Editorial: Tampa needs a better attack plan

Saturday brought the potential threat of terrorism to the forefront of the Tampa Bay area. Though little evidence has linked the plane that crashed into the Bank of America building to terrorism, the events surrounding its appropriation and flight are very disturbing. In light of Saturday evening’s crash, it is obvious the Tampa Bay area needs to be better prepared to handle potential terrorist attacks.

A 15-year-old high school student took a Cessna from a St. Petersburg hangar with no authorization. He flew from St. Pete to downtown Tampa. In the process, the pilot violated MacDill Air Force Base’s airspace. The plane was followed by a Coast Guard helicopter, but was not forced down. Planes also scrambled, but not from MacDill – instead the planes flew from Homestead AFB in south Florida.

Such actions were obviously pointless and ineffective as the plane crashed into a major building downtown.Had this been an actual terrorist attack, the culprits would have not only been ridiculously successful, but would have been benefited a Coast Guard escort.

Tensions are undoubtedly high due to the ease with which the student procured the plane and flew even into restricted airspace. The Coast Guard could have forced the plane down easily by flying atop the tiny Cessna and pushing it to the ground. Instead, the personnel in the helicopter signaled the pilot of the plane to land, which he duly ignored.

We are all lucky this was not worse and was not a large-scale terrorist attack, but authorities should use this opportunity to work on its own anti-terrorism tactics and to develop plans that would deter such acts.

Though it is good to know Tampa’s police and fire departments are ready for the aftermath of an attack, it is disconcerting to know other agencies aren’t prepared to prevent such tragedies.