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Starlionblue
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Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Thu Aug 17, 2006 10:49 pm

Very sarcastic as usual with The Register. However it raises the point that perhaps the assumed method of TATP is rather impractical. I don't know enough about explosives to tell but it makes for interesting reading.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/08/17/flying_toilet_terror_labs/

Some highlights:
Now for the fun part. Take your hydrogen peroxide, acetone, and sulfuric acid, measure them very carefully, and put them into drinks bottles for convenient smuggling onto a plane. It's all right to mix the peroxide and acetone in one container, so long as it remains cool. Don't forget to bring several frozen gel-packs (preferably in a Styrofoam chiller deceptively marked "perishable foods"), a thermometer, a large beaker, a stirring rod, and a medicine dropper. You're going to need them.

It's best to fly first class and order Champagne. The bucket full of ice water, which the airline ought to supply, might possibly be adequate - especially if you have those cold gel-packs handy to supplement the ice, and the Styrofoam chiller handy for insulation - to get you through the cookery without starting a fire in the lavvie.



Once the plane is over the ocean, very discreetly bring all of your gear into the toilet. You might need to make several trips to avoid drawing attention. Once your kit is in place, put a beaker containing the peroxide / acetone mixture into the ice water bath (Champagne bucket), and start adding the acid, drop by drop, while stirring constantly. Watch the reaction temperature carefully. The mixture will heat, and if it gets too hot, you'll end up with a weak explosive. In fact, if it gets really hot, you'll get a premature explosion possibly sufficient to kill you, but probably no one else.

After a few hours - assuming, by some miracle, that the fumes haven't overcome you or alerted passengers or the flight crew to your activities - you'll have a quantity of TATP with which to carry out your mission. Now all you need to do is dry it for an hour or two.


The end paragraph is more chilling. I do believe that if a hypothetical band of terrorists have proper training and operational security, there is little we can do. Luckily they have not shown this level of competence yet.

[Edited 2006-08-17 15:57:39]

[Edited 2006-08-17 15:58:56]
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mham001
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:10 pm

Who says they have to mix it on the plane? In gel form, it is stable enough to carry onboard. All it needs is an ignition source.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:22 pm

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 1):
Who says they have to mix it on the plane? In gel form, it is stable enough to carry onboard. All it needs is an ignition source.

Thanks. Exactly the kind of information I was looking for in this thread.

But now for the big question. How much gel would you need?
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ltbewr
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:30 pm

To me this points out some the potential flaws and potential impractical situation of carrying out such a terror scheme. Someone smelling of such chemicals and appearing to be 'Islamic', would probably trigger a reaction by the air marshalls and by other passangers. They would seize the potential attackers and any other 'Islamic' looking person, separate them from their bombs, tie them down in the back of the a/c and the pilots taking actions such as a total lockdown of the aircraft (ie, everybody is in their seats belted, cannot leave their seats even to go to the bathroom) until able to land.
While other easier to use chemicals could be used, it is probable that the timing of the 9 or so terrorists groups on the targeted aircraft would have been off enough to have affected fewer aircraft. United 93 failed to reach it's intended target due to having 4 and not 5 terrorists on it and starting their actions later than the other 3 aircraft and after passangers learned of the 2 attacks on the WTC by the other a/c. To me if one aircraft had a bomb go off, all other a/c in the air would have been put into the reaction/lockdown sceario I describe above.
 
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:40 pm

Quoting LTBEWR (Reply 3):
To me this points out some the potential flaws and potential impractical situation of carrying out such a terror scheme. Someone smelling of such chemicals and appearing to be 'Islamic', would probably trigger a reaction by the air marshalls and by other passangers. They would seize the potential attackers and any other 'Islamic' looking person, separate them from their bombs, tie them down in the back of the a/c and the pilots taking actions such as a total lockdown of the aircraft (ie, everybody is in their seats belted, cannot leave their seats even to go to the bathroom) until able to land.
While other easier to use chemicals could be used, it is probable that the timing of the 9 or so terrorists groups on the targeted aircraft would have been off enough to have affected fewer aircraft. United 93 failed to reach it's intended target due to having 4 and not 5 terrorists on it and starting their actions later than the other 3 aircraft and after passangers learned of the 2 attacks on the WTC by the other a/c. To me if one aircraft had a bomb go off, all other a/c in the air would have been put into the reaction/lockdown sceario I describe above.

Agreed. While many terror plots may seem practical on paper, they're not that easy to carry out. Apart from the constant threat of detection even if an operative does has perfect fieldcraft, there are so many things that can go wrong. Making explosives is not very tricky, but getting them aboard the aircraft (even before the new rules) and igniting them without being seen is hard.

