For most people, being on an aeroplane is a happy experience, with the promise of an exciting time ahead.
Not so for the group of passengers who boarded a Boeing 737 at Bournemouth Airport recently.
I was one of them.
It was a normal sort of start to the day. Everyone had that holidayish feel. The faces were cheerful, the clothing comfortable.
We’d gone through a security check and handed our boarding cards to an official.
But no sooner had we clicked our seatbelts into place and the flight attendant had begun a safety briefing than a passenger at the front of the plane began to get a little disruptive.
A prickle of unease flickered over my neck, assuaged when the cabin crew finally allowed him into the toilet. This was short lived, as the man suddenly burst out with a mask and a gun.
He was joined by other masked terrorists, shouting orders and brandishing weapons.
The atmosphere changed in a heartbeat. Outside was a sunny Bournemouth runway. Inside we were now under terrorist rule.
The sense of the unknown was palpable.
What were they going to do to us? How long would our ordeal last?
I tried to see how many of them were with us, but one of them was soon in my face, shouting: “Do NOT look at me. Now pull down the blinds. PULL DOWN THE BLINDS DO YOU HEAR ME!?” I felt a gun at my head.
Anyone who had been allocated a window seat was forced to do the same. We were now in darkness and the cabin began to fill with smoke.
Even though I knew these were actors, the adrenaline was pumping as if it were a real situation.
We ‘holidaymakers’ were taking part in an Air Safety Workshop organised by Total Krav Maga and No Fear Academy. Around 60 people had signed up from all across the UK and Europe.
Alarms were sounding, screams could be heard from all around, as well as crying and general noises of panic. We began to get nervous and disorientated.
Expletives were being shouted in people’s faces.
The terrorists interrogated us: Why were we visiting our destination? Did we have family abroad? As I strained to hear what was going on over the panic, I jumped as I felt a knife at my throat and a different terrorist shouted in my ear: “MOVE!!” I was forced to leave my husband’s side and pushed down next to a stranger. “NOW PUT YOUR ******* SEATBELT ON. DO IT!
Then one of them shouted.: “Now everybody listen. We are from the Anti-Israeli nuclear treaty. We are not flying to Tel Aviv. We are landing in Gaza. Do as you are told and no one will get hurt.”
Confusion reigned. Where was my husband? What was being done to him? I turned my head and watched as people across the aisle from me were forced to their knees and told not to move.
“WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT?!” Out of nowhere, a gun snapped my head back into position.
I was left, pushed into uncomfortable proximity to the stranger.
After what seemed like hours, a terrorist asked me in a gentler voice: “Are you OK?” I warmed to him slightly. They were obviously trying to emulate Stockholm syndrome (where hostages begin to empathise with their captors).
Then, suddenly, daylight flooded into the cabin.
The terrorists were escorted off the plane by ‘armed police’.
Our ordeal had lasted less than 40 minutes.
At the de-brief we were told to spare a thought for the real-life hijacking in 1968 by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which lasted for more than 40 days.
The thought of this was incomprehensible.
Krav Maga is a martial art and self-defence system developed for the military in Israel that consists of a wide combination of techniques sourced from various areas including boxing, judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and grappling, along with realistic fight training.
Jose Silva, certified Krav Maga instructor at No Fear Academy based on the south coast, said: “The purpose of this hijack workshop is to put students in a real live situation.
“A lot of self-defence techniques are taught in a studio which is well-lit and dry with a flat floor.
“That’s not realistic. That’s why we hold workshops on planes, tubes and trains.”
While we weren’t actually encouraged to tackle our assailants, it gave us an idea of what could happen in a confined space, and how people can act irrationally in certain conditions.
In the second part of the workshop the instructors showed us some simple self defence techniques. Even the passenger sitting next to you could get disruptive.
So I learned how to restrict a person invading my space, how to defend myself from a knife attack (and how to get the weapon from their grasp). I even learned, as an average-sized woman, how to take a grown man to the ground.
Anyone can learn the discipline of Krav Maga.
Nick Maison, instructor at Total Krav Maga said: “We have doctors, lawyers, builders, nurses, students... there are no neanderthals or egoists.
“With Krav Maga there are no rules, but the first thing we say is that you can easily talk your way out of a situation.
“With our workshops we are saying: This is what could happen, and here are some tools you can work with.”
l No Fear Academy is soon opening a Krav Maga branch in the Bournemouth area.
More air safety seminars coming soon.
Watch the video online at bournemouthecho.co.uk