Can the NYPD really shoot down an airplane?

In an interview which first aired last night NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly stated that the department does, in fact, have that ability:

[i]n an extreme situation, we would have some means to take down a plane.


Unsurprisingly, the Commissioner didn’t provide any additional details on the capabilities but he was quite explicit that the department has the equipment and training to do it if they determined it was necessary. No word either on the details behind who authorizes such an action or in what types of scenarios they would be considered.

I do not think I’m alone in thinking that this announcement opens up more questions than it answers regarding aviation safety.

Good times.

A hat tip to the folks at NYC Aviation for mentioning this one; they’ve got the video clip of the interview on their site, too.

Never miss another post: Sign up for email alerts and get only the content you want direct to your inbox.

Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. Are surface-to-air missiles now standard equipment for NYC police cruisers, or did they put sidewinders on police helicopters? In any case… scary!

  2. Unbelievable. I understand the terrorist threat very well but the knowledge that NYPD can shoot down aircraft is far more disturbing than reassuring.
    Who gives the order to shoot, Bloomberg? Under what circumstances? Under what authority? What safeguards are in place? Don’t we have a military that handles such situations?

  3. Without alluding to how, Kelly said they have the ability, but perhaps not the authority. I assume the authority would come from someone higher up than the police commissioner. VP Cheney had to give that command during 9-11. They might have Stingers available to the NYPD or a phone call to NORAD to scramble their F-16s, F-15s or F-18s…

  4. This indeed is rather interesting. I would like to know as well who gives the authority. Possibly Biden or Obama? Even though it would be flying over NYC, I feel Bloomberg shouldn’t have the authority to do so for a matter like this. I like Mr. Greene’s comment on possibly calling NORAD to scramble a few military jets.

  5. F-16’s were scrambled on 9/11 so that wouldn’t seem to be a new development. I interpreted Kelly’s statement to be that NYPD had acquired some offensive capability within the department. His statement raises a lot of questions.

  6. Barrett M82 .50 cal sniper rifle fired from a police helicopter.

    It’s not going to take down an airliner but would be handy against barbie jet and smaller targets.

    1. Scrambling fighters is a federal action; that cannot be what is being discussed here. If the NYPD really is banking on a sniper in a helicopter to take down a Cessna then I suppose that’s one approach but I’m not at all convinced such actions really make me any safer.

Comments are closed.