Flying back from St. Louis on early Christmas Eve Day morning (how’s that for an unwieldy phrase?), a flight of 4 Missouri Air National Guard F-15s took off in rapid succession. Presumably, they were flying CAP above my old hometown for the holidays. None of the flights into Lambert Field were intercepted, but others around the nation were. Read:
F-16s have been seen (by passengers) intercepting many overseas flights after they enter the United States. It turns out this was an additional precaution, to make sure these flights were still following their flight plan (and not diverting for a suicide attack.)
The cancelled and delayed flights are the result of new or improved intelligence sources. In many cases this is either an American agent (not necessarily an American) within an al Qaeda cell, or one of the Arab intel agencies giving us access to their informant network. There has also been improved electronic surveillance of telephone and web communications. During the last two years, there has been an enormous amount of recruiting and training of new agents by the CIA and FBI. These people are providing more tips on terrorist activity. But it’s fragmentary information. Things like the possible identity of al Qaeda suicide attackers. If you then get information that several of these guys were last seen headed for London, and then other information comes in about certain flights from Britain being used for a suicide mission, well, you feel compelled to do something, anything. There is also a great fear of being responsible if something bad happens. In other words, a bit of CYA (Cover Your Ass) and new intel we would not have had a year ago have combined to create the strange aviation events of the last week.
Flying has always been a pain in the ass, and it looks like it’s just going to get worse. Strangely though, I don’t really mind the added inconvenience.