Pilot Was Ready to Take Down Flight 93 on September 11, 2001 By Ramming The Hijacked Airliner With Her F-16 Jet Fighter-Truth!
Summary of eRumor:
Ten years after the September 11, 2001 Attack on America an amazing story began circulating on the Internet about a female airborne first responder. The email is about an Air National Guard pilot, Lt. Heather Penney, who was ready to take down the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 with her unarmed F-16. She and another pilot had planned to intercept and ram Flight 93 to stop the the terrorists from reaching their target.
The story is true according to a September 8, 2011 article in the Washington Post. Click for article.
There was also an August 8, 2011 CSPAN interview with Heather Penney, who said she was a brand new First Lieutenant in the Air National Guard and a fighter pilot wingman on the morning of September 11, 2001. For years Penney had declined to be interviewed about the events of that day.
Penney said she had been stationed for only a short time as a training officer at Andrews Air Force Base when she and her fellow pilots got the word that terrorists had commandeered commercial aircraft in a planned attack that targeted the Pentagon, a second undetermined site in Washington D.C. and the World Trade Center in New York City.
When it was discovered that United Airlines Flight 93 was on a course toward Washington D.C. she said that she and another pilot, Col. Marc Sasseville, rushed into their flight gear and prepared their F-16’s for immediate take off.
No weapons had been loaded on the F-16’s that Penney and Sasseville were piloting other than some rounds of blanks for training on the plane’s guns. She and Sasseville realized that time was of the essence and began to taxi to the runway as ground crew pulled the safety pins from the landing gears and removed the tire chocks that prevented their jets from rolling on the tarmac. The two pilots also bypassed a safety check list that would have eaten up 30 minutes so they could be in the air in a matter of minutes to make visual contact and intercept the hijacked passenger jet. In case they had to, Penney and Sasseville were prepared to ram Flight 93 with their own fighters. The two pilots had discussed this plan with each other as they were getting into their flight gear. Penney had planned to take out the tail section of the airliner to minimize collateral damage on the ground while Sasseville rammed the cockpit` with his fighter jet.
While on their mission to sanitize the airspace from threats the two fighter pilots were sweeping the area looking for Flight 93 when they heard that it had crashed into a field in Stonycreek Township, not far from Shanksville, Pennsylvania. By this time, U.S. Airspace was declared a no fly zone and all non military planes were grounded. The Air National Guard pilots began a new task of escorting planes in the air back to airfields. Later that day, Lt. Penney escorted Air Force One with President George W. Bush inside back to Andrews Air Force Base.
Heather Penney is now a Major in the Air National Guard and she was recently interviewed about the drama in the skies after she and other fighter pilots scrambled to respond to the attack on America. Clickhere to see a CSPAN video. >
Late in the morning of the Tuesday that changed everything, Lt. Heather “Lucky” Penney was on a runway at Andrews Air Force Base and ready to fly. She had her hand on the throttle of an F-16 and she had her orders: Bring down United Airlines Flight 93. The day’s fourth hijacked airliner seemed to be hurtling toward Washington. Penney, one of the first two combat pilots in the air that morning, was told to stop it.
The one thing she didn’t have as she roared into the crystalline sky was live ammunition. Or missiles. Or anything at all to throw at a hostile aircraft.
Except her own plane. So that was the plan.
Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.
“We wouldn’t be shooting it down. We’d be ramming the aircraft,” Penney recalls of her charge that day. “I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”
For years, Penney, one of the first generation of female combat pilots in the country, gave no interviews about her experiences on Sept. 11 (which included, eventually, escorting Air Force One back into Washington’s suddenly highly restricted airspace).
But 10 years later, she is reflecting on one of the lesser-told tales of that endlessly examined morning: how the first counterpunch the U.S. military prepared to throw at the attackers was effectively a suicide mission.
“We had to protect the airspace any way we could,” she said last week in her office at Lockheed Martin, where she is a director in the F-35 program.
But none of her thousands of hours in the air quite compare with the urgent rush of launching on what was supposed to be a one-way flight to a midair collision.
First of her kind
“I signed up immediately,” she says. “I wanted to be a fighter pilot like my dad.””
On that Tuesday, they had just finished two weeks of air combat training in Nevada. They were sitting around a briefing table when someone looked in to say a plane had hit the World Trade Center in New York. When it happened once, they assumed it was some yahoo in a Cesna. When it happened again, they knew it was war.
But the surprise was complete. In the monumental confusion of those first hours, it was impossible to get clear orders. Nothing was ready. The jets were still equipped with dummy bullets from the training mission.
As remarkable as it seems now, there were no armed aircraft standing by and no system in place to scramble them over Washington. Before that morning, all eyes were looking outward, still scanning the old Cold War threat paths for planes and missiles coming over the polar ice cap.
Things are different today, Degnon says. At least two “hot-cocked” planes are ready at all times, their pilots never more than yards from the cockpit.
A third plane hit the Pentagon, and almost at once came word that a fourth plane could be on the way, maybe more. The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.
“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.
They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.
“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.
She replied without hesitating. “I’ll take the tail.”
It was a plan. And a pact.
Penney had never scrambled a jet before. Normally the pre-flight is a half-hour or so of methodical checks. She automatically started going down the list.
She climbed in, rushed to power up the engines, screamed for her ground crew to pull the chocks. The crew chief still had his headphones plugged into the fuselage as she nudged the throttle forward. He ran along pulling safety pins from the jet as it moved forward.
She muttered a fighter pilot’s prayer — “God, don’t let me mess up” — and followed Sasseville into the sky.
They screamed over the smoldering Pentagon, heading northwest at more than 400 mph, flying low and scanning the clear horizon. Her commander had time to think about the best place to hit the enemy.
He also thought about his ejection seat. Would there be an instant just before impact?
“I was hoping to do both at the same time,” he says. “It probably wasn’t going to work, but that’s what I was hoping.”
Penney worried about missing the target if she tried to bail out.
“If you eject and your jet soars through without impact . . .” she trails off, the thought of failing more dreadful than the thought of dying.
But she didn’t have to die. She didn’t have to knock down an airliner full of kids and salesmen and girlfriends. They did that themselves.
“The real heroes are the passengers on Flight 93 who were willing to sacrifice themselves,” Penney says. “I was just an accidental witness to history.”
She’s a single mom of two girls now. She still loves to fly. And she still thinks often of that extraordinary ride down the runway a decade ago.
“I genuinely believed that was going to be the last time I took off,” she says. “If we did it right, this would be it.”
Copyright 2011 The Washington Post