yorkshire

Unless they get some able people staffing the airports, everything else is pretty pointless
John, London, England
I recently travelled back from the USA, and security in the US airport was still laughable. A woman singled out for a search was sent over to another member of staff. She just wandered off instead. When the staff realised, there was no frantic search, just a shrug, and moving on to the next person in line. It seems that even with the supposedly strong regulations, unless they get some able people staffing the airports, everything else is pretty pointless.
John, London, England

I have known people go through preliminary training to become a Sky Marshal and it's tough. The people doing the job aren't gun wielding trigger happy cowboys, but highly trained personnel. I think the idea is great, if someone tries to hijack the plane I am on, I hope they get shot dead, serves them right.
Dain, USA

It is quite fascinating to read all these comments from armchair experts who have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Unless you know solid facts about Air Marshals - their training, their tactics, their weapons and ammunition - I'm afraid that you simply aren't in a position to comment. Highly trained and experienced officers will be among the passengers. No-one will know who they are and probably will never find out. If you do discover who the team of brave and dedicated officers are, its because you have been hijacked and are probably going to die. They will be your last hope. If you didn't have that help, USA will shoot you out of the sky so that 9/11 cant be repeated.
Mark H, UK

To Mark H, UK: What a nice view of the world: we are supposed to act like sheep and totally trust our "leaders and experts". Sir, the proposal is to have guns on the planes; potential costumers have every right to question the policy and voice their opinion; even to boycott the flights. It is up to the "experts and leaders" to "prove" their logic. Fascism is having a field day!
Aristides Garcia, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

To Mark H, UK: The reason why as "armchair experts" do not have any idea about Air Marshals is that once again the Bush administration decided to deploy its security forces without first consulting, ask for advice or generally discuss the issue and because once again the Bush administration avoided to make any commitments on the rules of engagement of their security force so that they can act carte blanche and not be held accountable for their acts.
Mixalis Andoniou, Athens Greece

If it is thought that a flight is unsafe wouldn't it be much smarter to keep it grounded rather than having an air-marshal on board? Increasing security measures in and around the airport is preferable to air marshals.
Frederick, Newcastle, England

They will make flights safer without a doubt
John, London, UK
It's a shame so many people do not understand the technology used by the marshals. The weapons (9mm handguns) they use fire frangible ammunition which is lethal to a person, but will NOT penetrate the seating, walls or the aircraft itself. They will make flights safer without a doubt, and even IF a terrorist managed to overpower a marshal, his gun would not be effective against the entire cabin of angry passengers.
John, London, UK

I fail to see how putting loaded guns into a pressurised air cabin increases my security as a passenger. It is also easy to see situations in which air marshals would still be unable to prevent a suicide attack. I am amazed that the UK Civil Aviation Authority has accepted the US demands and hope that the hysteria which has prompted this in the US will soon subside.
Leonie, London, UK

Instead of taking guns onto a plane, even if they are in the hands of a trained operative (who could still be overpowered), why not just seal the cockpit from the main cabin? No requirement for weapons to be on board and no way for anyone to take control of the aircraft.
Adam, Edinburgh, Scotland

Simple, seal off the pilot's cabin. Nerve gas in the body of the plane. Brain power needed not gun power!
Peter, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

We've come to accept that a hijacking means death
Joshua Splinter, USA

Every airplane in the US seems to have as many air marshals on board as able bodied passengers (this is a metaphor, not a joke at the overwhelming security). We've come to accept that a hijacking means death. I for one would not be quick to sit still if my plane were hijacked. Better to attempt to stop it, rather than allow the plane to be used against other people.
Joshua Splinter, USA

I want to know what the SAS's reaction is to this. I bet they're not in favour.
Alex, Sydney, Australia (UK Expat)

I think air marshals are a good idea but why do they need to carry guns? I practise martial arts and know that someone skilled in martial arts can disable anyone quickly in confined quarters.
Nat, China

The security must be strengthened on the ground. If terrorists are able to get on the plane with weapons and explosives, then it is too late!
Neil Richardson, UK

I would rather travel with Air Marshals aboard, just in case we need them on that flight, than without them - again just in case we need them!
Peter Wanyonyi, Nairobi, Kenya

Last time I went through Gatwick there were razor blades for sale in the departure lounge of the North Terminal. So much for preventing dodgy items on board. I guess it gives the opportunity for a close shave on every flight.
Dave, Cambridge UK

I work for a major airline. Re comments that some airlines won't fly if a marshal is on board as it would indicate a specific threat. My understanding is that air marshals will be placed randomly on normal flights. If there is a specific threat to a flight, we won't operate it.
Matt, London, UK

Air marshals on planes, fingerprinting tourists like criminals, machine-gun wielding soldiers on Times Square on New Year's Eve... God bless the United States of Paranoia.
Davy Mid, Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland

You are asking the impossible
Richard T. Ketchum, USA
I am amazed at the number of people who don't realize that if terrorists take over the plane everyone on board is dead. You are asking the impossible, total safety, the best you can get is good odds, your chance of survival is better with armed air marshals on board the planes then with out them.
Richard T. Ketchum, USA

