View Full Version : Leatherman and Swiss army Knives

13th Sep 2001, 06:23
Do Leatherman and swiss army knives pass through x-ray machines undetected. I and a lot of work colleages have carried these type of knives for years through various airports around the world and never been pulled up. We don't have check on baggage just light cabin baggage.
We have assumed that because of their all metal content that the blade cannot be seen when knife is folded.

Kaptin M
13th Sep 2001, 07:00
They are detectable, however the length of the blade is generally considered not sufficient to be a threat. You can even purchase Swiss Army knives onboard Swissair flights, as part of their inflight sales! Scissors may be removed from pax, if their blades are considered too long.

Regardless, a weapon doesn't HAVE to be metal to be a threat - ceramic knives and firearms carried on the body won't be detected by walk through x-rays or body scans.

The best defence is going to be "weaponry" available to inflight flight crews, including travelling air marshalls - preferably plain-clothed and unidentifiable by any of the flight/cabin crew!

13th Sep 2001, 07:01
I have carried a leatherman to work on a/c for the last couple of years. Only once, at SIN Changi, have I been questioned over it by X ray men. He said that because I was a crew member he would let me through!! In answer to your question it would seem they are detectable by X ray.

Given recent events I am reconsidering my thoughts on carrying a leatherman and flight deck security in general.

13th Sep 2001, 07:04
You can actually buy leatherman knives etc. dutyfree in Perth airport after clearing security and just before boarding plane.

13th Sep 2001, 07:18
I'm an engineer and wear a Leatherman all the time at work.

If I'm flying somewhere in uniform it's usually on my belt and gets chucked in the box to go thru scanner with phone/wallet. No-one ever says a thing.

Hans Cholder
13th Sep 2001, 07:23
If anyone is a crew member in the U.S.,no more Leathermans. Just notified by the company I work for that anything with a blade in not allowed. Leathermans, wine bottle openers with a knike blade(for flight attendendants)will not be allowed.

13th Sep 2001, 07:28
Leatherman of any kind, or similar, strictly forbidden on person for all Varig flights. Have had to take mine off and seal in bag carried on flight-deck and returned at destination on three occasions now.

Ditto for a small set of spanners, Allen keys and assorted tiny tools I use for working on waveguide. These too were prohibited items as personal effects, again were sealed in bag and carried on flight-deck, same were returned to me at destination.

Although the tools contain no knives of any description, they were labelled "Faca", which is knife in Portuguese.

13th Sep 2001, 08:00
Air France has stopped our crewmembers from carring on d-cell Maglites.

Kaptin M
13th Sep 2001, 08:03
"If anyone is a crew member in the U.S.,no more Leathermans. Just notified by the company I work for that anything with a blade in not allowed. Leathermans, wine bottle openers with a knike blade(for flight attendendants)will not be allowed.

Knee-jerk reactions by the authorities who want to be SEEN to be doing SOMETHING.

So how about wings with pins? And ground engineers who will still be able to come to the aircraft prior to departure carrying screwdrivers and Leathermans?
Even a single Gillette razor blade held at a hostages throat will be sufficient to gain access to the cockpit!
BTW, plastic/ceramic knives carried on the person are NOT detectable.

Let's get REAL over this issue, and stop the amateur, highly public, but INEFFICIENT confiscation of next to useless (for hijacking) items.

Today's hijacker is generally a WELL-TRAINED professional - it's a long time past overdue that security onboard aircraft was approached by PROFESSIONALS (and not security companies) in consultation with those who have the most to offer - PROFESSIONAL PILOTS and our UNIONS!

Old Dog
13th Sep 2001, 10:40
I fully agree with Kaptin M on this issue.

Outdated policies pose more danger to aviation than the hijackers. The modern day terrorists are much more sophisticated than you and I could imagine. It is time airport security gets an overhaul.

[ 13 September 2001: Message edited by: Old Dog ]

13th Sep 2001, 10:41
Kaptin M I'm afraid we will be seeing a lot of what you correctly describe as "Knee-jerk reactions by the authorities who want to be SEEN to be doing SOMETHING" in the forseeable future.

And inconvenient as that may be for all of us, the bigger danger with these kind of silly gestures is that they will serve as a pacifier for the general public, and so will diminish the outcry for measures that are actually effective.

And what would those be? The only places I have ever felt that security really was effective have been in TLV and JED. Thorough X-ray checks by people who could be bothered to LOOK at the screens, patting down of each and every pax by same efficient security staff and a quiet talk about carry-ons.

But is the traveling public willing to pay for all of this in the long run?
To put up with the inconvenience of being at the airport hours earlier?
Standing in line 3 or 4 times before each flight?

And are we as societies, companies, individuals, willing to give up a lot of our dearly loved freedom to get in return a relative feeling of safety?
Because anything more than a feeling it really would not be. As Kaptin M points out, anything can be used as a weapon, and entry to the cockpit can forced in many different ways.

While the vision of FA's being stabbed, pilots being killed is haunting, through our training we are always aware that these things can happen to us at work, and perhaps that is why we do not have the same knee-jerk reaction that many people not in the industry now experience.

Absolute safety is Utopia.
But both pilots and cabin staff have valuable contributions to make.

13th Sep 2001, 12:13
Typical knee jerk reaction by the sort of jerks that coulld not tolerate proper security on their domestic flights. They always thought that the enemy would attack from outside.

