How to Save Your Life: Airline Hijacking

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Isaac Yeffet






In the case of a hijacking that only involves weapons such as knives or other materials that cannot cause detrimental damage to the aircraft as a whole, passengers must work together as a team and form a unit that will attack the terrorists and allow the passengers and crew to regain control over the aircraft.

In the case where terrorists are armed with guns, hand grenades, or explosives, the passenger's role in such a situation becomes very limited.  Unfortunately, the only advice that one could give to a passenger under such circumstances is to remain seated in order to minimize the risk of the terrorist opening fire or blowing up the aircraft. 

However, in both cases it is the duty of the crew to notify the pilot of what is going on in the cabin. This will enable the captain to react accordingly. He or she will have to notify the government and the airlines headquarters, as well as the nearest authorities to request permission for emergency landing. They will also create turbulence in order to unbalance the terrorist.  By creating turbulence, the captain is providing the opportunity for the crew and passengers to "jump" the terrorists and disarm them.  In addition, the captain should not open the cockpit door under any circumstances unless authorized by the government.

There is only so much negotiating and maneuvering that can be done while the aircraft is under siege in mid-air.  Therefore, the best way to put a stop to hijacking is by having high levels of security implemented by qualified and trained personnel both on the ground and in the air.  
In addition to that, intelligence work must be done by the Federal government and by the airlines' security departments.

While there are many factors in dealing with a hijacker, here are some basic things that an individual can do to help prevent a hijacking:

1) When you first get on the plane, open your eyes for suspicious passengers and alert the flight attendants of anyone who is acting strangely.

2) During the flight, if you notice any suspicious behavior, you need to immediately call the flight attendant. The flight attendant needs to then look out for any strong passengers that can help in restraining the suspicious passenger if need be.

As the head of security for an airline, I can't ask my passengers to risk their lives and jump on a terrorist. This is why we need air marshals on every flight.

Isaac Yeffet is the former Director of Security for El Al Airlines.