Earlier today I shared the lurid details of a passenger meltdown on a Delta flight from Seattle to Beijing. The question on my mind: would lethal force have been appropriate?
First, let’s be thankful that lethal force was not used–that passengers and crew were able to restrain the reckless passenger without killing him. In no way am I advocating for the use of lethal force when it can be avoided.
But let’s play out the following hypothetical:
The man is on methampetamines and because the drugs eliminate physical pain, he seems to exert superhuman strength. He hurls over four FAs and is somehow able to turn the emergency release lever on the door by 90º (halfway toward opening).
Wine bottles are smashed over his head and hot water showered on him but he remains unfazed. He lunges for the flight deck door, hurling himself against it and denting it.
Every person that runs up to try to stop him is swatted away like a fly, as if in a Marvel Comics movie.
Let’s say you are sitting in first class and still have your meal tray at your table, including your knife. Say your spouse and child are sitting across the aisle.
You grab your knife and sneak up behind the passenger as he is bloodying another one. Do you slit his throat? Stab him the back?
Did he just ask what I think he asked?
I did. I also realize my American values likely shine through even this hypothesis.
But that’s what is on my mind today.
I’m not talking about killing for sport. I’m talking about killing in self-defense, or at least what you reasonably deem necessary for self-defense.
Knowing that a passenger could not really breach the reinforced cockpit door and could not really fully turn and open the aircraft door, is the threat against other passengers in my hypothetical sufficient to use lethal force?
I’d argue the answer is yes, if all other remedies are exhausted. I’d argue that if the passenger could not be subdued and threatened the lives of others, he already forfeited the claim to his own life.
Yet I’d also point out the downside. What if the reckless passenger grabs the knife from you and stabs you with it and then proceeds to stab others? Scary thoughts…
I know that’s a heavy question and I’ll move on to a more light-hearted flight review for my next post. But don’t dismiss it, especially if your initial reaction is one of horror that I would even ask the question. Imagine having to make the split-second decision to defend your loved ones against someone who seemed absolutely lethal.
It’s a position I hope none of us ever find ourselves in…