NO AMMUNITION BUT WOULD HAVE HAD TO BRING IT DOWN
THERE WAS ONLY ONE WAY…….
On September 11, 2001, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney in an F-16 at Andrews Air Force Base. She had her orders. She was to take down down United Airlines Flight 93. The hijacked plane was headed toward Washington DC. Three other planes had hit targets in New York and Washington, and Flight 93 was destined to become the fourth.
Penney was the second combat pilot in the air that morning. The idea of shooting down a civilian aircraft, even a hijacked one, was troublesome enough–but Penney had no missiles or live ammunition. All she had were her orders and her plane. She was going to take the plane down the hard way.
“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney said of the surreal moment. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
Ten years after the event, Penney began talking openly about that day.
Penney was one of the first female combat pilots. She now works for at Lockheed Martin, where she helps direct the F-35 program.”We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” she said.
On that Tuesday in 2001, there were no planes standing by ready to defend the skies over Washington. Not a single plane equipped for a dogfight.
“There was no perceived threat at the time, especially one coming from the homeland like that,” said 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.”
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