The Crash Axe as a Tool of Threat Interdiction

Onboard most commercial aircraft are a selection of survival and rescue tools such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, defibrillators and crash axes. Although the crew knows where such items are they are usually stowed behind unmarked panels that normally go unnoticed by passengers.
Most crash axes, although built to double as fire axes, are more along the lines of a hatchet in size, ranging between 16” and 20” long with a hatchet or tomahawk sized head. The smaller size allows them to be stowed easily and makes them easier to use inside the confines of an aircraft. Several types of FAA approved crash axes exist, but the average size envelope remains the same.
The two designs I have personally encountered are as follows: The first having a hatchet head, with a hammer on the reverse and a pry-bar extension protruding from the top, the second closely resembles the World-War II era “SPAX” military crash axe. This second axe is in fact much closer to the original SPAX in design than the current version manufactured by Ontario Knife Company, although the difference is mainly in the handles.
The value of these items as survival and rescue tools is well proven, documented and understood but there is another dimension to their usefulness. Although after the significant act of 9/11 the likelihood of further airline hijackings or incidents involving airplanes is reduced the possibility still exists. Lone extremists and “crazies” acting without direction from a group (save possibly the voices in their head) still can pose a threat. Airline related terror has had an extremely high international visibility in recent years and has a strong recognition level with the general public, making it an obvious and prominent choice for the lone actor.
The past has shown that successful crew (and passenger) intervention can play a large role in stopping would-be single terrorists from carrying out their intended action. Air marshals are on many flights but they are not on all of them, and their rigid and recognizable dress codes make them obvious and immediate targets, potentially leaving the aircrew and passengers to deal with any threat. If that threat resists strongly an extreme level of force may be needed to thwart their objective.
Without air marshals and their conventional weapons to counter a threat, unconventional approaches to adjusting the attackers attitude must be taken.
Of available unconventional tools onboard the aircraft the crash axe may be the best. Excellent performers inside close quarters small axes and hatchets are among the most devastating close proximity weapons.
Aircrews and even air marshals would do well to learn some simple and powerful methods of using these and other unconventional tools incase of emergency threat situations.
Some of the best practice available for axes and hatchets is to simply use them for utilitarian work around the home, garden and campsite. Learning to swing and cut with them efficiently and powerfully is the primary task.
Simple forehand and backhand strikes in X and cross + patterns should be learned. The objective of these patterns is to strike your opponent in a manner conducive to most effectively stopping his or her attack.
When using any weapon as capable of lethal force as an axe the need and priority should always be using the maximum force needed to stop the target. Generally this means breaking down the limbs (his ability to hold and use weapons) and then targeting the trunk of the body and the head/neck for effective stoppage of the central nervous system.
The X and + patterns of forehand and backhand striking are ideal for this process of taking the limbs/weapons and then stopping the threat if the attack continues. The blows can be applied in rapid succession one after the other to opposing sides of the body to make quick work of multiple strikes to the same limb or to alternate from lower to higher targets and vice versa.
The successful use of such an unconventional weapon will not be visually pleasant, but the alternative is simply unacceptable. If routinely training (even just mentally) for this situation preparing for the post-fight environment would be wise. Others, particularly passengers, may be quite upset despite the obvious positives of having successfully negated the terrorist, and preparations should be considered ahead of time for dealing with that. As well as emotional trauma, there is the risk of blood-borne pathogens contaminating anyone involved in the fight or even near-by when it happened. On people with no open wounds or sores of any kind washing immediately with warm water and disinfectant soap to remove fluids and kill any bacteria is required. Waterless disinfectant hand-cleanser may also be used, but should not be considered an equal substitution. If blood or other potentially infected fluids have gotten inside of the eyes or mouth immediately flush with pure water for several minutes. If any open wounds have been exposed to bodily fluids they must first be treated to stop bleeding, and then the wound must be cleaned, Betadyne or Providone Iodine are best if available. If better solutions are not available, flushing with clean water for several minutes will have to do. All exposed passengers and crew, especially those with oral, ocular or wound exposures, should seek immediate medical attention upon landing.
Although not on anyone’s list of “pleasant topics” considering and making preparations for use of the crash axe as a weapon of aircrew and passenger survival in the event of an otherwise un-thwarted terrorist attack is well worth doing. Such planning may never be needed, but it is better to be ready and never need it than to need it and never be ready. Extreme circumstances call for extreme measures.

Like this content? Want to know when we post new articles or products? Subscribe today!

* indicates required



Email Format




Leave a Reply