Michael Clarke in the London Times:
Commercial aircraft represent globalism and high technology — they shrink the world and threaten cultural conservatism. The Boeing 747 was the last of the “great machines” that characterised the 20th century: it opened up air travel to the mass market. And it was so very American; big, brash and useful. But aircraft also appear vulnerable. In truth, civil aircraft are a lot more robust than people think, but the aviation industry is selling safety almost as much as it is selling transport and passengers need constant reassurance that aircraft are operating well within their technical limits.
So destroying or hijacking aircraft has always had great symbolic value for terrorists. Since the first commercial aircraft was hijacked in 1948 — a Cathay Pacific seaplane out of Macau — there have been almost 40 significant airline hijacks. Most ended with little or no loss of life, hence the presumption among crew and passengers that it was as well to go along with a hijack if you were unfortunate enough to get caught in one. There were manuals on how to relate to hijackers, or to avoid being singled out by them; it was a routine that hijackers and airlines both came to know.