Friday, October 16, 2015

Hijackings: direct action by passengers will help

Today's letter to
John Penrose MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Dear John

Thank you for your letter of 9/10/15, with the response of Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon to my letter of 24/8/15 suggesting that passengers should take direct action against would-be hijackers.

You ask me if I can spot a flaw in the logic used by the Dept of Transport.
I believe I can.

Their reasoning is that although 9/11 happened, measures have been taken to improve security, and these measures have resulted in hijackings becoming relatively rare. Therefore there is no need for additional measures.

In fact, since 2001, there have been no less than 13 hijackings of aircraft since the attack on the Twin Towers in 2001. This is nearly one per year, with the last instance being in 2015, so it is hardly accurate to describe hijacking as “rare”. In three of these attacks* direct action taken by passengers and/or crew resulted in the hijacker being successfully subdued.

None of these 13 hijackings resulted in such a high impact outcome as 9/11, but there is no guarantee that a future hijacking should not result in the downing of a civil airliner, either by the hijackers or by the military if it was thought to be threatening a sensitive site such as a nuclear power station.

The measures introduced after 9/11 may have made marginal improvements to safety, but complacency is an incorrect response. Aviation security and the security of the nation needs continual review and upgrading, and it is very clear that an automatic defensive response by passengers to overpower any would-be hijackers deserves rational consideration.

Let me concede that the sudden introduction of a request for passengers to intervene might not be the best way to start. Public discussion of the issues – a nudge approach – might be equally effective and more acceptable.

I would be grateful if you would ask the Government to give this matter more careful thought.


Richard Lawson

*2011 Turkish Airlines Flight 1754, 2011 Alitalia Flight 329, 2012 Tianjin Flight GS7554 

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