The Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service maintains oversight of the Law Enforcement Officers flying armed program under Title 49 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) § 1544.219 Carriage of Accessible Weapons. The following information is intended to assist law enforcement agencies and officers to comply with Federal Regulation.
1. What are the requirements for a state or local Law Enforcement Officer to fly armed?
The Requirements for a LEO to fly armed aboard commercial aircraft are outlined in 49 CFR § 1544.219 Carriage of Accessible Weapons.
To qualify to fly armed, Federal Regulation states that an officer must meet the following basic requirements:
- Be a Federal LEO or a full-time municipal, county, or state LEO who is a direct employee of a government agency;
- Be sworn and commissioned to enforce criminal statutes or immigration statutes;
- Be authorized by the employing agency to have the weapon in connection with assigned duties; and
- Have completed the authorized TSA training program entitled "Law Enforcement Officers Flying Armed." Refer to the TSA training website at LEOFA@dhs.gov or contact the Federal Air Marshal Service at (855) FLY-LEOS (359-5367) for further information.
2. What are the procedures for a state or local Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) to fly armed?
- Have the operational need to fly armed;
- The LEO's employing agency transmits a properly formatted message, via National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System (NLETS);
- An NLETS message, with Unique Identifier, is transmitted from the Transportation Security Operations Center to the LEO's employing agency;
- On the day of travel, the LEO must:
- Check-in at the airline ticket counter
- Present identification
- Fill out the armed traveler paperwork provided by the airline, referred to as Person Carrying Firearms (PCFA) forms. (Note: Each airline has its own specific PCFA paperwork.)
- Proceed to the Armed LEO Screening Checkpoint
- At the Armed LEO Screening Checkpoint, the LEO must:
- Provide the Unique Identifier from the NLETS message
- Display his/her badge, credentials, boarding pass, a second form of government identification, and required airline PCFA forms
- The LEO will complete the LEO Logbook and proceed to the boarding gate; and
- At the boarding gate, the LEO will provide the Gate Agent with the airline's armed traveler paperwork PCFA form and follow further boarding procedures.
3. When should the NLETS message regarding armed LEO travel be submitted?
It is recommended that agencies transmit the NLETS message a minimum of 24 hours prior to travel to ensure routing of the information prior to day of travel.
4. What if a LEO has not submitted an NLETS message but does have the Original Letter of Authority from his Chief or Agency Head?
The Original Letter of Authority is no longer required. NLETS replaces the letter.
5. What happens if a LEO advises that his/her employing agency sent an NLETS message but does not know the Unique Identifier?
The LEO will be asked to contact the employing agency to obtain the Unique Identifier.
6. What is the three letter airport code that is required in the NLETS message and where can I find these codes?
The airport code is a three letter designator for a commercial airport. These are the codes that airlines and pilots use to identify airports and are used in timetables, baggage tags, tickets, advertisements, airline and global reservation systems. There are approximately 9,000 codes currently in use.
The Federal Aviation Administration three letter airport codes can also be found on airlines websites, on travel itineraries, or by searching the internet.
The Federal Aviation Administration website identifies every "known and recognized U.S. airport" that is covered by this flying armed procedure.
This procedure applies for every TSA-screened airport and every commercial aviation flight.
7. What if a LEO experiences an unexpected itinerary change (weather, delays, re-routing)?
If the change(s) does not affect the Date of Travel, the existing NLETS message will be accepted as long as the LEO is traveling through the same airports.
If the date of travel or airport information changes, a new NLETS message will be required.
8. Do these procedures have to be followed for each departure and returning flight or will one authorization number cover both departure and return?
One NLETS number is required for each date flying armed regardless of the number of travel legs. If an extradition requires an overnight stay, a second NLETS number is needed for the return trip.
9. Are there additional procedures for international travel required to conduct official law enforcement business?
No. International travelers should not travel armed as they are subject to the laws of the foreign nation immediately upon arrival and, generally, will be subject to arrest.
10. Please define "required training." Is there any waiver procedure for officers who have not completed training but may be required to travel immediately?
No. There is no waiver of the required training. The failure to complete the training will prevent one from flying armed. The training is available from the Federal Air Marshal Service. The program training material may be obtained by emailing the Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service (OLE/FAMS), Office of Training and Workforce Programs, at email@example.com. For general questions or guidance related to LEOs flying armed or for time sensitive training requests, please contact the OLE/FAMS at (855) FLY-LEOS (359-5367) or LEOFA@dhs.gov.
11. HR 218 allows retired officers to carry a firearm. What procedures are in place for retired personnel who are legally authorized to carry a firearm to fly armed?
Although HR 218 permits a retired officer to carry a weapon, a retired officer is excluded from flying armed. Retired officers must place their non-loaded weapon inside a locked gun case and place it inside checked luggage. The weapon MUST be declared with the airline at the time of check in.
12. Does the NLETS message replace the requirement to notify the airline of the Law Enforcement Officer's (LEO) intent to fly armed or complete the required paperwork?
No. A LEO with an operational need to travel armed must present acceptable credentials to the airline as outlined in 49 CFR § 1544.219. In addition, a LEO must complete any required airline paperwork, referred to as Person Carrying Firearm (PCFA) forms. (Note: Each airline provides its own specific PCFA paperwork.)
Who to Contact
For general questions or guidance related to Law Enforcement Officers flying armed, please contact the Office of Law Enforcement/Federal Air Marshal Service at (855) FLY-LEOS (359-5367) or LEOFA@dhs.gov.