Don't Call Me Shirley

Surely You're Prepared On An Airplane

Who doesn't enjoy the movie, "Airplane?"  Few of us are qualified to take over the controls if the pilot is incapacitated, but what can you do to be prepared for a survivable crash or a hijacking attempt?

I carried a pocket knife of some sort on every flight I took from about the age of 12 until 9/11.  As a kid, it was a Swiss Army Knife and a Buck folder, as an adult, it was usually a SAK and  Spyderco.  I figured out that sitting in the exit row not only gives me extra leg room for comfort, but maneuverability room and first access to the emergency exit.  After 9/11, I've experimented with improvised weapons when I've flown.  I always take a magazine with me.  Rolled up tight, it can be used with fair effectiveness as a baton, or jabbing implement (the throat is my favorite target, followed by the solar plexus).  Once, coming back from Seattle, I packed a pair of hardwood chopsticks in a pouch.  They can easily take out an eye, or penetrate the ear.  A heavy duty sock with a can of soft drink in it makes for a fine swinging weapon.  The other day, Ron Hood was getting interviewed on The Survival Podcast and mentioned that he carries a chain, about the length of his forearm, with a padlock on one end and his keys (including a key to the lock) on the other.  It can be used to secure a briefcase to a chair leg in the departure lounge, or an improvised nunchuk-like weapon. 

Aside from weapons, what else can save your life while flying?  I carry a small kit, similar to what I had on the subway in DC a few posts back.  A pair of work gloves, safety glasses, and a N-95 mask.  The mask can be helpful if you're surrounded by sick people, but won't do much for smoke or noxious fume protection.  I also have a small flashlight, some tape, some cordage, and a small first aid kit.  I like to keep my carry-on bag fairly small so that I can grab it and go if I need to.

It goes without saying to know where the exits are and how they work.  Stay alert and don't be embarrassed or think you'll be called racist if you report suspicious behaviors.  I prefer an aisle seat for mobility unless I'm in the exit row, then I prefer a window seat.  The front bulkhead row is my second favorite row.  There's almost as much leg room as the exit rows, and you have a short movement into first class and you only have one direction to look to see everyone in the plane.

Getting through airport security is a real pain these days, but dressing for security leaves you vulnerable for the rest of your trip.  I suggest wearing a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops until you get through, then changing into your boots, jeans/cargo pants, sturdy belt, and long-sleeve, natural fiber shirt before boarding the plane.  Avoid synthetic fibers when flying.  If there is a fire, nylon, rayon, etc... will melt to your body.

If flying overseas, check out the State Department travel warnings while planning your trip and shortly before you leave.  Don't dress like an "American."  Leave the cowboy hat and Toby Keith t-shirt at home.  This could get us heading into a whole 'nother topic, so I'll leave it at that.


  1. I have carried a 3/8 x 6 inch machine bolt with two flat washers and 3 nuts from one side of the nation to the other...

    If deployed "ice pick" style, it would leave a nice hexagonal dent in someone's skull. If deployed thrusting style, it might not break the skin, but image the effect if you were jabbed in the ribs by a blunt piece of metal...

    Most of the bolts I have seen in hardware stores are only threaded an inch or so on the main body of the bolt. The idea of carrying the three nuts is that I could apply the nuts to the bolt and have a small make-shift hammer. I have not come up with any ideas for the washers other than to make it more innocent looking to a TSA fellow. I was asked one time why I had a bolt and replied that on the way to the airport I stopped by a hardware store and purchased it and the end use use to assemble a home-made bunkbed for my kids.

    I have also carried an ice scrapper for a windshield. Those are made of some pretty hard plastic and could be sharpened up with a file.

    In every day life outside of the airport, I carry a "cat's paw". A "cat's paw" is carpenter lingo for a 9 inch nail puller. It's hooked on one end to increase leverage for pulling nails and the other end is designed to be driven under a nail and then placed over a fulcrum to pull nails... Both ends have two very wicked "talons" to get under the nail and would do considerable damage to people or property. I wrapped the handle with duct tape for comfort as well as to have a nice easy to get to supply of tape. It is heavy enough to use as a hammer, and I have used it once to break a window of a vehicle to rescuse someone that was in a pretty bad wreck so I know it works.

    There's my $.02...

    Best regards,
    Nor' Country in Alaska

  2. Anyone who has a good arm might consider packing their vacation souvenir golf balls in their carry-on, rather than their checked bags....

  3. I haven't flown since pre 9-11 and have chosen not to due to the security theater issue. However, I'll be taking a trip this summer that required a flight so I've done some thinking about this.

    I'll be carrying a Surefire light so I'll have a very bright light that will also work as a kubotan. In addition in my bag (carry on only as we don't want to deal with checked luggage) I'll have a Cold Steel Sharkie (which has been re-badged as the Pocket Shark) along with some other writing utensils.

    I'd heard that podcast with Ron Hood and the chain & lock sounded like a great idea. It's something I want pick up and mess around with.

    Depending on the time of year the ice scrapper suggestion would be great too!


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