> Library

Knives on Planes
Defending Against Edged Weapons on Commercial Flights
 More of this Feature
• Part 1: Hijacker with a Knife
• Part 2: Defending Against a Knife
 Join the Discussion
"My favourite improvised weapon? The one that saved my butt - a metal wastepaper bin applied lovingly to the chin of my assailant."
 Related Resources
• Distance: Maai
• Force Continuum
• Nunchaku
• Martial Arts: Arnis/Escrima/Kali
• Martial Arts: Kung Fu
• Martial Arts: Knife Fighting
• Martial Arts: Police
• Martial Arts: Weapons
 From Other Guides
• About Air Travel
• About US Government
 Elsewhere on the Web
• Federal Aviation Administration

Updated Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Defending Against a Knife

If you were faced with a knife-wielding hijacker, what could you do?

Getting others to help in a concerted effort--fighting as a team--was how the ANA copilot and others overpowered their hijacker. Without training, most folks would be reluctant to take on a knife-wielding hijacker. But in dire circumstances, ordinary people can perform heroic acts.

The San Jose Mercury News reported that on United Flight 93, which crashed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, Californian Tom Burnett called his wife from the plane, telling her, "We're all going to die, but three of us are going to do something."


Regardless of the martial art you study, you'd want to control the distance--maai--between you and your attacker. Staying outside his range prevents you from getting cut, but you can't do much to stop him that way. You'll have to close the distance fast, and immobilize the knife while stopping your attacker.

You might seek improvised weapons to help you defend yourself--on a jetliner, a seat belt would make an effective flexible weapon: almost like nunchaku when swinging the heavy buckle. A food tray could be used as a shield, or a carafe of piping hot coffee could be thrown into the hijacker's face.

Undoubtedly, in the aftermath of this terrible tragedy, security measures will be escalated to prevent any weapons from being brought on board planes. Martial arts training for flight crew, and armed air marshals for flights, could help counter future hijackings. We can only hope and pray that it never happens again.

For more information, check out the resources here at About Martial Arts.

Previous Articles

All content copyright © 1999-2016 James Hom