Also, to actually inflict significant damage, placement is very important. Setting off a hand grenade in the middle of the cabin will kill people, but it will probably not bring an airliner down. You have to transfer the explosive energy to a structural part of the aircraft somehow, or shred enough control lines.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
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RayChuang
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Thu Aug 17, 2006 11:49 pm

Sadly, the answer is yes.  Sad

Remember the explosion that destroyed a Korean Airlines 707 on November 29, 1987? That was supposedly destroyed by a bomb using the same materials the terrorists recently arrested were going to use.
 
mham001
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practi

Fri Aug 18, 2006 12:05 am

Do a google search for hydrogen peroxide, acetone, sulphuric acid and you will see exactly how easy it is, and how little it takes. It is said to be 80% more powerful than TNT. All it needs is a little electrical current.

[Edited 2006-08-17 17:07:12]
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 1:12 am

Quoting RayChuang (Reply 5):
Remember the explosion that destroyed a Korean Airlines 707 on November 29, 1987? That was supposedly destroyed by a bomb using the same materials the terrorists recently arrested were going to use.

I read up on it here. The bomb was in the overhead. http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19871129-0&lang=en. Seems it was pretty small.
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Bobster2
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 7:54 am

Is it actually practical? Well, the plot kept police busy for a year. If you're a terrorist that's one of your goals. If a handful of guys can occupy the most elite members of the defense, then you've certainly accomplished something useful to the terror organization. Possibly the people involved in this plot weren't smart enough to make bombs, but even dummies can useful as a diversionary strategy.
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vv701
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 8:40 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 4):
Agreed. While many terror plots may seem practical on paper, they're not that easy to carry out. Apart from the constant threat of detection even if an operative does has perfect fieldcraft, there are so many things that can go wrong. Making explosives is not very tricky, but getting them aboard the aircraft (even before the new rules) and igniting them without being seen is hard.

Also, to actually inflict significant damage, placement is very important. Setting off a hand grenade in the middle of the cabin will kill people, but it will probably not bring an airliner down. You have to transfer the explosive energy to a structural part of the aircraft somehow, or shred enough control lines.

Remember the Air India 747 off the southern coast of Ireland on 23 June 1985?
Remember the Korean Air 707 on 29 November 1987? Remember PA103 at Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988? They certainly managed to bring the airliner down. And that was twenty years ago when terrorism was not so organised or sophisticated as it is today.
 
Outlier
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 8:46 am

Quoting RayChuang (Reply 5):
Remember the explosion that destroyed a Korean Airlines 707 on November 29, 1987

Was that the one disquised as a bottle of alcohol?
 
Bobster2
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:08 am

Why do you keep trying to argue that a bottle of flammable liquid can't be a bomb, and even if it is a bomb it doesn't make a big enough bang to be "practical".

Certainly a bottle of flammable liquid can start a fire. Is that practical enough? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to carry flammable liquid and a match.

At this point the investigation hasn't even found the evidence yet and you're assuming they didn't have a liquid that was practical. Police found bomb making materials just today and we know none of the details yet. Stay cool. Wait a while.

ValueJet 592 and SwissAir 111 ring a bell? Hello.  Smile  Smile Were they bombs? No. Just fires.
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:35 am

Quoting VV701 (Reply 9):
Remember the Air India 747 off the southern coast of Ireland on 23 June 1985?
Remember the Korean Air 707 on 29 November 1987? Remember PA103 at Lockerbie, Scotland on 21 December 1988? They certainly managed to bring the airliner down. And that was twenty years ago when terrorism was not so organised or sophisticated as it is today.

Apart from the Korean 707, weren't the other bombs placed in checked luggage? This would mean that the force of the explosion is propagated through the packed bags in the containers.

Quoting Bobster2 (Reply 11):
Certainly a bottle of flammable liquid can start a fire. Is that practical enough? You don't have to be a rocket scientist to carry flammable liquid and a match.

Except that most of the stuff on aircraft nowadays burns very very badly. The exception is payload. But if you start a fire in the cabin it would have a hard time spreading as long as no one throws clothes on it or something.

Quoting Bobster2 (Reply 11):
At this point the investigation hasn't even found the evidence yet and you're assuming they didn't have a liquid that was practical. Police found bomb making materials just today and we know none of the details yet. Stay cool. Wait a while.

I just wanted to talk about the practicality of a bomb. And it's working.  Wink

Quoting Bobster2 (Reply 11):
ValueJet 592 and SwissAir 111 ring a bell? Hello. Smile Smile Were they bombs? No. Just fires.