So, as a crew member I cannot carry a knife - not even a swiss army knife. The metal knives on board for pax meals are steel, and sharp, so what are they going to do about meal trays? Use plastic? nullPlastic knives are a LOT sharper than steel knives.

Are we to call security to watch over every mechanic that approaches our aircraft with a toolkit?

Why do some of my union dues go to IFALPA who just sit back and accept this sort of crap?

13th Sep 2001, 13:18
Why has Air France stopped mag light use?
Well, I carry both a mag light AND a swiss army knife with me in my flightbag and actually have used the swiss tool at times (not the blade) for odd jobs, lose screws, helping the cabin crew sort something out with the galley equipment etc. But to be honest I've also thought that having a knife may come in useful for any reason, an example is that a knife is not in our safety or medical kits if we're stranded in the jungle, even though we have a crash axe. Not to be paranoid but maybe now I'll feel a little better knowing I also have a potential self defence tool, even though all CRM or Hijack training says you need otherwise.

13th Sep 2001, 13:22
Only time I've had an incident of this kind aboard, the knife used to threaten a fellow pax was kindly supplied by the cabin crew.

The metal cutlery provided with business class meals are quite large and sharp enough to be a danger.

Perhaps if only pork is on offer...?

13th Sep 2001, 14:30
Granted, a D-Cell Mag Lite is a hefty potentional weapon, but in a flight crew case? What about the fire axe? Or the fire extigisher? Of course we've got to do something but this kind of thing is pathetic and won't help in the slightist.

Kaptin M
13th Sep 2001, 17:48
In fact, when it's all summed up, I believe the authorities are taking the PASSIVE form of resistance, rather than an AGGRESSIVE approach to a Clear and Present Danger!!

Now, I have to confess that I've I've NEVER thought of myself as a Harrison Ford/"movie star type" type....BUT, we have ALL been forced into this Bruce Willis type scenario - the difference being Bruce Willis survived!!
We face the very real situation of NOT redeeming a critically severely life endangering situation!

Take away the Swiss Army knives, and the Leathermans - but realize that there are 100 OTHER weapons available to a trained, professional terrorist, that will NEVER be detected....no matter how comprehensive the checks!!

gravity victim
13th Sep 2001, 19:43
My Leatherman is always spotted, pulled out and checked for blade length which is deemed legal - except at Brussels where I was marched into a security office and accused of smuggling weapons onto an aircraft :eek:
and Santiago Chile where it was put in the hold and nicked between there and LHR.

It's a grim thought thatif the USA terrorists were jamming razorblades onto toothbrush handles, they would not have been stopped by any airport security, anywhere.

13th Sep 2001, 20:38
Instead of worrying about disarming flight crews of flashlights and small tools, We should be considering giving us more effective tools to deal with hijackers! A can of mace in the flight bag might have been more effective 2 days ago than taking my mag light and a pair of pliers away. I guess that the crash axe will soon be removed as well. Geez, my first line of defense was always going to be my flashlight, followed by the nail file on my leatherman, THEN I was going to try to use the crash axe as a last resort! :rolleyes:

We are part of the SOLUTION, not part of the PROBLEM!

This knee jerk reaction will do NOTHING more than inconvenience passengers and crew! :rolleyes:

I am REALLY not looking forward to the inneffective BS that will surely accompany my next trip to work!

Right Seat
13th Sep 2001, 20:52
Three years ago I worked as a security officer at a X-ray screening point at an Australian Airport. Unfortunately, my time their was a real eye-opener. I learnt that airport security (In Aus) is no more than a visual deterrent.

It was a scary thought knowing that, for example, laptop computers were impossible to see through on an x-ray... with the amount of laptops being screened each flight it was a joke to think all of those bags could be opened and manually searched.

Then there is acceptable blade length for leathermans, swiss army knives etc... 8cm OK, 9cm it goes in the hold... a blade is a blade, it will have the same effect if used violently.

Wheelchair pax... Not once did I see any measures taken to thoroughly search the wheelchair cushions, and although inconvenient, search underneath where the pax was seated.

Something many people are not aware of is that many smaller (so called 'Low risk') aiports do not screen/x-ray checked baggage. The only time luggage is x-rayed is randomly by customs officers.

These are just a couple of examples of how pax are given such a false sense of security as they walk through airport security checkpoints.

Although I am sure security screening in the US and EU is placed as a higher priority and the screening equipment is far superior to what I was using, we still have hundreds of airports around the world which do not have acceptable security screening processes and the aircraft departing these airports are flying into the US and EU daily... at what risk??

As discussed on earlier posts, the only possible ways to try to eliminate potential weapons on board an aircraft is to ban carry-on luggage and even the use of knives and forks! Where does it end?

It is extremely sad to think there is no easy answer. :(

Kaptin M
13th Sep 2001, 23:39
It is said that ignorance is a dangerous thing Fish, and your statement:
Don't get carried away with your own importance gents, the days of pilots fixing things are long gone. The leatherman is just another toy / gadget that you can impress the girls with.
clearly puts YOU in that category.

From your non-lateral thinking, it is apparent that YOU will never be smart enough to get onto the flight deck side of the cockpit door - except as an observer, and even that would be a waste of time for all involved in the effort to get you there!

