Grounded By Terror

How real is the threat? Canceled flights, F-16s and the fine line between precaution and panic

Michael Duell was not unhappy about the long flight. No jangling cell phones, no nagging e-mails. Plus, it was New Year's Eve, so no Dick Clark. "I find these flights very relaxing," says the engineer, 45, from Oakton, Va. "I actually get a lot of work done." This particular British Airways flight, arching across the Atlantic from London's Heathrow to Dulles airport outside Washington, was wonderfully unremarkable. Only the people on the ground watching it land would have seen the two F-16 fighter jets gliding behind the plane.

It was not until the end of Flight 223 that Duell noticed anything...

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