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Context of 'August 13, 2002: Electronic Warfare Methods May Have Brought Flight 93 Down'

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In the fall of 1960, 1961, and 1962, the United States conducts three large-scale air defense exercises called Sky Shield that require a complete ban on commercial and private aviation for about 12 hours. During a period of extreme tensions with the Soviet Union and widespread fear of a nuclear attack by bombers or intercontinental missiles, the Sky Shield exercises test the reliability of North America’s elaborate network of radar stations in Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland, as well as along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Each exercise involves an attack by a fleet of “Soviet” bombers (actually US, Canadian, and British planes) from the North Pole or from the coasts, followed by the mobilization of hundreds of fighter jets trying to intercept and shoot down the intruders. Sky Shield will be recalled after 9/11 in part because it will be the first time in 40 years that the skies are completely cleared. The third Sky Shield, in 1962, involves the systematic grounding of hundreds of civilian jets as rapidly as possible to test the FAA’s ability to clear the skies in case of attack. This procedure, called SCATANA, will be implemented again on 9/11 on NORAD’s order (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 10/20/1961; Air & Space, 3/1/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 2-3; Air & Space, 11/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: US Military

Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard.Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets are regularly scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft flying in US airspace in the years preceding 9/11. [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press, 8/14/2002] For this task, NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order (see Before September 11, 2001). [American Defender, 4/1998; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; Grant, 2004, pp. 14] Various accounts offer statistics about the number of times fighters are scrambled:
bullet A General Accounting Office report published in May 1994 states that “during the past four years, NORAD’s alert fighters took off to intercept aircraft (referred to as scrambled) 1,518 times, or an average of 15 times per site per year.” Of these incidents, the number of scrambles that are in response to suspected drug smuggling aircraft averages “one per site, or less than 7 percent of all of the alert sites’ total activity.” The remaining activity, about 93 percent of the total scrambles, “generally involved visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress.” [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4]
bullet In the two years from May 15, 1996 to May 14, 1998, NORAD’s Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), which is responsible for the “air sovereignty” of the western 63 percent of the continental US, scrambles fighters 129 times to identify unknown aircraft that might be a threat. Over the same period, WADS scrambles fighters an additional 42 times against potential and actual drug smugglers. [Washington National Guard, 1998]
bullet In 1997, the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—another of NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US—tracks 427 unidentified aircraft, and fighters intercept these “unknowns” 36 times. The same year, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) handles 65 unidentified tracks and WADS handles 104 unidentified tracks, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on 9/11. [American Defender, 4/1998]
bullet In 1998, SEADS logs more than 400 fighter scrambles. [Grant, 2004, pp. 14]
bullet In 1999, Airman magazine reports that NORAD’s fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida are scrambled 75 times per year, on average. According to Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at the base, this is more scrambles than any other unit in the Air National Guard. [Airman, 12/1999]
bullet General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will later state that in the year 2000, NORAD’s fighters fly 147 sorties. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file]
bullet According to the Calgary Herald, in 2000 there are 425 “unknowns,” where an aircraft’s pilot has not filed or has deviated from a flight plan, or has used the wrong radio frequency, and fighters are scrambled 129 times in response. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/2001]
bullet Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times to intercept suspicious aircraft, according to the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 8/14/2002]
Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region at the time of the 9/11 attacks, will say that before 9/11, it is “not unusual, and certainly was a well-refined procedure” for NORAD fighters to intercept an aircraft. He will add, though, that intercepting a commercial airliner is “not normal.” [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] On September 11, 2001, NEADS scrambles fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Western Air Defense Sector, Norton Schwartz, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Ralph Eberhart, Tom Herring

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A 20-year-old Ethiopian man hijacks a Lufthansa Airbus bound from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, via Cairo. Wielding a gun (which is subsequently found to be just a starter pistol), he forces the pilot to divert the plane to New York. The 11-hour ordeal ends after the plane lands at JFK International Airport and the hijacker surrenders to the FBI. [CNN, 3/14/1996; Guardian, 2/8/2000; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457]
Fears of Plane Being Crashed - Journalist Eric Margolis, who is on the plane, will later say that he and the other passengers are “convinced the hijacker… intended to crash the plane into Manhattan.” [Eric Margolis (.com), 2/13/2000] While giving television commentary on the morning of 9/11, Larry Johnson—currently the deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism—will say it was feared when the plane was flown to New York “that it might be crashed into something.” [NBC, 9/11/2001]
Air Force Responds - In response to the hijacking, F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from where fighters will also be launched in response to the first hijacking on 9/11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Later, F-16s are scrambled from Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fighters intercept the Lufthansa aircraft off the coast of eastern Canada, and initially trail it from a distance of about ten miles. As the plane approaches JFK Airport, the fighters move in to a distance of five miles. They do a low fly-by as the plane lands at JFK. They circle overhead for a while, until the hijacking situation is resolved, and then return to their bases. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 29]
Participants in Response Also Involved on 9/11 - This is the last hijacking to occur prior to 9/11 involving US air traffic controllers, FAA management, and military coordination. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14; Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004] At least two of the military personnel who participate in the response to it will play key roles in responding to the 9/11 attacks. Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is currently the assistant deputy commander of operations at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 3/27/2005] On this occasion, he talks with his counterpart at the FAA and explains that the FAA needs to start a request up its chain of command, so the military can respond quickly if the hijacking—which takes place in Europe—comes to the United States. He then informs his own chain of command to be prepared for a request for military assistance from the FAA. Several hours later, Marr is notified that military assistance has been authorized, and the fighter jets are scrambled from Otis and Atlantic City. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 26-27] Timothy Duffy, who will be one of the F-15 pilots that launches from Otis Air Base in response to the first hijacking on 9/11, is also involved. His role on this occasion is unreported, though presumably he pilots one of the jets scrambled from Otis after the Lufthansa plane. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 29]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Federal Aviation Administration, Larry C. Johnson, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Otis Air National Guard Base, Timothy Duffy

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

President Bush, after having trouble making a telephone call, instructs Joseph Hagin, the White House deputy chief of staff for operations, to fix the problem and ensure that he is able to make calls at any time, but the issue will not have resolved by September 11, when Bush experiences significant communication problems. While he is being driven through Washington, DC, in his limousine, Bush tries to make a phone call but is unable to get a signal and hears only static. When he arrives at the White House, he calls Hagin over to discuss the problem. [National Journal, 4/11/2011] Hagin is a little known but influential member of the White House staff who, according to Politico, “manages everything around the president and the presidency except politics and policy.” [Politico, 7/3/2008; Washington Post, 7/4/2008] Bush tells him the president should be able to call anyone at any time. “He essentially said to me, ‘We need to fix this and fix it quickly,’” Hagin will later recall. Bush adds, “What would we do if something really serious happened and this didn’t work?” [National Journal, 4/11/2011] Presumably as part of Hagin’s effort to resolve the problem, in the spring of 2001, the White House commissions the Department of Defense to study a communications upgrade. [ABC News, 12/20/2006] However, Hagin’s task will not have been completed by September 11. On that day, Bush and other senior government officials will experience serious communication problems (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001; (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001; and (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [National Journal, 4/11/2011] But the 9/11 attacks, according to the Associated Press, “spurred on the effort to modernize White House communications.” Hagin subsequently “took the White House’s cell phone technology digital, upgraded the systems in the president’s cars, and moved staffers to the BlackBerry wireless communicator, while not freeing them from carrying pagers as well.” [Associated Press, 8/22/2003] According to Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, “[T]he fix to the presidential communications was one of the first things that was done after 9/11.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Thomas Kean, Joseph W. Hagin, US Department of Defense, White House

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

About 100 members of the 174th Fighter Wing, part of the New York Air National Guard, are deployed to Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, as part of the ongoing Operation Southern Watch. This is the unit’s second deployment there, its first having been in March 2001. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/11/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001; US Congress, 3/1/2005; 174th Fighter Wing, 12/9/2005] The 174th FW is located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, five miles north of Syracuse, in Central New York State. It is currently equipped with 17 F-16 fighters. These are kept in a six-bay shelter where they are, reportedly, “ready to fly in any weather, at a moment’s notice.” [Airman, 1/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/26/2005] However, Hancock Field is not one of NORAD’s two “alert” sites in the northeast US. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The unit has 350 full-time staff and 650 part-timers, who work one weekend each month plus two full weeks a year. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 10/24/2001] The 100 members of the unit who go to Saudi Arabia are due to arrive back at Hancock Field at around 3 p.m. on 9/11, but as a consequence of the day’s events are diverted to Canada. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/14/2001] They will eventually arrive back at the base on September 14. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/15/2001] In the months after 9/11, 174th FW fighters are involved in flying combat air patrols over New York City. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 12/8/2001; New York State, 3/26/2003]

