Reader Mail : “Can You Tell Me Why Armed TSA Agents Are Searching Private Planes?”

What better way to jump back into writing Flying With Fish than pulling out some reader mail … it has been piling up. I have been answering many via email directly, some on Twitter, but jumping back in with Reader mail just seems like the best way to get back rolling.


This Reader Mail comes Patricia Mark, from “around Opa-locka Executive Airport.” Patricia writes “Twice now I have watched TSA screeners approach arriving planes with guns and force people out of them as they search it. Is this legal?” … yadda yadda yadda …” Can You Tell Me Why Armed TSA Agents Are Searching Private Planes?


Patricia’s email comes around the same time I heard something similar from people in Southern California and in Nevada.  So on paper it would seem that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is now searching private aircraft with armed screeners … however … this is not the case what-so-ever.  TSA Transportation Security Officers do not search private aircraft, nor are they armed.   TSA Office of Law Enforcement personnel , who are armed , do not search aircraft.   At times a TSA K-9 unit may assist in a search at the request of local law enforcement or another Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agency.


What Patricia has seen are aircraft that have been met by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Federal Agents. Some of these agents are H.S.I. agents within CBP and ICE.


If an aircraft arrives that CBP or ICE has reason to believe is violating Customs or Immigrations laws, the aircraft will be met and searched. These agencies search under the authority of Title 19 of the United States Code, and have the authority to search for people entering the country illegally, drugs, money laundering, weapons and other things that may warrant a complete search of the aircraft, as well as enforce duties and tariffs. Generally these aircraft have entered the United States from elsewhere or arrived from an unknown point of origin.


As for “armed agents,”  CBP and ICE agents are Federal Agents and as such they are always armed when on duty.


Happy Flying!



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