14th Sep 2001, 00:18
Forbidding leathermans and swiss army knives only goes so far! I think giving crew members weapons would be a better idea and I mean something more intense then leatherman or swiss army knives. It obviously doesn't pay to play it safe with these guys so why not play hard ball with them!?! :mad:

Dom Joly
14th Sep 2001, 00:19
I get asked 1 in 10 times about my Leatherman.


Isn't it the passengers we should be concerned about here. Why over react? Pilots are not the ones threatening the safety of the aircraft.

As for the guy who doesn't see a need for a Leatherman. I can only assume you've never been stuck down route with no engineering cover and a bulb blown that you can't remove with your fingers. What do you do cancel the flight? Used mine a number of times for domestic uses when in a hotel (cutting labels off, opening broken zips etc).

14th Sep 2001, 00:22
Two words....'crash axe'....?

14th Sep 2001, 00:33
Fish please do not be silly.

I carry in my flight bag a set of screwdrivers, 2 pairs of pliers, a leatherman, duct tape, asorted light bulbs and a mag-lite. They all get used regularly to fix small stuff related to the comfort of the pax or the galley equipment.

And NO it doesn't impress the blokes! :rolleyes:

14th Sep 2001, 01:08
Are we just discussing Leathermen and Swiss Army knives here or can we widen the discussion to include all multi-pliers and folding utility knives?

Can the plural of Leatherman be Leathermen or should it be Leathermans?

[ 13 September 2001: Message edited by: NoSurrender ]

Willit Run
14th Sep 2001, 06:59
Guns have been outlawed for years. Did that stop the criminals? Now knives are to be banned. Will that stop the criminals? The only people harmed by these rules are the law abiding folks who use these tools responsibly. Criminals by their very nature do not obey laws!
Pilots with side arms in their bags would have stopped at least one of these hijackings, (in my opinion!). The only reason these terrorists got away with this, is they knew noone else had weapons!

14th Sep 2001, 07:37
I agree with Peter. Arming the flight crew (and ensuring they are reasonably trained and certified to carry a firearm) may be the way to go. After all, many crewmembers today are former military who've already got some experience, and we all have to pass a background check that would make licensing to carry a weapon a not-so-difficult task once there was a decision to do so.

14th Sep 2001, 07:44
What happens if a crew attacks hijackers in future only to have an otherwise "routine" hijacking go horribly wrong? Are we to assume that all future hijackings will result in such trajedy as was visited upon NYC Tuesday afternoon?

14th Sep 2001, 08:51
The real problem with this is people. Desperate people. Fanatical People. People willing to sacrifice their own lives.

The real weapon the hijackers had was their numbers, their willingness to sacrifice their own lives and their training.

A regular crew and pax had little chance against such people.

What can we do to stop this happening again ?

1. Psychological screening of all pax ?
2. Identity cards ?
3. Armed guards on all flights ?

It's terrifying, and all the security screening for knives and weapons is barely addressing the issue. The real danger is people.

Cross Check
14th Sep 2001, 12:16
I'm all for giving flight crews some means of cockpit/cabin defense. Potential terrorists/hi-jackers will always find some way to buck the system and sneak things through as many have already pointed out. But the problem really lies in how to create an effective and safe means of defense or defensive strategy.

Think about it - the flight deck is about the most vunerable location (other than the aft lavatories) you can stick a person. Add to this, that the occupants of the deck work with their backs to the door puts us at an immediate disadvantage. Even in basic mil training we were taught never to do this for a variety of reasons. (Maybe we should bring back Flight Engineers.) Close circuit TV would help, but you can't be looking at it all the time. 'Trip' sensors perhaps? Wouldn't be of much help if the cockpit door was rushed. Electrified door handles? Mace (or similar aerosol) dispensers in the access corridor? In reality the best early warning system is the cabin crew if they are provided with the means to quickly and secretly notify the flight deck.

As for firearms on the flight deck - hmmm, I'm not so sure about THAT. I've personally seen too many people exercise poor judgement with a firearm, particularly civvies and those who use them infrequently. I've seen recruits who have had drill after drill instilled in them and still screw-up on the firing range when under pressure or something goes pear-shaped. Not to mention the risk of having a ballistic weapons fire in a pressure hull. And what if you shot a first class passenger by accident (looking back from the cockpit) ...

Just a few thoughts on the matter ...

14th Sep 2001, 13:53
Cross Check, I agree with all you say but lets face it, you are not going to even try to hijack any form of transport with a tooth brush and razorblades if you know the drivers are armed. The hi jacker would then have to carry somthing more leathal and that would be detected by security,wouldn't it? So we could all fly safely. On second thoughts I think I'll go back to Submarines its safer. PS. my Swiss Army knife (couldn't we have a "Swiss Knife for Foreign Navys") has fixed seats, unblocked sinks, opened, atlas boxes, opened wine bottles down route, been a wonderful source of conversation with the ladies (one of them was so impressed she now has her own!)and been flying for the last two days. As none of the above has had any thing to do with flight safty I will leave it at home now, I do not want the nause if security actally find it.