Entity Tags: Operation Southern Watch, New York Air National Guard, 174th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base.Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets that are scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft in US airspace are able to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order, in the years preceding 9/11. [Airman, 1/1996; Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed and fueled, ready for takeoff. [American Defender, 4/1998; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Even before 9/11, the fighters are regularly scrambled to intercept errant aircraft (see 1990-2001). [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press, 8/14/2002]
Pilots Stay Close to Their Aircraft - Pilots on alert duty live near to their fighters, so they will be ready for a prompt takeoff if required. Author Lynn Spencer will write that pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia “live, eat, and sleep just steps from jets.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] According to Major Martin Richard, a pilot with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, “Every day” at his base, “365 days a year, 24 hours a day, at least two fighter pilots and four maintenance personnel ate, slept, and lived nestled adjacent to three fully loaded F-15 jets.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8]
Fighters Can Get Airborne in Minutes - The fighters on alert are required to be in the air within minutes of a scramble order. General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will tell the 9/11 Commission that they “have to be airborne in 15 minutes.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Richard will write that the objective of the alert pilots at his base is “to be airborne in 10 minutes or less if the ‘horn’ went off.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8] According to other accounts, fighters on alert are generally airborne in less than five minutes. Airman magazine reports in 1996 that NORAD’s alert units “work around the clock, and usually have five minutes or less to scramble when the warning klaxon sounds.” [Airman, 1/1996] A few days after 9/11, the Cape Cod Times will report that, “if needed,” the fighters on alert at Otis Air Base “must be in the air within five minutes.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/15/2001] According to Spencer, pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base are “always just five minutes away from rolling out of the hangars in their armed fighters.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 117] Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, says in 1999, “If needed, we could be killing things in five minutes or less.” [Airman, 12/1999] In 1994, NORAD is planning to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States and, according to a report published that year by the General Accounting Office, “Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 16]
'Everything Else Just Stops' following Scramble Order - Once an order to scramble is received, alert pilots try to get airborne as quickly as they can. According to Richard, being a pilot sitting on alert is “akin to being a fireman.” Richard will later recall that when the horn goes off, signaling for him to get airborne, “no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had to swiftly don my anti-g suit, parachute harness, and helmet, run to the jet where my maintenance crew was waiting, fire up the powerful jet engines, and check all of the systems while simultaneously talking with the Otis command post who had a direct feed from NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector]. When the horn blew, a frantic, harrowing race into a high pressure situation ensued.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 8] Herring says: “We go full speed when that klaxon sounds and people know not to get in front of us, because we take scrambles very seriously.… We’re fired up about what we do and we’re the best at what we do.” [Airman, 12/1999] Technical Sergeant Don Roseen, who keeps the alert fighters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida ready for instant takeoff, says in 1999 that these fighters are “hot and cocked, they are ready.” Roseen says that when the klaxon goes off, “everything else just stops.”
Suspicious Aircraft 'Could Be a Terrorist' - When they are taking off, pilots may be unaware exactly why they are being scrambled. Major Steve Saari, an alert pilot at Tyndall Air Force Base, says: “There are several different things you could run into and you don’t know until you’re airborne. And sometimes you can’t tell until you have a visual identification.” Saari says: “The unknown [aircraft] could be something as simple as a lost civilian or it could be somebody defecting from Cuba. It could be a terrorist or anything in-between.” [American Defender, 3/1999] According to Airman magazine, the unidentified aircraft might be “Cuban MiGs, drug traffickers, smugglers, hijackers, novice pilots who’ve filed faulty flight plans, or crippled aircraft limping in on a wing and a prayer.” [Airman, 12/1999]
Intercepted Aircraft Could Be Shot Down - Fighters can respond in a number of ways when they intercept a suspect aircraft. In 2011, Jeff Ford—at that time the aviation and security coordinator for the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Interagency Coordination Directorate—will say that before 9/11, scrambled fighters can “intercept the aircraft, come up beside it, and divert it in the right direction toward an airfield or find out what the problems are in order to assist.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] According to MSNBC: “[I]nterceptors can fly alongside a plane to see who’s flying it. They can also try to force it off course. Once it is apparent that it is not following directions, it might be forced over the ocean or to a remote airport—or even shot down.” [MSNBC, 9/12/2001] On September 11, 2001, NEADS will scramble fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27]

Entity Tags: 102nd Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Don Roseen, Homestead Air Reserve Base, Jeff Ford, Tom Herring, Langley Air Force Base, Ralph Eberhart, Steve Saari, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Martin Richard, Otis Air National Guard Base, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’ [Source: United States Air Force]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, takes off to fly to Europe for a NATO conference, and will therefore be away from the US when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-433] Shelton is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Military Committee—NATO’s highest military authority—in Budapest, Hungary, on September 12, to discuss the situation in the Balkans, the European Security and Defense Identity, and NATO’s new force structure. On his return journey, he is set to stop in London, Britain, to be knighted by the Queen. [North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 9/10/2001; North Atlantic Treaty Organization, 9/11/2001; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430] Shelton takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, on a specially modified C-135 (the military version of a Boeing 707) nicknamed “Speckled Trout.” Normally he flies on a VIP Boeing 757 often used by the vice president, but that aircraft is presently unavailable, so he is flying instead on the C-135, which is usually reserved for the Air Force chief of staff. Those accompanying Shelton on the flight include his wife, Carolyn; his executive assistant, Colonel Doug Lute; his aides, Master Sergeant Mark Jones and Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann; and his personal security agent, Chief Warrant Officer Marshall McCants. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20-22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431, 434] When Shelton is out of the country, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is designated by law as acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his place. Shelton will later recall, “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be [Myers’s] to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” [Myers, 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] After learning of the attacks in New York, Shelton will give the order for his plane to return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431] However, the plane will repeatedly be denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will only land back in the US at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). Shelton will only arrive at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers, 2009, pp. 159; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Douglas E. Lute, Carolyn Shelton, Richard B. Myers, Suzanne Giesemann, Henry Hugh Shelton, Mark Jones, Marshall McCants

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Former President George H. W. Bush, along with former First Lady Barbara Bush, leaves Washington, DC, by private jet, bound for a speaking engagement in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Bushes spent the previous night at the White House. They had flown to Washington the previous day to attend several meetings and a dinner. One of the meetings attended by the former president was the annual investor conference of the Carlyle Group, which was also attended by Shafig bin Laden, one of Osama bin Laden’s brothers (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are later informed of the WTC attacks while on their jet. Due to all planes being grounded, they have to land in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. [CBS News, 11/1/2002; CNN, 10/25/2003; Newsweek, 10/27/2003]

Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Pete Zalewski.Pete Zalewski. [Source: NBC]Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” [Boston Globe, 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19] Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; MSNBC, 9/9/2006] Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.” [Washington Times, 9/11/2002] Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, the manager of Boston Center instructs the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. a Boston manager will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; MSNBC, 9/9/2006] Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Bill Peacock, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, David Canoles, Pete Zalewski

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NASA’s KC-135 in parabolic flight.NASA’s KC-135 in parabolic flight. [Source: NASA]A special aircraft operated by NASA is in the air over western New York State at the time of the terrorist attacks and, at one point, a large aircraft, which those on board later learn is the hijacked Flight 93, flies less than 1,000 feet below it. [Space Center Roundup, 9/2002 pdf file] The plane, NASA 931, is a modified KC-135—a four-engine military aircraft similar to the Boeing 707. [National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 10/2000, pp. 28; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 10/29/2004] It is used by NASA for reduced gravity research, and is known as the “Weightless Wonder” or sometimes the “Vomit Comet.” The aircraft creates weightless conditions for brief periods by flying up and down in large parabolic arcs. [NASAexplores, 1/30/2003] It is regularly operated from NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio, next to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and usually flies four days a week. [National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 10/2000, pp. 140; National Journal's Technology Daily, 11/27/2002; National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 10/29/2004] A typical flight lasts two to three hours and consists of the plane flying 40 to 60 parabolas. [NASAexplores, 1/30/2003]
Scientists from Houston Conducting Microgravity Experiments - A team of scientists from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, has flown to Cleveland to conduct microgravity experiments on the KC-135. [Cleveland Free Times, 9/6/2006] Dominic Del Rosso, the test director on the plane, will later recall that the team is flying over western New York State when the terrorist attacks occur. During the routine mission, the KC-135 cruises back and forth along the New York shore of Lake Ontario, climbing and descending to create a freefall condition to simulate microgravity. Del Rosso will comment, “To think that this type of maneuver might ever seem threatening never crossed my mind until [September 11].” The plane’s crew members are notified at some point that a large plane is intersecting their flight path less than 1,000 feet below them, instead of the usual 2,000-foot minimum distance. They will later learn that this aircraft is the hijacked Flight 93, which crashes in Pennsylvania (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Del Rosso will recall, “After the unwanted flyby, we landed having no idea why or what was going on.” [Space Center Roundup, 9/2002 pdf file] The scientists are unable to return to Houston on this day, as scheduled, after the FAA orders all planes to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so have to be put up in a hotel in Cleveland. [Cleveland Free Times, 9/6/2006]

