My last trip abroad took me to Turkey, and although it’s not the most dangerous place I’ve ever been, there is a threat there and it is severe. To prepare for my journey there, I took several steps, from packing my hand luggage to utilize in an emergency, to carrying out counter surveillance while at the airport. I’d suggest you follow these same simple tips I employed to ensure your next flight is a safe one, regardless of where you’re heading or who may be on board.
1. Lay off the sleeping pills and the booze
Whenever I travel now, I err on the side of caution. There have been too many incidents in the sky not to, as far as I’m concerned. Gone are the days of getting totally shit-faced or dumping sleeping pills and gonking all around the world. I want a fighting chance if the jihadis take me on. You may never encounter anything on your flight, but how pissed would you be if on the day of the biggest race of your life, you were asleep? Not this guy. I’m ready for it and I’m planning the next step the entire way until I’m safe again. It is sad that I should have to be like this, but it’s a reflection of the times.
I don’t sleep on flights if I’m on my own and it’s under five hours long. If it’s over that time and I’m with someone, we split the time. If I’m on my own, I’ll try to stay up, but if it’s over eight hours long, I’ll catnap 20 minutes here and there. I’ll take a lazy walk to the toilet every so often to see if everything’s OK, and sometimes I’ll just hover about around the back of the plane pretending to stretch my legs if I’m not happy.
2. Pack a bag of tricks
Forget hand luggage, my carry-on is a veritable grab sack full of everything I need to survive—everything that I can legally carry on a plane, anyway. My primary weapon is my Surefire torch/flashlight. There are 101 tricks I can pull with that handy tool. The rest includes a warming kit, comms gear, chargers, a small first aid kit, a compass, a whistle, a short length of rope or plastic cuffs (restraints), a magazine of good quality (for rolling into a solid club), and a military-issue tourniquet. The sack itself becomes a shield against blades or fists. Everything I carry I have trained with and know how to get the best use from. None of it is rocket science, just an awareness of how I can utilise everyday items in an emergency, inflict maximum pain for minimum effort, defend myself and others, and restrain anyone intent on causing harm.
3. Choose an aisle seat
So I’m out the door and I’m tooled up as best as the authorities will let me. I’m in economy this trip and I want an aisle seat. I need to be able to get up and at ’em if it goes off.
4. Dress down to blend in
I strive to remain the gray man. I don’t want to be identified as the one who is going to spoil the day as far as the bad guys are concerned. I dress down. I don’t want to look like the operator on tour. It’s more like reading glasses and cardigan than North Face and Oakleys. Dressing in the latter could make me the first target.
5. Keep your head on a swivel
Even before I get on the plane, I’m sizing people up. At the check-in and the gate, I’m looking for any sign that something is wrong. Once I’m on the plane, I like to know who is seated where. An extended time spent putting my luggage away or a slow walk to the toilet sorts that out.
6. Be ready to channel your inner MacGyver
Once I’m seated, I’m looking around to see what else I could utilise if it all goes wrong. Stewardess trolleys become battering rams, food trays become shields if they are hard plastic, blades once they are broken in half. It really is an A-TEAM-type scenario in my own mind. Just about every object has a use, if required, other than what it was intended for. You would be amazed how much time a jug of hot tea in the face will buy you.
7. If things go wrong, choose carefully your moment to act
If it does all go wrong, then it’s likely that there will be a few assailants at least, and at some stage they will be seeking to gain access to the pilot. You need to pick your time to do something. Too early and you may get overwhelmed. You may not see someone who could counter your counter attack. Too late, and the thing is out of the sky. Try to comply with orders being given while identifying what is happening. You need to know how many assailants there are, where they are, and what they have (weapon-wise). Then, work out what they are trying to do. It may be that they are seeking to hijack the plane. This will buy you some time if they have a grievance to air with someone.
If it looks like they are going to land, you may be better off awaiting an SF rescue, which will already be in the planning stage. The worst-case scenario is that they want to pile the thing into the ground and use it as a weapon. In this scenario, you are going to have to do something, and it is going to have to be as brutal as you can manage.
People are going to have to be restrained. I was once taught that the only true form of restraint is unconsciousness or death. That will give you an idea of how I intend to deal with someone intent on bringing me out of the sky. There is an old saying that it is better to be tried by 12 than carried by six. When my life is ultimately the thing at stake, then I wholeheartedly agree with this statement.
8. Triage any wounded following an attack
If there are casualties, they need to be dealt with and prioritized according to those closest to death, unless they are part of the vital crew (pilots, co-pilots). In that case, you need them in a position where they can at least supervise the well-being of the aircraft. In the event of there being nobody left to control the plane, there are desperate measures, but that’s another lesson. Keep watching this space, and until next time, “Who dares wins.”
Featured image courtesy of Getty Images