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F-16 pilot recalls her ‘kamikaze’ mission to bring down flight 93 without ammunition

Andrew's F-16 pilot given orders to bring down flight 93. She sat on the runway at Andrews, hand on the throttle...problem was, she had no live ammuntion. ( More...

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Brian Cheung 0
This story almost brought me to tears.
Scott Keller 0
The pilot ready to give her life was then Lt. now Major Heather Penney. She flew F-16's for 10 years in the ANG. Now she races L-29s. Here's a link for an interview with her:

My daughter may only be 2 right now, but she already has a great love for flying. I hope Maj. Penney is the type of pilot she grows up to be.
Ken McIntyre 0
What a brave thing to contemplate, let alone carry out. She was one very respectable fighter pilot!
Brian Bishop 0
Cool story Scott. Thanks for the link.
H W Lam 0
humble hero!
Dale Fried 0
See also
for coverage of the fighter pilots from Otis AFB on Cape Cod
John Breakey 0
Great video of her telling story here:

and also video here:
Herb Green 0
What's crazy to me is: why have fighter jets sitting around with no ammunition? Especially since Andrews AFB is right near Washington, D.C. You would think they would always have something standing by ready to go. Since I live in Baltimore, when 9/11 occurred I was surprised how little of an aviation defense we had right around us. This is like the proverbial "having a gun with no bullets."
God Bless them both, So glad it didn't have to take place.
mark tufts 0
thank God for two quick thinking pilots and the heros of flight who died fighting for their country
While news media reports state "They were sent out on a suicide mission" .. The facts should be corrected ... Heather “Lucky” Penney, then a lieutenant in the D.C. Air National Guard, along with her commanding officer Col. Marc Sasseville, took it upon theirselves .. to do what rhey felt was needed at the time.. . as their F-16's, for the initial first 4 hours of 9-11, while they were searching for United # 93 .. Was not armed.

Col. Sasseville had stated he would, "Head for the cockpit", While then Lt. Penney said she would "Take out the tail, to cause the plane to fall straight down and lessen the collateral damage on the ground".

Had they made a visual contact with United # 93 .. It would had been a much different ending.

>> Highly reccomeneded:
Richard Smith 0
Thank God she survived.
canuck44 0
Great story. I sincerely hope she and the Colonel got invited to the UA 93 dedication ceremony with President Bush...had it been New York she would be watching on television like all of the firemen for whom there was no room as the spaces were all reserved for Deputy Assistant Associate Directors for Muslim Outreach and Community Affairs, Imams and the like.
William Huhta 0
Met Major Penney (Ret.) at last year's Reno Air Races; she flew an L-29 in the jet race. Signed my Section 3 orange t-shirt; a real hero!
onehoser 0
A really good interview showing the dedication of people and how far they were prepared to go to protect their country. There are many more who would have been prepared to do the same if they had to. Thank you to all present and past military who have put themselves out there to protect freedom.
preacher1 0
@Herb Green: until 911, we really didn't have an immediate need for ADC and these 2 were ANG not on alert. During the cold war things were quite a bit different as I'm sure they are now. Alert bases and squadrons are not identified but judging from quicker response on several happenings over the past year or so, I think we probably have a little more than we had then.
Steven Cook 0
God bless her.
larry clement 0
These are the true American heroes-the men and women of the military- not the politicians, celebrities, entertainers, or athletes. Many amazing examples of bravery came from the 9-11 attacks. This a story that should have been told earlier.
preacher1 0
@larry clement: So true, the spur of the moment bravery and actions. So sad that the NY ceremony was pretty much as John Donalson said, but as with most of these folks, they'd do it again.
Lynn Ambedian 0
Disappointing that the item appeared in the STYLE section of the paper.
Scott Keller 0
Great point Lynn! I didn't make that connection. You're absolutely right.
BC Hadley 0
Two more American heroes on a tragic day filled with heroism. As others have said, these are the people we should be looking up to, the honorable ones our children should revere.
Robert Fleming 0
That was a powerful hands are actually shaking as I'm writing this. I can not even come close to imagine what was going through Penny's mind when she heard the orders to take out an American Civil Airliner. Thanks to the brave people onboard 93, they saved countless more lives at the expense of their own. Those passengers were HEROES!
preacher1 0
People like this making up our military and scattered throughout our soceity, willing to sacrifice all to protect our way of life without a 2nd thought, and then we got these dumb bastards think that think a Muslim President that bows before the Saudi King is the Messiah. God help us all.
erisajd 0
Oh give me a break. Both a/c were armed with 30 mm cannon. They did not have missiles but they both had their guns. This story is over the top 9/11 propaganda. Two or three well-placed rounds from the cannon would have brought the aircraft down. The story, told elsewhere clearly details F16's that had 180 rounds of 30 mike mike. Look it up yourself. THEN reach a conclusion. Don't trust me.
Scott Hawthorn 0
"...and then we got these dumb bastards think that think a Muslim President that bows before the Saudi King is the Messiah. God help us all."