Entity Tags: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Dominic Del Rosso

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

After being informed of the hijacking of Flight 11, Tim Spence, an operational supervisor at the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), calls the air traffic control tower and then the operations desk at Otis Air National Guard Base, to let them know that they might soon be receiving an order to scramble the base’s fighter jets. [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004] Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, has just called Spence at the Cape TRACON, which is located on Otis Air Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and said he wanted fighter jets scrambled in response to Flight 11, which is a “possible hijack.” Spence told Bueno he would contact Otis Air Base and see what it could do to help (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]
TRACON Supervisor Calls Otis Tower - Spence will later recall that in the five minutes following the call from Bueno, he makes “as many calls as possible.” He gets on the phone to the air traffic control tower at Otis Air Base, to notify the controllers there of the situation and receive information on who to call next, so as to facilitate Bueno’s request. Spence will recall that the Otis tower controller he speaks to gives him the telephone number for either Otis Air Base’s base operations or the supervisor of flying desk, which is the aviation section of the base operations desk. (He will be unable to recall exactly which number he is given.) Spence will say he “may have been given a second number” by the Otis tower controller, but he “does not recall directly.”
TRACON Supervisor Calls Operations Desk - Spence then calls Otis Air Base’s operations desk. He will later be unable to remember who he speaks with there. But, he will recall, the “general discussion” he has with them is “an introduction of his position, the relay of the information of a hijack from [the FAA’s Boston Center], and a request for information on how to get a fighter scramble.” During the call, Spence acknowledges that he has no authority to authorize a fighter scramble, but he advises those at the base to prepare to receive a scramble order (presumably from NEADS, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector), since such an order is “probably on its way.” The person at the operations desk gives Spence the phone number for NEADS.
Timing of Calls Unclear - The exact times when Spence calls the control tower and the operations desk at Otis Air Base are unclear. Spence will tell the 9/11 Commission that he makes the call to the control tower immediately after receiving the call from Bueno. [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file] That call ended just before 8:36 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002] However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when the FAA’s Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] If correct, that would indicate Spence calls the Otis tower at 8:38 a.m. or after. Bueno also called the Otis tower directly, to request military assistance in response to Flight 11 (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the tower controller subsequently contacts the base’s operations desk to alert it to the possible hijacking (see (Between 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 47; Spencer, 2008, pp. 22, 27-28] It is unclear whether the tower controller calls the operations desk before or after Spence calls it, although Spence will suggest to the 9/11 Commission that Otis Air Base “may have just received a call themselves regarding the situation” when he makes his calls, “but he is not sure.” [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tim Spence, Otis Air National Guard Base, Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell.Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell. [Source: Scott A. Gwilt/ Rome Sentinel]The FAA’s Boston Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, to alert it to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 13] The call is made by Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at the Boston Center, and answered by Jeremy Powell, a technical sergeant on the NEADS operations floor. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 25] Beginning the call, Cooper says: “Hi. Boston Center TMU [traffic management unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Cooper answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Shortly into the call, Powell passes the phone on to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Deskins identifies herself to Cooper, and he tells her, “We have a hijacked aircraft and I need you to get some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 8; Spencer, 2008, pp. 26]
Military Claims Call Goes against Procedure - The 1st Air Force’s official history of the response to the 9/11 attacks will later suggest that Boston Center is not following normal procedures when it makes this call to NEADS. It states: “If normal procedures had taken place… Powell probably wouldn’t have taken that phone call. Normally, the FAA would have contacted officials at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center who would have contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The secretary of defense would have had to approve the use of military assets to assist in a hijacking, always considered a law enforcement issue.” The only explanation it gives for this departure from protocol is that “nothing was normal on Sept. 11, 2001, and many say the traditional chain of command went by the wayside to get the job done.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 51]
Accounts Conflict over Time of Call - There will be some conflict between different accounts, as to when this vital call from Boston Center to NEADS occurs. An ABC News documentary will indicate it is made as early as 8:31 a.m. [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Another ABC News report will state, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” [ABC News, 9/14/2002] NEADS logs indicate the call occurs at 8:40 a.m., and NORAD will report this as the time of the call in a press release on September 18, 2001. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 8:40 time will be widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002; CNN, 9/11/2002] But tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor that are referred to in the 9/11 Commission Report place the call at 8:37 and 52 seconds. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] If the 8:37 a.m. time is correct, this would mean that air traffic controllers have failed to successfully notify the military until approximately 12 minutes after they became certain that Flight 11 had been hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), 16 minutes after Flight 11’s transponder signal was lost (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and 24 minutes after the plane’s pilots made their last radio contact (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] At 8:34, the Boston Center tried contacting the military through the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, which is located on Otis Air National Guard Base, but was told that it needed to call NEADS (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 22]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Dawne Deskins, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Joseph Cooper, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jeremy Powell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, instructs Major James Fox, the leader of the weapons team, to launch fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Nasypany has just received this order—to launch the jets—from Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15 and 88] Marr issued it after seeking permission to do so from Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region (CONR) (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Marr will later claim, “My intent was to scramble Otis to military airspace while we found out what was going on.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56] Nasypany gives Fox a coordinate for just north of New York City, and tells him, “Head ‘em in that direction.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] The jets will be scrambled from Otis a minute later (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but there will be conflicting accounts of what their initial destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission will later state that, “Because of a technical issue, there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis scramble.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459]

Entity Tags: Kevin Nasypany, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Larry Arnold, Robert Marr, James Fox

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is 153 miles from New York City. The fighters are launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but this plane is already crashing into the World Trade Center at this time (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Delay - The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to the hijacking of Flight 11 and requested that fighter jets be scrambled at just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the mission crew commander at NEADS only instructed the leader of his weapons team to launch the Otis fighters at 8:45 a.m. (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Otis Aircraft Head to Runway - As soon as the pilots at Otis Air Base are strapped into their aircraft, the green light directing them to launch goes on. They start their engines and taxi out of the hangar to the nearest runway. One of the pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, radios his command post for guidance, asking, “Do you have words?” The response he gets is, “Possible hijack, American Flight 11, 737, flight level 290 [29,000 feet], over JFK [International Airport in New York City].” (This flight information is partly incorrect, since American 11 is a 767, not a 737.) According to the Cape Cod Times, the jets will be up in the air before their radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 42] The Otis pilots have already been preparing for the scramble order to come since learning of the hijacking from the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, some time shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/1/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 27-30] Their jets are reportedly not airborne until seven minutes after being scrambled, at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and there will be conflicting accounts of what their original destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, establishes a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. These facilities are the New York Center, the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, and the Eastern Regional Office. The participants in the teleconference jointly decide to divert all air traffic that would otherwise enter the New York area, either to land or to overfly. Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations at the Command Center, will later describe, “They [New York area air traffic control personnel] would continue to work what they’d been working, but we wouldn’t give them any more.” The teleconference participants’ decision does not affect takeoffs from the New York area. After the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m., the Command Center will expand this teleconference to include FAA headquarters and other agencies (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001]

