9/11 ten years later: F-16 pilots were ready to ram Flight 93

Posted by: Phineas on September 9, 2011 at 1:26 pm

**Posted by Phineas

All I can say is… wow:

As remarkable as it seems now, there were no armed aircraft standing by and no system in place to scramble them over Washington. Before that morning, all eyes were looking outward, still scanning the old Cold War threat paths for planes and missiles coming over the polar ice cap.

“There was no perceived threat at the time, especially one coming from the homeland like that,” says Col. George Degnon, vice commander of the 113th Wing at Andrews. “It was a little bit of a helpless feeling, but we did everything humanly possible to get the aircraft armed and in the air. It was amazing to see people react.”

Things are different today, ­Degnon says. At least two “hot-cocked” planes are ready at all times, their pilots never more than yards from the cockpit.

A third plane hit the Pentagon, and almost at once came word that a fourth plane could be on the way, maybe more. The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.

“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.

They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.

“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.

She replied without hesitating.

“I’ll take the tail.”

It was a plan. And a pact.

I’ll point out that “Lucky” was Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney, one of America’s first female combat pilots. She was later part of the fighter escort that guarded Air Force One when Bush returned to Washington. This article is one of the first interviews she’s given since that day.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson has often written of the selfless valor and determination of the free citizen-soldier of a republic, as opposed to the slaves of kings and dictators; the pact made by Col. Sasseville and Lt. Penney on September 11th, 2001, is yet another example

No more commentary is necessary. Just read the whole thing.

via The Jawa Report

(Crossposted at Public Secrets)

RSS feed for comments on this post.

3 Responses to “9/11 ten years later: F-16 pilots were ready to ram Flight 93”

Comments

  1. Lorica says:

    She was later part of the fighter escort that guarded Air Force One when Bush returned to Washington. This article is one of the first interviews she’s given since that day.

    I still remember seeing that. We had been sent home from work early, and I was out on my deck thinking and praying, when I saw Air Force 1 with fighter escort. I knew that President Bush was making the right decision, and I was happy that he had someone to cover his advance.

    When it came to the hard decisions President Bush would almost always do the right thing for the right reasons. This is why he will go down in history as one of the greatest Presidents in US history. Much like Reagan, historians might not like him, but he will always be loved by the people.

    God Bless that man, I pray that he lives an incredibly long life. – Lorica

  2. Tim Barnes says:

    Have times changed that much that we didn’t have armed aircraft nearby? Did we really allow ourselves to become that de-militarized? During Vietnam there were armed fighters and bombers all around the country and the war was in one place. Yes, we were worried about an attack from the Soviet Union, but since then new threats have come along. Now we have wars going on everywhere and we aren’t defending our own country? Unbelievable.

  3. Great White Rat says:

    I’ve seen the C-SPAN interview with Lt. (now Major) Penney. It’s worth the hour you’ll spend listening to it. The C-SPAN video is here.

    Tim, as I recall, the reason the aircraft weren’t armed is because they didn’t have time to load ordnance. The military, like everyone else, was in a 9/10 mentality. the Cold War was over and there were no foreign dangers. No one expected anything like what happened. And the threat – and here they were talking about United 93 – was too immediate; they needed to get planes in the air, and fast.

    Major Penney says the reason she was going to take out the tail is that it would immediately kill any forward momentum of the hijacked plane and send it straight down. Ramming any other part of the plane wouldn’t do that, so if it were already pointed at, say, the White House, it would still head for the target if you took out the cockpit or even a wing.

    The fascinating thing is the mater-of-fact manner in which Major Penney talks about a possible kamikaze mission. It’s not a big deal for these heroes – it’s just part of the job. Amazing courage and selflessness – but not surprising.