In theory, a missing, fully operational commercial airliner in the wrong hands could be really dangerous.
But this is one threat that America is prepared to handle.
Decades of Cold War anxiety about incoming nuclear weapons have translated into closely monitored U.S. air space. You can’t fly a big plane into U.S. skies without the Air Force showing up a few yards from your cockpit window, wondering what you are up to.
When drug smugglers took to the air to feed America’s cocaine habit in the 1980s, the U.S. became adept at spotting even small planes trying to stealthily cross borders.
And after Sept. 11, 2001, domestic air space is much more closely monitored, especially around places like Washington.
Not only are U.S. defenses good at detecting intrusions, but they are nimble at interceptions. Air Force jets can be scrambled in minutes.