Even for experienced military pilots flying military aircraft, the first hint that an attack is underway often comes only from the explosion of a missile slamming into an engine, air- conditioning unit or other infrared-radiation-producing device on the aircraft. Even navigation lights emit radiation in the wavelength attractive to these missiles. When equipped with a proximity fuse, the missiles can bring down an aircraft without even making a direct hit. If <a href="http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2002/11/22/missiles/index_np.html">this article in Salon</a> doesn't give you the willies, few things will. Despite all the focus that has been given to the threat of terrorists hijacking planes, the real terrorist threat to aviation may be far more dangerous and far more difficult to prevent. Shoulder-launched infrared homing missiles can easily take down a commercial airliner withing 40 or 50 miles of takeoff or landing. A single hit to a commerical airliner has about a 70% chance of destroying it. If the attacker can get two shots off, the odds of survival are nearly nil, as was proved in a number of attacks launched on airliners in the 1990s. What's more, the Al-Qaeda camps were full of them, along with training videos showing how to mount an attack with one. The CIA seems to believe that a number of them have been recently smuggled inside US borders; that said, the CIA itself passed plenty of <a href="http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/m-92.html">Stingers</a> on to the mujahedin during the 1980scertainly hundreds, possibly thousandssome of which were <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2001/09/26/whawk326.xml">still in the Taliban's possession</a> last year despite repeated US attempts to buy them back. With this and the recent warnings about a 'spectacular' attack in mind, it's a bit unnerving to read that the Homeland Security and Transportation Safety honchos reportedly convened a special meeting with airline CEOs to warn them of imminent attack. Am I over-reacting? I don't think so but perhaps I am. I honestly do not know how easy it would be to lie in the grass by the JFK International Airport and try to bring down Air-Lingus, or British Airways plane.