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9-11 Fighter Pilot: We Wouldn't Have Shot Down Hijackers
| Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com Staff
Posted on 08/21/2002 6:58:33 PM PDT by kattracks
The pilot of one of two U.S. military jets that were scrambled on 9-11 moments after kamikaze hijacker Mohamed Atta slammed American Airlines Flight 11 into Tower One of the World Trade Center said Wednesday that he wouldn't have been able to stop the attack even if he intercepted the plane.
"If we had intercepted American 11, we probably would have watched it crash," the pilot, identified only by his military codename "Nasty," told the Cape Cod Times. "We didn't have the authority to (shoot it down)."
As part of the 102nd Fighter Wing flying out of Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod, "Nasty" and his partner, codenamed "Duff," were scrambled at 8:46 a.m. as news of Flight 11's hijacking reached the base.
Coincidentally, at the very moment, the plane slammed into Tower One.
"We didn't suspect they would use kamikaze tactics that morning," the pilot told the Times. "We weren't ready for that type of an attack, to quickly shoot down one of our own airplanes."
When United Airlines Flight 175, piloted by Atta's hijack-partner Marwan Al Shehhi, crashed into Tower Two at 9:02 a.m., the two F-15's were about 71 miles - eight minutes away - from Manhattan.
By the time "Nasty" got word of a second hijacked plane, it had already smashed into Tower Two, he told the paper. But the idea that the F-15's, had they been scrambled earlier, might have been able to shoot down the hijackers is pure conjecture, "Nasty" told the paper.
At the time, military pilots had no such standing orders. Absent a presidential directive they had no authority to blow a commercial airliner out of the sky.
Because President Bush was involved in a public school event in Florida between the time of the first and second attacks, no such order could have been issued, the Times said.
And even if it had been, and the F-15's were able to successfully intercept and shoot down all the planes hijacked that day, the result still would have been controversial, the pilot explained.
"If we had shot down four airliners on Sept. 11, we wouldn't have been heroes," "Nasty" told the Times. "You don't have the choice of outcomes. They're all bad."
Read more on this subject in related Hot Topics:
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TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; Front Page News; News/Current Events
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posted on 08/21/2002 6:58:33 PM PDT
Saving 3,000 Americans working in the Pentagon and World Trade Center buildings would have been a "bad outcome?" I think it would have been the least bad of all outcomes. In war there is a principle called triage. Sometimes you don't have any good options and you're called upon to decide to use force in a way that does the least harm. Preventing buildings with large numbers of people working inside them from falling down is a valid application of triage. Sure the people on the planes would have been doomed but least the country could take comfort in the knowledge their lives weren't being used to murder other innocent people. Life is a series of trade-offs and its just too bad political correctness has tried to eliminate ALL risks from life. The result of that philosophy is a lot of people died needlessly on 911. Its time to get rid of it of before we have more innocent deaths like happened on that day because we were too paralyzed to take decisive action to protect thousands when we could have.
The title is misleading. These pilots would not have had the authority to shoot down the jetliners even if they had intercepted them. This isn't news -- we knew pretty much everything said here by the afternoon of September 11th.
This is history now, old hat and no longer relevant...
posted on 08/21/2002 7:55:11 PM PDT
Sure the people on the planes would have been doomed but least the country could take comfort in the knowledge their lives weren't being used to murder other innocent people.
That's assuming the planes, after being hit by missiles, would have crashed into the harbor and not several other buildings in Manhattan.
Saving 3,000 Americans working in the Pentagon and World Trade Center buildings would have been a "bad outcome?" I think it would have been the least bad of all outcomes.
Of course it would have been the least bad . . . but suppose we did have "indications" that they were headed for buildings? Not firm indications, but pretty strong hints.
And suppose Bush gave the order and our fighters intercepted the jets and shot them down?
Don't you think Bush would have caught holy hell about the decision to shoot down those planes? People would say "yes, they had been hijacked, but they probably just wanted ransom, so why kill the hostages?"
The administration would come back with information indicating that the planes were headed for major buildings.
So we'd hear, "that *could* have happened, but we don't *know* that. Besides, who's to say they could have accurately directed a plane into a building anyway?"
Frankly, Bush would have gotten fried by the media and the Democrats if the planes had been shot down. We just didn't visualize a plane being used as a weapon in that way, and without an example of it actually happening, the press, the Dems, and many in the public would have gone bananas.
I think the point of this article is that they didnt have the standing order to shoot down the planes when the attack first happend, they couldnt if they wanted to. I believe they did have the order by the time the Pentagon and flight 93 were attacked. I dont think this is a case of political correctness.
posted on 08/21/2002 8:24:21 PM PDT
There is 20/20 hindsight and totally myopic hindsight. This is somehow both.
posted on 08/21/2002 8:26:52 PM PDT
Agreed. These officers are very skilled and compitent, and that's likely an understatement, since they don't put mouth-breathing knuckle-draggers in the cockpit of one of our most advanced fighter jets. If anything, this article reinforces what some people might not have a grasp on...that they are military officers and they follow orders, and on that day, at that time, they were not ordered to drop 767's out of the sky. And even if the order had been given, even with the lid taken off of the afterburners they couldn't have made there in time.
It goes to show how much the world had changed from the peak of the Cold War. It would have been unthinkable 40 years ago to have so few fighter jets at the ready in case of a national emergency. But 40 years ago there was actually an enemy that warranted that level of readiness. Who would have thought that our own passenger jets, parts of our own infrastructure, would be used against us. If we needed an event to draw the line between the 20th and 21st centuries, I think we got it.
posted on 08/21/2002 8:27:26 PM PDT
I wouldn't have wanted to be the man who got the order to shoot down a hijacked 767, loaded with civilians...nor would I want to trade places with the man who would be put in the position to have to give that order. I don't think some of the armchair quarterbacks see from that angle.
To: Vidalia; DallasMike; SMEDLEYBUTLER; snopercod; joanie-f
71 miles at 8 minutes calculates to 535 mph --- they were not fast movers.
Yes it would have been horrible to give the order or carry out the order to shoot down an civilian aircraft with innocent passengers on it, but some things are just dirty and have to be done.
posted on 08/21/2002 8:42:18 PM PDT
A couple of those minutes were probably devoted to starting the aircraft and takeing off in the first place. I believe I remember hearing about sonic booms heard over Pensylvannia.
posted on 08/21/2002 8:45:17 PM PDT
They might not have been carrying enough fuel to get there if they went supersonic. Afterburners basically dump fuel in large volumes into the exaust of the engines. The F-22 might have been able to do it, but I'm not sure about the F-15. Maybe someone here has more info on the planes range when flying at it's top speed.
To: Numbers Guy
Oh you are so right. The media would have had a fit and the RATs would never stop berating Bush and he would be up for impeachment if that had taken place.
Having said that, I think in the future, this might have to be done, and if the media and rats use it against him, so be it. This is war, something this country doesn't seem to understand.
Certainly we know that, however, lately I have heard RATs and a few others complaining that they didn't shoot down the planes! They say that with the inference that the gov't knew this was coming and just allowed it!!!
To: Orangedog; Husker24; ladyinred; snopercod; mach.08
Fuel they've got, but the speed check indicates they did not have orders to engage. The many RADAR systems in the area showed no off-shore hostiles.
Yes, and it was not SOP at the time to allow fastmovers to go supersonic over land, scramble or not. The stakes were not known.
posted on 08/21/2002 9:20:34 PM PDT
I am given to understand that fires are permitted.
Not always, shipmate. :-)
posted on 08/21/2002 9:40:26 PM PDT
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