Terrorism Puts Passengers On Active Duty


“Aggressive intervention has become the societal norm,” the Flight Safety Foundation’s Bill Voss told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, about a passenger’s action to subdue would-be terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab on Christmas Day. Abdulmatallab succeeded in burning himself and not much more when the lives of 278 passengers were at stake. That is perhaps thanks to fellow Northwest Fight 253 passenger Jasper Schuringa. Schuringa told CNN, “I basically reacted directly.” Schuringa said it wasn’t a matter of thought, “I just went over there and tried to save the plane.” Schuringa used his hands to extinguish the fire Abdulmatallab’s actions had created. He was quickly joined by crew and other passengers who took the suspect to first class, stripped him and searched for explosives. “We just did it. There was nothing to talk about,” passenger Syed Jafry said. The men now join the ranks of passengers like those of United Flight 93 who were aware of the threat and were ready to act. While authorities worldwide tighten security measures, stories of active intervention initiated by the final line of defense, the passengers, become more common.

In June of 2009, two off-duty officers handcuffed a violent irrational passenger aboard a US Airways flight. In April of 2008, passengers worked together to subdue with duct tape a drunken man who had attacked a flight attendant. In the Richard Reid incident, a doctor on the same flight took it upon himself to inject Reid, who was by then already restrained, with a sedative.

More on Abdulmatallab:
Read the Wall Street Journal’s profile on Umar Adbulmattallab here