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May 1, 2006
Another Reason To Thank Canada

One point I missed in my review of United 93 yesterday is one of the lesser-known complications of our actions in grounding air traffic on 9/11. In the movie as in real life, FAA operations manager makes the decision to ground all aircraft immediately, ordering every plane in American airspace to land at the nearest airport. Despite the fact that it will cost the airline industry billions (and later created a large federal bailout package), Sliney knows it's the right action to take, and every plane in America was on the ground by 12:06 PM on 9/11.

One of the consequences of closing American airspace was the denial of landing rights to all inbound international flights. Sliney's decision made it necessary for those flights to return home, or if that could not be safely done, then to find somewhere else to land besides the US. Sliney had no idea if terrorists had more attacks coming from foreign airliners, and his decision was undoubtedly correct, despite the potential risk for the inbound flights.

Guess where a number of those flights went? Canada granted permission for these inbound flights to land despite watching the terrorist attack on the United States. It's not a widely-discussed part of the 9/11 story, but Canada took the risk of bringing those flights into their country without knowing whether the terrorists might strike at their nation as well. No one knew what other operations the terrorists had planned for that day; some could have decided to strike airports when planes taxied to their gates.

The Canadian action took courage and selflessness and it probably saved lives. It's just another reason to be grateful for our northern neighbors despite our occasional political differences.

One more thought: After Sliney gave the order, all of the flights complied with the grounding. It's not hard to imagine what would have happened to a flight that refused to do so. The movie doesn't address it, but one has to suspect that the Air Force would have shot down any plane that tried to stay up.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 1, 2006 6:49 AM

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