Sky-marshals' bullets, like those on TV, hit only the Bad Guys and so couldn't possibly harm the 400 other people in the aircraft.
Nigel Rees, UK/US

I have no problem with having a marshal on-board but I doubt they will be necessary because, as has previously been mentioned, any terrorist holding a carton cutter is likely to get ripped to pieces by passengers long before he manages to get near the cockpit!
Colin, Santiago Chile

Why not travelling by military airplanes too!!
Vincent, Paris - France

How long will it be before a trigger-happy sky marshal kills an innocent civilian? It's a crazy idea, which was gradually being phased out in the US anyway.
Mark, Dublin

The government has now sanctioned an easy way for terrorists to get guns into aircraft ... get their agents recruited and used as air marshals. The public should have a choice of flying on 'no guns' aircraft.
John, UK

This is laughable when you consider the security loops that still exist on domestic US flights
Lorna, Birmingham, UK
This is laughable when you consider the security loops that still exist on domestic US flights. The Department of Homeland Security has yet to ban disposable lighters and safety matches on flights, even thought it is now over two years since Richard Reid tried to blow up plane by attempting to light an explosive concealed in his shoe. What is an armed sky marshal going to do when the next 'shoe bomber' decides to light a concealed explosive whilst in the toilet instead of in his seat, in full view of staff and other passengers? The Bush administration's policy on airline safety is ridiculously inconsistent and is not one to follow blindly.
Lorna, Birmingham, UK

Who would you rather have in the plane with you in the event of a hijack: a highly-trained operative with a weapon or someone in a short-sleeved shirt, and armed only with a non-lethal drinks trolley? Think about it.
Richard, Newbury UK

Air marshals would be a deterrent, to any irregular behaviour on planes. In order to achieve this, preferably they should dress in uniforms, and not only in civilian clothes. In that way, everybody should know, their prescience, and discourage any wrong doing. The only fact nobody talks about, is how dangerous is having shots inside a plane's cabin. Is it worth it?
Jose Nigrin, Guatemala City

I cannot imagine feeling more rather than less safe knowing someone on board has a gun. Security must be got right on the ground.
Michael Thomas, Reading, UK

Use of a gun may or may not cause an aircraft to de-pressurise, if it does, it may or may not crash. Allowing someone to take control and fly it into a building will spoil your whole day for sure.
Adrian, Cambridge, UK

They're a terrible idea, but you can't say the Bush Administration isn't consistent. The rest of us should just learn to get along without the USA, at least until our American cousins come to their senses again. Judging from the latest polls, that will be in about 5 years.
Jon E, France

Imagine this scenario: Several terrorists on a plane - one does whatever is necessary to get shot at by an air marshal. The man with the gun is identified and overpowered by other terrorists. Then the terrorists have the gun... Remember these guys have no regard for their own lives.
Roger, Dover, UK

I'd be pretty grateful if there were sky marshals on board
Chris Carter, London, UK
If I was on an aircraft that was being hijacked, I'd be pretty grateful if there were sky marshals on board. Guns and aircraft may not mix well, but I'll take my chances on the training and professionalism of the police rather than on whether or not the hijackers want to fly my plane into a building.
Chris Carter, London, UK

An arm man on board a plane is dangerous to all travellers including the pilot. Governments should concentrate on ground security; conduct through check before an aircraft takes off.
Emmanuel Gonda, Sudan/Canada

Not only should air marshals be put on flights to America, but also on all external and internal flights from the UK. Also, why aren't the cabin crew and co-pilot trained to use weapons? Are you seriously saying that terrorists with razor blades would not be defeated by armed air-crew?
Richard Murray, London, UK

Gee, did anybody think that someone could just knock out an air marshal and steal his gun? Oops. Shooting a gun in an airplane is also a great idea. More then likely you'll hit a passenger, you'll find very little room to move around in, and you could break a window or puncture a hole in the roof that would cause a sudden rise in cabin pressure. Face it, air marshals are about as realistic as WMD in Iraq.
Jim, US

It is simple. If you have a problem with flying with an armed guard, then don't fly to America. I don't see what the problem is?
Jennifer Palmer, USA

The idea has more in common with the Wild West than safe flying
Gavin, Edinburgh, Scotland
I am not keen on weapons being carried onboard aircraft. The idea has more in common with the Wild West than safe flying. The rules for opening fire could allow the more red-neck attitude of 'shoot first ask questions later' - all in the interests of better safety. Equally, a marshals weapon will be the easiest method of getting a gun past security.
Gavin, Edinburgh, Scotland

Putting explosive devices on board planes is just the dumbest idea for improving flight safety I have ever heard.
Philip Adams, London, UK

Imagine what could have happened on 9/11 if we did have sky marshals. Maybe thousands of families wouldn't have to bury their loved ones.
Sean, USA

I agree with the view that guns and aircraft do not mix. The risk of a sky marshal firing a gun and endangering the whole plane is too great. Are they now saying that the ground security is useless?
Nigel, Swindon, UK