14th Sep 2001, 14:14
My Company's Flight Operations Manual insists that I carry a Flashlight (D-cell) so I guess I'm going to be illegal either way now... I have always carried a leatherman or equivalent to fix numerous little things around the cockpit or cabin. Now My company has said no more knives of any kind,(including butter knives), no leatherman type tools, on any flight in flight kit, hand or checked baggage. Next they will be taking away my pens and issuing crews with soft (non toxic) crayons for cockpit use. Talk about overreaction!!! I guess we'll be expected to give the terrorists a big hug and tell them how much we feel their pain before they blows us to pieces.

14th Sep 2001, 15:52
Ladies, Gents

let's face the facts: almost everything on board of an aircraft could be used as weapon, be it the D-cell flashlight (provided as part of the equipment from some airlines, the next PBE, a fist aid kit OX bottle, the next fire extinguisher, and maybe even the economy class superlight seat... simply everything. So taking away the lethermans (I always have one in my bag) the Swiss army knives (I also carry that, even two or three), the flashlights etc. will not help at all. But the real question is, are we going to be intimidated by Swiss Army Knives, Leathermans and flashlights? I think we will have to seriously consider hijacking procedures and simply attack anyone with a too small weapon like the above. I mean, let's face it: three guys would not have any problems to agressively stop anone threatening the crew and passengers with a Swiss army knove, no? Use the life west as protection and kick the guy in his balls!

I agree with Kaptin M, why do such showpieces like the Letherman thing. Let's concentrate on hijack prcedures and rewrite the rules. Maybe we have to accept that one casualty ina hijack is acceptable as long as all other survive if someone thretens to kill the flight attendant with the Swiss Army Knife. Much better than to end up in a skyscraper...

A hijacker is a terrorist, so treat him alike!

Genghis the Engineer
14th Sep 2001, 17:02
I'd venture to suggest that any knife is of limited use as a weapon, unless the user has been trained in its use as such. Certainly a 2" fruit knife will kill however, if stuck in the right place.

Conversely, a terrorist with a black belt in Kung Fu doesn't need one.

And anybody with a limp and a walking stick has a far more lethal weapon potentially. Similarly a partly metallic false leg will hide many things (anybody read Reach for the Sky ?).

A degree of commonsence would be appropriate I think.

Incidentally swiss army knives do set off the detectors at any BAA airport that I've been through, but I've been a few places (mostly Former Warsaw pact countries)where they don't.


14th Sep 2001, 17:03
The villains of this piece must be laughing at the confusion they have caused those who were not targetted.

Watching the politicians and intelligence/military (of our country and others) whip themselves into a frenzy of pointless 'security measures' is depressing.

14th Sep 2001, 22:29
I have carried a swiss army knife with me on the flight deck for 22 years and will continue to do so until my company or the CAA say I can't.

If I have to get out of my seat in an emergency, and the harness fastening will not undo for whatever reason, I'm going to cut the straps. That's why I carry it.

4 of 7
14th Sep 2001, 23:23
Fish you're a ****!

If you are the kind of pilot that would never even try to fix anything, I'm glad you're in a different company.

I've had my Swiss Army knife on the flight decks for over 25 years recently superceded by Leatherman Wave and Tools - it should be standard equipment NOT contraband.

It's about time the 'Authorities' had an attack of commonsense, not obstructing people that are trying to DO the job despite all this knee-jerk security.

THERE, at least I feel better.

14th Sep 2001, 23:29
Still the focus is misdirected...remove all the utility knifes, dinner knives and forks to solve the problem. Everyone can eat their food with spoon!!

Oh but wait, I suppose a small wet-stone could sharpen a spoon in no time flat. Better make the in-flight meal cup-o-soup and issue cheap plastic straw (less than 4 mills thick without the chamfer).

15th Sep 2001, 00:56
When I went through security this morning a collegue in front of me put his swiss army knife on the tray as he went through the arch. The security guard insisted on confiscating it, explaining that they had been instructed not to allow any knives past the security point.

Two other collegues put their flight bags on the x ray machine and collected them at the other end. The bags were not searched and we all proceeded to board the bus. Both these bags that went thorugh the x ray machine contained swiss army knives.

15th Sep 2001, 02:55
I was departure engineer on a flight to Canada this afternoon and I saw the CSD supervise the removal of all metal cutlery and ice picks. The flight waited while plastic substitutes were found. It's great that we are flying the Atlantic again but how long will it take to run out of the UK's entire stock of plastic cutlery.

15th Sep 2001, 03:25
So how are the girls gonna break up the bags of ice? I know, they can use the crash axe or the crowbar.
Cancel that, they're gonna be removed too...

On a related note, I'm pleased that all persons entering the cabin of a BA aircraft will now be searched, including BA staff (does not apply in the UK and USA). I'm rather less pleased that this does not apply to baggage loaders entering the holds. It's a good job there are no Bosnian, Yugoslavian, Kosovan, whatever, loaders working for minimum wage at FRA. What? You mean there *are* Bosnian, Yugoslavian, etc loaders working for minimum wage at FRA? B u g g e r , that's screwed that one then.

[ 14 September 2001: Message edited by: charliecossie ]

15th Sep 2001, 03:59
Active resistance to hijackers

Until September 11, the implied bargain between hijackers and aircrew was that passenger and aircrew lives would be spared in return for compliance with the hijackers' demands.

This is no longer the case.

