How Secure Are The Skies?

An FBI sting and a terror alert reignite debate over shoulder-launched missiles and the threat to air safety

In 1978 an Air Rhodesia plane carrying 52 passengers and four crew members was shot down by guerrillas with a shoulder-fired missile. A few months later, the missile-toting guerrillas fired on another Air Rhodesia flight, killing all 59 people on board. Scary stuff, but there have been few instances since then of such a weapon firing on and downing a commercial airliner. In the past 18 months, alQaeda has twice tried to down planes with shoulder-fired missiles; both times they missed. It turns out that shoulder-fired missiles, while compact enough to fit in a duffel bag, are not particularly reliable weapons....

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