I think the pilots are right: if there's a strong enough threat against a flight to justify putting armed guards on board then that flight shouldn't take off in the first place.
Graham Parker, London, UK

There is no certainty that terrorists won't impersonate the air marshals.
Amit Shah, London, UK

If a violent incident not related to international terrorism occurred on a flight, would an air marshal be expected to intervene? Where is the line drawn on passenger safety?
John Talbot, Manchester

The need for additional security within the aircraft once it has departed the ground is manifest
Capt. John Blonsick, Orlando

As a professional airline pilot, I understand some of BALPA pilot concerns but the need for additional security within the aircraft once it has departed the ground is manifest.
At 35,000' there is no ability to call upon the local constable to deal with multiple hijackers' intent on killing every person on board and potentially thousands on the ground. The only other option left is for a military aircraft to shoot down the airliner and killing several hundred innocent civilians along with the hijackers.
If a handful of highly trained officers could prevent the deaths of hundreds of innocent passengers at the hands of the British or American governments' military forces - isn't that a more sane option?
Capt. John Blonsick, Orlando, FL, USA

Gillian Bowditch sums the situation up nicely in the Scotsman today. She says, "Last Year, the Government told us knitting needles in hand luggage posed a threat. Now they tell us guns in the fuselage will make us safe".
Craig, Hawick, UK

Orwell's '1984' was only out by 20 years.
Patrick, Ireland

I'll happily fly on an airline with sky marshals. This argument about the weapon being used against the pilots are rubbish, the bullets used do not damage the plane sufficient to de-pressurise and result in a crash.
Ben Barnes, Bath, UK

Even cats and dogs have a chip implanted under their skin, so why don't we?
Henk, Edinburgh

Wasn't there a discussion about the introduction of Mr Blunkett's ID pass on this site recently? Well, let's get on with it then - on a world wide scale! Eliminating anyone who isn't willing to provide personal details, finger prints and eye scans from flying! Passport fraud? Even cats and dogs have a chip implanted under their skin, so why don't we?
Henk, Edinburgh, Scotland

Who is going to hijack a plane after 9/11? The passengers will assume that they face certain death and tear the hijackers apart. We have had no sky marshals since 9/11 so why start now?
James Scobbie, Scotland

To James Scobbie: Spot on - 9/11 was the end of hijacking aircraft. No longer will passengers be expecting to spend a few days on a runway being fed MacDonald's every 8 hours - instead, figuring they're going to die anyway, they'll go down fighting.
Lee, Hebburn, England

What I don't understand about this is why Sweden is able to convince the USA that no marshals are needed on their flights, while our government here is unable to do the same. Is this a bunch of political grandstanding or what? Stop being the US' lapdog and protest against the use of air marshals!
Stefan P, London, England

I will not fly on an airline that has sky marshals with guns. I hope the UK airline industry follows Sweden, Portugal and Denmark. We should ban all airlines using gun carrying sky marshals from our airspace. Attitudes may become more realistic then.
Ken, Aberdeen

What if somebody managed to obtain an air marshal's firearm?
Omar El Dali, London

Guns on planes? Is everyone going crazy? This alleviates the hassle of smuggling a weapon on board. What if somebody managed to obtain an air marshal's firearm? Maybe the marshal should have another concealed weapon then. While we're at it lets arm air marshals to the teeth. Automatics, grenades - Yeeehah! That'd really teach those terrorists.
Omar El Dali, London, UK

I think all passengers should get an injection to put them to sleep for the duration of the flight. In this way the airlines then wouldn't need sky marshals, stewardesses, catering, toilets etc and we would be all refreshed when we reach our destination albeit a little hungry. Just think the amount of money the airlines and security could save!
Ian, Germany

I like the tranquilizer darts idea. I have been wondering for years why they are not employed to deal with more stand off situations involving police.
Mike, Houston, USA

I am flying to the US on Friday and I for one would feel safer if there was a trained, armed guard on the plane.
Jeremy, London, UK

If undercover reporters can breech security and get jobs in the Palace and the Met, what's to say a terrorist can't breech security and pose as a sky marshal?
Lindsay Holmes, Chelsea, UK

Firearms and aircraft don't mix. Permitting marshals to carry guns is a reckless knee-jerk reaction, with little forethought. Tazers or CS gas would surely be safer for all concerned? Especially if weapons should change hands.
Mark, Manchester

Surely a gun at 30,000 feet plus is not a good idea
James Robinson, Bristol, UK
Air security is a top concern at the moment, but surely a gun at 30,000 feet plus is not a good idea, the idea of air marshal is good, but it has to be used with a non-lethal weapon like tranquiliser darts or something that could not destroy the plane.
James Robinson, Bristol, UK

Just a thought - if you notice that one of the other passengers on your flight is carrying a concealed gun, do you assume they're a terrorist or a sky marshal? If they don't identify themselves, this could lead to some potentially lethal mix-ups.
Owen, Edinburgh

I think the very idea of having Air Marshals on flight is admitting that all security checks done before have some loopholes, loopholes big enough to allow a person to carry a weapon on the flight.
Prasad Kothare, India

