Column: MacDill should prepare better for attacks

On Jan. 5, Charles Bishop pointed out that in the post-Sept. 11 world, our airports are still vulnerable. Worse than that, one of the most important military bases in the country appears to have been wide open for an attack.

Bishop was left alone with a plane despite his age. He was 15 years old; I wouldn’t have been left alone with the car when I was 15. He was able to start the plane and take off. I feel bad for whoever was supposed to be supervising him. Bishop managed to approach and violate the airspace of MacDill Air Force Base.

One would think that MacDill would have responded to an unauthorized plane in its space, but they didn’t. Fighter planes from Homestead were assigned to intercept, but Bishop’s flight was over before they could get here. MacDill, which is guiding the war in Afghanistan, is vulnerable. Bishop, according to reports, was airborne for nine to 12 minutes. It seems, if he was so inclined, Bishop could have crashed into a building at MacDill unopposed. An unarmed Coast Guard helicopter managed to catch up with Bishop just in time to watch him hit the Bank of America building. All they could do was gesture for him to land.

That was the best they could do: gestures. I find myself wondering if MacDill was at all concerned about what was going on. I don’t know exactly what kind of measures they have available for situations like this, but it seems like they hesitated. That’s a course of action I wouldn’t have anticipated during a war on terrorism. MacDill seemingly ignored a possible terrorist attack right over their noses. I would have thought they’d have some surface-to-air missiles or something. What good is restricted airspace if you’re not willing to defend it?

It appears to me that Bishop was attempting to commit “suicide by cop.” For those of you who aren’t up on the newest methods of suicide, this is where the distressed party aims a gun (real or fake) at a cop, forcing the cop to shoot him. Bishop’s version was considerably more extreme.

MacDill didn’t (or couldn’t) take the bait, so Bishop was forced to come up with a backup plan. He turned a suicide attempt into a terrorist attack.

This second plan, if it was thought up on the fly, shows a considerable amount of focus. How many people would think, after stealing a plane and failing to be shot down by the military, to purposefully crash into a building? As if that wasn’t enough, from what I’ve heard, this was his only solo flight. Bishop obviously spent time planning this, showing a lucid thought pattern. At this point, it seems that Bishop was so focused on dying that he no longer cared if someone else was hurt or killed.

Bishop clearly harbored a lot of hate for himself and for the world. It’s amazing to me that it could go completely unnoticed.

If Bishop would have had explosives in the plane, it could have been worse. If the fuel tank in the plane exploded after impact, it could have been worse. If Bishop had access to his own plane, it could have been worse. If his attack would have taken place on a weekday, it could have been worse.

In the end, only Charles Bishop was killed. The brass at MacDill should be thankful.

  • Chris Ricketts is a sophomore majoring in