Airline self defense begins before you board the plane. In Israel we believe that security is everybody's responsibility. In New York I have seen the signs, "If you see something - say something". That is our philosophy too; thus instead of having a handful of security guards you have an entire airport filled with 'amateur' security guards keeping their eyes and ears open.
Anything suspicious should be reported. It is better to be safe than sorry. Worst comes to worst you can apologize later. Remember, the X ray machine does not pick up everything. Personal Safety expert Arthur Cohen showed me a variety of non-metal weapons and other devices that can easily be smuggled through metal detectors. It is a mistake to completely rely on machines; we must still be alert.
This type of fighting is part of a category known as Fighting in Confined Quarters; in other words, your repertoire of techniques is not only severely limited by the small confines of the plane, but, you actually have to modify many techniques to make them work in this unique environment. Most martial arts schools do not teach these techniques. In Krav Maga we train for these types of situations.
There are various situations you might encounter
Being personally threatened
Being attacked or threatened either while seated or while walking in the aisle. If you are seated and the terrorist has targeted you for being his hostage, he might come from behind and put a knife to your throat. As scary as this is the good news is there are effective defenses. There are various defenses, all basically involve pining his knife arm to your body, rotating towards the knife and slipping under his arm. There are no short cuts; you will have to come to a seminar to learn this.
You might also be threatened while standing. This threat can come from either the front or the back. Again, there are many defenses against such attacks. Our defenses take into account such factors as the position of the knife, whether or not his grabbing your shirt or arm, or if he is at a distance.
Another passenger or flight attendant is being threatened
Held at knife point or being choked. There are two options; either approaching from the front or back. Either way you must be discreet and careful. If you are coming from behind you can either choke the person or use a belt to do the same. Make sure you can complete control of the terrorist as you don't want them running amok with a blade.
Krav Maga, and all police work, incorporates team work. Try to make contact with other passengers who can help. You have the advantage of much greater numbers, if you can mobilize them.
A few Thoughts by a retired Air Line Pilot
After 911, as an Air Line flight crew member, I knew we needed something in the way of skills and training, that we, as an industry did not have. As an industry, and a nation, we changed forever on that day, we have evolved in hardware, procedures, and mind set, and are still evolving.
On December 7, 1941 our new enemy utilized 6 aircraft carriers, 408 aircraft and 5 midget submarines and inflicted 2,402 casualties. On 911, nineteen hijackers armed with box cutters inflicted 2,996 immediate deaths.
Since 911, I found and acquired a ‘skill set’ that, if commonly known by flight crews (and passengers!!!) at the time of the 911 attacks, would likely have rendered all the hijackings a failure for the attackers. That skill is Krav Maga. Krav Maga is an extreme self defense system and mentality designed for personal defense in close quarters. ‘Close quarters’ perfectly describes the environment of a disturbance within, or the potential takeover of an aircraft. Krav Maga is not system that takes years to master, basic skills come quickly, as does the basic mind set. 19 box cutters is not 408 enemy aircraft, 19 box cutters is a manageable threat.
Although edged weapons are a (most?) likely on board terrorist weapon, Krav Maga emphasizes gun disarms, in the unlikely event such weapons find their way past today’s screening procedures. Krav Maga also focuses on realistic defense against the unarmed attacker.
TSA’s budget for this year, 2013 is $7,650,000.00. That is 7.65 BILLION! I find no fault with how those tax payer dollars are being spent. My reason for mentioning this budget amount is to bring the costs into perspective. By comparison an investment in Krav Maga training for selected crew members would be an absolute bargain and would be a ‘front line’ last, AND EFFECTIVE defense.
We as Crew Members are well trained to perform our duties and deal with emergencies, an introduction to Krav Maga techniques would give Crew Members one more invaluable skill.
Delta Air Line Captain (Retired)