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Airliner axe

Discussion in 'Axe, Tomahawk, & Hatchet Forum' started by Steve Tall, Jun 14, 2017.

  1. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    A bit of trivia I just learned, the FAA requires an axe to be in the cockpit/ flight deck.
    An example, shown at the bottom left of this picture:
    Another example:

    Here's a news article about one being used as a weapon:

    Co-pilot uses ax to keep man out of cockpit
    February 8, 2002

    MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The co-pilot on a United Airlines flight from Miami to Buenos Aires on Thursday struck an unruly passenger on the head with an ax after the man partially forced his way into the plane's cockpit, officials and passengers said.

  2. phantomknives


    Mar 31, 2016
  3. Woodcraft

    Woodcraft Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 7, 2016
  4. junkenstien

    junkenstien Basic Member Basic Member

    Feb 15, 2017
  5. BamaDADx3


    Jul 1, 2016
    I wonder why the donut hole in the middle? Seems it would be more structurally sound if that was solid piece??? HMMMMM................
  6. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    I think they go by the name of crash axe. Not sure why that design replaced the traditional fire axe. Maybe the steel handle?
    Park Swan likes this.
  7. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Think of it as a normal axe with a "strap" of bit extended to connect to the handle. This helps keep the axe from getting stuck when punching through sheet metal. The "strap" of edge isn't really the main striking region of the bit and isn't under significant strain in use. Keeping the negative space there helps keep the weight down.
    SpySmasher likes this.
  8. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    It's designed specifically for chopping through the skin of an airplane from the inside. Fire axes are made more for dealing with traditional structures from the outside in.
  9. Park Swan

    Park Swan KnifeMaker / Craftsman / Service Provider Knifemaker / Craftsman / Service Provider

    Mar 15, 2016
    Exactly, puncture and then lever. It's actually pretty efficient.
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.
  10. garry3


    Sep 11, 2012
    There must be a heck of a demand for chopping through airplanes from the inside out then. Because they are quite common...
  11. Woodcraft

    Woodcraft Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 7, 2016
    That looks like the Ww2 RAF bomber escape ax they show online. If so the "hole" in the bit is nothing more than a solid mounting point and the handle is tested to some crazy voltage so you can chop through wires as well without getting a shock. Apparently there is a non RAF version that is the same but looks like a Hudson Bay shape from the side. It is a standard fire brigade ax, and does not need the solid mounting point like the bomber version needed.
  12. FortyTwoBlades

    FortyTwoBlades Baryonyx walkeri Dealer / Materials Provider

    Mar 8, 2008
    Well, yeah. This thread was started in discussion of the fact that crash axes are mandated flight cabin equipment. It's a safety item for the event of a crash situation in which you have to cut yourself out of the plane.
    Faiaoga likes this.
  13. Woodcraft

    Woodcraft Gold Member Gold Member

    Nov 7, 2016
    Having gone through sheet metal with bladed tools on several occasions..........
    The pick has to be driven through to break the "skin". Pounding the blade of a knife or an lightweight ax into sheet metal just deforms it. Once the pick, or knife point makes a hole you can then use the ax as an ax. Chopping down and creating a cut. Then you can lever the cut open. Regular axes are absolutely brutal. If one needed to get through aircraft aluminum or automotive steel in a hurry......a three and a half pound Jersey will do the trick. Push cutting works with a knife, although you tend to get bloody. Batoning a knife through with a hammer works quite well....
    Park Swan likes this.
  14. Lapedog


    Dec 7, 2016
    They can't even have it be general knowledge among the passengers now for fear of a terrorist using it?

    So on most flights only the crew knows it's there I would imagine.

    Thus if the crew gets knocked out in that crash how are the passengers to use this axe?

    Maybe the answer is all passengers have to bring a personal axe to each flight from now on.
    Moonw likes this.
  15. zzyzzogeton

    zzyzzogeton Gold Member Gold Member

    Feb 17, 2013
    As Woodcraft mentioned, these axes were carried on WW2 aircraft.

    When I first leaned about them back in the 70s, they were almost always called "glider axes", allegedly designed to be used to by soldiers to chop their way out of the plywood gliders if the doors jammed on "crash-landing", which happened on a near constant basis during glider pilot training.

    I have since seen many folks calling them "crash axes", "bomber axes" and "escape axes".

    Some people have claimed that the axes were also carried by "mosquito pilots", "spitfire pilots", etc., but I have never seen a picture of any fighter plane, British or American, showing one of these axes in them. Obviously, I can't say they didn't have them with 100% confidence. I just haven't seen one in one or seen them listed on a list of "on-board equipment" for fighters.

    I have seen 2 types, with one type have 3 styles of heads. I have several of these buried somewhere. I'll have to see about digging them out for pics.

    One type is like the one in the OP, with a curved hook. These are sometimes referred to as D42 axes, one of the markings sometimes present in the molded/insulated handle.