I'm really shocked to find an ignorant, hateful comment like this in an airliner forum. There's no credible evidence to support what you've said, and a ton of countervailing evidence. Please, please, please, keep your ignorant political opinions to yourself. You just called me (and millions more), a dumb bastard.
Actually the F16 has a 20mm canon. The 30mm is a gun pod mounted on the belly and isn't used much. Yes she had ammo but it was ball type training ammo and wouldn't do much of anything except go clean through the passenger jet. Normal combat ammo is HEI which is both explosive and incendiary. Which would have done a number on Flight 93 had they found it. As usual, the media rarely gets all the facts straight. One needs to remember that they are English and journalism majors and details like 20mm or 30mm mean nothing to them. It does drive technical major people bananas though.
preacher1 0
@Scott Hawthorn: No apologies; not saying you didn't but I put in my time in 'Nam to say what I felt. You obviously didn't read or care about the 1st part of the comment. As far as the rest, if the shoe fits, wear it.
Scott Hawthorn 0
Wayne, of course you're entitled to say what you "felt," but feelings don't count and facts do, when calling our President a Muslim (false). And no, the shoe doesn't fit. While your service in Viet Nam may have been admirable, it's got absolutely nothing to do with your "rights" to spew hateful venom in this forum. I'm searching like the dickens for a way to flag your hateful post.
Baja Joes 0
IF you saw the video by a man(now dead)describing how the earth shook from supposedly 15 miles away, you also saw the remnants of the airborne
explosion that brought the plane down. I think the narration was dubbed.
IT WAS SHOT DOWN! And the video was proof.
Baja Joes 0
There was a video shown a couple weeks ago on tv, taken by a man now dead supposedly narrating how the earth shook from the crash 15 miles away. I propose it shook from the remnants of the explosion in the air that are visible on this video. It was shot down! It's also possible the video was dubbed or you would have had some acknowledgement of the explosion visible in the air!
Stephen Boyle 0
So much for the great conspiracy the US Airforce shot it down.

BTW BAJA JONES You are an idiot. You don’t think a fully loaded commercial airliner hitting the ground at 500+ mph in a steep dive is going to shake the ground. Study physics. The amount of energy generated is tremendous. Go to the website below and read about all the other eye witness accounts that were not from scum bags wanting 15 minutes of fame getting an interview aired as they were making outrageous claims at a time of a national tragedy.

Also the government has no reason to deny shooting it down. This was OK as the vice president gave an executive order to shoot down any additional planes and even order fighters to intercept Flight 93. According to Cheney’s recent interviews he even though the Airforce had shot the plane down on his command only later to find out the passengers were responsible.
Baja Joes 0
Mr.Boyle I would hope you could disagree with me without name calling.
Are you aware that there are also retired military that have said it was shot down after they heard that it occurred as the lights dimmed. That is supposed to be a jamming technique when a missle is set to fire.
I see no other explanation for the explosion cloud in the air of the video I referred to but if you do please tell me. Civily.
Stephen Boyle 0
It's not naming calling if you clearly state the obvious. The explosion cloud clearly indicates a ground based explosion with a lot of jet fuel. If it was shot down while in the air there would be a lot of debris falling downward due to gravity and larger pieces of the plane would be left as they would impact the ground at a much slower speed. In the photo you do not see anything falling but all the evidence points to an upwards moving fire/smoke ball with TREES AND A FARM on the ground in the picture on the website link i posted. You have no link to look at and i have no clue about this fireball you are talking about. There is no way the Airforce shot this plane down over a residential area with a missile or guns at 500' feet. Also, do you think the hijackers were trying out run a military jet by getting that low to the ground, yea right. Regarding the lights flickering from radar jamming. No need, commercial airliners do not have missile tracking radar systems like fighter jets so y do you need to jam the radar. Also, it is doubtful the hijackers would even know what to do if they received a radar missile lock warning as they were only GA pilots not graduates of TOP GUN. Would an ex-fighter or airline pilot please back this up and how ridiculous the lights flickering scenario is regarding radar jamming before filing a radar guided missile in this scenario.

