Tracking isn’t the problem. Flying slow enough not to outrun it, while simultaneously avoiding a stall, is the tricky part. I note in my reference materials about “what you as a private pilot in a small airplane should do if intercepted” that the intercepting airplane may use slowflight, have flaps and gear down, and engage in S-turns in order to maintain flight speed while intercepting an object that moves slower than a fighter jet. I’m sure all of these maneuvers are trivial for F-16 pilots (they’re pretty trivial for me, come to think of it, and I don’t pretend to be some sort of extraordinary pilot), but they aren’t normal flight either.
Yes, but I fail to see any merit in summary execution of wayward airplanes. Especially wayward airplanes that can’t pose much threat. Or don’t you think it better if in the end no one gets hurt? Shooting an airplane down should very much be a last resort, not a first one.
Yes, bullets have much in their favor as anti-aircraft devices. My point was that an F-16 does not need to be armed to be dangerous. In fact, prior to 9/11 intercepts of civilian aircraft were routinely done with unarmed aircraft. Clearly, the military doesn’t seen Cessna as much of a threat.
What about people the airplane might fall on? Even in rural areas there are people. I just don’t see any merit in unnecessary destruction.
But except when trying to make eye contact with the 172 pilot, there’s no reason for the F-16 to fly as slowly as the 172, and indeed good reason not to: the F-16’s fuel consumption and thus flight duration will be much worse at very low speed. Instead, just fly around at efficient speeds, keeping track of the 172 (which does not need an F-16 within 200 yards to be prevented from escaping).
There is no merit in it, nor did I propose any. My point was that, should an F-16 pilot wish to do so, in a 783-mile flight there’s no challenge in finding a safe place to shoot down a light plane. Other than by following busy highways, I think it would be tough to find a 783-mile route anywhere in the US along more than 20% of which a crashing 172 would have a decent chance of causing injury.
True. But what you’re proposing sounds likely to be relatively ineffective, potentially dangerous to the F-16, and well outside normal training. The cannon looks to be much better in every way.
Well, let’s see. What if he had explosives on board, it was mid July and the Brewers were playing to a sold out crowd at Miller Field? That little Cessna crashing into a stadium filled with 41,000 souls could do quite a bit of damage. After all, it passed over the Wisconsin Capitol and the F-16s did nothing. Whose to say by the time folks realized what was occurring, it would already be too late.
Now, allow me to adjust my tinfoil hat. He’s a sleeper. His job was to probe air defenses crossing from Canada across the border into the US. What was learned? It’s possible it can be done, you will be watched, but nothing will be done about it. Seems to me that the next time this happens, the ultimate result will not be landing on a county road, popping into a local store and waiting to be caught.
Of course, the next time it happens, pick the border crossing with Washington, Idaho or northwest Montana. Stay below the ridge lines and one can penetrate deep into America before being caught. The drug planes do it all the time.
Beyond a certain point, the laws of physics will stop him from overloading his plane and doing anything productive with it. Any given airplane will be able to lift X amount of weight. This includes crew, passengers, fuel, payload, and the airplane itself. If you carry more payload (more explosives), you have to carry less fuel if you want the plane to get airborne, which limits your range and choice of targets. You could strap a Cessna 172 to a Fat Boy bomb, but it won’t get very far with it.
Well, true, but then the hard part would be casually loading 500 pounds of explosives onto a plane that doesn’t belong to you without being noticed. Well, assuming that getting 500 pounds of explosives isn’t the hard part, I really don’t know. Would 500 pounds of those little cap gun cap rings do anything other than blow your thumbnail off?
The protocol may have changed, but I seem to remember a while back when a Lear Jet with a famous golfer was found to be unresponsive to ATC (turned out the environmental system had failed and all aboard were unconscious/dead) and it too was trailed by fighters to be potentially shot down to avoid crashing into a populated area, it was stated that the President himself has to give the final ok for this (was Clinton at the time).
BTW, they didn’t shoot it down, it ran out of fuel and thankfully crashed in an uninhabited area.
Regulations impose a hard limit; physics not so much. On a cool day with a long enough runway, most aircraft can get airborne while seriously overloaded. Maximum achievable altitude will be lower and safety will be compromised in various ways.
If he was able to get up to 14,000 feet the airplane did NOT have 500 lbs of anything on board!
Sure, you can stuff a lot of nasty stuff into a Cessna 172, but doing so, aside from not getting caught, will change how the airplane flies. And there’s only so much you can load inside before it simply won’t get off the ground at all. In the hypothetical scenario where some Bad Guy loads 500 lbs of explosive, full fuel (also a couple hundred pounds), and himself (let’s say 200 lbs of person) into the airplane that thing is going to be wallowing through the air. That’s assuming it doesn’t throw the weight and balance into an unstable situation that makes the airplane difficult or impossible to control.
Could a Cessna 172 cause some serious damage? Yes, potentially it could. But your average car bomb can carry more explosives and, with a straight-away, can go almost as fast into the side of a building. That’s one reason carbombs are more common than airplanebombs (there are others, of course). Personally, I worry a lot more about someone stealing one of those tanker-trucks full of gasoline than I worry about small Cessnas crashing into buildings. The tanker truck would do a hell of a lot more damage.
Hmmm. Now the only question is, should I use my powers for good or evil…?
As to Payne Stewart, I seem to remember a Newsweek article shortly afterwards about President Clinton being notified in case the plane had to be shot down to protect people on the ground. Guess that was an erroneous report.
Vice President Cheney personally authorized the shooting down of United Flight 93 when it was inbound for Washington, before the hijackers were overcome and it crashed near Shanksville. The 9-11 Commission Report noted the controversy over exactly when Cheney spoke to the President that morning, and whether Bush only retroactively gave his approval.