Flight 93 Incident and Ethical Dilemma Essay

March 25, 2021 by Essay Writer


Many times, an ethical dilemma involves the possibility of actions that could not be justified in any other situation but in that particular situation only. This reveals the reality of ethical dilemmas, which provides an answer for a particular situation and, that answer is not replicable universally without the risk of being unethical. Supposing the terrorists did not crash flight 93 because of the passenger’s actions, would it be ethical to shoot the plane down? This paper evaluates the ethical standing of this question from a utilitarian point of view to establish the rightness or wrongness of the decision to shoot down the plane before it crashed.

Basic facts

The planned terrorist attack involved several planes, which were to crash at different places at almost the same time. Investigations never revealed the exact target of flight 93 but the most likely targets for the plane, as predictions can establish, were the Whitehouse or the capitol buildings. Moments before the plane crashed, the 121st Fighter Squadron had sent out two F-16 jets to intercept and bring down the flight. Interviews between the 9/11 commission and various defense forces revealed that several forces would have opted to shoot down the flight had it not crashed. The question here is, thinking as a utilitarian, would shooting down the plane be the right decision to make.


The utilitarian belief is that individual rights cannot override those of the greater majority. This is to say that, violating or denying the rights of individuals, even the fundamental rights and freedoms, is critical and a worthy course of action if it is for the good of the greater majority. Therefore, utilitarianism gives the rights of a group a priority as opposed to the rights of individuals. Based on this, though the passengers of flight 93 had their right to life, shooting the plane, which was to cause harm to the greater majority, would be a justified course of action by the utilitarian.

Another point of view of utilitarianism is the cost of the actions. Each of the actions would have its cost and in either case, the ultimate cost would be innocent lives. The cost of shooting down the plane was known- 44 innocent lives and 4 terrorist lives. The cost of not shooting down the plane is not quantifiable with certainty but obviously, it is far much greater than that of shooting the plane since the cost of the 44 and 4 lives is inclusive. Therefore, on these terms, shooting down the plane was the most responsible thing to do.

The last aspect of costs that this paper will consider is the economic cost of either decision. Given the speculated targets of the flight, it is evident that the economic costs of the attack would greatly affect the country. Bringing the Whitehouse down would cost the country a great deal given that this is the harbor for the office of the president. Bringing down the capitol, which is the harbor for the congress, would also affect the country’s economy much. Therefore, considering such costs, it would be more advisable to shoot down the plane before it reached its target.


Concerning the above-given arguments, it is evident that the costs of letting the plane reach its target would cost the country much compared to if the plane was shot down. The benefits that the country would reap from the act would by far much surpass the costs of shooting the plane. Therefore, the wise decision would be to shoot the plane down.

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