Entity Tags: New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration, FAA Eastern Regional Office, Linda Schuessler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Doug Lute.Doug Lute. [Source: Joint Chiefs of Staff]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, learns of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon while flying to Europe, but his plane is then initially denied permission to return to the US. Shelton’s plane took off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, at 7:15 a.m. to transport the chairman to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Giesemann, 2008, pp. 20, 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-432]
Shelton Learns of First Crash - About an hour and a half into the flight, while the plane is over the Atlantic Ocean, a member of the flight crew approaches Colonel Doug Lute, Shelton’s executive assistant, and tells him a small aircraft has crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers. Lute says, “That doesn’t sound good.” He goes to the chairman’s cabin at the rear of the aircraft and tells Shelton, “Sir, just to advise you, the pilot has received word that a civilian aircraft has just struck the World Trade Center.” Shelton is reminded of a speech he recently gave, in which he warned of the possibility of a terrorist attack on US soil (see (Shortly Before September 11, 2001)), and says to his wife, Carolyn, who is with him in the cabin, “I sure hope that is not a terrorist attack.” He will later recall, “This had the potential to play out exactly as I had warned.”
Shelton Learns of Second Crash - About 10 minutes after Lute returns to his seat, the member of the flight crew comes out again and reports that a second plane has crashed into the WTC. Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann, one of Shelton’s aides, says to Lute, “That can’t be an accident.” Lute goes again to Shelton’s cabin and tells the chairman, “Sir, it’s a second plane and it’s hit the other tower of the World Trade Center.” Shelton exclaims: “Doug, that’s no coincidence. Have them turn us around, we’re going back. Then I want General Myers on the line.” (General Richard Myers is the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.) After Lute returns to his seat, he and Giesemann put on headsets and make calls to the Pentagon. Giesemann talks to Kris Cicio, Shelton’s personal assistant, who tells her that the WTC towers were hit not by small planes, but by jetliners full of innocent passengers. Giesemann then loses her connection with Cicio, and so listens instead to BBC news reports through her headset and passes on what she learns to the other members of Shelton’s staff on the flight. Lute talks with someone in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. After the call, he heads to Shelton’s cabin. [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 431]
Controllers Deny Request to Enter US Airspace - Having learned of the attack on the Pentagon (which takes place at 9:37 a.m.), Lute tells Shelton that there has been “some type of big explosion at the Pentagon.” He also tells the chairman that air traffic controllers have refused their request to fly into Washington. Lute says: “[W]e’ve been denied permission to return. All US airspace has been shut down” (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But Shelton retorts: “Doug, tell the pilot we’ll ask for forgiveness instead of permission, so have him turn us around. We’re going home.” Shelton will later recall, “I knew there was no way they were going to shoot down a 707 with UNITED STATES AIR FORCE emblazoned along the side.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432]
Shelton's Plane Supposedly Cleared to Fly into Washington - After Lute returns from Shelton’s cabin, he nods to Giesemann and says, “We’re going back.” Giesemann will recall that she then heads into the cockpit and orders the pilot, “Major, take us back to Andrews.” The pilot replies, “Yes, ma’am.” [Giesemann, 2008, pp. 23] According to an FAA report, “minutes” after the initial denial of permission to return to the US, Shelton’s plane is granted clearance. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1] The pilot turns the plane around and heads back toward Washington, according to Shelton. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432] But according to Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator on Shelton’s plane, it is several hours before the plane is cleared to enter the US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] The plane will consequently only land at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Shelton will only arrive at the NMCC an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers, 2009, pp. 159]

Entity Tags: Douglas E. Lute, Carolyn Shelton, Kris Cicio, Suzanne Giesemann, Henry Hugh Shelton, Rob Pedersen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459]
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CIA Director George Tenet has just learned of the first attack on the WTC while having breakfast with former Senator David Boren (D-OK) at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, DC. He later says, “It was obvious to us both that I had to leave immediately.” Along with Tim Ward, the head of his security detail, he gets into his car and, with lights flashing, hurries back to the CIA headquarters in Langley. Tenet later recalls that in these first minutes after the attack, “All the random dots we had been looking at started to fit into a pattern.… [M]y head was exploding with connections. I immediately thought about the ‘Bojinka’ plot to blow up twelve US airliners over the Pacific and a subsequent plan to fly a small airplane into CIA headquarters, which was broken up in 1994.” During his journey, he calls John Moseman, his chief of staff, and instructs him to assemble the senior CIA staff and key people from the Counterterrorist Center in the conference room next to his office. However, Tenet claims, it is difficult for him to get calls through on the secure phone, meaning he is “Essentially… in a communications blackout between the St. Regis and Langley, the longest twelve minutes of my life.” He only learns that a second plane hit the World Trade Center when he arrives at CIA headquarters. Tenet enters the conference room at around 9:15 a.m. By that time, he says, “I don’t think there was a person in the room who had the least doubt that we were in the middle of a full-scale assault orchestrated by al-Qaeda.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-163]

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the Washington, DC, area, members of the public, emergency responders, and government officials experience serious communications problems. Telephone and cell phone services around the capital remain unavailable to members of the public for most of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 149]
bullet Particular problems are experienced around the Pentagon. Reportedly, cellular and landline telephone communications there are “virtually unreliable or inaccessible during the first few hours of the response,” after it is hit at 9:37 (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. C36 pdf file]
Some senior government officials also experience communications difficulties:
bullet CIA Director George Tenet has problems using his secure phone while heading from a Washington hotel back to CIA headquarters, located about eight miles outside Washington (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Independent, 11/6/2002; Tenet, 2007, pp. 161-162]
bullet Secretary of State Colin Powell has to take a seven-hour flight from Peru, to get back to the capital. He later complains that, during this flight, “because of the communications problems that existed during that day, I couldn’t talk to anybody in Washington” (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2002]
bullet Between the time of the second WTC attack and about 9:45 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney, who is at the White House, has problems reaching Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert at the US Capitol by secure telephone (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Herald (Arlington Heights), 9/11/2002; Hayes, 2007, pp. 336-337]
bullet Even President Bush experiences difficulties communicating with Washington after leaving a school in Florida, and subsequently while flying on Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
A classified after-action report will later be produced, based on observations from a National Airborne Operations Center plane launched near Washington shortly before the time of the Pentagon attack (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to one government official, the report indicates that the nation was “deaf, dumb, and blind” for much of the day. [Verton, 2003, pp. 150-151] Members of the public in New York City also experience communications problems throughout the day, particularly with cell phones (see (After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Dennis Hastert, George J. Tenet, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs it that contact has been lost with Flight 77. The controller is a sector radar associate, whose job is to help with hand-offs and to coordinate with other sectors and facilities. He speaks to American Airlines dispatcher Jim McDonnell. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30; Spencer, 2008, pp. 63] The controller begins, “This is Indianapolis Center trying to get a hold of American 77.” McDonnell asks for clarification, “Who you trying to get a hold of?” and the controller replies: “American 77.… On frequency 120.27.… We were talking to him and all of a sudden it just, uh…” McDonnell interjects: “Okay, all right. We’ll get a hold of him for you.” The call comes to an abrupt end and the controller then continues trying to contact Flight 77. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 63-64] Soon after this call, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, Gerard Arpey, will give an order to stop all American flight takeoffs in the Northeast US (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). By 8:59 a.m., American Airlines begins attempts to contact Flight 77 using ACARS (a digital communications system used primarily for aircraft-to-airline messages). Within minutes, some time between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m., American will get word that United Airlines also has lost contact with a missing airliner (presumably Flight 175). When reports of the second WTC crash come through after 9:03 a.m., one manager will mistakenly shout, “How did 77 get to New York and we didn’t know it?” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 454; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] The sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center will call American Airlines again about Flight 77 at 9:02, and again speak with McDonnell (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim McDonnell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Airlines orders all its aircraft in the Northeast United States that have not yet taken off to remain on the ground, and then, minutes later, extends this order nationwide. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30-31] At the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, managers have learned that communications have been lost with a second one of their aircraft, Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). Therefore, at around 9:00, Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president for operations, orders a “ground stop” of all American Airlines and American Eagle flights in the Northeast US. This means aircraft that have not yet taken off must remain on the ground. Minutes later, American learns that United Airlines has lost contact with one of its flights. So, some time between 9:05 and 9:10, it extends its ground stop order to apply to all American Airlines and American Eagle aircraft across the entire US. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9-10] United Airlines will also prevent any further takeoffs of its flights at 9:20 (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] And the FAA will give out a similar order to all its facilities, initiating a “national ground stop,” at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001] At around 9:15, American Airlines will order all its airborne flights to land (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Gerard Arpey

