Should jetliners be equipped with anti-missile systems?

Nur Diyana Yazeera, daughter of Malaysia Airlines chief stewardess Dora Shahila Kassim, holds a white rose during her mother’s burial ceremony in Kuala Lumpur.
(AFP/Getty Images)

In the wake of the downing of a Malaysia Airlines flight over Ukraine, Americans have grown fearful that terrorists may shoot down a commercial plane with a ground-to-air missile.

A new survey found that 47% of Americans who were questioned said they are “somewhat” or “very” worried that terrorists might shoot down a passenger plane in the U.S.

The same survey of 1,000 people, commissioned by the Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles libertarian think tank, found that 42% of Americans said they would be willing to pay higher airline prices to add anti-missile technology on commercial planes.

Aviation experts say the chances of terrorists shooting down a commercial plane in the U.S. from the ground are slim and the cost of installing anti-missile systems on passenger planes is prohibitive.


“That would be ridiculous,” said Robert Ditchey, an aviation consultant and safety expert, of the idea of putting an anti-missile system on commercial flights.

The type of missile that shot down the Malaysian plane was radar-guided, he said. To stop such a missile would required a sophisticated system installed and operated on each commercial plane to either “jam” the radar guidance system or destroy the system on the ground.

“Airlines themselves have decided that the risk is infinitesimally small and the cost is prohibitively high,” Ditchey said.

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