"Any terrorist with a wad of cash could charter a Gulfstream, no questions asked, and fly right to a site"

To: "Morningstar, Warren" <Warren.Morningstar@aopa.org>
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com>
Subject: "Any terrorist with a wad of cash could charter a Gulfstream, no questions asked, and fly right to a site"

At 10:48 AM 11/1/01 , "Morningstar, Warren" <Warren.Morningstar@aopa.org> wrote:

Mr. Hoffman,

I will retract nothing. If GA aircraft are such a threat to power plants,
why did the national security authorities allow charter flights to continue
to operate near them? Any terrorist with a wad of cash could charter a
Gulfstream, no questions asked, and fly right to a site. Also, if GA
aircraft are such a continuing threat, why was the notam for only a week?
AOPA has, and will, support reasonable restrictions to thwart credible,
probable threats.  We will continue to fight to restore all of our flight
privileges. If we are successful, you'll be able to eventually earn that
private certificate.

Warren Morningstar
Vice President - Communications
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association


November 1st, 2001


Thank you for your comments (shown above).  To answer each of your questions, the answer is, because I'm not in charge of nuclear power plant security!

I agree, as you say, that "Any terrorist with a wad of cash could charter a Gulfstream, no questions asked, and fly right to a site."  I hope you made it clear to the FAA, NRC, DOE, and Joint Chiefs of Staff that you feel that way.  I'm sure your word on that is sure to carry a lot more weight than mine with those folks.  For example, I haven't talked to anyone at the JCS's office in years.

What are the largest and fastest aircraft your members privately own and fly?

Of course, it should be noted that any group of terrorists could simply use a fleet of motorized hang-gliders, which are very easy to fly and can land in a couple of feet of space, to attack a nuclear power plant.  That's how vulnerable these plants are.  Your member's airplanes are only one tool of many which are available to the terrorists, but they provide a number of advantages over, say, swordsmen on horseback.

I do wonder though, precisely why your organization didn't express to the government during the last half century, the same level of outrage you now express to me, and the expert opinion of what a terrorist could do with a charter jet.  America could have used that sort of honesty when it was lulling itself into thinking that building the nuclear power plants in the first place was actually a good idea.  It wasn't, and you guys should have known it and expressed your concerns then.  Your predecessors  should have seen that nuclear power plants and their waste piles were bound to become restricted areas, at least periodically -- and our government is expecting this particular "war on terrorism" to last for years.

It is now appearing more and more likely that United Airlines Flight 93's target was Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Since the government won't release the flight recorder information, the public might never know for sure.  On the other hand, that failure to provide information is itself a chilling indicator, considering all the other publicly known facts about the case.

Even if this current unspecific threat, which caused the new restrictions, is averted, there will be another, and another, and another.  The problem is, of course, the existence of the nuclear power plants more than the existence of the planes -- although I wonder what your member's insurance rates will be like, the next time they come up for renewal?

Do you honestly believe we can wipe out every terrorist that ever lived, or will live, and that we thus don't need any proactive steps at all, like shutting the reactors down and switching to renewable energy solutions, or, more to the point, requiring, for example, sophisticated locks on General Aviation aircraft's doors and engines, so that only authorized persons can possibly fly the planes, which wouldn't stop a terrorist from boarding and taking over the plane, but it WOULD stop them from stealing the plane outright, which for many aircraft, is right now very easy to do, easier than even hot-wiring a car?  I think "flying bombs" should have really good locks, so that only authorized personnel can fly them, don't you?

Thank you again for your response.


Russell Hoffman
Concerned Citizen
Carlsbad, CA

Note:  My letter to AOPA is posted here:


11th hour protest against nuclear power:

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Learn about the effects of nuclear weapons here:

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Mail to: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com
First posted November 1st, 2001.

Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman