Israeli airline El Al has been using sky marshals for more than 30 years, and they have foiled a number of hijacking attempts.

The sky marshals are present on every El Al flight. Their number is determined according to the aircraft type and destination. All have served in the Israeli defence forces.

El Al's marshals are seated in different sections of the passenger cabin, able to react in seconds. They are all armed with automatic handguns, carried in quick-draw holsters.

The first attempt to attack an El Al aircraft occurred on 19 February 1969, at Zurich's Kloten airport. Two attackers opened fire on a Boeing 707 within the airport perimeter. One of the air marshals on board returned fire, then ran out of the aircraft and continued to fire, killing one attacker and wounding the second.

On 6 September 1970, a man and a woman attempted to hijack an El Al flight from Tel Aviv to New York via Amsterdam. One of the air marshals on board killed the man and incapacitated the woman. On 4 July 2002 a man who opened fire on El Al passengers at Los Angeles airport was shot dead by two of the airline's security officers after he had killed a local airline worker and a man escorting passengers to the airport.

On 17 November 2002 a hijack attempt on a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul was foiled. An attacker tried to break into the cockpit with a small folding knife. The security guards subdued him in seconds.

Source: Flight International