    A second type has a straight hook, rather than a curved hook. These do NOT have the cutout in the head. These sometimes have a D56 molded in the handle.

    Some have speculated that the D42 and D56 represent the first year they were produced, although no one has ever shown any documentation to prove or disprove that hypothesis.

    The D42 and D56 are still produced by Gemtor, who markets it as a "cockpit axe".

    I have seen the D42 with 3 types of heads -
    - the first, and most common is like that shown in the OP picture, with the cutout.
    - a second type has flat sides, i.e., no cutout.
    - the third type had indents on both sides of the head, mimicing a cutout, but the window is still solid.

    Again, I have seen speculation that the cutout was for weight reduction, as every ounce counted when flying. No documentation to support this theory either.

    If the axes were really for use on every fighter plane, there should have been thousands of them left over after the war, but they don't show up very often, mostly in the UK.

    The D56s that I have/have seen, don't have a manufacturer's name on them. I have not paid the outrageous price Gemtor charges for modern version, so I don't know what if any marks are on them.

    The D42s were made by 2 known companies, Elwell and Chillington, who stamped their names in the heads.

    A 3rd company that used a Winged "A" for a logo either molded it into the handle (rare) or stamped it into the head (rarer).

    A 4th D42 version has no marks at all.

    Edit to add - the D56 has a serrated edge.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
    SpySmasher, Park Swan and Woodcraft like this.
  16. A Visitor

    A Visitor

    Jan 19, 2009
    good info, I have to dig mine out and check it
  17. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    In the current federal regulations, it's called both a "crash axe" and a "crash ax", and in two different parts of the regulations it is said to be required for each airplane that can seat at least 19 passengers (with some differences mentioned in a third part, "Part 121", including an exception for nontransport category airplanes certificated after 12/31/1964).

    Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
    Subpart F—Large and Turbine-Powered Multiengine Airplanes and Fractional Ownership Program Aircraft
    §91.513 Emergency equipment.
    (e) Each airplane accommodating more than 19 passengers must be equipped with a crash axe.

    Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
    Subpart K—Instrument and Equipment Requirements

    §121.309 Emergency equipment.
    (e) Crash ax. Except for nontransport category airplanes type certificated after December 31, 1964, each airplane must be equipped with a crash ax.

    Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
    Subpart C—Aircraft and Equipment

    §135.177 Emergency equipment requirements for aircraft having a passenger seating configuration of more than 19 passengers.
    (2) A crash axe carried so as to be accessible to the crew but inaccessible to passengers during normal operations.
  18. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    In 1995, an airline plane crashed in Georgia. 18 of the 26 passengers survived, but...

    "The captain died on impact. The first officer, trapped in the cockpit with a roaring fire approaching from behind him, tried to break out his jammed side window with the hatchet-cum-nailpuller that was supplied as a crash ax. He could not...

    One of the NTSB's conclusions was that there should be standards governing the design of crash axes required to be carried aboard passenger-carrying aircraft. The report noted that the ax supplied on this aircraft was inadequate, but that it met regulations..."

    (quotes from Blade Failure, by Peter Garrison, Flying Magazine, May 1997)

    In 2001, the SAE Aerospace Standard 5402 (Design and Performance Criteria Aircraft Crash Axes) was published. It includes these provisions:

    As a minimum, the crash ax design shall facilitate assisting crew members performance of the following emergency functions:
    • Prying open jammed flight deck/other emergency exits (e.g., sliding windows, plug hatches, flight deck entry doors, cabin doors, etc.).
    • Prying open jammed or locked access panels.
    • Penetrating bulkheads or panels to permit application of fire extinguishing agent.
    • Penetrating aircraft skin, bulkheads or panels when the airplane is on the ground to permit ventilation of fire and for clean air to breathe.
    • Chopping holes in side windows to permit or assist in extrication, to permit application of fire extinguishing agent, and/or to permit ventilation.
    • Penetrating inadvertently inflated devices (e.g., lift rafts, etc.).

    One of the currently available crash axes that supposedly meets the standards:


    The "cutting claw" works like a can opener.



    Some short demos on a school bus, chain link fence...

    Last edited: Jun 19, 2017
  19. Agent_H

    Agent_H Gold Member Gold Member

    Aug 21, 2013
    Steve Tall, in reallife, first string pick Intel/Logistics.

    Thank you. :thumbsup:
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.
  20. Steve Tall

    Steve Tall

    Aug 28, 2010
    Wikipedia gives some more details about the axe used after the 1995 plane crash in Georgia:

    "Despite a dislocated shoulder, First Officer Warmerdam used the cockpit fire axe to cut through the thick cockpit glass. David McCorkell, a surviving passenger, later assisted by pulling the axe out of the cockpit through the hole Warmerdam had created and struck the glass from the outside in order to increase the size of the hole and help Warmerdam escape... The emergency crews successfully pulled Warmerdam out of the aircraft."
    FortyTwoBlades likes this.

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