US Pilots Tried Kamikaze Attack on United 93

Then-rookie tells story of how she almost gave her life on 9/11
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2011 12:07 PM CDT

(Newser) – Heather “Lucky” Penney was a rookie who’d just finished F-16 training on September 11, 2001, but when the attacks hit, she was one of two pilots who took to the air to defend Washington from United 93. There was just one problem: They didn’t have any ammo or weapons. Except, that is, for their own planes. “We wouldn’t be shooting it down,” she tells the Washington Post. “We’d be ramming the aircraft. I would essentially be a kamikaze pilot.”

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Back then, the DC Air National Guard had no procedure for scrambling jets; the Pentagon was focused on external threats. That morning, the Guard’s F-16s were all loaded with dummy training bullets, and would take a critical hour to reload. “Lucky, you’re coming with me,” her Colonel told her. “I’m going for the cockpit.” Without hesitating she replied, “I’ll take the tail.” They took off expecting to die—but United 93’s passengers brought the plane down for them. “I genuinely believed that was going to be the last time I took off,” she recalls. “If we did it right, this would be it.” (Read more 9/11 attacks stories.)

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