Additional commentaries on the AOPA opinion (October 31st, 2001)

From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Re: [downwinders] Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association spokesperson is unre...

October 31st, 2001


Thanks for the comments (shown below).  My friend Arthur does not feel it's a very useful step, and he makes some very valid points.  His two letters on the subject are shown below.

best regards,


Shown below are four items of correspondence: One from "Magnu", one from Arthur D., a response to Arthur, and a second response from him.


At 05:57 AM 10/31/01 , Magnu... wrote:
In a message dated 10/30/01 11:34:46 PM Eastern Standard Time, writes:

<< General Aviation aircraft can easily be filled with high explosives, and
 even without that, they can be used to crash into Spent Fuel Pools or
 another of the many vulnerable areas of a nuclear power facility.  >>

Right on-----with the current mess--------it is better safe than sorry.

Loosing that little bit of air space won't hurt private pilots a bit.    
Besides, if they really wanna fly in banned airspace---------let them try
area 51.

Or fly over Red China, or Iraq.


At 10:52 PM 10/30/01 , Arthur wrote:


A small civilian aircraft is not a significantly GREATER risk to a NPP then
any of the other risks that exist (as you have pointed out there are many
ways to do in a NPP).

The ban on aircraft operating within 11 miles of a NPP is ridiculous simply
because terrorists aren't going to be concerned with a ban, and a 500mph
Citation jet will tear up that 11 miles faster then we have the ability to
respond. Someone attacking a NPP is not going to chose an 80mph Piper Cub
with a max payload of 500lbs when they can just about as easily get a small
corporate jet that can carry thousands of pounds and arrive fast enough to
avoid interception. By the way, Radar is line of site and is terrible for
picking things out of ground clutter, so a typical light twin aircraft could
drop down to treetop level when 15 miles from the plant and arrive over the
plant in 5 minutes. It is highly unlikely that it would be detected on its
approach and even if detected it would arrive faster then we can respond. So
unless ALL aircraft flights are banned, putting little imaginary walls in
the air is folly. The FAA won't ban all aircraft flights as much of our
economy relies on the speed inherent in air travel.

The FAA's pronouncements are intended to make civilians feel safer, but they
do nothing to insure our safety and simply inconvenience or financially ruin
a number of small aircraft owners and Fixed Base Operators whose planes
happen to be based within 11 miles of a plant.

They make it look like they are "doing something" and they know the small
group they are stepping on is not large enough to gain any public support
for their plight. I don't expect to see any "Save The Private Pilots" bumper
stickers anytime soon.



----Original Message-----
From: Russell D. Hoffman []
Sent: Wednesday, October 31, 2001 3:33 AM
To: Arthur D
Subject: RE: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association spokesperson is
unrealistic -- FAA slightly less so

Hi Arthur!

Hmmm!  LOL!

Of course I know the threats from small, maneuverable, low-flying objects
-- here's a good quote I used in Stop Cassini #124 (May 10th, 1999):

"We carried out many trials to try to find the answer to the fast, low
level intruder, but there is no adequate defense."  -- Air Vice Marshal J.
E. "Johnny" Johnson of the RAF.  (JJ was a WWII BoB fighter ace, but it's
still true today, as you point out.)

But even if I give you every argument, which of course I see no reason not
to do, is the answer to just let anything fly up to the power plants at
will, and announce their presence by initiating a disaster?

Here's an FAA email address I found at their web site and sent that letter

I agree that 11 miles is way too small a radius.  And there are 1000 other
problems yet to be addressed.  But the only solution is to remove the
threat (i.e., the waste) and until we do that, every little step is
something people should not fight -- that is, the AOPA should have
announced, September 12th, that their members had voluntarily agreed not to
fly within, oh, 100 miles of any nuclear facility, and they would from now
on all file flight plans and stick to them -- no more VFR.

Why do we have VFR anymore anyway?  Can't the FAA handle the traffic?  If
not (and I know they can't!) why not?  Because their software and computers
haven't been upgraded.  Didn't IBM or someone come close and then either
walk away or get kicked out?  Positive control is a shambles.




At 07:45 AM 10/31/01 , Arthur wrote:

Hi Russell,

The problem with the 11 mile circle is there are entire airports within this
circle! These planes are totally grounded and to be legal will have to be
taken apart and trucked out!

There is no way to truck out the airports however, so people who have spent
there lives making a business of running a small airport are being forced
into financial ruin.