Hijackers can be fought. Dozens of motivated passengers and cabin crew can certainly physically overwhelm small numbers of hijackers unless they have smuggled automatic firearms past security and have covered their backs. Even with existing passenger inspection procedures, the small knives the hijackers did succeed in smuggling aboard could at worse cost a very small number of fatalities against a concerted attack. As an earlier post has mentioned, the new risk of losing everybody on board and hundreds or thousands on the ground demands we accept the risk of a few fatalities doing active resistance. Let's not ignore that this kind of hijacker much prefers going out in a blaze of glory rather than rotting away in a life sentence -- active resistance can deter these people.

The safety card in every seatback and cabin briefings must include procedures to resist
hijackers. Without benefit of detailed analysis, I would suggest as a start instructing passengers to immediately pull up their seat cushion and pile on the hijackers. At the beginning the hijackers are very likely surrounded and easy to overcome. Afterwards when passengers and crew are herded to one end, successful resistance is far more difficult. Flight 93 demonstrated that hijackers can be thwarted even at a late stage. Immediate resistance might have saved the passengers.

Cockpit crew are not without resources, but first of all a stronger door seems urgently
called for. Violent maneuvering will cause casualties on anybody in back who is not
strapped in, mostly hijackers; but this and depressurization should be reserved for desperate cases where resistance in the cabin is unsuccessful.

As far as banning knives are concerned, I suspect we might be better off attaching a good knife on every seatback. Whatever weapons a few hijackers could smuggle aboard would be seriously outnumbered.

15th Sep 2001, 06:29
These assholes joined the flights via a connecting flight, they did not check in their bags at the curb, so now the authorities are banning curbside check in. They carried their own (legal) knives on board, so now we take away the crews' knives, bottle openers and such, and we ban even plastic knives on meal trays. They overwhelmed the crew and passengers because they had knives and the crew did not, so we take away all possible tools the crew might use to protect themselves. The terrorists had valid ID so we increase the check in procedures for everybody. Those who checked in at the departure airport got there using the shuttle bus, not private cars, so we ban private cars from the airport. I could go on, but you get the picture.

Kaptin M
15th Sep 2001, 07:06
It seems quite clear to all of us WITHIN the industry, that the amateurs responsible for the checking carry-on baggage have taken a HIGH PROFILE object eg. the Swiss Army knife, and Leatherman, and issued "press releases" to have it APPEAR that they are doing something, and to satisfy the public.
I`m sure that even the HIJACKERS are laughing at these idiotic, pathetic, almost child-like responses to what is a SERIOUS THREAT.

It has been raining here (where I live) for the past couple of days, and I have become aware of how potentially lethal a weapon an umbrella could be, using the steel ribs and spline - and 20 times longer than a pocket knife blade! But are the "security officers" confiscating umbrellas? Of course NOT! They're too busy looking for the subjects of this thread.

It is TIME for OUR (CREW) REPRESENTATIVES - our unions - to become actively and PUBLICALLY involved in implementing some meaningful measures to counter terrorists/hijackers!

As an adjunct for pax and deadheading crew, a seat cushion, and/or a shirt or pair of trousers wrapped around your arm is useful in tackling someone armed with any sort of blade. If necessary, rip the tray table off the seat back or out of the arm stowage, and tackle him/her with that!

[ 15 September 2001: Message edited by: Kaptin M ]

15th Sep 2001, 16:06

I agree entirely with your sentiments. May i add with regard to the training and guidance given to flight crews ( which has never been extensive to say the least ), the emphasis in the past regarding Hijack situations has been pacification of the hijackers. This must now change and any unlawful interference must be treated as a potential 'nightmare scenario'.
Training will need to be given to crews and more importantly the authorities will have to mandate such training. I have some ideas but will not discuss these on a public forum.

15th Sep 2001, 20:10
Zeitgebers, I agree that we don't need to publicise all the details of security training for aircrew, especially where it concerns the tactics taught. That said, we should publicise that the training is through and includes all the typical self-defense dirty tricks.

We must include the pasengers. Three or four mostly female cabin crew (unless very highly trained and fit) against young male terrorist types makes pretty good odds for the bad guys. Involving the passengers turns the tables. That's why I'm advocating hijacker reesistance in the seatback cards and safety briefings.

16th Sep 2001, 20:06
In INDIA after the Indian Airlines A300, hijack to Kandahar,security has stopped entry of nail cutters as well.
That was the longest hijack in history, and the hijackers escaped into Afghansistan, as the Taliban gave them shelter.

No amount of security can stop a highly motivated and fuled by religion terrorist. :mad:

16th Sep 2001, 20:25
Looks like they may have literally used Swiss Army knives:

September 16, 2001

Swiss: Hijacking Suspect Bought Knives

Filed at 11:48 a.m. ET

BERN, Switzerland (AP) -- One of the alleged hijackers suspected in last week's terror attacks on the United States bought two knives in Switzerland, the country's justice ministry said Sunday.

Ministry spokesman Victor Schlumpf said "one of the prime suspects'' had used a credit card to buy two knives. He refused to give details or identify the suspect.

However, the SonntagsBlick newspaper said that Mohammed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, who allegedly were among the 19 hijackers, spent time in Switzerland during the summer and stayed in a Zurich hotel. It said they purchased pocket knives and cardboard cutters -- the weapons used to commandeer four passenger jetliners on Tuesday.