Any gun on a plane is a bad idea and creates a loophole that can be exploited. Every year people in the US die from legally held gun incidents, we don't need them on our planes. As has been pointed out 9/11 was US internal flight. Those flights could have had air marshals on them but it obviously wasn't a deterrent them. I agree with those proposing greater security its that not more guns that will make things safer.
Ian Underhill, Howell, MI, USA

Look at the odds - pilots who spend their lives in the air don't want them. That's enough for me. If they feel safe enough without sky marshals then I, who will fly once a year, will accept their decision.
Sandy, UK

The terrorists must know that we can and will fight back
Alex, Bristol, UK
First of all, the mere possibility that there could be an air marshal on the plane is a deterrent. Second, it is not wrong to defend ourselves from the threat of terrorism. Third, an air marshal is an individual trained in many areas, not just how to hold a gun. They have training on these types of situations. All this hype about the dangers of air marshals is more dangerous than the terrorists themselves. The terrorists must know that we can and will fight back.
Alex, Bristol, UK

I've flown on El Al flights many times and from first hand experience it is clear that the Israelis have got it right. The scrupulous inspection on the ground was a deterrent in itself and I usually spend most of my journey trying to spot the air marshal, always (to my disappointment) to no avail. How we can argue that a trained soldier with a weapon will somehow make a flight more dangerous is ludicrous. Let stop making excuses and let's start combating these terrorists before we experience another 9/11.
Daniel Levene, London, UK

After years flying with British and overseas airlines, I have great faith in the pilots and if they aren't happy with on-board air marshals then I support their views. They are the ones with decades of experience, not the politicians or the public.
Kathy, Marlborough, UK

I can understand the thinking behind this move
Andy R, UK
Guns and planes don't mix. I don't like the idea of there being a firearm on board, regardless of who's holding it. I may however feel different if I was flying at the height of a terror alert. I can understand the thinking behind this move, but can't help, also thinking that the problem is being blown out of proportion to maintain the sense of fear and expectation. People are more easily manipulated when they are scared.
Andy R, UK

It is bad enough having openly armed police at the airports but to have armed police in the aircraft is just one step too far. Due to having machine guns pointed at my wife (at point blank range) at Bangkok airport a few years ago due to a mistake by the airport staff, we never go through Bangkok any more on our way to Australia. If armed air marshals are deployed, I would simply stop going through American airspace. I already refuse to go to Israel.
Anon, England

I have just flown back from New York after visiting for New Year with United Airlines. I didn't enjoy flying because of all the terror alerts, but it was a bit of a relief to know that the US has marshals on their planes particularly transatlantic.
Scott, Middlesbrough, England

Why not simply ask the public if they will accept the Israeli type check-in? I would not object to the 2-3 hour check, not least as the Israeli record speaks for itself. If the airlines gave serious discounts to people arriving early and with little or no luggage - or even if they just open another route for the above customers, then this group would enlarge, ensuring the check-in process is swift and easier for all. Those customers who turn up late with the numerous bags they insist go with them as hand luggage should be dealt with in the log overdue manner - told to turn around and go home, immediately!
Tom Anderton, Basildon - Essex

Americans live in fear and their answer to this is guns
Andy D, Manchester, UK
American society has a gun culture that affects themselves with dire consequences at the best of times, why does the rest of the world have to conform with them by having armed marshals on Foreign flights to the US? In many years of travelling, before 9/11 security checks in non-US airports have been very tight as they are now in the US. Americans live in fear and their answer to this is guns. Why do the US feel that a terrorist threat will be from foreign airlines, what this all comes down to is spin on behalf of American politicians to show that they are in control of the average American fear of terrorism from the air.
Andy D, Manchester, UK

One of the most negative developments of air marshal deployment came from your British Airline Pilots Association. These people insisted that pilots and cabin crew were told who they were and where they were sitting and that the captain would authorise when and what they did. Are they kidding? Have you taken a look at some of the people sitting on the flight deck recently? They are able to fly the plane but hardly equipped to tackle a terrorist! We all know they are out there, up there. I am checking out Queen Mary.
Len, Sarasota, USA

There seems to be a lot of misinformation out there. First of all, the US has had air marshals for years, just not the number we have now. They are highly trained and use weapons that will not puncture the skin of a plane. No security is foolproof, so it is better to be safe than sorry. The US is not ordering anyone to place guards on flights. It is your choice if you want to fly into this country. If you elect to then you might have to deal with an armed marshal on your flight. You won't even know they are there unless they are needed. Odds are that if you have flown to this country before you were on a plane with one already. They will not be disarmed. If a passenger were threatened, the marshal would react swiftly. They are invisible unless there is an incident. Unfortunately, that is a fact of life now.
Melanie Orman, New Hampshire, USA

A change in foreign policy would be much cheaper then the continuously hyped up terror threat given out by the Bush administration.
Said Mahad, Copenhagen, Denmark