The ValuJet fire was due to transporting stuff they shouldn't have. The Swissair 111 fire was due to faulty wiring igniting insulation material that is nowadays banned. Both "methods" are impractical for a "modern" terrorist on a modern aircraft. I see your point but unless you start a fire in the hold, it's going to be tricky with just incendiaries.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
Bobster2
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 9:54 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 12):
But if you start a fire in the cabin it would have a hard time spreading as long as no one throws clothes on it or something.

You just answered your own question. The terrorists would bring suitcases full of innocent looking items, like clothes, that would burn like crazy and give off toxic fumes. Why is it so hard to convince you when you even provide the solutions to the problems you pose?
"I tell you this, no eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn." Jim Morrison
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 10:20 am

Quoting Bobster2 (Reply 13):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 12):
But if you start a fire in the cabin it would have a hard time spreading as long as no one throws clothes on it or something.

You just answered your own question. The terrorists would bring suitcases full of innocent looking items, like clothes, that would burn like crazy and give off toxic fumes. Why is it so hard to convince you when you even provide the solutions to the problems you pose?

Your argument makes sense to me so it's not that hard.  Wink

The answers in this thread are much more logical than what we see in the media. Which is why I started it in the first place. But I must be allowed reasonable skepticism so that you guys can shoot down my theories. I'm hardly sticking to an untenable position, just trying to poke holes in the various arguments and counter arguments. If you prove me wrong, that's fine.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
warreng24
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 10:38 am

Yes. A similar bomb detonated on PR 434 in 1994.

"The explosive used was liquid nitroglycerin, which was disguised as a bottle of contact lens fluid."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippine_Airlines_Flight_434

[Edited 2006-08-18 03:39:27]
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 12:09 pm

Quoting Warreng24 (Reply 15):
Yes. A similar bomb detonated on PR 434 in 1994.

"The explosive used was liquid nitroglycerin, which was disguised as a bottle of contact lens fluid."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philipp...t_434

Interesting. While undoubtedly the event spread terror, the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing.

Thanks for the reference.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
MD-90
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practi

Fri Aug 18, 2006 1:17 pm

Practical? This fellow says no:

http://www.interesting-people.org/ar...esting-people/200608/msg00087.html

Excerpt:

So, we've covered in the lab and in the bathtub. On an airplane? On an
airplane, the whole thing is ridiculous. You have nothing to cool the
mixture with. You have nothing to control your mixing with. You can't
take a day doing the work, either. You are probably locked in the
tiny, shaking bathroom with very limited ventilation, and that isn't
going to bode well for you living long enough to get your explosives
manufactured. In short, it sounds, well, not like a very good idea.

If you choke from fumes, or if your explosives go off before you've
got enough made to take out the airplane -- say if you only have
enough to shatter the mirror in the bathroom and spray yourself with
one of the most evil oxidizers around -- you aren't going to be famous
as the martyr who killed hundreds of westerners. Your determination
and willingness to die doesn't matter -- you still need to get the job
done.

You also need quite a bit of organic peroxides made by this route in
order to be sure of taking down a plane. I doubt that just a few grams
is going to do it -- though of course the first couple of grams you
are likely to go off before you make any more. The possibility of
doing all this in an airplane lav or by some miracle at your seat
seems really unlikely. Perhaps I'm just ignorant here -- it is
possible that a clever person could do it. I can't see an easy way
though.

So far as I can tell, for the pragmatic terrorist, the whole thing
sounds really impractical...
 
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STT757
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 1:56 pm

This sounds like a job for the Mythbusters, they already busted the Myth that shooting a hole in an aicraft during flight would cause some type of explosive decompression.
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mham001
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Fri Aug 18, 2006 2:01 pm

Quoting MD-90 (Reply 17):
So far as I can tell, for the pragmatic terrorist, the whole thing
sounds really impractical...

What this guy is completely ignoring is that the already-manufactured product can be carried onto the plane.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:31 am

Quoting Mham001 (Reply 19):

What this guy is completely ignoring is that the already-manufactured product can be carried onto the plane.

Of course. But that would perhaps be harder to hide?

No one doubts that a small bomb of the right kind can bring down or seriously damage an aircraft. But there are big logistical issues with bringing it on board and detonating it in the correct location. Does the wise terrorist really want to deal with making the actual explosive on board?
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
trent900
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 4:49 am

Quoting STT757 (Reply 18):
This sounds like a job for the Mythbusters, they already busted the Myth that shooting a hole in an aicraft during flight would cause some type of explosive decompression.

I'm sure it didn't cause an explosive decompression. They did show that all a bullet would do is make a hole, even through the window but at the end they did tape a fare bit of explosive to the wall next to a seat, now that did blow a hole ( infact it ripped the whole side off).