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) are given guidance by an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center on flying into military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, and then discuss details of their intended hold in that airspace with another Boston Center controller. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
Fighters Heading into Training Area - Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the pilot of one of the fighters, talks over radio with the Boston Center controller who is working at the Cape Sector radar position. Duffy says the two fighters are “proceeding [on] our present heading of 250 for about 100 miles,” and adds that “Huntress”—the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)—“wants us to hold just south of Long Island, to see if we can get any more assistance.” The controller replies: “Okay, that’s fine. You are heading into the warning area.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] By the “warning area,” he is referring to a military airspace training area over the Atlantic, just south of Long Island, known as “Warning Area 105” or “Whiskey 105.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 85] The original flight strip for the two F-15s gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport, but the fighters have recently been redirected (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
Fighters Told They Can Contact Navy Control Facility - The controller continues, “If you want, if you can’t contact me, you can go to Giant Killer on 338.1.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] (“Giant Killer” is the call sign for the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia—a Navy air traffic control agency that handles over-water military operations. [New York Times, 2/10/1997; Spencer, 2008, pp. 143] ) The controller then tells Duffy that he can contact Giant Killer, because “you’re going through their airspace.” Duffy replies, “Okay, I’ll do all that, thanks.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] The Otis fighters are then handed on to another controller at the Boston Center. Stephen Roebuck, who is working at the Hampton Sector radar position, now communicates with them. [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The Hampton Sector covers the area that includes the Whiskey 105 airspace.
Pilots Unable to Give Specific Information about 'Hold' - Roebuck asks the pilots of the fighters if they know their destination. They reply no, and say they need to hold in the western area of Whiskey 105. Roebuck wants information on the position they will hold at in Whiskey 105, but the pilots say they cannot give a specific location. Instead, they tell Roebuck to keep them in a “published hold” in the area. Roebuck asks if the fighters want a “radial” or a “latitude/longitude” hold, but is told they will maintain themselves.
Controller Finds Fighters' Unspecific 'Hold' Unusual - Due to the lack of information the pilots have provided him with, Roebuck is unsure what the fighters are going to do, and does not know how to clear airspace for their potential course. Roebuck will tell the 9/11 Commission that “normally, clearing area for fighters is very specific, so this unknown generic hold [is] extremely unusual. The fighters had an altitude, but did not issue an EFC [expect further clearance].” He assumes the purpose of the generic hold is that “if the fighters needed to move rapidly, they did not want to be encumbered by an air traffic technicality.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 9/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Stephen Roebuck, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs dispatcher Jim McDonnell that the center is unable to make contact with Flight 77 and does not know the location of this aircraft. The same controller called American Airlines and spoke with McDonnell four minutes earlier, reporting that radio contact had been lost with Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). McDonnell now says he has tried contacting Flight 77 but did not get a reply back. The controller then tells him: “We, uh, we lost track control of the guy. He’s in coast track but we haven’t, we don’t [know] where his target is and we can’t get a hold of him. Um, you guys tried him and no response?” McDonnell confirms, “No response.” The controller continues: “Yeah, we have no radar contact and, uh, no communications with him. So if you guys could try again.” McDonnell replies, “We’re doing it.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30] Flight 77 made its last radio communication with controllers at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and deviated from its assigned course at 8:54 (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim McDonnell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, workers see the second aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center live on television. [Gazette (Colorado Springs), 10/7/2001] Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, later says that he now realizes “it was not an accident but a coordinated attack.” Then, he recalls, “At about that moment in time, every phone in this cab, and every phone over in the command center, and every phone in all the centers in this building were ringing off the hook.” Master Corporal Daniel Milne, the emergency action controller in the operations center, will similarly recall, “The feeling was total disbelief. Then the phones started ringing like crazy.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002; Legion Magazine, 11/2004] It is unclear what causes all the phones to simultaneously ring. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, after the second tower is hit, “Calls from fighter units… started pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] So this could be one factor. Also, a 1996 article in Airman magazine had quoted Stacey Knott, a technician in the NORAD operations center. She’d said, “Things can be pretty quiet in here.” However, “One of the busiest times is during exercises. This room fills up.… The phones are ringing off the hook, and I’ve got phones in each hand.” [Airman, 1/1996] On this morning, those in Cheyenne Mountain are in fact participating in a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] This is reportedly only canceled “shortly after” the second attack (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) [Airman, 3/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 59] So it is plausible that this is also a factor in causing all the phones to suddenly ring. A similar thing appears to occur in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. According to a news article based on the recollections of two officers who are there, after the second plane hits the WTC, “Phones in the center began ringing off the hook.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Rick Findley later suggests that all the ringing phones are not a hindrance for NORAD, claiming, “The good news is we had lots of people here and we already had an operational architecture. We already had the command and control, the network, the phones, the data links. Everything was already in place that enabled us to react to the situation.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Daniel Milne, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Eric A. “Rick” Findley, Vigilant Guardian

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Amraam missiles being loaded onto a 119th Fighter Wing jet at an unknown time on the day of 9/11. The 119th is based at Langley Air Force Base, Virgnina.Amraam missiles being loaded onto a 119th Fighter Wing jet at an unknown time on the day of 9/11. The 119th is based at Langley Air Force Base, Virgnina. [Source: William Quinn]Shortly after the second World Trade Center crash, calls from fighter units begin “pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” From Syracuse, New York, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard calls and tells Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS): “Give me 10 [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].” Marr replies, “I want it all.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; News 10 Now, 9/12/2006] Reportedly, Marr says: “Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Canadian Major General Rick Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD on this day, reportedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] However, according to another account, NEADS does not accept the offers until about an hour later. The Toledo Blade will report, “By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] The 9/11 Commission will conclude that an order for other bases to prepare fighters to scramble is not given until 9:49 a.m. In fact, it appears the first fighters from other bases to take off are those from Syracuse at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse’s initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). These are apparently the fourth set of fighters scrambled from the ground. Previously, three fighters from Langley Air Force Base, two from Otis Air National Guard Base, and two from Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled at 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), but did not launch until 15 minutes later. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Eric A. “Rick” Findley, 174th Fighter Wing, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Bruce Barrett.Bruce Barrett. [Source: H. Darr Beiser / USA Today]The FAA’s New York Center declares “air traffic control zero” (“ATC zero”), which means that all air traffic is prevented from departing from, arriving at, or traveling through the center’s airspace until further notice. [USA Today, 8/12/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] According to author Lynn Spencer: “ATC zero is designed for situations in which an air traffic facility is completely incapable of handling aircraft due to a massive computer failure, power outage, or even a large enough weather system. The declaration pushes all their aircraft onto neighboring sectors, and any new airplanes from adjacent sectors are turned back, at the sector boundaries if necessary.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68] The decision to declare ATC zero is made after the second plane hits the World Trade Center, confirming that the US is under terrorist attack. There are currently hundreds of aircraft in the skies around New York and the western Atlantic that the New York Center is responsible for. [Associated Press, 8/12/2002] Bruce Barrett, a senior manager at the New York Center, announces, “We’re declaring ATC zero,” and Mike McCormick, the center’s air traffic control manager, approves the order. Several of the managers there then start informing air traffic controllers of the decision.
Unprecedented Order - USA Today will report that this decision is unprecedented: “Controllers had gone to ‘air traffic control zero’ before, but only when their radar shut down or their radio transmitters went silent. The planes kept flying then, and controllers in other centers guided them. This time, ATC zero means something far more drastic. It means emptying the skies—something that has never been attempted. And not just the skies over Manhattan. Controllers must clear the air from southern New England to Maryland, from Long Island to central Pennsylvania—every mile of the region they control.… Controllers from Cleveland to Corpus Christi must reroute jets headed to the region and put some in holding patterns.”
Accounts Conflict over Whether Center Seeks Permission - According to USA Today, McCormick and Barrett declare ATC zero without first seeking permission from higher-ups, because a “call to Washington could take minutes, and they aren’t sure they have that long.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002] But according to Lynn Spencer, a New York Center supervisor has already requested ATC zero in a call to the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, assured the supervisor, “You take care of matters in your center and we will provide all the assistance necessary by stopping any further aircraft from entering your airspace.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Lynn Spencer, Bruce Barrett, Mike McCormick

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, national operations manager Ben Sliney responds to the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and orders a “first-tier ground stop” to prevent aircraft from departing, arriving at, or flying through the airspace of the FAA’s New York Center. Like many others at the Command Center, Sliney has just seen Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the WTC live on CNN. A manager at the center then reports to him the news just received over the Command Center’s teleconference, about the sinister radio transmissions that have been deciphered by the Boston Center, stating “We have some planes” (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, “The words take on a sickening significance” to Sliney “after what he has just observed.”
Sliney Orders 'First-Tier Ground Stop' - Sliney orders across the room, “Give me a first-tier ground stop!” According to Spencer, “The order stops all aircraft departing, arriving, or flying through New York Center’s airspace, effectively closing down the nation’s busiest skies.” At 9:06 a.m., an advisory is sent out to every air traffic control facility in the nation, and the skies above New York are now officially closed. Numerous flights that are in the air or preparing to take off are given “holding instructions.” Meanwhile, the large screen at the front of the room in the Command Center displays the footage of Flight 175 hitting the WTC as it is shown repeatedly on CNN. According to Spencer: “[I]t becomes sickeningly obvious to all watching that the plane was a large commercial airliner. And it was no accident.” [AOPA Pilot, 11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 80-81] Around this same time, the FAA’s New York Center takes action similar to that of the Command Center, declaring “air traffic control zero,” which prevents all air traffic from departing, arriving at, or traveling through its airspace (see 9:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] And at around 9:25 a.m., the Command Center will order a “nationwide ground stop,” which prevents any aircraft from taking off in the entire United States (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33]
Sliney Expands Teleconference - Also in response to the second WTC crash, Sliney decides that he needs to expand the Command Center’s teleconference (see (Between 8:48 a.m. and 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) so as to include the secretary of transportation. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81] It is expanded to include the secretary of transportation’s office, FAA headquarters, and other agencies. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] It is unclear whether Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta participates himself, as he is told to go to the White House around this time, and subsequently heads there (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
Military Liaison Unable to Help - Sliney also seeks out the military liaison at the Command Center to get more information about what is going on. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81] Presumably this officer is one of the three members of the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC) there (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002] But, according to Spencer, it is “clear that the lieutenant colonel’s job has nothing to do with NORAD or the air defense interceptors. He is military, but his job duties at the Command Center are focused on military airspace usage. He has no place in the military chain of command that is relevant this morning.” Sliney therefore “can only assume that people much higher up than both of them are dealing with the military response. The fighters must be on their way.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, Norman Mineta, Federal Aviation Administration, Air Traffic Services Cell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport.The air traffic control tower at Reagan National Airport. [Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport are instructed to start securing the airspace around Washington, DC. In the tower at Reagan Airport, the controllers heard about the two aircraft hitting the World Trade Center. They then received the ground stop order for all flights going to or through New York. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 145] (This order was issued at 9:06 a.m.—see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001. [AOPA Pilot, 11/2001] ) Shortly afterwards, they receive the instruction to start securing the airspace around the capital. They are told to turn away all non-airliner aircraft, such as private planes, as these are considered high risk. Who it is that issues this instruction is unstated, but presumably, like the New York airspace ground stop, it comes from the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 145]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

