Bomb Scares and Fighter Escorts

As we all know, flight attendants found a camera on a United flight to Geneva yesterday, and after diverting the flight to Boston and offloading all the passengers, it turned out that the camera was….a camera. All of which suggests to me that if al-Qaeda were smart, they’d recruit lots of sympathizers who weren’t really ready for the whole suicide bomber thing and just have them leave cameras on board airplanes. It would tie up international air travel nicely.

But I have one question about this incident that I haven’t been able to find an answer to. It’s this:

Procopio said the North American Aerospace Defense Command deployed fighter jets to escort the United plane, but the aircraft landed before the jets reached it.

What exactly are these kinds of fighter escorts for? There was no question about the pilot crash landing the plane, was there? Nor could a fighter escort do anything if the camera had turned out to be a bomb. They had radio contact with the cockpit the entire time, so what’s the point of this?