Maybe this sacrifice would be worth it (and the US could compensate those
affected) but as I said, a 11 mile circle has no deterrence to a terrorist.
VFR vs. IFR makes no difference. Terrorists would file the IFR flight plan
with a path 15 miles from the plant and simply divert at high speed straight
to the plant. We don't have aircraft aloft over our 104 plants and one
couldn't be scrambled fast enough to stop even a relatively slow aircraft.
We have VFR for many reasons, First there are thousands of planes without
electrical systems at all (vintage), There are thousands of planes whose
cockpit wouldn't support IFR (Crop dusters, acrobatic, many Warbirds, most
experimental, all ultralights, most light helicopters). Many IFR capable
aircraft make most of their flights VFR because its simpler to file, you can
fly direct and the weather usually supports it. If all the civilian aircraft
had to file and fly IFR flight plans it would swamp the system and the extra
level of complexity needed to get a plane in the air as well as the
licensing requirements would make being a pilot or owning a plane much more
difficult and expensive than today.

This would just be another way in which the terrorists have won and changed
our lives for the worse. I'm sure they cheer all similar bans. They know it
won't stop them but it is one more victory for them.

Russell, you've shown that NPPs and storage pools are vulnerable to a wide
variety of attacks, and surely there are many more ways you didn't think of
and that don't involve aircraft. There is only one solution, Protect the
plants until they can be shut down and deactivated. Protection has to be
based on actual physical protection not some ban on airspace 11 miles from a



At 10:55 AM 10/31/01 , Arthur wrote:

Hi Russell,
As to the last point, I wasn't clear, to me deactivation meant getting the
nuclear fuel out of the reactors. You are right, shutting them down is just
the first of many steps necessary to reduce their danger to us all.
As to where the plants were built, I'm sure you realize that pilots
(particularly private pilots) as a group have no clout, political or
otherwise. That's why we pay twice as much per gallon for gas as you do for
your car! The aviation field is taxed heavily and the proceeds from the
taxes is mostly wasted in Washington's many money pits.
The other thing about small private airports is they are often located in
similar locations that were chosen for the NPPs. NPPs were mostly sited in
semi-rural areas away from population centers (less resistance) and that is
where you will also find many small private and feeder airports.
If the powers that be want to actually increase the protection of  NPPs
(short of what we have discussed) then the method has to be physical,
punitive airspace restrictions only effect law abiding pilots. To offer any
level of protection one must be able to physically prevent multiple
simultaneous intrusions into the immediate airspace, the land around the
plant and the plant itself. We have missiles and radar guided antiaircraft
weapons that are easily capable of downing any aircraft within a mile radius
of the plant so there is no need to set the "no fly zone" at a range where
we wouldn't fire a missile anyway.  Additionally there is significant
difference between a plane taking off from a field 5 miles from the plant
and flying away from it and a high speed inbound aircraft. Radar can detect
the difference. One is a potential threat, the other is not. Many small
airports operate within the Terminal Airspace of large airports and there
are air corridors which allow the aircraft to enter and leave without
encroaching on the main airport. The same could be done for any airports
close to a NPP, designated approach and departure paths which take the
planes away from the NPP.

October 31st, 2001
Hi Arthur,

Thanks again for your comments which I'll post with the prior commentaries.  It is my opinion, however, that aviators had a duty 50, 40, 30 years ago, to alert the public to the fact that the sport, hobby, job, or whatever, conflicted with nuclear power's goals, since the conflict occurred right from the start.  How can you expect me to have sympathy for their plight now?  They should have been testifying in Congress in the 1950's that jets would be getting bigger and bigger and faster and faster and the possibility of hijacking these "flying bombs" would always be present.  They should have been describing what damage a crop duster could do to a nuclear power facility.  They should have been doing this in the hopes that we would not build the nuclear power plants in the first place, plants which were inevitably going to lead to conflicts like this.


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA


Protection will have to go on for a lot longer than just until the time the plants are "shut down and deactivated".  Clearly the first logical step, which makes the plants much safer, is to shut them down permanently.  Airspace protection is not nearly as important as beginning the fuel's long cooling process, but it's a small step for humanity nonetheless.  I think if these restrictions bother anyone, they really should have cared more about where the nuclear power plants were being located when they originally built them (or if they should have been built at all, which of course, they shouldn't have). -- rdh


Additional commentaries on this subject are posted here, including a response to my original letter from Warren Morningstar, AOPA VP:

11th hour protest against nuclear power:

For more information please visit:

Learn about the effects of nuclear weapons here:

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First posted October 31st, 2001.

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