Your Tactical Training Scenario- Violent Airline Passenger

Written by Greg Ellifritz

Topics: Tactical Training Scenarios

  • SumoMe

Written by: Greg Ellifritz



It seems to happen on a weekly basis…a plane is diverted for emergency landing on the account of a violent passenger.  One of the more recent cases involved a man who attempted to open a door mid-flight, attacked a flight attendant, and placed a passenger in a choke hold.



Since 9/11, folks have been pretty alert and quick to respond to violence on a plane.  That’s a good thing.  The problem we have is now the exact opposite of the one that we had before 9/11.  Hijackers aren’t likely to use physical methods to take over planes anymore.  Passengers are prepared to act and would slaughter them if they did so.  I doubt there will be another 9/11 style hijacking in the United States in our lifetime.



Even though it’s doubtful to be a hijacking, when passengers start getting violent on a plane, it becomes extremely problematic.  It could be a hijacker, it could be a drunk (like the case above) or it could be anything in between.  No matter what the cause, violence on a plane puts all the passengers in danger.  Here’s what you should be thinking about if you encounter a violent airline passenger:



It could be a drunk, someone on drugs or a mentally ill passenger.   In fact, it is MOST LIKELY to be one of these categories.  Lots of people are just plain crazy.  Others get nervous before flying and drink too much or take sedatives and sleep aids which cause irrational behavior.  If you encounter one of these folks, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t respond, it just means that your response need not automatically default to breaking necks, crushing throats, and killing people until you are certain the plane is actually being hijacked.



All air flight crew carry flex cuffs. They don’t use them often and may forget they have them. If you have wrestled someone down, ask one of the flight crew to bring you the cuffs. That’s much easier than sitting on the dude for 40 minutes until the plane can land. You should probably know how to work flex cuffs in advance before relying on this tactic (hint, they are just like thick zip ties).



You should also know how to choke a person unconscious to get them under control if other means don’t work.  Hire a good judo or jujitsu instructor for a couple of hours to teach you some chokes.  If that isn’t an option, check out a book like Choke ‘Em Out , which walks you through the process.



This might be a dry run. There may be other unidentified accomplices aboard just watching to evaluate the response of the passengers and crew so that they can counter the responses in a future attack. After the immediate crisis is over, pay attention to who may be paying too much attention to what is going on. Try to watch to see who the “attacker” speaks to or makes eye contact with before and during the event.  Make sure you relay this information to the responding police officers when the plane lands.



It may also be a diversion. Always look for additional threats. This guy’s role may be to cause a problem to bring all of the resistance-minded passengers to one area of the plane so that an accomplice has additional time to break into the cockpit. The accomplice(s) may also be watching the resisters so that they can take them out before the hijacking occurs.



One other possibility is that they use a ploy like this to see if there are any air marshals or armed cops on board. The air marshals and/or cops are likely to intervene, making them vulnerable to a surprise attack as they take action against the unruly passenger. If you notice an air marshal or cop getting involved (and you are not already engaged in the act of ass whipping), watch the cop’s back as he takes care of the bad guy.



Keep these thoughts in mind the next time you fly.   Train hard and travel safely.




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2 Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. TatendaZim says:

    Take some DIY flat-fold duct tape in your carry on, just in case there are no cuffs available.

  2. MD says:

    Good scenario to think about. I generally try to get an aisle seat so I respond to such an event, if necessary. Several years ago I helped two female cops subdue a drunken passenger on the flight line. They were having a hard time with him, but after I put a rear naked choke on him he became much less belligerent, although slightly limp. The female cops were appreciative, yet slightly irritated they’d been shown up by a man.

    Some folks suggest taking a roll of quarters or a padlock onto the plane, with a sock, and constructing an improvised sap once on board. Not a bad idea, I suppose, but it could cause some serious damage. I’d prefer to rely on basic hand-to-hand skills.