For many years, I flew almost weekly. I took trips throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. I was a segment flyer which means I gained airline status by flying frequently, as opposed to long haul flights, which involves miles. Although I’ve never added up all of the segments flown, it would certainly be greater than two thousand flights. I flew for business, the way most people take mass transportation during rush hour commutes. I have therefore experienced many different scenarios while flying, just based on percentages. I’ve been in a plane that literally turned upside down in a severe thunderstorm, leading me to believe that was it, as we plunged towards the ground. I’ve skidded off runways. I’ve experienced more than a few go-rounds, meaning aborted landings, and I’ve been called to action in several incidents involving unruly passengers.
On the ground, in a mall setting or some other public venue, there’s usually an opportunity to avoid escalating conflicts. On an airplane, that’s not the case. There is nowhere to run and hide. One person, with bad intentions, can cause major problems for all those aboard. We have been seeing an escalating number of incidents on planes recently, and it’s time for authorities and airlines to take better precautions to protect innocent passengers, simply looking forward to visiting loved ones, going on vacation, or traveling on business.
In the latest incident, which occurred onboard a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Boston, Francisco Severo Torres, became unruly and eventually violent. I wanted to address this incident specifically because Torres was recorded threatening to “kill every man on this plane.” If I’m on board the flight, the first thing that comes to mind is that clearly this lunatic is off his meds. That’s a very reasonable assumption, as the guy is crazy, mentally unhinged, whatever you choose to call it. Second, he is a threat to everyone on board the flight. Anyone who would scream that on a plane is potentially dangerous.
The interesting part to me, a 6th degree black belt in Niseido Jujitsu, is that while the guy is making that threat, the man sitting next to him is ignoring him. Perhaps he’s afraid or hoping the situation will be handled by flight attendants and deescalate, but those are all terrible assumptions. This guy was going to do something. It turned out that his weapon was pretty lame, but he might have had a real knife or even a homemade pistol. If I’m on board the plane, the second that threat is uttered, to kill all the men on board the plane, I’m on him. It would have ended right there. I’m not a big fan of allowing people to carry out their threats, especially onboard an airplane. In the Martial Arts, we believe anyone who says they’re going to kill us. Some people may be joking, or letting off steam, but that’s too much to assume.
He would been subdued in seconds, with whatever amount of force was necessary to end his imminent threat. There is no amount of force that can be ruled out in that situation. Unlike in life, people on board a sealed cigar tube, at 35,000 feet, are truly all in it together. There can be no possibility of allowing someone so disturbed to go any further than his first threat. He should not have been allowed to display and potentially injure or kill anyone with his self-made weapon. Fortunately, several passengers, along with the flight attendants were able to eventually subdue him and terminate the threat.
I recognize that not everyone is a black belt in a Martial Art. Not everyone is far more terrified of not acting, than acting. Not everyone has been punched, kicked, struck with baseball bats, and sticks and trains with knives and sidearms, regularly. But I assume, everyone wants to go home to see their loved ones. Everyone has some level of self-preservation. My suggestion to anyone who reads this, if you’re ever on a plane and someone tries to open the door and or threatens to kill all the men on board, do something immediately, before something tragic happens. I assure you, putting your head in your hands and hoping the conflict simply goes away, is the poorest strategy of all.