Putting air marshals on selected flights is a compromise solution that does not solve the problem
Richard, Bahrain
Not a good idea at all. There are better ways to prevent hijacking. Better security at airports, in the manner of El Al. If that means that Western airlines do not fly to certain destinations or have to supply their own security, so be it. Another way is to make it impossible to hijack airplanes. How? By making the flight deck inaccessible from the passenger compartment. But airlines won't do that as it is too expensive. The technology is available. Putting air marshals on "selected" flights is a compromise solution that does not solve the problem. Will one air marshal defeat a number of terrorists? I doubt it.
Richard, Bahrain

I have seen the latest US security - what a joke! My luggage flew without me on an internal US flight as I was delayed by secondary screening - Lockerbie? What happens if there are more than one group of "terrorists" on a flight? Once identified by potential hijackers, the marshals become prime targets - and their guns can get into the wrong hands. You can hear the terrorists minds working - what an opportunity!
Ian Perry, UK

Air Marshals are a fantastic idea! Shame on the British Pilots Union for trying to block this action! In fact, the pilots should all be trained in using side arms as well. Stop this politically correct mumbo jumbo that fighting back is wrong!
Todd Saunders, London, UK

It must be part of a comprehensive and intensive security programme
Janet Paulin, Philippines/Australia
The thing that worries me about putting air marshals on board flights is that it may encourage a false sense of security and encourage airline security officials to let their guard down. I do agree that air marshals can contribute positively to airline security, however, it must be part of a comprehensive and intensive security programme that includes improving security issues on the ground.
Janet Paulin, Philippines/Australia

Israel has insisted on air marshals on every flight to it since well before September 11th. It has been victim of more terrorist atrocities than any other country, but not one of them has been caused on board a plane travelling to or from it.
Sebastian, Oxford, England

Those who praise El Al's use of armed cabin-guards need to remember that these people are backed up by famously thorough checks of El Al passengers and baggage on the ground, before they even board.
Tom, EU

Bush needs Air Marshals; Street Marshals; Train Marshals; Breath Marshals; Toilet Marshals; Red Alerts; Orange Alerts. Bush and the Neo-conservatives can't survive without the terror hype; keep people hyped and no one will ask why we are doing what we are doing, where we are doing it.
Aristides Garcia, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Idea designed to turn aircraft into potential Wild West shooting galleries
Bill Greene, Port of Spain, Trinidad
Another stupid American idea designed to turn aircraft into potential Wild West shooting galleries. Incompetent and trigger happy air marshals could well result in aircraft disasters.
Bill Greene, Port of Spain, Trinidad

It's good idea and Tom Ridge has hit the nail on the head, This is the only way that passengers could be out of harm.
Mustafa Hajji Abdinor, Mogadishu, Somalia

Are marshals required on US flights? - I think not. What the Bush administration is really saying is - "we don't trust the security at non US airports" I find that truly ironic - terrorists took US planes, because the security was non existent and this type of attack has not been repeated elsewhere. "Pot calling the kettle black". When the US puts marshals on EVERY plane, domestic and international, then they can criticise the rest of the world.
HK Gadhia, Denmark

I agree with HK Gadhia, in this whole confusion we seem to be forgetting that the 9/11 attacks took place on US internal flights, by terrorists training on US soil and NOT international flights. It would be nice to see how the US is improving its internal flight security since 9/11 and as these terrorists don't care much about their own lives, I'm sure they would love nothing more than a full scale gun fight in the air.
Omy, UK

Make sure there's at least one firearm available on every flight - great idea. That'll save the terrorists having to smuggle them through the boarding checks.
Guy Chapman, Reading, UK

It certainly will make me feel safer
Mary Doyle, USA
It certainly will make me feel safer. It is a proven fact proven by Israeli's successfully history of use of air marshals. It should also be noted that unarmed US citizens did not allow the terrorists on board to kill thousands when they forced the plane down. Maybe if we had a armed professional on board the plane and the lives lost would not have happened. Think about it!
Mary Doyle, USA

Ok, so the air marshal will have special munitions that will have a certain range and will not penetrate the airplanes hull. I don't think any determined terrorist will be as thoughtful. A silly idea from a country that already has its own gun problem.
Andy, UK

Detection of weapons before boarding an aircraft is paramount - but until you can say it is 100% foolproof, the armed marshals are the best next defence. Every terrorist can now have a doubt in their mind on which one of the passengers on board is armed.
Wade, Iowa USA

Air marshals are a fine idea, but giving them guns is not. All that will do is ensure that there is a gun on the plane despite all security measures taken otherwise to keep them off. I am a military officer so I have no problem with the proper application of lethal force, but tasers or stun guns are adequate to disable antagonistic passengers. As they are non-lethal, there would be no tragic accidents should something go wrong.
Steve Irving, Ottawa Canada

More emphasis should be put on ensuring that the terrorists do not get on the aircraft in the first place
Keith Palmer, Little Fransham Norfolk
More emphasis should be put on ensuring that the terrorists do not get on the aircraft in the first place. Once in the air it becomes a very dangerous place to start fighting with undesirables which could in an extreme case bring down the aircraft anyway. Putting air marshals or armed police on the aircraft is more like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, far too late in the security chain.
Keith Palmer, Little Fransham Norfolk

