Front page article in Friday's NC Times (Southern California) about new FAA airspace restrictions

To: "Phil Diehl" <>
From: "Russell D. Hoffman" <>
Subject: Front page article in Friday's NC Times about new FAA airspace restrictions
Cc:,,   "Barbara Boxer, Senator (CA, D)" <>,,  "Russell Wise, NRC" <>,  "Elmo Collins" <>,   "Pat Gwynn" <>,  "Clanon, Paul" <>,   "Ajello, Julian E." <>,   "Wong, Zee Z." <>,   "Clark, Richard W." <>,   "NRC" <>,"Barbara Byron" <>, Bob Aldrich <>, "Steve Woods" <>, "Bob Kahn, Op-ED editor, NC Times" <>
To: Phil Diehl, NC Times
Re: Front page article in Friday's NC Times (Southern California) about new FAA airspace restrictions
Date: September 28th, 2001

Hi Phil,

I saw your front-page article in Friday's North County Times about the FAA NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) restricting the airspace above "nuclear power plants and other power plants, dams, refineries, industrial complexes and similar facilities throughout the United States".  All of these restrictions are good, but some are many orders of magnitude more important than others.  For example, if they destroyed a dam, we would have a flood and lose the power that dam might provide.  Perhaps thousands would die, but after the waters recede, others could move back in.  On the other hand, if they struck at San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station, at least that many would die immediately, probably many times more, and we would have to abandon SoCal for many millennia.  Big difference.

It should not go unnoted that there has always been a NOTAM against commercial jetliners flying low over Manhattan, as well as over the Pentagon, so obviously these "Stop Signs" are not likely to stop suicidal and determined terrorists.

By the way, have you gotten any responses from Southern California Edison or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on how they plan to handle the many OTHER vulnerabilities I described in my last letter?  They never contacted me.

I guess the NRC just doesn't care.  They've finally identified one threat, and they want to just deal with that.  Never mind the others!

But in fact, every weakness must be guarded against.  A reporter on TV just said "how do we know they'll use a plane next time?"  The answer is, we don't.

By the way, I heard some local citizens were pretty upset about the NCT's front-page photo of San Onofre.  It was a good photo -- nice and clear.  Anyone with some knowledge of the pipes, pumps, valves, and vessels that make up a nuke plant could easily pick out specific targets from that excellent aerial view.

San Onofre Nuclear (Waste) Generating Station has had a litany of dangerous accidents this year, a number of which could have resulted in catastrophic failures.  I wonder when the NC Times is finally going to recommend closing that death-trap.  After SoCal's Chernobyl?


Russell Hoffman
Carlsbad, CA

P.S.:  #26: Balloon attack.  Oh, that's been prevented by O'side's great new restrictions.  Thank heavens!

Below are some related comments from a friend:


A 25 mile no fly zone offers no protection. A 767 covers that distance in 3
minutes. A fighter with a mach 2 speed sitting on hot alert (engine running,
pilot in cockpit) launched as soon as the 767 broke the no fly zone wouldn't
catch up unless it started out within a few miles of the plant! Do the math.
If the jet is sitting at the edge of the NFZ and the attacking craft flys
directly overhead (this is the best case from the Jet's point of view). The
fighter jet's speed is zero though. If it immediately begins its take off
roll it will still take it about a min and a half to accelerate to Mach 2,
but by that time the 767 will be about a min away from the plant and it will
take the fighter jet about that same time to close the distance even at 3
times the speed. To keep a fighter/pilot in constant ready alert 24/7
requires about 5 planes and pilots and since each would have to be based
within a mile or so of the plant you would need almost as many plane/pilot
teams as we have reactors.

#2, Lease or Charter the Jet, lots cheaper and fewer questions asked. One
can charter 727s.

Here are some more comments from the same friend (who happens to be a risk statistician by profession, and is also a private pilot):

This morning they announced the new req. for shooting down airliners and it
requires the approval of a Military General.
Guess what, now even with a hot fighter on the ground next to the station
you couldn't stop a fighter. You wouldn't get clearance in time!
This forces flight cover over the plants which would substantially increase
the cost and the number of planes and pilots needed to provide such cover!


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First posted September 30th, 2001.

Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman