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The premise is right out of a disaster movie: Ignite the massive fuel tanks required to keep an international airport up and running each day, stand back, and watch a chain reaction of explosions throughout the labyrinth of pipelines running underneath the tarmac.
But aviation experts cautioned Saturday that the alleged plot targeting John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York would have faced many hurdles, not least of which is the fact that jet fuel does not easily explode.
“The level of catastrophe that may be created is much more limited than most people would expect,” said Rafi Ron, former head of security at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion International Airport. “The fuel that we are talking about is mostly jet fuel, which, unlike the gasoline most people put into their cars, is not that susceptible to explosion.”
That difficulty apparently concerned one of the alleged plotters — an engineer who, federal authorities said in their complaint, explained to his associates that the tanks at JFK would probably require two explosions to provide enough oxygen to ignite the fuel.
But even then, aviation security experts said, fire would not have spread through the pressurized pipelines that bring fuel out to airplanes parked at gates.
“The probability that an explosion would travel through the pipeline and destroy targets along the tarmac is almost nil,” said Ron, now president of New Age Security Solutions in Rockville, Md. “The exception would be pipelines that are not in use and contain vapor.”
Jet fuel is similar to kerosene and, unlike gasoline, requires very high temperatures to burn. Unless it is in vapor or mist form — which can occur in a plane crash — jet fuel does not explode. Additives raise the flashpoint of jet fuel, further reducing the likelihood that it will burn, experts said.
Got that? The LAT is essentially saying that the thwarting of this plot really is no big deal, because if the terrorists had had a chance to carry it off, the damage would have been “limited.”
You see, this story is good news for the Bush administration and the war on terror, so the LAT has to spin it as yawn-worthy in response.
Heck, why do we even need the feds? I mean, all the plots they’ve thwarted weren’t that big a threat anyway, right?
Move along now, nothing to see.
Mon AM Update: The NYT follows the LAT’s lead: Papers Portray Plot as More Talk Than Action. Check out the links to the leftie blogs listed here amongst a link roundup for their reactions. Predictable.