Posted by: harrisonjones | September 4, 2011

Airplanes and terrorism

The title of a story in my morning paper is, “Terror warning issued for planes.” The article opens with, “The FBI and Homeland Security have issued a nationwide warning about al-Qaida threats to small airplanes.” Quoting from a later paragraph, “The alert said terrorists have considered renting private planes and loading them  with explosives. The bulletin also says al-Qaida would like to use sympathetic Westerners to get flight training, then get them to become flight instructors.” 

I’m wondering if this scenario has just occurred to our federal officials, or if they might have read my recent novel, Shadow Flight. The article describes the alert as a five page bulletin and since I’m a pilot and don’t have the bulletin, I’m wondering who they sent it to. I’m also wondering if the bulletin simply describes the problem, or if it proffers solutions. As a pilot or aircraft owner, what would you do if someone wanted to use you or your  airplane for illegal or immoral purposes? Could you be bought? Money is no obstacle for terrorists or drug cartels. If you are a flight instructor, could you be bribed to teach terrorist to fly? Would you do it if your family were held hostage? What would you do to save your loved ones’ lives? 

I know many of you are outraged that I would even ask such a question, but sadly I have known a few pilots who have succumbed to the temptation of easy money in hauling drugs. The easy money usually results in hard time for the lucky ones. The unlucky ones…well, may they rest in peace. Drugs are not normally associated with  terrorism, and I don’t care to engage in a philosophical debate, however terrorism has to be financed and I’m just saying… 

It’s interesting to write fiction and create scenarios, but it’s disturbing to later see federal bulletins warning of the same scenarios. Of course, fiction after the fact is not fiction. I know most of you must occasionally think of ways that terrorists could accomplish their tasks…that’s all they think about, 24/7.


  1. My husband and I recognized the security risks at airports waiting to go through security a long time ago. You have a large number of people gathered in a small area with lots of baggage none of which has been checked by security yet. Who needs to get on a plane to hurt a lot of people unless it is to do damage as in 9/11?

    • That’s a very good observation, Jeanne. You may have noticed that despite all the harrasment imposed by TSA, they are seldom pro-active. They usually only make rules or new procedures after an incident. For instance, you may have noticed that all the rental lockers are inside the secure area. That’s because years ago some nutcase rented a locker in the San Francisco main terminal and put a bomb in it. When he was safely outside he detonated the bomb. There are many examples: Richard Reid=barefoot security checks; underwear bomber=X-ray scans and pat down gropes etc. I recognize the challenge for our government and appreciate their effort. I also know that, like you and I, they don’t discuss all they know in a public forum. Some of our airline security classes with FBI and Homeland Security were comforting. Others…not so much. I once suggested that if we were going to depend on our passengers to overpower hijackers, then we should give them all a gun. I think they considered that a little too pro-active. I never felt safer than when I was flying military charters and every passenger had two guns. One last point; if the terrorists goal is to destroy our economy, compare today’s numbers with September 10, 2001.

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