By this time, officials at American Airlines’ System Operations Control in Fort Worth, Texas have mistakenly concluded that the second aircraft to hit the World Trade Center might have been Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30] American Airlines learned that communications had been lost with Flight 77 just before 9 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) have been directed to “Whiskey 105,” a military airspace training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island. According to the 9/11 Commission, “To avoid New York area air traffic and uncertain about what to do, the fighters were brought down to military airspace to ‘hold as needed.’ From 9:09 to 9:13, the Otis fighters stayed in this holding pattern.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 85] Otis pilot Major Daniel Nash will later comment, “Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
'Pushback' from FAA Controllers - By 9:08 a.m., Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, had learned of the second World Trade Center crash and wanted to send the Otis fighters to New York City. However, according to Vanity Fair, the NEADS “weapons techs get ‘pushback’ from civilian FAA controllers, who have final authority over the fighters as long as they are in civilian airspace. The FAA controllers are afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with a passenger plane, of which there are hundreds in the area, still flying normal routes.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Author Lynn Spencer will add: “[L]ocal FAA controllers are busy shutting down New York’s airspace and are less than eager to grant the fighters access to the civilian airspace. They’re afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with the hundreds of airliners that are still in the area. Many of those flights are doing unpredictable things just now, such as canceling their flight plans and changing course, and controllers are not convinced that they can provide adequate separation if fast-moving fighters are added to the mix. They just need a few more minutes, they keep saying.”
New York Center Not Answering Phone - Nasypany tries contacting the military liaison at the FAA’s New York Center, but no one is answering the phone. According to Spencer, “He wants the Otis fighters over New York, not in military airspace 100 miles off the coast, but he has little choice. Without permission from the FAA to penetrate the civil airspace over New York, NEADS must advise the Otis F-15 pilots… to continue to remain clear of the city.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 111-112]
Director Wants Jets 'Closer In' - At 9:10 a.m., the senior director on the NEADS operations floor tells the weapons director, “I want those fighters closer in.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick asks Major James Fox, the weapons team leader, “Can we give [the fighters] a mission?” Fox replies, “Right now their mission is to hold.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 111] Then, at around 9:11 a.m., either the senior weapons director at NEADS or his technician instructs the Otis fighters to “remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA requests assistance.”
Fighters Exit Holding Pattern for New York - Just before 9:13 a.m., the Otis pilots tell their controller at the FAA’s Boston Center that they need to establish a combat air patrol over New York. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar data show that at 9:13, when the Otis fighters were about 115 miles away from the city, the fighters exited their holding pattern and set a course direct for Manhattan” (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24]

Entity Tags: James Fox, Federal Aviation Administration, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Kevin Nasypany, Steve Hedrick, Daniel Nash, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The operations manager with the unit at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission is instructed to prepare to launch three F-16s from the base, even though the unit only keeps two such jets on “alert.” [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 118]
NEADS Calls Langley - Captain Craig Borgstrom is the operations manager of a detachment at Langley from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two alert F-16s, he would serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), responsible for informing the pilots about their mission. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 114, 116] The unit has just received the signal to put its alert jets on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Longman, 2002, pp. 64; Filson, 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] After briefing one of the two alert pilots, Borgstrom is called by the crew chief to answer a phone call from someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) who wants to speak to him. In an urgent voice, the caller asks Borgstrom, “How many airplanes can you get airborne?” Borgstrom answers, “I have two F-16s at battle stations right now,” but the caller snaps: “That’s not what I asked! How many total aircraft can you launch?” Although Borgstrom is not on alert duty, he is an F-16 pilot. He responds: “Well, the only other pilot here is me—I can fly. I can give you three!” The caller instructs him: “Suit up and go fly! We need all of you at battle stations!” [Longman, 2002, pp. 65; Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 118]
Third Pilot Means No Supervisor - According to author Lynn Spencer, this order “is almost unthinkable. If [Borgstrom] goes up, there will be no supervisor of flying. During a scramble, it is the SOF’s responsibility to monitor the jets—to work with local controllers to ensure priority handling and to make sure that the pilots are receiving lawful launch orders. The SOF stays in close communication with NEADS to get any and all information about the mission to pass on to his pilots, and assesses weather, airfield status, and spare alert aircraft status in case of an abort by one of the primary fighters. If Borgy flies, there not only will be no SOF, there will be no officer left at the detachment!”
Borgstrom Notifies Others, Checks with Commander - Borgstrom heads out to inform others of the instruction. He speaks to one of the alert pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, telling him, “They want us to launch all planes and all pilots if we get scrambled!” According to Spencer, this request “doesn’t make any sense to Eckmann,” and his initial response is ”What?” But “he’s a military officer and he’ll follow orders,” and points Borgstrom to the unit’s third F-16, which is not kept on alert and is therefore unarmed. Borgstrom instructs the crew chief to arm the fighter’s gun; this will be the only ammunition he has when he takes off. After fetching his harness and helmet, he places a phone call to the commander of the 119th Fighter Wing, at the wing’s home in Fargo, North Dakota. Borgstrom is uncomfortable with the unprecedented situation he is in and feels compelled to notify his immediate higher-ups. He tells the commander: “Sir, they’re launching all three of us. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no ops supervision here at all!” The commander knows what has happened in New York from news reports, and so is aware of the situation. He tells Borgstrom: “Go! Our thoughts are with you. Godspeed.” Borgstrom then hangs up the phone and runs to his jet. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 118-119] The three Langley jets will receive a scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16]

Entity Tags: 119th Fighter Wing, Dean Eckmann, Craig Borgstrom, Langley Air Force Base, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) declares “AFIO” (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for New York airspace, which gives the military authority over the FAA for that airspace, and will enable the fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) to head toward the city. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 113] For the last few minutes, the two Otis fighters have been kept in a “holding pattern” in military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and NEADS has been unable to get permission from the FAA for them to enter the civilian airspace over New York. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 111-112]
Marr Wants AFIO - According to author Lynn Spencer, Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, now “decides that he is done waiting for FAA approval for his fighters to enter New York airspace.… He will play his ace card. There is one method for the military to override the FAA’s authority over the airspace, and it is called AFIO.” The declaration of AFIO will give the military “emergency authority to enter FAA-controlled airspace without permission.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 113] According to an FAA document, “Upon declaring ‘AFIO,’ NORAD assumes responsibility for [interceptor fighter jets] seeing and avoiding all known aircraft and ensuring safe intercept conduct.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 2/19/2004, pp. 4-12-1 - 4-12-2]
Nasypany Directed to Declare AFIO - Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, speaks over a direct phone line to Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, who is on the operations floor there. He orders him to declare AFIO for New York airspace and to immediately move the Otis fighters over the city. Nasypany then calls out across the operations floor to the weapons team, “Okay, we’re declaring AFIO at this time.” The directive is relayed immediately to the two Otis pilots, who will then leave their holding pattern and head toward Manhattan (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 113]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An air traffic controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport struggles with an Arab-sounding private pilot who keeps veering into Washington airspace. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 144-145] Reagan National Airport is less than one mile from the Pentagon, and just a few miles from the White House and the Capitol building. [St. Petersburg Times, 10/3/2001] The airspace around it and much of Washington is designated class B airspace, which means no one is supposed to fly there without a working transponder and permission from an air traffic controller. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] Eric Cole, a controller in Reagan Airport’s air traffic control tower, is continually being bothered by the pilot, who has an Arab accent and is flying a banner tow airplane. Cole repeatedly directs the pilot, “Go further south!” The pilot replies, “Okay, I’m going further south,” but does not do so. He keeps infringing the Washington airspace and asking to get closer to the city. Banner tow airplanes are almost unheard of in this area, and Cole cannot understand why the pilot is being so persistent, almost argumentative. Finally, Cole yells at him: “No, you’re not going further south! I can see that you’re not going further south!” Shortly after 9:06 a.m., the control tower receives the instruction to secure the airspace around Washington and turn away all non-airliner aircraft (see Shortly After 9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). The controllers are then able to order the annoying banner tow pilot out of their airspace for good. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 144-145]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Eric Cole

