Beers Across America points out a very good piece in AviationNow about
difficulties in getting air mashals onto flights with possible security risks. If a gate agents believes that there is a potential security risk on the plane, there might not be enough time to get a marshal on board before takeoff. This is one of the problems with the current system that needs to be fixed.
However, the article seems to indicate that there are more air marshals in the skies that one would think. Also, many details of the system are classified, and this secrecy helps keep potential threats from being able to know if a flight has a marshal on it or not. It’s looking like the air marshal system may be a very effective link in the airport security chain.
Still, air marshals can’t be everywhere. Arming pilots clearly would be another strong link, but until the Transportation Department or the new Homeland Security Department is willing to stop bowing to political correctness, that remains an unlikely scenario.