"We hope that very soon, within the next week perhaps, and I would hope that no later than a month, to be announcing positions for federal air marshals nationwide," said David Adams, a spokesman for the Federal Air Marshal Service.
On Sept. 11, 2001, there were only 33 air marshals. There was a massive hiring after the attacks, although the actual number hired is classified. Meanwhile, marshal numbers have dwindled at an attrition rate of about 6.5 percent per year, which is average for a government law enforcement agency.
Even at full strength, the air marshals can only cover only about five percent of the nation's estimated 28,000 daily commercial flights.
Some airports, such as those in New York and Washington, D.C., considered to be at higher risk for terrorism, carry a much higher percentage of air marshals on flights than other airports, agency officials said.