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(Shortly After 1:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001: Canadian Prime Minister Authorizes Fighters to Shoot Down Suspicious Korean Airlines Plane

Jean Chrétien.Jean Chrétien. [Source: University of Alberta]Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien gives his authorization for US fighter jets to shoot down a passenger jet that is suspected of being hijacked, if necessary. [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2002] Korean Airlines Flight 85 is a Boeing 747 heading to New York, but due to land in Anchorage, Alaska, for a refueling stop. Although the plane has not been hijacked, its pilots have given indications that it is hijacked (see (Shortly Before 12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001 and 1:24 p.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD has therefore scrambled fighter jets to follow it (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region, has ordered air traffic controllers to turn Flight 85 away from Anchorage, and said he would have it shot down if it refused to divert (see (Shortly After 1:24 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278] According to the Globe and Mail, the command of the Canadian NORAD Region, in Winnipeg, agreed that “the airliner could enter Canadian airspace accompanied by the US fighters, but insisted the decision to shoot it down must be the Canadian government’s.” Now, Chrétien receives a phone call from a Canadian NORAD commander. He is told Flight 85 might have to be shot down. Chrétien replies, “Yes, if you think they are terrorists, you call me again, but be ready to shoot them down.” Chrétien will later state, “I authorized [the shootdown] in principle.” Reflecting on the difficult decision he makes, he will say: “It’s kind of scary that… [there is] this plane with hundreds of people and you have to call a decision like that.… But you prepare yourself for that. I thought about it—you know that you will have to make decisions at times that will [be] upsetting you for the rest of your life.” [Globe and Mail, 9/12/2002; National Post, 9/12/2002] Flight 85 is redirected to Whitehorse Airport in Canada, and will land there safely at 2:54 p.m. (see 2:54 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 278]

Entity Tags: Canadian NORAD Region, Jean Chretien

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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