On the morning of 9/11/2001 the policy guidance we had at Northwest Airlines (NWA) with respect to hijackings was:
“The first consideration in a hijacking is the safety of passengers and flight crews. If the hijacker is armed, comply with all demands to the extent possible. Attempts to overpower or subdue the hijacker by passengers or crew are potentially hazardous and should only be attempted as a last resort.” And it goes on…
“Ensure that the hijacker knows that the crew will do anything that the hijacker says.”
“Remind the hijacker of the innocent people on board.”
(Reference: NWA Flight Operations Manual (FOM) 15.20.1, dated Dec 22-89.)
I have held on to these pages from my NWA (FOM), and every time I see them, they still burn my ass! I didn’t like the policy when I first read it. The first question I had on the morning of 9/11 was, “How did that policy work for you, ‘Suit?’ Are I was mad as Hell!
Eight of my peers – eight Aviators – died that morning, following the hijacking “policies” of suits: corporate ‘suits’ sitting comfortably at their respective corporate headquarters. Of course, the policies were blessed by the FAA (Federal Aviation Agency). But the suits will argue, they all died in compliance of existing company policy.
I have never heard anything about it, but I would hope that their survivors sued the hell out of their respective airlines – and maybe settled quietly ‘out of court?’ After all, the airlines – with this policy – rendered them all “defenseless.”
I have been called “cynical” upon occasion. If it is “cynical” on my part to hold this up to airline executives; well, so be it! If some “suit” at the airlines is offended with this post, all the better! Just know ‘suit,’ had I ever chosen to do your job, I very well could have – I can loose money with the best of ya! But I doubt if you could have ever flown a jet as well as I did…
PS: When the eventual manual change came out, soon after 9/11 I kept the original policy guidance with the following ‘change’ penciled in: 9/11/’01 – Just shoot the Motherfuckers.” And that made me feel very well…