As yet the facts are unclear, but when a Canadian airliner left Toronto bound for Panama today, a disruptive passenger – probably either mentally ill, or drunk – made threats that he was going to “blow up Canada”.
In their usual haste to be first with the news, the US media carried varying accounts, but it seems unlikely this man was to be taken too seriously, other than as someone requiring restraint. The pilots made the decision to return to Toronto.
Until this point everything appeared under control. Then, it was decided to send two US F-16 fighter jets “to accompany the plane to Toronto”. Scrambling jet fighters to ‘escort an airliner’ has always seemed something of an irrelevance to this writer. What are they supposed to do?
If a suicide bomber is on board an aircraft, are the F-16s designed to intimidate him to the point he removes his underpants (with bomb attached?) and hands them to a passing stewardess?
If, instead, he’s blows up the plane, are the fighter pilots supposed to swoop down like Supermen and pluck falling passengers from the ether? Hardly. Isn’t it all just a waste of petrol?
Of course, this Canadian didn’t have a bomb – just an apparent grudge against the Canadian tax system. He was eventually taken into custody by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at Toronto airport.
Sadly, those halcyon days of Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy crooning, “When I’m calling you…oo…oo…oo, oo…oo…ooooooo,” across the Canadian wilderness, have all passed into history. Today, the RCMP ain’t at all romantic.
Frankly, if aboard an aircraft hijacked by a dozen nutty Muslim fanatics armed to the teeth and determined to die for Allah, I might welcome the intrusion of this lot, but for one crazy passenger, this was nothing more than sheer overkill.
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I, for one, would prefer NOT to be protected in this way. Once upon a time, a couple of burly policemen would have discreetly entered the plane and escorted the unfortunate passenger onto the tarmac, all the while apologizing to the other passengers for disturbing their flight.
And if you’re not old enough to remember, let me tell you that’s no fairytale. It’s how it was done – pre-9/11, of course.
And they think the terrorists haven’t won!