An article came across my attention describing the events on September 11th 2001 for Heather Penney, an F-16 pilot who had just finished training. She tells the story that she and her instructor went into the sky planning to take out a plane by crashing their F-16 into it, as the training planes were only fitted with dummy weapons.
The full story (from a 2011 Washington Post article) is here: F-16 pilot was ready to give her life on Sept. 11
I am questioning several aspects of the story, such as the instructor targeting the cockpit instead of the tail (which to me, with my admitedly limited knowledge of planes, would seem like a better target):
“We don’t train to bring down airliners,” said Sasseville, now stationed at the Pentagon. “If you just hit the engine, it could still glide and you could guide it to a target. My thought was the cockpit or the wing.”
And skipping pre-flight checks:
Penney had never scrambled a jet before. Normally the pre-flight is a half-hour or so of methodical checks. She automatically started going down the list.
“Lucky, what are you doing? Get your butt up there and let’s go!” Sasseville shouted.
Also it baffles me that there would be training planes, but no armed aircraft anywhere in the region:
Because the surprise attacks were unfolding, in that innocent age, faster than they could arm war planes, Penney and her commanding officer went up to fly their jets straight into a Boeing 757.
Is there any more evidence that this event actually took place? Would the instructor not be reprimanded for this absurd plan (it seems absurd that breaking all the rules would be fine - heroes or not)? Also, without taking away from my respect for her personal heroism, was it a kamikaze mission considering the ejection seat? What about the chance of them actually having to go through with it - wouldn't there be a more capable US airforce unit that would've shown up before she got anywhere close?