The two men were both natives of the United Arab Emirates, and lived and studied in the German city of Hamburg.

Swiss authorities have launched a formal investigation in the wake of the attacks to see if any groups of Islamic extremists are based in Switzerland. A number of Islamic groups operate humanitarian operations in the country to raise funds.

Switzerland froze all accounts linked to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban earlier this year as part of U.N. sanctions against the hardline Islamic regime for sheltering Osama bin Laden, the suspected terrorist mastermind who is the prime suspect in last week's attacks. Swiss officials have said less than $600,000 was involved

17th Sep 2001, 12:24
And they always teach us in the good old military training over here that to combat the enemy you're supposed to use the rifle, the bajonet, the spade (if you happen to have one), the pistol, the hand grenade etc. etc. etc. BUT never the standard swiss army soldier's knife, as a) it's your eating knife b) it's your tool kit c) it's your weapon cleaning kit support d) it's your first aid scalpel e) it's your sewing kit knife and scisors f) it's your box opening tool g) it's your ammunition crate opener etc. etc. etc.

BUT it's NOT your weapon. Maybe we should inform the passengers in the safety instructions that Swiss Army Knives are to be regarded as tools, not weapons and that you are free to use your seat cushion as shield and to attack the hijacker full force.

So, warning to all hijackers: never try to hijack a Swiss airplane of an airplane going to or coming from Switzerland with a knife. Most passengers would not take you serious! And I think we should teach all passengers to think alike.

No Mode Charlie
17th Sep 2001, 13:36
Over the passed days I have been asked twice to return to check-in for a flight on which I was operating to ckeck-in my leatherman as a security item. I was not allowed to take it with me in my flight bag.

No problem with that, only took about 10 minutes of hassle. The fun bit is ofcourse that then 20 minutes later the dispatcher shows up with a big envelope for the captain containing?...........My leatherman! :D

Kaptin M
17th Sep 2001, 16:24
The tiny minds that remove Leathermans/Swiss Army knives from the operating cockpit crew only further prove that these are the WRONG people for the job.

Does the Captain of a flight really need ANYTHING at all to "hijack" his flight?
I know a co-pilot who regularly puts the incorrect info into the FMC (flight management computer) :mad: and in conjunction with the auto pilot has ALMOST succeeded in "diverting" several flights!

17th Sep 2001, 19:55
Some airports are taking pilot's razor blades, the replaceable kinds like Mach III and Trac II. They also took cuticle scissors from the flight attendants.

Per Ardua Ad Asda
18th Sep 2001, 06:28
If you really wanted to, you could sharpen up the edges of a 50p coin.

Are we to confiscate EVERY single piece of metal that both pax and crew are likely to possess :rolleyes:

Business card holders?
Ballpoint pens?
Ladies fingernails??????

Utter madness. Workable measures, please! Not bright ideas from the pen-pushers and spin-doctors, that will only serve to inconvenience everybody but provide no added protection in-flight. As has already been said, why remove all of the combative tools available to help suppress an attempted hijack?

No doubt that all persons who head forward towards the cockpit but do not make the immediate left turn into the bogs will now be instantly jumped-on by pax and cabin staff alike.

One further snippet for your delectation..... have travelled for many years with both Swiss Army type and Leatherman with no problem. However, a set of 3x 22g nickel-tungsten playing-darts (in smart leather case and stored in my flight bag) were, they said, deemed to be an offensive weapon.

They were placed in a 2' x 1' x 6" cardboard box, placed in the hold and were finally collected from the luggage carousel after landing.
Fly me to Cuba.... or I will attempt to score 180. Made ME feel a whole lot safer :rolleyes:

18th Sep 2001, 07:31
Can anybody beat this? Before my co-pilot met me in operations security had confiscated the slip-on razor blade heads of his safety razor. The tiny little plastic things with a sliver of steel.

You do not have to be mad to work here but it helps!!!

Pete O'Head
18th Sep 2001, 23:57
This is all getting too silly too quickly folks. The authorities have to realise we're working on a spectrum of safety here. At one extreme end (the dangerous end) there would be no security measures at all. At the other extreme end, we simply remove the wings from every aircraft..then they won't ever crash or be hijacked.
So the authorities have to find a sensible compromise somewhere in the "middle". Ok..so now's the time to re-define where the middle bit actually is, but at the end of the day, we will only ever keep aircraft flying if we accept that there has to be a compromise. Licensed aircrew being banned from carrying innocent tools such as swiss army knives, leatherman's & maglites means that somebody's lost the plot. I personally have lost count of the number of times I've had to use my swiss army knife to carry out an in-flight repair of a crackly headset, or tighten a lose knob somewhere. there was one occasion when I had a double radio failure in flight, and the army knife got both radios working again.
As for maglites..emmm..isn't it a legal requirement that we carry a torch when night flying?
The fact that any pilot complete with ID pass manages to get through security to go to work means that we are about to fly a potentially lethal missile, so what's the problem if we carry a few other bits & pieces? I realise the concern about terrorists impersonating pilots, but even if we position as passengers; the fact that we have an electrocally swiped ID pass is more proof of genuinity than that carried by armed police officers. And the technology exist for us to provide the security search staff with additional info like a PIN number.
What else is going to be banned? Pepper from the catering galley? Hairsprays and perfume sprays used by the cabin crew? In fact, I'd better remove my wedding ring in case I use it as a knuckle-duster. And my fingernails are a bit long and sharp. In fact, let's ban metal pens and use soft pastels to write with.We are responsible people in charge of airliners and people's lives. The authorities must treat us as such. Any changes required should take place in the screening process, and not restrict us from going about our business. [Gravity is a myth...the Earth sucks]

20th Sep 2001, 21:18
So I took my toolkit out of my Flight Bag were it's been for the last 20 Years and has saved the day on numerous occasions (and it has the corkscrew for those unscheduled night stops...)

and was stopped by security to remove my nail file and a plastic (10cent) razor from my night stop kit. and yes I was off to drive my big jet with loads of fuel on it and at least 16 lethal weapons including an enormous axe on the flight deck.

