Photo: Scott* via flickr
Taking no chances on the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, NORAD immediately sent fighter jets to escort two commercial airliners to their destinations after passengers aboard those flights reported suspicious behaviour on their planes.Early reports of the incidents said passengers spent an unusual amount of time in the bathroom, fueling speculation that it was a couple of people trying to join the Mile High Club—speculation that was later shot down by investigators. And as Gawker reported Monday night, one of the suspects believes her only mistake was being a, “dark-skinned woman of Arab/Jewish heritage” on a plane on 9/11.
Although those mid-air scares turned out to be nothing more than nervous passengers, the U.S. still ran up a hefty tab in sending four jets into the air.
Both NORAD and the Air Force said they could not put an exact cost on those interventions; NORAD told Business Insider that such information had to come from the Air Force, while the Air Force said it had to come from NORAD. Still, its possible to put together a rough estimate based on the cost of past airborne military escorts.
According to a Fox News story from April 2010, it costs the military $7,569 for every hour an F-16 is in the air. That figure is very close to one contained in a CBS piece from 2009 that, citing an Air Force spokeswoman, pegs the cost of keeping two F-16s aloft for 1.8 hours at $28,178, or about $7,830 per hour per jet.
It’s unclear exactly how long F-16s were in the air on Sunday, though if each of those four planes flew for just one hour, the cost would have been roughly $30,276 to $31,300. Up that fight time to an hour and a half, and the tab starts pushing $50,000.
That’s not even counting the costs incurred by the local law enforcement agents who then spent hours sorting out the situation once the planes landed.
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