NEW YORK, N.Y. – If someone who wanted to unleash an attack by flying into New York City, would military and law enforcement defenses be prepared?
That’s the question that’s being raised this week after a helicopter in New York City crashed onto the roof of a midtown Manhattan building.
This was an accident, yes – but critics have voiced concerns about whether or not officials would be prepared in the event of another aerial attack, nearly two decades after 9/11.
787 7th ave, #midtown NYC. We’re 1 block south. 20 mins ago there was a loud sound like a too-low #helicopter & I looked up and saw sheet of flame on roof and then smoke. News reports saying helicopter/small plane crash onto roof which would be consistent with what I heard/saw. pic.twitter.com/swY3ksLskH
— Lance Koonce (@LHKoonce) June 10, 2019
Would authorities be able to respond quickly enough to prevent an aircraft from doing damage?
How can they be ready? Would scrambled fighter jets be able to respond in time?
This is where things take a turn.
Steven Bucci, a retired Army Special Forces officer, helped design the system to guard U.S. airspace after the attacks on the World Trade Center.
He says that in the instance that someone tried, they probably wound’t be stopped in time.
“If someone had bad intent and they took off from the heliport and made a beeline to Trump Tower, none of the good guys are going to get in the air fast enough to stop him,” said Steven Bucci, a retired Army Special Forces officer who help design the post-9/11 system to guard U.S. airspace.
The Associated Press reported that ever since President Trump’s election in 2016, a one-mile radius around Trump Tower has been designated as National Defense Airspace. That means that anyone wanting to fly nearby requires explicit permission from the FAA.
According to the FAA, pilots who don’t adhere to the restriction, are subject to be “intercepted, detained and interviewed by law enforcement” and “the United States government may use deadly force … if it is determined that the aircraft poses an imminent security threat.”
Authorities say that the man who died in the helicopter crash on Monday did not adhere to these guidelines, as his intended route was supposed to take him around Manhattan and back to New Jersey, where the helicopter was kept.
Instead, the pilot deviated from his course, slamming into the AXA Equitable building, killing the pilot. Some people speculate that the bad weather played a part in the crash.
It’s unclear if anyone in air traffic control had noticed the pilot entering the restricted airspace before the collision.
Mayor Bill de Blasio also joined in support for increased security within the city’s airspace.
“I think the FAA needs to look at this very carefully,” he said on CNN. “Do they need to toughen up their rules or put more security or monitoring of the situation to make sure something like this couldn’t happen again?”
Officials say it’s not uncommon for pilots to deviate from their course, sometimes wandering into the restricted area. But they usually move on when air traffic controllers tell them via radio to leave the vicinity.
But what’s the response if someone didn’t comply? Is there ample time to neutralize the threat? Is firing a projectile at an aircraft an effective way of eliminating the danger?
John Desmarais, operations director for the Civil Air Patrol said that firing a missile over a crowded city with flaming debris crashing to the ground isn’t the most likely way.
“I would not think that they would do that over the city, but it depends on what the threats are and the needs at the time,” Desmarais said. “Everybody is going to do their best, but in the end, it would be a tough decision to have to make no matter where that is.”