Have the powers that be concidered how lethal a car key could be? I suggest that with immediate effect they must all be removed and looked after by security personal until the pax returns.

I also think the ladies will now have to lose all those nice pierced earings etc (could be fun with the places that some of our pax have bits in.)

Its a complete farce.

20th Sep 2001, 22:35
There seem to be three elements here:
a] Fanatics
b] Weapons
c] Access to the Flight Deck

We can never stop [a]
Many things can be used as [b]
Unless we install PortaLoos and a caterer in the Flightdeck we can never prevent [c]

Therefore we have a risk. A quantifiable risk which we, the travelling public, have to accept.
On occasion things will go badly wrong but as long as we all do our utmost to reduce the effect of [a], [b] and [c] then we will have moved forward.

No room for knee-jerks here.

I can't actually imagine life without a Leatherman now that I've used one for nigh on ten years.

Edited for p1ss poor spelling!

[ 20 September 2001: Message edited by: Bystander ]

21st Sep 2001, 09:44
Spoke to a couple of "aviation advisers" to my local politicians recently. Seems they have already decided what is best for us - not much chance of logic intervening. Actually had to tell one individual about the crash axe, he was very surprised. Suppose they will have that removed from our aircraft next as a safety precaution!

Their answer is strong cockpit doors and sky marshals. Rumour is the sky marshal will get paid more than most co-pilots. Wonder if I can dual qualify? Nah, wouldn't want to trust the pilot.

Bally Heck
21st Sep 2001, 18:19
Of course, one of the most effective weapons in trained hands is a rolled up copy of the Telegraph. (seriously)

Could it be the end for carry on newsprint?

"Don't come near me. I have a black belt in origami and I'm not scared to use this"

21st Sep 2001, 19:25
Guys, Gals,

All fairly logical and good points. That are going to get the Pilots, F/A's and PAX's nowhere. The a) b) c) logic is good - but you are all stalled and not getting out of a thinking rut.

Somebody said - think laterally - RIGHT. But when we do the excercises most of us can only go 2 degrees left or right.

Any of you really want to move this forwards - mail me - its not something that should be on-line at all. It will need some dedication on your part - perhaps many hours - might I humbly suggest that dedication is better than dead.

Just thing this one thru - 80 to 90% of all male massengers have at least one, often up to three deadly weapons that nobody in airport security has ever questioned in my almost 50 years in the air (no not contiguous hours).

5 to 10 people from different locations and training/jobs with 10 to 50 hours to invest each and that team can get further with a solution than all the Swiss Army Knives and Leatherman stealing Bureaucrats around the world.

if at first you don't succeed - cheat ? :confused: :p :eek: :rolleyes: :confused:

[ 21 September 2001: Message edited by: gofer ]

22nd Sep 2001, 01:38
Bystander mentioned it, Boing spoke about it.

The cockpit that is a totally independent part of the aircraft, that no-one can enter, not even the cabin crew. The pilots are the first to enter the aircraft. They lock the door behind them. It is a reinforced door that will withstand bullets and axe blows. And the pilots are the last to exit the aircraft.

On my aircraft, the loo/toilet/lavatory is actually on the flight deck. But even on other aircraft, no-one would be able to anticipate the moment chosen by a pilot to 'take a leak'. Catering is the least of our worries, it can be supplied before the flight, for the duration of the flight.

Safety would not be a factor, since the cockpit door could be opened from within at any time. And how many cases are known where someone needed to enter the flight deck just to save the day? Few.

Forget weapons. Forget trying to defend yourselves against hijackers. If they never gain access to the flight deck, what can they do?

A hijacker should never, never, gain access to the flight deck.

22nd Sep 2001, 07:31
What can they do? I am not going to put it into print but I can think of many, many things a slightly TECHNICAL or well trained terrorist can do that would make my nice secure flight deck pointless. Think more deeply before you consider a terrorist on the other side of the door is harmless. You may need to go to the cabin to stop them pulling some nasty little tricks - and at that stage you had better be able to take a firearm with you.

The secure flight deck door is a help but not a solution.

[ 22 September 2001: Message edited by: BOING ]

24th Sep 2001, 06:41
It took me a while to realise this, but every passenger seat is equiped with a nasty weapon that would give me full confidence in a confrontation with anybody wielding a box cutter, leatherman or swiss army knife -- it's the seat belt buckle. It comes off easily (as long as the clip is not wired shut to prevent pilferage); slide the buckle to the end, wrap the free end around your palm and smack the hijacker as hard as you can on the noggin (go easier on air rager if you you want to reduce the mortality rate).

