Crashing a Plane into the White House

Law enforcement officers are rightfully concerned with a lone wolf-type terrorist committing an act of terror on United States soil. Imagine if one crazed person became so incensed with the President he decided to hijack a plane and fly it into the White House. Who would stop such a madman? The FBI? The Secret Service? Well one deranged person already tried it, and he was stopped by one good cop.

Samuel Joseph Byck was a unemployed, bipolar former salesman who decided he wanted to kill President Richard M. Nixon. Byck had made threats against the President and had even been investigated by the Secret Service. 33 years ago, in February 1974, Byck decided to make good on his threats to kill the President.

Possibly inspired by an Army PFC who had stolen a helicopter and buzzed the White House, Byck decided he would hijack an airplane and kill President Nixon by crashing the plane into the White House. Byck stole a friend's .22 caliber revolver and made a crude gasoline bomb. On February 22, 1974 he drove to the Baltimore/Washington International airport to execute his assassination attempt.

To gain access to a plane, Byck had to kill Maryland Aviation Administration Officer George Neal Ramsburg. He then rushed onto a DC-9, a Delta Air Lines flight scheduled to leave for Atlanta. He ordered the door closed and stormed the cockpit. Pilots Reese Lofton and Fred Jones courageously stalled the take off. Byck shot one pilot in the head and the other one in the arm. He was frantically trying to get the plane airborne where he would take over the controls and fly into the White House.

While this drama was unfolding in the cockpit, Charles Troyer, an Anne Arundel County officer, had arrived at the side of the mortally wounded Officer Ramsburg. Officer Troyer retained the fallen officer's .357 Magnum and heroically charged up the jetway. Officer Troyer fired through the aircraft's door and window, striking Byck and ending his murderous rampage. Before police could enter the plane, Byck took his third life of the day, this time his own.

Though the incident is briefly mentioned on page 537 of the 9-11 commission report (Editor's Note: this was also the basis of a 2004 movie, "The Assassination of Richard Nixon") at the time it received comparatively little attention. This may be due to fear of copycat killers or that Patricia Hearst had been kidnapped February 4, 1974, and her case was receiving a lot of press coverage. Either way, although he pulled off Jack Bauer-type stuff, the name Charles Troyer has basically faded into history.

But what Officer Troyer taught law enforcement is actually a timeless lesson. We all fear that one lone crazed killer, that demented person sitting in his basement just planning and training and preparing, But Officer Troyer taught us that one good cop who spends his career planning and training and preparing can stop the any threat. Every highly motivated, highly trained officer in America is capable of stopping a terrorist threat. Too often we think only a multi-jurisdictional task force or some national agency can stop a terrorist. Actually, it has been shown that a terrorist threat can be stopped by one good cop.