CNN has a transcript of their interview with Air National Guard Lt. Col. Tim Lehmann, one of the two F-16 pilots who intercepted the Cessna 150 over Washington yesterday.
A DHS advisor (a retired Air Force colonel, I think) made an interesting comment on NPR today, something to the effect of “Catch-all solutions [like evacuating everyone from buildings] aren’t a solution.” That’s pretty much exactly what I was thinking when I first heard about it yesterday. A single-engine Cessna can’t hold enough explosives to be dangerous to more than about one average American house. The real threat from a small single-engine aircraft would be from a biological agent, and in that case, the last thing you want is hundreds or thousands of people running around in the streets.
Another excellent point the advisor made is all the more intriguing in light of Lehmann’s comment:
I’d like to assure your listeners that that airplane would not have penetrated — it would not have hit anything in D.C. And it would have been dropped from the sky before that would have happened.
Yes, dropped from the sky indeed.
On top of what? The thousands of people running around outside in the streets?
Any small aircraft is going to be a whole lot of little pieces of burning shrapnel after being hit by an air-to-air missle. Those pieces aren’t going to hurt a building, but they’d certainly be a significant hazard to people on the ground who happened to be underneath the blast.
It seems as though the emergency response plans need to be re-evaluated a bit, and perhaps altered to include differing degrees of response based on the potential hazard posed by the threatening aircraft. Obviously, a large transport aircraft with full fuel is a much greater hazard to structures and concentrated assemblies of people than a single-engine GA bird. Dispersal and evacuation seems like a prudent step in such a case. But running everyone outside when a potential biological attack is imminent seems incredibly dumb.
How the hell a flight instructor managed to be entirely ignorant of both the ADIZ and the no-fly zone over D.C. is another matter. Memo to the FAA: don’t pull his certificates for violating the ADIZ and no-fly zone. Pull his certificates for being criminally stupid. He gives the rest of us a bad name.
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