24th Sep 2001, 12:20
I can already see the next discussion at the FAA:

(Politician) I read on the Net that someone might use the seat belts as weapons. Ban them!
(Safety Specialist) But Sir, they...
(Politician) Shut up! That was an order and we won't discuss it. I take full responsibility!

Two days later:
(Safety Specialist) Sir, regarding the seat belts?
(Politician) Yes? Are they all removed?
(Safety Specialist) Yes Sir. We did as you told us. But we face a problem.
(Politician) Then solve it!
(Safety Specialist) I would like to, but it's too late.
(Politician) What do you mean!!!
(Safety Specialist) As I wanted to tell you, Sir, the seat belts have a function. They are a safety item. So, yesterday evening we had an airplane that aborted it's take off run. Now all the people are dead, as they did not have seat belts and they were thrown forward during the hard braking.
(Politician) WHAT! Who is responsible for that?
(Safety Specialist) You Sir!
(Politician) No way. I'm a politician. I can't be responsible! And you are fired!!!
(Safety Specialist) ME? What for?
(Politician) For not advising me about the function the seat belts have!
(Safety Specialist) But you did not want to listen to me, I was ready to tell you, and you did cut me off...!
(Politician) First, I'm in charge and therefore you go. Second, you just should have insisted, so it's your fault! Get the man out of here and get me a new safety specialist! [Internal Security moves in and throws the Safety Specialist out to the building].

A day later:
(Politician) So, you're the new guy.
(SS2) Yes Sir. What can I do for you Sir?
(P) So we need seat belts?
(SS2) I'm affraid we do Sir.
(P) So lets equip all aircraft with seat belts that can be locked by the security forces. We just strap them in so they cannot get out.
(SS2) Brilliant Idea, Sir.
(P) So what are you waiting for...
(SS2) [running away to execute the order]

A day later:
[phone rings]
(P) Yes, this is politician.
(Caller) Yes, this is GW.
(P) Who?
(C) George W
(P) Do I know you?
(C) George W Bush. Your boss, Stupid!
(P) I am sorry Sir, I did not recognize your voice. What can I do for you, Sir.
(C) Well, it's rather easy. You resign today!
(P) SIR! Why?
(S) Well, let me tell you. That seat belt story! That's why.
(P) But Sir. I don't see the point. Now we have seat belts for the hard breaking and they cannot be used as weapons.
(S) Yes, but you dumshit forgot that they must be opened once in a while! My mother was travelling to Europe yesterday, and she could not go to the toilet. Immagine that! On an eight hour flight! And then there is that former Safety SPecialist of yours that tells any reporter in the country that in an emergency you could not evacuate an airplane, that everybody on board would die! My father is flying tomorrow! Do you really want to kill him? You're the terrorist! The FBI will knock on your door in just a second! [Knocks on the door in the background]
(P) But, SIR, on what charges do they want to arrest me?
(C) Conspiracy and planning to kill the former president!
[Breaking of the door, turbulent fights, shots and a dusty scene...]

And what can we learn from this? Politicians, listen to your Safety Specialists!

24th Sep 2001, 12:40
I just did a flt out of LGW.

Security took my Swiss Army knife and said it was now prohibited.

In the ensuing discussion I was told by a so called security officer that I had no need for it and should know better. I have used it as a general purpose tool for years. She was correct in that I do know better. A lot better.

On the same flt our cabin crew were relieved of their eyebrow tweezers. All the pens were ignored and they make wonderfull LPB's (Low profile batons) I know at least one security officer at LGW is familiar with them. We knew each other in the services. I'm talking Infantry here and legal unpleasantness was our trade.

I don't need to hi jack my aircraft. It goes where I want it to. On the wall behind my seat is a fire axe, that's the weapon of choice I would go for if I needed an edged weapon.

The knee jerk reaction from the various policy makers is frightening in its stupidity. If that's going to be the response to this threat, then we're all in serious trouble.

I understand that these men and women are doing a difficult job, but security has to be intelligently applied if it's to be effective.

I now have to lock my flt deck door. This ignores the kick out panel and the fact that about 60 lbs pressure would take it off it's hinges.

When the the awfull news broke, I was shocked and saddened like the rest of the World. Later I became angry. With these responses from the security agencies, I'm scared.

Edit for spleling :D

[ 24 September 2001: Message edited by: max_cont ]

24th Sep 2001, 18:15
Make your feelings known to the people who issue these instructions to the security staff - phone the DTLR on 020 7944 3000

24th Sep 2001, 18:41
Security overload must run its course. Only time will bring policy makers and beetle brained mid level managers back to their common senses. :(

24th Sep 2001, 22:43
Folks, I think the most answers here are off the real topic. This is a public forum, anyone interested could find hints "How to
hijack an airliner with on-board weapons" in the answers on this topic. Thanks for the seat-belt tip. Maybe we all cannot imagine the training these fanatics went through -not the fligttraining but the "fight"training. I can imagine fanatics being able to hijack us without any weapon at this time. Even Skymarshals could be overcome with enough manpower.
Let`s face it: We are at high risk and there is nothing to do against it. In long term stronger cockpit doors might be the answer, the cardboard ones we have now will not stop anyone.
That Mickey-Mouse business at the security controls is anything but helpful, I agree in that point.