Yes in short, I think it is a good idea and hopefully will make air travel safer and more secure. I would like to see this concern on security and safety extended to include Merchant Shipping, particularly in the piracy hot spots of the world and additionally less safe places like the Red Sea, Arabian Gulf and several African countries. Too many unarmed innocent seafarers have already been killed because of a lack of support and action.
Chris Jones, Grays, Essex, UK

Undercover cops on the New York City Subway trains reduced crime substantially and put the criminals on notice that anyone may be an armed cop. It worked there and so should be given a try on airplanes.
Mark, USA

Airline security is not about Air Marshals, it is about correct procedures on the ground by the airlines and airport operators. For people to claim that US Sky Marshals work, you only have to look at 9/11 - they were not deployed on domestic flights which were the target. With El Al, the reason that they are so secure is that they only fly from what El al feel are secure airports, and then it takes 3 hours for a passenger to check in; they even depressurise the luggage to check for bombs. An armed marshal does not inspire confidence, it only indicates a failure of procedure on the ground.
Matthew Baker, St Albans, UK

The air marshal will shoot, the aircraft will de-pressurize, the pilot will dive for air to 2000m, the breathing masks will be torn off in panic and all the passengers will go into hysterics, short of stampeding for lack of space. I would not want to board an aircraft on which there is a person carrying a gun, no matter whether he or she is a cop or a criminal. Passengers will soon be brainwashed into being handcuffed in-flight, for their own "security". I wonder if there is any other kind of industry that can get away with treating customers with such contempt.
Alexis, France

What scares me more than the threat of terrorists is the amount of people I see hear that prefer a "non-violent" approach. They would prefer "negotiations". Negotiation to those that are involved in perpetrating the acts of violence simply means giving them what they demand. To negotiate is to give legitimacy to the terrorist organizations. Freedom requires defence. The goal of the terrorists is to enslave.
Rick, US

We should force the airlines to tighten security
Marcus Wilkinson, Leeds
The deployment of air marshals would simply send a signal to those who have sought to spread fear that they are succeeding. We should force the airlines to tighten security and allow people to travel without fear.
Marcus Wilkinson, Leeds

Great idea! I just want to know why it's taken so long for them to put air marshals on our flights! It's not like they've had to come up with a new idea....
RB, Aylesbury

What if the air marshal needs to answer a call of nature? Better issue pistols to all cabin crew complete with shoulder holsters to match their uniforms. And maybe a few vertical bars on the windows for effect.
Assad Farooqi, Karachi, Pakistan

In order to avoid terror attacks action needs to be taken
Shalom Freund, Brooklyn, New York, USA
In the world in which we live today, we all understand that in order to avoid terror attacks action needs to be taken. I personally know the feeling of travelling with air marshals as I have travelled with the El Al airline which always has special security on board. I felt much more secure knowing that someone on the flight is watching for any trouble.
Shalom Freund, Brooklyn, New York, USA

Here in the US the administration is trying to scare the population into docility with orange and red alerts. Sky marshals are just more of the same nonsense. It is all designed to instil fear and nothing else.
Loay, Boston, USA

I'd like to know which airlines are carrying armed vigilantes - so that I can avoid them like the plague. Importing American gun-culture onto planes is not a recipe for greater safety.
Neil McGowan, Brit resident in Moscow

Whether a good idea or not, neither the Pilots' Association in the UK nor the non-US airlines outside the US were consulted before the UK government and US governments insisted on this new policy. So much for democratic, open and reasoned discussion. Effective for greater aircraft security? No. Effective for greater traveller paranoia? Yes.
JS, Brighton, UK

We are being ruled by "Fear". As a WW2 combat vet, I feel the terror factor has already won, without firing another shot.
Gene McCrimmon, Oregon, USA

I don't think that we have a choice but to protect ourselves with whatever means necessary
Margaret, Portland, USA
In the present day, I don't think that we have a choice but to protect ourselves with whatever means necessary. To say that air marshals are too expensive, is to put a price tag on human lives. Until there is another solution, I don't think that there is any choice in the matter.
Margaret, Portland, USA

Yes - I agree with the idea of air marshals. I would much rather get on a plane knowing that if an incident were to happen, there would be somebody who had been specially trained to handle it on board. We need to "get real". Things have changed since 9/11. We cannot ever go back to how things were!
Lin, UK

Sky marshals are a very good ideal of preventing aircraft hijacking. If the public had any idea as to how well UK armed police officers are trained then I don't think that they would be so worried. Our firearms officers are amongst the most advanced, safe and well trained in the world. This argument is a classic case of the UK government being too scared to trust its police force to do the right thing when the moment comes...
Tony, Leeds, UK

Having the threat of Sky Marshals aboard is called deterrence.
Clive, Baltimore, MD (ex-Pat Brit)

Having the threat of Sky Marshals aboard is called deterrence. I know a couple and they're very highly trained, & motivated. Have more faith in law enforcement! As has been pointed out, Israel has its share of suicide attackers, but when was the last time El Al was hijacked?
Clive, Baltimore, MD (ex-Pat Brit)

