When the world powers decide to meet it is always a huge deal. I flew a trip this weekend that went from the west coast to JFK. As I approached the gate agent at my departure gate, I noticed a lot of young, healthy, looking men that pretty much looked the same, standing near the gate agent. I was introduced to a secret service agent who showed me his identification badge, then told me he was with another 14 secret service agents, all carrying weapons. They were on their way to support a larger force at the United Nations meetings in New York City. Standing next to him were two Federal Air Marshals who were working my flight. I had a total of 17 guns on my flight. I felt very secure! It is not unusual to have a few law enforcement agents on board who are armed in the line of duty. I have seen agents from Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Departments of the Interior, Treasury, Education, IRS, Naval Investigation, Post Office, Sheriff, Highway Patrol, Various Police Departments, and numerous others.
As the captain, it is my responsibility to know who is armed and where they are sitting. If there is more than one armed agent on board, then they all need to know who the other person or persons are that are armed as well and where they are sitting. We pilots can now be trained to carry weapons as well. I remember a flight once out of Miami, when I approached the gate noticing a striking, tall woman, who was wearing a leopard skin body suit. This thing was made out of spandex and could only be worn by someone who had the guts to wear it and the body to fit it. She obviously had both. The poor gate agent was a young man who was drooling like Pavlov’s dog, was beat red in the face, and was stammering on every word. I was introduced to the woman and was told she was a deputy form the Dade County Sheriffs Office. I checked her I.D. and welcomed her. I told her she could board with me and she did. As we were walking down the jet way I asked her if she had any bags. She did not. I stopped, looked at her and said, “O.K., where the heck do you carry your gun?” She smiled and said, “Captain, if I tell you, I have to kill you.” “That’s fair.” I said. I did not say another word and neither did she.
After an uneventful flight we went to our hotel in Manhattan. The copilot and I went out for the evening and on our return found many streets completely blocked off to vehicle and foot traffic. They were the expensive hotels near Park Avenue and the U.N. It was obvious the security was being increased for the many Heads of State and their entourages. As we left Manhattan the next day for JFK we noticed a high level of security along our route. While taxing out that afternoon we saw several aircraft from other countries that are their version of Air Force 1. We also saw a high speed convoy using a perimeter road to get around the normal airport traffic to go directly to an aircraft. I was able to get a picture of a convoy of dignitaries and the Republic of Angola’s aircraft. Be Safe, FlyGuy.