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

American Airlines orders all of its airborne flights to land at the nearest airport. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31] Managers at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas have learned of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center. Initially, they mistakenly believed this second plane was American Airlines Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). Gerard Arpey, the airline’s executive vice president for operations, conferred with other operational managers, and they all agreed that the airline needed to land its aircraft immediately. American Airlines’ president Don Carty then arrives at the SOC and also agrees, telling Arpey, “Do it.” So, at about 9:15, the airline orders all its planes to land at the nearest suitable airport. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] This is the first time an airline has ever ordered all its planes to land. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] The FAA will give out a similar order to all its facilities about 30 minutes later (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] Around that time, United Airlines will also order its aircraft to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] American Airlines ordered a ground stop earlier on that prevented any new takeoffs of its aircraft (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30-31] Most of its domestic flights will have landed by about 11:50 a.m., though it will take longer to ground its international and trans-Pacific flights. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: Gerard Arpey, American Airlines, Don Carty

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brian Wilson.Brian Wilson. [Source: Publicity photo]There is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building in Washington, DC, even though First Lady Laura Bush has arrived at the nearby Russell Senate Office Building and more than 10 minutes have passed since a second plane hit the World Trade Center. [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8; Bush, 2010, pp. 198] At 9:16 a.m., Bush arrived at the Russell Senate Office Building, located just north of the Capitol building, where she was scheduled to testify before a Senate committee at 10:00 a.m. [USA Today, 9/10/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 198]
Reporter Sees No Signs of Increased Security - The first lady is considered one of the nation’s “most visible targets,” and, as one of the Secret Service’s “permanent protectees,” like the president, she has a detail of special agents assigned to her. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001; Office of Management and Budget, 7/2001, pp. 82 pdf file; United States Secret Service, 2002] And yet, even though Bush has arrived on Capitol Hill, and over 10 minutes have passed since the second aircraft hit the WTC (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), there is apparently no increase in the level of security at the Capitol building. Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson will later recall that when reporting from the Capitol building around this time, he is “talking about the first lady being in the Capitol and saying that I had not seen any signs of tighter security in the building.”
Reporter Surprised at Plan to Hold a Photo Op - Wilson is also surprised that, although the Senate hearing Bush was scheduled to attend has been canceled, the first lady is still going to make a public appearance. He will comment that “they were (incredibly) trying to set up a brief photo opportunity.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] (Wilson is presumably referring to Laura Bush’s appearance before reporters and cameras alongside Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), which takes place at 9:41 a.m. (see 9:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 9/11/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 199] )
Capitol Evacuated Later On - The Capitol building will only be evacuated at 9:48 a.m., apparently in response to reports of a plane heading toward it (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] The first lady will only be taken away from the Russell Office Building to a “secure location” by members of the Secret Service at 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.-10:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal, 8/31/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 200]

Entity Tags: Brian Wilson, Laura Bush, US Capitol building

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) confirm to their mission crew commander (MCC) that they are prepared to issue an order to fighter pilots, telling them to fire on a commercial airliner.
MCC Concerned about Possible Shootdown - Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS MCC, is concerned about what might happen next as the day’s crisis unfolds. He realizes he may need to order fighter jets under his command to shoot down an errant aircraft. He therefore starts walking up and down the operations floor, impatiently asking all his section heads and weapons technicians, “Are you prepared to follow an order to shoot down a civilian airliner?” All of them affirm that they will issue such an order if required to do so.
Nasypany Confers with Marr - Satisfied with their answers, Nasypany gets on the phone to Colonel Robert Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, and asks him, “Have we already asked the questions?” What Nasypany means is, have they asked about getting authorization to take out a threatening aircraft? According to author Lynn Spencer, “Those authorizations, [Nasypany] knows, are going to have to come from the president himself, passed down from senior NORAD command in Colorado Springs.” Marr replies that Major General Larry Arnold, who is at the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters in Florida, is seeking the necessary authorizations and is prepared to take any action required. Nasypany then briefs Marr on the armaments on board the fighters NEADS has had launched (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He adds: “My recommendation, if we have to take anybody out, large aircraft, we use AIM-9s in the face. If need be.” He means that if there is another hijacking, the most effective way to bring the plane down would be to fire a missile into its nose. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 140-141]
Pilots Do Not Receive Shootdown Authorization - At around 9:35 a.m., according to Spencer, a NEADS weapons controller will ask one of the pilots that launched in response to the first hijacking whether he would be willing to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153] According to the 9/11 Commission, however, NEADS personnel will only learn that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then they will not pass this order along to the fighter pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

United Airlines orders its aircraft that have not yet taken off to remain on the ground. However, the exact time and details of this order are unclear. According to the 9/11 Commission, United orders the “ground stop” at an unstated time after about 9:10, when American Airlines had ordered a nationwide ground stop of its aircraft (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10] The Wall Street Journal reports that Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, gives the order for United aircraft to remain “frozen on the ground” at 9:20. However, it only describes this order applying to “all international flights,” so whether it also applies to United’s domestic flights is unclear. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] The FAA will issue an order to all its facilities, initiating a “national ground stop,” at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001] At around 9:45, United Airlines will order all its airborne flights to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, Andrew P. Studdert

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport.The air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport. [Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]The FAA’s Herndon Command Center informs a supervisor at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington Dulles International Airport that the FAA has lost contact with American Airlines Flight 77 and is trying to locate it. The Dulles TRACON then informs its air traffic controllers that a commercial aircraft is missing, and instructs them to look for primary targets on their radar screens. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] (A primary target is a radar track that provides an aircraft’s position and speed, but not its altitude, and which can still be viewed when the plane’s transponder has been turned off. [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/10/2004] ) Dulles Airport is located 26 miles west of Washington, DC, and 22 miles from the Pentagon. [New York Times, 6/19/1994; USA Today, 9/13/2001] According to the 9/11 Commission, controllers at its TRACON will locate an unidentified aircraft on their radar screens at 9:32 (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), although other accounts will suggest they locate the target slightly earlier (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Managers from American Airlines and United Airlines are added by the FAA to a teleconference, but they receive no guidance from top government officials on what to do. According to author Lynn Spencer, at some point after the second aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the executives from the two airlines are “quickly on the phone to FAA headquarters and the FAA Command Center.” They are brought into “a conference call that has now been set up with Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta and Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House. The airline executives inform the secretary that they are each dealing with additional aircraft that they are unable to contact. They seek guidance, but there is none.… The nation is under attack, but there is no plan in place, and no guidance is forthcoming from the top as the crisis escalates.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 109] The time when the airline executives join the teleconference is unclear. In Spencer’s account, she places it after United Airlines dispatchers have warned their aircraft to secure their cockpits (see (Shortly After 9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean some time after 9:21. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 37; Spencer, 2008, pp. 109] But Spencer also says that, when the executives join the conference, the “president is still reading to children in a Florida school room” (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would be roughly between 9:05 and 9:15. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38-39; Spencer, 2008, pp. 109] If Norman Mineta is already participating in the teleconference when the airline executives join it, the time would have to be after around 9:20, which is when Mineta later says he arrived at the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] And Cheney, who Spencer also says is participating in the teleconference when the executives join it, arrives at the PEOC as late as 9:58, according to the 9/11 Commission, although other accounts indicate he arrives there much earlier than this (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] According to the Wall Street Journal, American Airlines president Don Carty and United Airlines CEO Jim Goodwin are talking on the phone with Mineta (presumably over the conference call) about five minutes before the FAA shuts down all US airspace (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean they are participating in the teleconference by around 9:40 a.m. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Don Carty, United Airlines, Norman Mineta, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, American Airlines, Jim Goodwin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major Brad Derrig.Major Brad Derrig. [Source: ABC]At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the pilots of three F-16s receive the order to scramble (i.e. take off immediately). A Klaxon horn sounds and the status lights in the hangars change from yellow to green, notifying them of the order. [Longman, 2002, pp. 65; Filson, 2003, pp. 63; Spencer, 2008, pp. 141] The fighter jets belong to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. The wing has a small detachment at Langley that serves as one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, responsible for defending the nation against attack. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] The jets are already at “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24; Spencer, 2008, pp. 117-119] The scramble order has just been issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16]
Third Pilot Launched - The unit at Langley keeps two F-16s on “alert”—armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. [Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17] But NEADS has instructed it to launch as many aircraft as it can (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so the unit’s operations manager Captain Craig Borgstrom is also preparing to take off in a third jet. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 118-119] Major Dean Eckmann calls the other two pilots, saying, “Quit check,” indicating a radio check. Major Brad Derrig responds, “Two.” Borgstrom replies: “Three. I’m going with you!” This is news to Derrig. According to author Lynn Spencer, Derrig is “stunned.… [N]ot much surprises him, but this does.” Borgstrom joining them as a pilot will mean that, in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, their unit will be left without a commanding officer. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 142]
Only Two Jets Fully Armed - The two jets that are kept on alert are fully armed. As Eckmann will later recall, “We can carry M9 heat seekers, Sidewinders for the M7 Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20 mm Vulcan cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] However, Borgstrom’s jet has guns only, and though the six-barrel 20 mm gun can fire 6,000 rounds per minute, it requires close range.
Pilot Unqualified to Lead Three Jets - As the three aircraft taxi out to the runway, Eckmann is concerned that he has not yet qualified as a mission commander—a “four-ship”—and is therefore not authorized to lead more than one fighter jet. He calls the other pilots, saying, “Hey, I’m only a two-ship!” But Derrig, who is a full-time instructor pilot for the Air National Guard, urges him not to worry. He responds: “Press! I’m an instructor,” giving his approval for the flight to operate as a “three-ship” under Eckmann’s lead. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 142] The three jets will take off and be airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16]