There is a strong case to be made for having armed 'air marshals' on many flights. However, in dictating to the rest of the world's airlines, America is once again over-stepping the mark and demonstrating the arrogance and megalomania that has earned them the enemies that make such action desirable in the first place.
Kate Marshall, England

It would make far more sense to stop any weapons and people who pose a threat getting onto aircraft.
Mike, Leeds, UK

What rules of engagement are these Sky Marshals going to have? If it is anything like the army in Northern Ireland where they can not fire until fired upon first the sky marshal is not going to be able to shoot a terrorist wielding a craft knife. It would make far more sense to stop any weapons and people who pose a threat getting onto aircraft.
Mike, Leeds, UK

If we are so inept that we can't detect potential terrorists in hi-tech airport checks and so paranoid that we have to have air cops on the plane I think we really need to go back to square one and start over. We are rapidly turning into a fascist state devoid of freedom in order to protect our freedom.
Jim Jensen, Butuan City, Philippines

Now potential hijackers don't need to carry their own weapons they can just arm themselves by disarming the air marshal. Does anyone think that an armed air marshal can tackle 7 potential hijackers prepared to die, while trying not to endanger the life of the passengers or the safety of the plane?
Arandis Theodoros, Athens Greece

There is no foolproof way of dealing with terrorists, and ideally they would be prevented from boarding a plane in the first place. These are cunning people, who rely on the fact that there are always incompetent or lazy officials around. So what do you do if a terrorist does manage to get on board a plane? Die without a fight it would seem in the view of those who are against this idea.
Steve, UK

I hate violence myself, but it's a basic fact that sometimes force must be used
Aaron, Los Angeles, USA

What alternative action would you propose that would protect passengers from armed criminals? I hate violence myself, but it's a basic fact that sometimes force must be used, or at least available, for defence against people who do NOT share our view that violence and killing are bad things!
Aaron, Los Angeles, USA

It seems to me to be terrible idea to actually encourage live weapons on board of planes. If there were some way of being 100% sure that all Marshals were expertly trained, and that there was absolutely no way whatsoever the weapons could get into somebody else's hands, then this idea might be worth investigating.
Richard Watts, Geneva, Switzerland

I feel safer flying knowing that air marshals are on the plane with me. To have someone who is trained in crisis management (on a flight which could have terrorists as passengers) is a very comforting thought to me. To have the trained air marshals be equipped with guns adds even more deterrence and security. Thank you Secretary Ridge!
Nathan Funk, Oklahoma, USA

SUGGEST A DEBATE
This topic was suggested by Nigel Mawer from UK:
Should Sky Marshals be deployed on British flights

I would not wish to be on a flight where people are armed. Guns attract violence. There is no place for guns in our society and certainly not on planes. I think Mr Darling's plans are appalling.
Jenny Sams, London, England

It is an absolute necessity for us to have sky marshals on our flights. The US has done it for donkey's years as has Israel. What most people don't understand is that the sky marshals are identified to the pilot and crew and only carry specially designed low velocity.
Kevin P, Cardiff, S Wales

Nail files forbidden, but guns are OK?!
Ray Taylor, Ferney, France
Nail files forbidden, but guns are OK?! You have just lost one passenger, I don't trust the sanity of airlines anymore
Ray Taylor, Ferney, France

I just hope that the rules of engagement for these Air Marshals have been thought through. If not there is every chance that a stray pellet could cripple an innocent passenger or even cripple the control systems of the aircraft sending it straight into a smoking hole in the ground.
Ian Harold Brown, Southampton, UK

Yes air marshals are a good idea, but no weapons. Not only on trans Atlantic flights but all flights.
Carol Booth, Manchester, England

A bullet hole in a plane will not cause decompression.
JH, Reading, UK

A bullet hole in a plane will not cause decompression. Modern planes can maintain cabin pressure when missing three windows.
JH, Reading, UK

What if an air marshal, enraged by non-stop exposure to the surly cabin crew that staff British airlines, uses his weapon in desperation? This scheme should have a positive impact on in-flight service.
Robert Stratton, London

I think it's a brilliant idea - let's face it, the more guns on planes the better, right?
PH, Glasgow, UK

How many El Al hijacks have there been in the last 20 years? They have had "Sky Marshals" for about that time. Enough said!
Nick S, Crawley UK

The idea is very sensible. This is a new world that requires far tougher measures to combat a new kind of terrorism. The bullets are low velocity to avoid piercing the planes shell, and the whole plan makes me feel safer travelling to and from the States.
Guy Hardill, Guernsey

As an ex-cabin crew member who has a current long haul crew member partner, I feel that having any form of firearm on board is a crazy idea. Security needs to be improved on the ground and this move just goes to prove that they have yet again failed in doing that. Armed guards on board aircraft will not make flying safer and this is just another panic reaction from our ignorant government.
Andrew, UK

If a determined hijacker gets as far as the aeroplane, nothing can stop him.
Tania Misra, London