The Little Boy atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 was equal to about 13,000 tons of TNT. (1) It is estimated that there was still 18.75 tons of jet fuel on Flight 93 when it crashed. Jet fuel is ten times more powerful than TNT (24). So the jet fuel was at least equal to 187 tons of TNT, significantly less than an atomic bomb but certainly powerful enough to destroy a plane and send small pieces of it 8 miles away. The explosion was so powerful it shook the entire town of Shanksville and was even felt ten miles away. Could a missile hitting the plane in the air do that? No! THE SHAKING LIKELY EXPLAINS THE LIGHTS FLICKERING AS WELL.
preacher1 0
@Baja Joes and Steven Boyle: I'm almost to say anything anymore when an honest feeling and opinion pisses somebody off,but here goes. I flew a 707, 757 and recently got typed and transitioned into a brand new 767=200ER, as well as still part time fying on various RJ's and TP's and my hours run in the thousands. I don't know of any missle tracker or jamming device of any kind on a commercial aircraft.They are standard equip on military fighters. That's not to say they aren't on there but they weren't on anything I ever flew. I would have to concur about the impact shaking the ground and causing the light flicker. I saw a "newly discovered video" as part of the 911 plethora that was all over TV last Sunday. If that was the one we are speaking of, it was taken about 15 miles from impact and was shot after impact, only showing smoke rising. I see no reason for the gov't to lie in this case as Bush himslef gave the shootdown order from AirForce One. Cheney merely relayed it which I think that is what he said in the interview. All I know.
Scott Hawthorn 0
Thank you Mr. Boyle for your rational views.
Baja Joes 0
This is link to video referred to in previous comments.
Comments are Pages 1-2-3
Smoke rising from crash but WHY large cloud so high?
This is my last post.
WhiteKnight77 0
Smoke rises there Baja Jones. The mushroom clouds from the atomic bombs dropped on Japan rose to 40,000 feet. The PEPCON explosion, equal to 1000 tons of TNT had a smoke cloud that rose 1000 feet into the air. If Flight 93 had been shot down, debris would have been scattered around a larger area than what it was.

Take at look at ValuJet Flight 592 crash in the Everglades. There was little left of the plane after it hit the ground at 500MPH.
Geo Pan 0
Why was this story revealed ten years later? Why not earlier? Why not right after the 911 events? American people's then moral (with the pending war in Afghanistan) was definitely in need of such paradigms. Speaking completely objectively, I can say that I slightly doubt the reliability of this story.It just sounds bizarre that a NORAD fighter a/c took off without ammunition and was ordered to bring down a civil a/c with the fighter pilot's own sacrifice. The 911 day was maybe considered as an "in war day", the story sounds very moving and wonderful but some things do not fit.
Budd Smith 0
I fail to see why using an F16 to bring down a commercial jet liner would automatically have to be a suicide mission... At the same time, I find it very hard to believe that an F16 would be sitting "at the ready", if you will, or be a plane that might be used without having at least the guns loaded. Furthermore, if you stuff enough rubber bullets into the engine of a commercial airliner you will snuff out the engine, and the terrorist likely would not have known how to get it restarted, if it could be restarted.
Finally there is something that everybody seems to be overlooking here.... One Word.... EJECT !!! HELLO ???
There are a lot of ways this can be done, by the way. The F16 pilot could essentially ram there plane into the commercial plane and eject just before the collision. This would of course be very dangerous as there is the risk of not timing the eject correctly, also there is the chance that the pilot ejects and then their F16 misses the target. However, what about this: Why not go at the commercial jet from behind with the landing gear down on the F16, then with the landing gear of the F16 you would simply try to pound the hell out of the control surfaces of the commercial jet. If the landing gear of the F16 were used to poke a hole right through the wing or the tail.... suppose the F16's landing gear became stuck... even better. They will not be able to fly the big jet worth a damn if you have an F16 attached to the tail or the wing and it landing gear is pushed through the tail or wing. I don't suppose that it would be very hard or very dangerous for that matter for an F16 pilot to bring down an commercial jet with the F16 landing gear by using it as a joust of sort. Don't for get the tail hook either... a skilled F16 pilot coming up on a commercial jet on auto pilot could use the tailhook to rip the stabalizer right off the big jet. An F16 has a landing parachute too... if they simply flew out in front of the big jet and then released it's landing chute it would pretty much get sucked up into the engine. At any rate, once the F16 was stuck to the big plane or whatever, if the F16 became damaged, the pilot only needs to eject to safety.


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