War on Terror

Fighter Pilot Ordered to Ram United 93 on 9/11; Thought Dad was Pilot

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

Ten years after 9/11, a fighter pilot who was ordered to bring down United Flight 93 is telling her story, and quite a story it is -- she was ready to act despite her fears that her own father was a pilot on the ill-fated plane.

Major Heather Penney told The Washington Post that she was at Andrews Air Force Base when she was ordered into the skies to take down the plane amid fears it was headed to a target in Washington, D.C.

However crews didn't have time to load her F-16 with missiles, so there was only one way to stop the hijacked aircraft.

"We wouldn't be shooting it down," Penney said. "We'd be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot."

If that wasn't frightening enough, there was a chance that her father was one of the original pilots on Flight 93. All she knew was that he was flying out of the East coast that morning.

"She knew I was flying that kind of rotation," John Penney said.

It turns out John Penney was not on that particular plane, and his daughter did not have to complete her suicide mission because passengers brought the plane down in a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. But Penney said she was prepared to go through with it.

"This sounds cold-hearted, I mean that was my daddy - but, frankly, there was no way for me to know, and it would not have changed what I needed to do at all," Penney said.

Instead she spent the day patrolling Washington's airspace and helping to escort Air Force One back home.

Penney went on to serve two tours of duty in Iraq. She is still a part-time National Guard pilot.