Member Rara Avis
It's a little strange.
When I got out of the Marines, I was stationed at a reserve base in my home town, Battle Creek, for the last three months of my sentence, er, I mean enlistment. I found a part-time job nights, flipping hamburgers, but also started putting in my application at a lot of "real" jobs. The Corps had taught me to do only one thing well, and my applications reflected that. I applied at most of the local police forces, as a security guard at a big hospital, and - since this was 1970 and the program was in its infancy - as a Sky Marshal.
Strangely enough, the Federal government called me, I interviewed, and was eventually invited for a second interview. I never went on that second interview, though, because the place where I was flipping hamburgers asked me to manage one of their restaurants. I suspect my life would have been very different if not for that small fork in the road.
There are two problems with putting Sky Marshals back in the air, neither of which is insurmountable. The first problem is cost. It will add substantially more to the cost of a ticket than just a bag of peanuts or an unpalatable meal. You won't be paying just the man's daily wages, but also for the whole support structure necessary to make his presence possible. For long flights, the percentage increase would probably be manageable. For shorter flights, however, it could literally double the cost. The other problem, the much bigger problem, is one of availability. To put specially trained personnel on every flight would literally require a not-so-small army and take years to build. While I'm sure it's changed a lot in thirty years, the training that was detailed to me was extensive, expensive, and lasted in the neighborhood of eight weeks. Now, multiply that by a hundred thousand flights a day…
I think there's also a psychological problem, albeit only a possibility at this point. When I applied to the program, flights were being hijacked to Cuba at an alarming rate and it appeared the Sky Marshal group would grow very large. It didn't, because for a variety of reasons hijackings became more rare as the years passed. People were unwilling to pay for a deterrent that appeared less and less necessary. Strangely, a police action that is effective soon makes itself look superfluous.
I have no problem with armed men aboard an airplane IF THEY ARE PROPERLY TRAINED. But that's a big IF. And an expensive IF. If you put a hundred thousand men in any kind of job, some of them are going to be bad at the job. Guaranteed. How many will depend on the training and selection process. Considering the possible repercussions, I think this is one we should plan to do right.
(Don't get me started on the idea of handing out guns to untrained pilots…)