Even though airport security is very strong nowadays, commercial flights are still at risk of hijacking. Alternatively, passengers (perhaps mentally distressed) could provoke damage to crew, passengers or infrastructure.

Do commercial aircraft carry personal weapons for their crew to use? This could be either fire arms or non-lethal weapons (like batons, pepper spray, Taser, etc). On the one hand, it makes sense they do carry some form of deterrent. On the other hand, in the wrong hands these weapons could create more danger than if not present. Do we know something about this?

Online I read about planes carrying an axe, but this is not much of a deterrent since it is quite hard to use properly and effectively (I imagine). There is an old discussion here in the US context, which might suggest this is an ongoing debate.

PD: perhaps a firearm shot could affect the fuselage and put the whole aircraft at risk, so non-lethal weapons would make more sense.

PD2: this Q is broader than the suggested duplicates. It is not only about pilots. The existing answer confirms its broader nature.

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    $\begingroup$ @mins useful or not, many countries seem to think it worthwhile: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_marshal $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 12:50
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    $\begingroup$ @Jamiec: This is different, police officers in the cabin, not armed crews. But you have a point. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:01
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    $\begingroup$ Does this answer your question? Are pilots armed? See also this question. $\endgroup$
    – Pondlife
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 16:22
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    $\begingroup$ Cockpit crewmembers carrying handguns applies only to the US. In any case, hijackings have largely stopped for two reasons: reinforced cockpit doors, and the knowledge by the pax that a hijacking is likely to result in death and they have nothing to lose by trying to overpower the hijackers. This has changed the entire dynamic because before 9-11 a hijacking was usually assumed to result in a diversion and landing somewhere, so passivity was the wise option. $\endgroup$
    – John K
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Many years ago there was research into mechanisms of having a sleeping gas added to the environment within the cabin in the event of a hostile takeover. I'm not sure if that research ever led to the designs being implemented. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 5:18

2 Answers 2


Many countries and/or airlines have a sky marshall program where a specially-trained law enforcement (or possibly military) person is on board with weapons used in case of hijacking.

Some examples:

It should be noted that every country and/or airline is pretty tight-lipped about whether they do or do not employ sky marshals, probably for fear of affecting the operational usefulness of such roles. I don't think we can know for sure exactly where armed personnel are onboard!

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    $\begingroup$ Should be said that BBC link is from 2003 and I don't think I've once heard about a UK "Sky Marshal" since. I'm sure they conduct specific intelligence-led operations, but I don't think the UK actually has a routine sky marshal program like the US does $\endgroup$
    – Dan
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ @Dan Oh I agree, SO18 is only really responsible for protecting the airports at Heathrow and City. But once upon a time I think they may have considered putting armed marshalls on aircraft (and maybe they do - they just keep it secret) $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 14:02
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    $\begingroup$ Just to highlight the complexity of the legal matters: Air Marshals: The Need for Legal Certainty, with quite surprising cases (e.g. El Al Flight 432 and Dawson's Field) $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 14:37
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    $\begingroup$ Of course, the Brits keeping the confusion level up about whether they have sky marshals or not helps keep certainty level down for the bad guys. Thus adding a touch more uncertainty to the bad guys' hopes of success. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Nov 18, 2021 at 18:22
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    $\begingroup$ Another reason, especially on international flights, is that bringing those weapons into another jurisdiction may well break the law. By treaty exceptions can be negotiated for law enforcement agents and their weapons. But that won't work for airline employees. $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Nov 19, 2021 at 9:24

As of March 2009, some US commercial pilots were trained in the use of weapons and were allowed to have them on board

Source: https://www.factcheck.org/2009/03/guns-for-pilots/

The program started, not surprisingly, soon after 9/11 https://www.nytimes.com/2002/07/10/politics/house-passes-bill-to-allow-airline-pilots-to-carry-guns.html

It looks like it's still in force (from March 2018): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43377461


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