Shooting down a plane with a bunch of innocent people... licit or not?


This was actually a real scenario during 9/11.

After the planes were hijacked and hit the twin towers, F-15 fighter jets were sent up to shoot down any other airliner plane that was confirmed to have been hijacked.

Since killing innocent people is intrinsically wrong (or is it?), and since the ends don’t justify the means, would it be accurate to say that it would have been wrong to shoot down a plane full of innocent people, even if it was hijacked by a handful of bad guys?

My understanding of the faith would lead me to say, yes, it would still be wrong because never is it ever ok to kill innocent people. Even in situations where you might be potentially saving more lives over all if you do.

What do you guys thing?


Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?


It’s a matter of intent. You don’t shoot down the plane with the intent of killing those on board. You shoot down the plane with the intent of disarming it as a weapon–in order to save lives.

It can be analogous to a medical procedure on a pregnant woman that results in the death of the unborn child. If the intent is to save the mother’s life, and it is the consequence–not the intent–of the procedure that the unborn dies, it is not murder.


Im confused on the last paragraph. I thought abortion was wrong even when the mothers life was in danger??


Interesting moral dilemma.


If the innocents on board were impervious to death, would the object of the will (of the people shooting it down) be impeded?


Im afraid i dont understand all those big words… :frowning:


The medical procedure mentioned was not an abortion.


It’s not an abortion. It might be chemotherapy treatment for cancer, for example.


Regarding the past incidents, I’ve read the reports. Both military and commercial airport radars were looking for any aircraft in the sky. The response time of the military jets is not explained. It was inadequate.

In the future, I hope the military and commercial airport radar systems would communicate more effectively. Your scenario has too many variables from a military standpoint. How would they know the plane was hijacked? Where will the plane be at the point of interception? Downtown New York? Farmland? Plots would have to be made to determine potential targets.

Once the aircraft is confirmed to be approaching restricted airspace or a population center or other valuable target, then a shootdown would be justified.



can you explain this to me, please and thank you?


Can you explain to me how/why killing innocent people would ever be justified?


If the innocent people on the plane couldn’t die, would this obstruct what the people shooting down the plane were trying to do?


It would not be my call to make. I’ve read a number of publicly available publications regarding scenarios and possible responses. Your scenario is too simple to assess.



It is not intrinsically wrong to kill innocent people–that’s the first thing.

What everyone is using here is the principle of double effect: you need to accomplish something, say, protecting a city from an airplane crashing into it. The action to take is to shoot down the plane.

Shooting the plane down is not evil.

However, there is a concurrent effect of killing all the people. This effect is foreseen, *but not intended. *

When there is a *proportionate *reason for taking the action, it is all right to do so. Say there are 300 people on the plane but thousands of people where the plane is going. The reason is in proportion to the action being considered (shooting down the plane).

When the other posters mentioned situations involving pregnant women, what they were talking about is that if a pregnant woman becomes seriously ill, then it is all right to treat her, even tho the unborn child might die as a result of the treatment. The treatment can not *directly *target the child–the treatment must be what would be done were the mother not pregnant.

Does this clarify?


You said this:

“Once the aircraft is confirmed to be approaching restricted airspace or a population center or other valuable target, then a shootdown would be justified.”

Can you explain to me why this would be justified, considering there would be 200+ innocent men women and children in it?



Intent, intent, intent…


I think deliberately killing a plane full of innocent people is wrong no matter whether the US airforce does it or some extremist group does it.

Only God knows what ‘end’ will result from such a course of action and humans are notoriously foolish and selfish when it comes to “the end justifying the means”.

The passengers on the plane aren’t laying down their lives for another person and such decisions must be voluntary - not imposed by the beneficiary of such an action.


Yes, but it leads to another question. Let’s say a pregnancy woman is in a situation where she AND her baby will surely die. However, if she gets an abortion, she lives.

Does this fall under the same principle of double effect? Zero out of 2 lives saved vs one out of 2 lives saved?


I think the USAF would have first attempted to get the aircraft to divert from course and land, via visual display, warning fire, radio calls. I think if this didn’t result in success, they would have used cannon fire to hole the fuel tanks, damage the rudder, etc. crippling the aircraft and requiring an immediate emergency landing vice being able to continue on to their intended targets. The intention would not have been to ‘shoot down’ in terms of a catstrophic mid-air explosion, or uncontrolled crash, this still would have been a risk but not the intent.

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