Airline Awareness

As some of my readers are aware, I recently got married. We were lucky enough to spend two weeks in Hawaii for our honeymoon. But even though I was on my honeymoon, you couldn’t take the blogger out of me. I lined up a series of topics I want to write about from my experiences there.

This post is the first of that series: terrorist threats to an airplane. It’s not from a professional security analysis, but more focused on what I might do in these situations.

Before the flight:

Before you board any plane, check in with your instincts. When you get to your gate, look around. Don’t be rude about it by staring at folks. But don’t be shy about observing the people you’re about to get on a plane with. What clothes are they wearing? What are their mannerism? Don’t let bias and prejudice take over, but take in the people that will be sharing this flight with you.

Boarding the Flight:

The aisle seat is the best for mobility and for sight down the walking lane. But, I love the window seat, so I lax on this one. If there were one or more persons I was concerned about, then I would take the aisle seat. My wife, on the other hand, believes the aisle seat keeps you more vulnerable to sneaks attacks, so she prefers the window. Go figure.

The following are walkthroughs of different scenarios. Keep in mind these could change on a drop of a dime and these are just suggestions.Lone person with Psychological Issues:

This person is not a terrorist in the typical definition, but they are highly unstable and pose a threat.

Threat: Before the door has even closed, you see someone yelling and screaming. “We are all going to die.” There have been multiple stories of Captains, Airline Attendants, and passengers who had to be removed from the plane for outbursts.

Action: Your best option is to stay in your seat and let the professionals handle it. You do not want to yell or use fast motions towards this type of person. Calmness is the key; soft, relaxed voice. But again, let the professional deal with this one.


Threat: Shortly after takeoff, someone makes a run for the air locked doors. That person tries to open the airlock door, which would results in deaths of many to all on board. FACT: You can NOT open airlock doors in flight, unless you’re Superman. But this person still intends to do harm to others. This is a true life event!

Action: This is pretty straight forward, rush him/her. If their back is turned to you, kick them in the lower back on the spine as hard as you can. Or chock them from behind. Do NOT stop until they stop moving or you and others have them under control.

Lone terrorist with intent to harm:

Threat: You’re on a small airplane, holding about 60 people. Half way to your designation a man stands in front of the airplane holding a letter opener as weapon. He is threatening to start killing people if the captain doesn’t open his door to let him in.

Action: This is where it gets real hard to tell you how to handle the situation. We have to assume his desire is to crash the plane and kill everyone on board.

Where you sit is a detachable cushion that can be used as a floation device. If possible, grab the one next to you without notice. If you have a coat, wrap it around your arm for extra protection and grab the cushion. Don’t waste time, stand up and advance. Get set in your mind only one of you is leaving this aircraft alive and it will be you!! As you advance, start yelling at him as loud you as can. “I will end you if you do not drop the weapon.” “I WILL KILL YOU, DROP THE WEAPON!!” This is a psychological and physiological tactic. You’re getting your adrenaline ready for a fight and you are taking away HIS psychological advantage. When you get close enough, get ready to spit in his eyes. Use the cushion to absorb the letter opener. Go for eyes, throat, groin, ears, and anywhere else that will put him/her on the floor. Again don’t stop until they stop moving or the person is under control.

Multiple terrorists with intent to harm:

Threat: Here comes the worst case scenario: Multiple terrorist with intent to crash the plane.

Action: Here I have to default to an excellent article I came across, “Fighting back at 40,000 feet” by the website Fighting It is well worth the read.

Key Points:

  • Keep in mind, if nothing is done, you will all die.
  • Honor your family and do what must be done.
  • You will need the coordination of multiple people for multiple threat persons.
  • If you are able to restrain the person, think about using shoe laces to tie his feet and hands.
  • Have one to two people keep an eye on the person until the authorities take custody.
  • Go over this scenario every time you fly. This will increase your chances of remembering, if the event should ever arise.

Final thoughts

This website is not about me telling you how to do something, but about sharing my perspective on topics and hopefully encourage my readers to think about subject areas that will help get you prepared for any kind of emergency situation.

I am not a professional in this subject matter and the above information is what I MAY do if these scenarios should arise. If you have different thoughts or would recommend a website, book, or other information, please leave a comment below.

Only through exchange of ideas can we all learn more. This post can be filed under “Easier said than done”? Your heart will feel like it will pound out of your chest. Fear will flood your mind, and you will not remember what I wrote here. Reach deep down, and do the best you can. You could be the best chance for a father to see his son again.



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  1. October 23, 2012 13:23 Reply

    Great article. I would add a couple things. Looking at your fellow passengers is a great idea, I would add to watch out for a change in the passengers as you go through the boarding process. If someone intends to do something they will get more and more excited and/or nervous as the time for them to do the deed comes closer.

    Where you sit has changed over the years. Before 911 it was advised to sit in the middle because terrorist had a bad habit of running up and down the isles hitting people. I like the outside because I’ll take the hit for the opportunity to hit back.

    When attacking someone, grab anything you can. The cushion would work to absorb a knife blow, but I’d rather have something offensive. A women’s purse might be something nice to swing.

    When you attack think speed, shock force, and violence of action. Suggestion; wait until the attacker has his back to you, jump up and run at him while yelling, once within range attack with everything you have and don’t stop until he stops moving.

    Best part of the article is having an idea of what you will do if something happens. Think through a couple things as you board the plane so you have a plan if something goes wrong.

    Stay Safe,

    • admin
      October 23, 2012 21:28 Reply

      Thank you very much for your input on this topic. As soon as I wrote it, I knew you could provide a greater depth to it.

      For everyone who may not know, Ben has a website on mental preparedness in stressful situations. Lately he has been doing podcast where you get to hear some great stories and insightful information. I would recommend his site to anyone.

      Modern Self

      take care and thanks again!

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