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Joseph Stack, Small Aircraft and al-Qa’eda

Feb 22, 20103 mins
Business ContinuityIT LeadershipPhysical Security

Whenever there is a plane crash in the U.S. our thoughts race to the vivid memories of 9-11 as we immediately believe it could be a terrorist act. The recent actions by Joseph Stack in Austin, Texas took us to that posture when he flew his Piper Dakota packed with an extra gas tank directly into the IRS building. Pre-meditated, Stack demonstrated just how easy it is to use a small aircraft with a total weight of 3,000 pounds and capable of carrying 77 gallons of fuel at speeds up to 200 mph.

Most definitely. Al-Qa’eda and those who align with their vision and methods have a fixation with aircraft. They study avionics, use simulators, document the inner workings for propellers and continually share information about flying, miniature drones and gliders as methods for carrying out terrorist acts. And as before, the Internet is the platform for education, awareness and communication using multiple Web 2.0 tools to expand and expose their message.

Recent activity on at least one of their social networking sites is driving ‘students’ to take online preparatory classes for aerospace engineering; in particular aviation engineering. The push for online is due to the fact that the US now scrutinizes all Visas for such activity; it is cost effective; it is now in Arabic having been translated; and since the courses have been simplified so they are not as engineering focused yet still effective. These are their words and their thoughts on why to use the online courses as taken from more than one well known cyber jihadist vBulletin site. Several cyber jihadist sites point to flyingway for information, training, and methods to bypass new restrictions.

They have cut much of the fat from the courses limiting it to only what you need to know for martyrdom operations. The courses covered are:

·         Introduction to Aerospace Engineering

·         Mechanics of Materials

·         Building Aircraft

·         Aerodynamics

·         Dynamics of Flight

·         Aircraft Design

·         Graduation Project

What happens when the course is over? Use your new found knowledge to support the Mujahideen in their struggle against the infidels. There is also a section on guided missiles.

Other instruction includes information on radial engines (Pratt and Whitney), in-line engines, V-type engines and others. Nearly all this information comes from one site –

The social networking aspect is covered by the legitimate (vbulletin – the standard tool voted best Jihadi social networking tool by al-Qa’eda for 5 years running).

Over 65,000 threads and 814,000 posts spread amongst over 82,000 members make up the flyingway social networking site. The site includes information on how to make unmanned aircraft using amateur  products as well as a plethora of information about the aircraft industry. Keep in mind that this site is not geared to al-Qa’eda but is heavily used by them and others of this ilk.

The fixation still remains and until such time that they are proven ineffective with respect to the use of aircraft for terrorist actions, they will continue to pursue. Their propensity for explosives of most any type and style combined with small aircraft, creates another threat that could exploit our vigilance and defenses. 

If you want to know more, come to see Hacker, Cracker, Salafi, Spy at the RSA Conference in San Francisco.–pk-session – March 2 at 1PM.