If a determined hijacker gets as far as the aeroplane, nothing can stop him. Let's just rename the Home Secretary - the Secretary for Homeland Security! After all, in his scheme of things, aping the US is the most appropriate policy!
Tania Misra, London

If there is a bomb on board, what exactly are they going to do? They cannot stop these people who are intent on not only killing others but themselves. I have a terrible fear of flying and this has just made it worse!
KB, Merseyside

This is just another step by the government to invoke more unnecessary apprehension and fear in the public.
Qurban, Manchester, UK

Whilst in principal I am delighted that there will now be some from of security on aircraft I cannot disagree more with the idea of having them armed with conventional weaponry, even if the ammunition used is sub-sonic. The averaged 9mm round even in a sub-sonic configuration still carries a good deal of kinetic energy, possibly enough to cause depressurization.
Jason, Manchester UK

To be honest I would feel very uneasy knowing that someone is armed onboard my plane at 35,000 feet. On the other hand if something did happen I would feel better knowing that they are there. I do not think there is a clear answer on this one as there are many pros and cons.
Liam, West Bromwich, England

Air Marshals are a good idea, but the carrying of conventional guns in my opinion is not.
Jim Callaway, Wells Somerset

Air Marshals are a good idea, but the carrying of conventional guns in my opinion is not. One reason for this is if a conventional weapon was discharged it could damage critical safety systems within the aircraft also give rise to a major failure of the aircraft structure.
Jim Callaway, Wells Somerset

Bad idea, terrible. This is a Home Secretary jumping on American band wagons having lost the plot entirely.
David Jones, Staines, UK

This is a great idea and just as we are encouraging community Policing to make cities safer, air marshals will also be able to deal with unruly passengers not just terrorists. Chances of them using conventional guns are remote, so the worries about damage to the aircraft are unfounded.
Alex, London, England

Surely if they have the intelligence to know there is a threat to the flight they should cancel it. Putting armed people on a plane is a ridiculous idea.
Peter Hewitt, Borders

As I work for an airline I think it will help some nervous passengers make the decision to fly. It will work as long as the guns are not in view.
Chris Haynes, Nottingham

I am a frequent flyer to the US and welcome the added security that this last possible marshal could offer.
Dave, Reigate
I am a frequent flyer to the US and welcome the added security that this last possible marshal could offer. The argument for "not putting a loaded gun on board for a hijacker to use" is nonsense, if somebody wants a gun on a plane they will get their own gun on board, the number of times I've seen airport staff merrily waved on through after setting off metal detectors.
Dave, Reigate

Having armed air marshals will only hand an ideal opportunity for terrorists to arm in the air if they so desire, by simply holding innocent passengers hostage and simply asking the air marshal to make themselves known and hand over their piece. It's crazy to have a gun on the plane!!
Ed Sexton , Twickenham UK

Well done; this will save terrorists the trouble of smuggling weapons on board.
Paul Barron, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

This is complete madness. It will only make me feel more nervous about flying to think I am sharing a pressurized tin can flying at 30,000 feet with a gun.
Steven Burns, Reading, UK

I'm sure most planes are not designed to fly very well with bullet holes in the windows.
Bob Mycroft, Harrogate

This just sounds like madness - apart from the fact that it means that there "will" now be guns on board planes, what happens if the gun is fired? I'm sure most planes are not designed to fly very well with bullet holes in the windows.
Bob Mycroft, Harrogate

Does anyone remember that they didn't actually hijack the planes for 9/11 using guns? They didn't even use the knives, they were just for visual effect. What they used was the threat of an explosive device hidden on the plane. It is hard to imagine a gun helping you in that situation. You are confronted by people fully intent on giving their lives to accomplish the mission.
Z, France

A good idea in theory, but how will these sky marshals determine who is a potential terrorist and who is not? Given the increasing number of civil liberties that are being sacrificed in the name of "our own security" - how long would it be before a passenger ends up handcuffed to their seat and gagged merely for complaining that their in-flight meal is cold?
Richard Hughes, Northants, UK

Are they insane? Allowing armed people on board an aeroplane? Do they really think that a terrorist would not be able to pass himself off as a guard armed and ready, it's like handing them the plane on a silver platter....
A Evans, N Wales

You need to stop the threat on the ground, before flight.
Keith P, Reigate, England
Having guns on a plane is a bad move. You need to stop the threat on the ground, before flight. Having any form of explosive device in a pressurised cabin is crazy. It would be interesting to see the risk assessments that were carried out and the risk level if the device is used.
Keith P, Reigate, England

Whilst a good idea in principle, it does raise the concern that, with an air marshal on board, there will be at least one firearm on the plane. I am sure that disarming an air marshal would not be easy, but it does give rise to the possibility of a potential hijacker not having to smuggle a weapon on board but obtaining a weapon once on board.
Bryn Roberts, Richmond, Yorkshire, UK

Perhaps some form of bullet-proof shielding inside the passenger compartments could be incorporated into the aircraft design, although resulting in higher travel costs, I'm sure that during an aircrafts lifespan the cost per passenger would be minimal and worth every penny for the extra safety it could provide.
Nigel Mawer, UK







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