Back to the thread, I should think the position of the bomb would make a big difference as to how much damage it would do. I did read someware that the Lockerbie bomb was in a perfect position to bring the aircraft down, if it had been anyware else in the hold the chances of the aircraft surviving would have been much better. What would a large bomb do if it was set off in the centre of the cabin? I've only seen hold explosions.


D.
 
MD80Nut
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 5:02 am

This form of explosives was used during the London 7/7 bombings, if I recall correctly. Also, they tested it during the aborted '95 plan to bomb several US bound airliners over the Pacific when a doll soaked in the stuff exploded under a Japanese passenger's seat, killing him and wounding others.

Yes, they are very practical and powerful.

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 20):
Does the wise terrorist really want to deal with making the actual explosive on board?

The terrorists who flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11 were quite willing to go through the process of learning to fly in order to acomplish their evil. Mixing an explosive on board is much easier than that. Don't underestimate what these barbarians are willing to do to acomplish their terror.

Cheers, Ralph
Fly Douglas Jets DC-8 / DC-9 / DC-10 / MD80 / MD11 / MD90 / 717
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 6:13 am

Quoting MD80Nut (Reply 22):
Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 20):
Does the wise terrorist really want to deal with making the actual explosive on board?

The terrorists who flew airplanes into buildings on 9/11 were quite willing to go through the process of learning to fly in order to acomplish their evil. Mixing an explosive on board is much easier than that. Don't underestimate what these barbarians are willing to do to acomplish their terror.

Good point. But I was more concerned with risk of detection. The more stuff you have to do (like mixing stuff on the plane), the higher the risk of detection.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
MD80Nut
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 7:02 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 23):
But I was more concerned with risk of detection. The more stuff you have to do (like mixing stuff on the plane), the higher the risk of detection.

You make a good point on that. Also, now that there's awarness about liquid explosives it would be a lot harder to take them on board and mix them undetected.

Cheers, Ralph
Fly Douglas Jets DC-8 / DC-9 / DC-10 / MD80 / MD11 / MD90 / 717
 
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RayChuang
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:34 am

Quoting STT757 (Reply 18):
This sounds like a job for the Mythbusters, they already busted the Myth that shooting a hole in an aicraft during flight would cause some type of explosive decompression

I'd love to see them do it, but given the fact we are dealing with potentially highly-explosive material they may have to do the test somewhere out in the desert and not in the San Francisco Bay Area locations normally used for that great show.
 
srbmod
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 8:48 am

Quoting Starlionblue (Reply 16):
Interesting. While undoubtedly the event spread terror, the aircraft was able to make an emergency landing.

Thanks for the reference.

That bomb was merely a test run for Operation Bojinka, which thankfully was twarted due to a fire in the apartment the terrorists had in Manila that was caused by some of the bombmaking chemicals. That bomb was a tenth as powerful as the bombs planned for Bojinka.
 
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Starlionblue
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 9:02 am

Quoting RayChuang (Reply 25):

I'd love to see them do it, but given the fact we are dealing with potentially highly-explosive material they may have to do the test somewhere out in the desert and not in the San Francisco Bay Area locations normally used for that great show.

If they had a dollar for every time they went out to the desert, they would be pretty rich  Wink

Quoting MD80Nut (Reply 24):
Also, now that there's awarness about liquid explosives it would be a lot harder to take them on board and mix them undetected.

True. Kinda like how it would be really hard to take over a plane with box cutters today. Before 9/11, people would believe a hijacking means some sort of demands. Nowadays, people know they have nothing to lose and will aggressively resist.
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 12:48 pm

I learned during my blasting training in the German Civil defense years ago that a typical 200 gramm stick of a typical commercial ammonia nitrate dynamite, about 3 cm diametre and 15 cm long, will within thousands of a second increase it's volume to about two cubic metres. This amount of gas is created so fast (after all it is a high (detonating) explosive)that it will produce a shock wave and act like a solid hammer against any resistance.

The bomb, which brought down the PanAm 747 over Lockerbie contained just about 200 gramms of TNT, which is about the size of a piece of soap.

Jan
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Bobster2
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 1:51 pm

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 28):
amount of gas is created so fast

That's correct, of course, but you don't necessarily need to create the gas quickly in order to make a big explosion. Think of an air compressor and an automobile tire. Attach the hose to the tire and leave it there. The pressure builds slowly until the explosion.

Use your imagination. Any chemical reaction that generates gas inside a closed container will explode violently when the burst pressure of the container is reached. People keep forgetting the liquid component of the bomb is not the whole bomb. The liquid might even be water if the gas generating reactions take place in water.
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jwenting
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RE: Were The Explosives In UK Plot Actually Practical?

Sat Aug 19, 2006 2:05 pm

And even if this scenario isn't the most practical, there are more liquids that can be readily turned into (or are) explosives.
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