Denver is home to one of the 21 federal air marshal field offices in the United States. Armed air marshals are noted for traveling undercover on airliners to protect the passengers, crew and aircraft; however, they also work diligently to secure the nation’s aviation infrastructure. There are almost 15,000 airports in the U.S. although only roughly 376 of them have regularly scheduled airline service. The state of Colorado has about 80 airports, including the fifth busiest in the country.
Air Marshal Job Requirements in Colorado
Candidates interested in becoming air marshals in Colorado must meet the following requirements:
- Bachelor’s degree or better from a four-year college/university
- Three years relevant experience (law enforcement, criminal investigations, airline security, etc.)
In addition to these basic requirements:
- U.S. citizen
- Younger than 37 years of age
- No felony or domestic abuse convictions
- Good health
- Physically fit
Candidates who meet these requirements must successfully pass the following:
- Thorough background check
- Panel interview
- Suitability assessment
- Drug test
- Medical exam
- Psychological evaluation
- Physical fitness test
Although only a bachelor’s degree is typically used to qualify for these jobs, graduate studies or a master’s degree will improve a candidate’s chances of being hired. Degrees should be in a relevant field, such as criminal justice, law enforcement, police science, homeland security, public safety, aviation management, etc.
Colorado has nine four-year public institutions of higher education. The two largest state universities have campuses in five different cities between them. Roughly 31 Colorado schools have programs in criminal justice from which an average of 1,167 students graduate each year.
Training Requirements for Air Marshal Jobs in Colorado
Newly hired air marshals must complete two training programs:
- 35-days at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Artesia, NM
- 43 days at the Federal Air Marshal’s Training Center in Atlantic City.
The training programs include classroom studies, field work, role play in a mock airliner, physical fitness course, and firing range practice. It is especially important for air marshals to be in excellent physical shape and to excel at marksmanship so that they can hit a target in an airplane without injuring innocent passengers or the airliner. Classroom studies include:
- Investigative techniques
- Terrorist/criminal behavioral traits
- Close-quarters self-defense
- Constitutional law
- Aircraft specific strategies
- Emergency medical treatments
Major Airports in Colorado
Denver International Airport (DEN) – At 54 square miles, DEN is the largest airport in the United States by area. One of the airport’s six runways is the nation’s longest public use runway and its 327-foot tower is one of the tallest in North America. DEN had 25,241,962 passenger boardings in 2010. Located 25 miles from downtown Denver, the readers of “Business Traveler” magazine voted DEN “The best runway in North America” six years in a row from 2005 to 2010. In 2002, “Time” magazine named it “The best run airport in America. DEN is the only airport in the U.S. to have fully implemented a certified environmental management system for the entire airport.
City of Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS) – Located six miles southeast of Colorado Springs, COS had 877,362 passenger boardings in 2010. Its three runways average approximately 419 aircraft operations a day. The single terminal is undergoing a renovation. The primary destinations from first to seventh are Denver, Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles.
Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE) – The 573-acre airport located three miles northwest of Aspen sits at an elevation of 7,820 feet. Its one runway handled 222,755 passenger boardings in 2010 and it currently averages 98 daily aircraft operations. ASE closes 30 minutes after sundown and reopens in the morning.
Grand Junction Regional Airport (GJT) – located three miles northeast of Grand Junction, it is the largest airport in western Colorado. The two-runway, single-terminal airport sits at an elevation of 4,853 feet and had 219,358 passenger boardings in 2010. It handles approximately 139 aircraft operations a day with destinations to Denver, Dallas, Ft. Worth, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and Phoenix.
Homeland Security Secretary Praises Air Marshals
On April 7, 2010, then Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano praised two air marshals for their “swift response to a potential threat to passenger safety.” The incident occurred on United Flight 663 from D.C. to Denver when a first-class male passenger was caught lighting matches in the lavatory. With thoughts of the shoe bomber in mind, the air marshal confronted the man who verbally joked about a bomb. The plane was escorted to a landing spot at a remote section of Denver International Airport where federal law enforcement officials took the individual into custody. Although no explosives were found – the man was trying to sneak a smoke – Napolitano personally called the air marshals to praise them for their diligence protecting the flying public which she said, “largely goes unnoticed.”