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Context of 'March 1996: Movie Features Planned Suicide Attack with Commercial Jet'

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Back Sunday.Back Sunday. [Source: Paramount Pictures]Black Sunday, a big-budget action film, has a storyline centered on a terrorist group trying to hijack the blimp used by television networks to film the Super Bowl football game from the air. The plot by a group of Palestinian terrorists is to load the blimp’s cabin with explosives and poisoned shrapnel, and detonate them over the thousands of spectators at the Super Bowl stadium, including the president of the United States who is attending the game. To stop the terrorists, the FBI calls upon a Mossad agent who has received wind of the plot. This film will be recalled after 9/11 for its resemblance to that day’s attacks. [New York Times, 4/1/1977; New York Times, 9/13/2001]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Executive Decision.Executive Decision. [Source: Warner Bros.]Executive Decision, a military action film, has a plot about a group of Arab terrorists who hijack a transatlantic jet to gain the release of their leader, who is imprisoned in the United States. But what looks initially like a traditional hijacking is in fact a suicide mission. The plane carries a huge load of nerve gas that has been smuggled out of Russia, which the terrorists intend to explode over Washington, killing millions. The release demand is a ruse to convince US authorities to let the plane approach Washington unharmed. But thanks to an intelligence analyst who has been following the group’s efforts to obtain chemical weapons, the ruse is unraveled and the Pentagon considers asking the president for permission to shoot down the plane over the Atlantic. However, a Special Ops commander proposes a daring plan to avert a shoot down. Using a new Stealth fighter plane, he offers to board the jet in mid-air and disable the bomb. [New York Times, 3/15/1996] This movie is one of many works of fiction that will be remembered after 9/11 for their eerie similarity to the attacks. [New York Times, 9/13/2001]

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A Canadair 600.A Canadair 600. [Source: Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices a scenario in which terrorists plan to crash a stolen aircraft into the White House in Washington, DC. The scenario is included in a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) called Falcon Indian. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989; US Air Force, 2003 pdf file; Arkin, 2005, pp. 362]
Terrorists Have Stolen a Plane - The scenario is intended to practice identification, intercept, and terrorist procedures. In it, the FBI contacts the commander in chief of NORAD this morning and tells him that two members of a terrorist group called AOL have stolen a Learjet 35—a small jet aircraft—from the airport in Bermuda. The FBI says the aircraft is loaded with explosives, is heading toward the United States, and the terrorists intend to carry out a suicide attack against the White House. The stolen Learjet is being flown “in tight formation” under a Canadair 600—another kind of business jet—at an altitude of 20,000 feet. For some reason, the flight plan for the Canadair plane is not in the system and is therefore unknown.
Commander Has to Order the Shootdown of the Stolen Plane - The simulated NORAD commander in chief in the exercise has to contact the CONR battle commander and order the destruction of the Learjet before it crashes into its target. But before an attempt is made to destroy the plane, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector must ensure that the aircraft it confronts is the correct one, such as by checking the plane’s tail number. After NORAD fighter jets intercept the Learjet, the fighter pilots report that it is hidden underneath the Canadair plane and confirm that its tail number is that of the stolen aircraft.
Scenario Can End with the Learjet Crashing into a Populated Area - However, in the scenario, the terrorists notice the fighters and take evasive action, accelerating to maximum speed and heading at low altitude toward the White House. After this, more than one outcome is possible. If the fighter pilots gain clearance to shoot down the Learjet and are able to do so over water, then they should do this. However, if the Learjet is over a populated area, this fact should be declared and, if necessary, the scenario should progress to the plane crashing into a heavily populated residential area. This will result in 20 people being killed, 100 people being injured, and many fires occurring. NORAD will hold another Falcon Indian exercise that features the same scenario as is used in today’s exercise in June this year (see June 5, 1999). [US Air Force, 2003 pdf file] And a scenario that is apparently identical to this will be included in a Falcon Indian exercise in June 2000 (see June 5, 2000). [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Falcon Indian, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Continental US NORAD Region, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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