Entity Tags: Brad Derrig, 119th Fighter Wing, Craig Borgstrom, Dean Eckmann, Langley Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to an FAA report, between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., air traffic controllers at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington Dulles International Airport notice an unidentified blip, later identified to be Flight 77, on their radar screens. This is several minutes earlier than the 9/11 Commission will claim they notice it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9]
Plane Flying East at High Speed - The TRACON at Dulles Airport, which is about 22 miles west of the Pentagon, learned several minutes earlier that the FAA had lost contact with Flight 77. It then advised its controllers to look out for “primary targets” (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Navy Times, 9/22/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] These are radar tracks that can still be viewed when a plane’s transponder has been turned off. [Salon, 9/10/2004] Several of the facility’s controllers now observe a primary radar target heading eastbound toward Washington at high speed, almost 500 miles per hour. Although the aircraft has no transponder signal to identify it, it is later determined to be Flight 77. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; USA Today, 8/12/2002]
Conflicting Times - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the Dulles TRACON controllers only notice this aircraft at 9:32 a.m. (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] The FAA report, which is published less than a week after 9/11, will state that its time of between 9:25 and 9:30 is “approximate, based on personnel statements from Dulles Terminal Radar Approach Control.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] But this earlier time will receive some corroboration from a report in USA Today, which states that the FAA’s Command Center is notified by a Dulles controller of the unidentified aircraft at “just before 9:30 a.m.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002] Furthermore, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who is currently at the White House, will tell the 9/11 Commission that at “about 9:25 or 9:26” he overhears someone warning Vice President Dick Cheney of an aircraft approaching Washington (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Radar evidence obtained by CBS News will show that “at 9:30 a.m.… radar tracked the plane as it closed to within 30 miles of Washington.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. [Source: FAA]Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001) A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. [Time, 9/14/2001] Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop… that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001] Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 9/20/2001] According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45… I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002] When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “… it was done collaboratively… All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; USA Today, 8/12/2002; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Jane Garvey, Ben Sliney, Norman Mineta, Federal Aviation Administration, Linda Schuessler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Gordon England.Gordon England. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of the Navy Gordon England is unable to communicate with colleagues on the ground while he is being flown from Texas to Washington, DC. England, the Navy’s top civilian official, traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, the previous evening to give a speech to the Navy League. When the terrorist attacks began this morning, he was getting ready to fly back to Washington. Initially, however, the Navy plane he was going to travel on was grounded. [CNN, 10/16/2001; American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] (The FAA ordered a ground stop to prevent any aircraft taking off across the US at around 9:26 a.m. (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25] ) But after a “short period,” England will later recall, the Navy secretary and his companions “got clearance to come back to Washington.” While they are flying to the capital, however, they are unable to communicate with their colleagues on the ground. When he is asked about the flight, England will recall, “Well, of course, we didn’t have any communications.” England and his companions consequently have little knowledge of what the attacks involved. “We didn’t know what was happening,” England will say. “Literally just knew some of the things that happened, knew that something had been hit in Washington, but didn’t know until we were airborne that it had been the Pentagon.” England only learns more about what has happened when his plane lands. “I really didn’t hear much until we got on the ground,” he will say. Why England and those with him have these communication problems is unknown. After arriving in Washington, England joins colleagues of his at the Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters, where the Navy has set up a temporary headquarters (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 10/16/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 133] Other senior US government officials also have trouble making and receiving communications while the attacks are taking place this morning, and in the following hours (see (After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These officials include President Bush (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Secretary of State Colin Powell (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001), CIA Director George Tenet (see (8:55 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and House Speaker Dennis Hastert (see (9:04 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Telecom News, 2002 pdf file; Hastert, 2004, pp. 6; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Tenet, 2007, pp. 162]

Entity Tags: Gordon England

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989.A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989. [Source: Public domain]The FAA’s Cleveland Center incorrectly concludes that Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 has been hijacked, but accounts will conflict over how it comes to this conclusion. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] Delta 1989, a Boeing 767, is currently in the sector of airspace being monitored by Cleveland Center air traffic controller John Werth. [9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/11/2008] It is flying west over Pennsylvania, approaching the Ohio border, and is about 25 miles behind Flight 93. FBI agents suspected Delta 1989 might be the next plane to be hijacked and called the Cleveland Center after the second attack on the World Trade Center, with the warning to watch this flight (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] A supervisor at the center told Werth to keep an eye on the flight because, as Werth will later recall, “he was a suspected hijacking because he had taken off from Boston at approximately the same time as” the first two hijacked aircraft, Flights 11 and 175. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Controllers Hear Suspicious Communications - When, at 9:28, Werth hears the sound of screaming (subsequently determined to have come from Flight 93) over the radio (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he is unsure which of seven or eight possible aircraft it is coming from. The radio frequency is put on the speaker so other controllers can hear it, and they subsequently make out the words, “get out of here.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28]
Controllers Think Delta 1989 Is Hijacked - According to USA Today, when Cleveland Center controllers then hear a voice with a heavy accent over the radio, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain.… We have a bomb on board” (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they mistakenly think it is coming from Delta 1989, not Flight 93. They suspect the flight has been hijacked, and start informing their chain of command. “Officials at Cleveland Center rush word to Washington: Hijackers have another flight. At the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, Delta Flight 1989 joins a growing list of suspicious jets.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12]
Werth Decides Hijacked Aircraft Is Flight 93 - Werth then calls all of the aircraft in his sector, and Flight 93 is the only one that does not respond. He also sees Flight 93 go into a quick descent and then come back up again. Werth therefore concludes that it is Flight 93, not Delta 1989, that has been hijacked, and instructs his supervisor to “tell Washington” of this. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file] However, events in the following minutes will cause Cleveland Center controllers to remain suspicious of Delta 1989 (see (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 168; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Book Gives Alternative Account - In a book published in 2008, author Lynn Spencer will give a different explanation for why Cleveland Center becomes suspicious of Delta 1989. According to her account, after hearing a later radio transmission where a hijacker again says “There is a bomb on board” (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Werth begins to hand off his flights to other controllers so he can devote his full attention to Flight 93. “In the distraction of the emergency, the crew of Delta 1989 misses the hand-off to the new frequency. The new sector controller for Delta 1989 calls out to the plane several times and gets no response.” As a result, “News travels fast,” and “Soon, word on the FAA’s open teleconference call is that a fifth aircraft is out of radio contact: Delta 1989… is added to the list of suspect aircraft.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] At 9:39 a.m., even though it is not responsible for handling Delta 1989, the FAA’s Boston Center will call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly tell it that Delta 1989 is another possible hijack (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: John Werth, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A small jet plane—ExecuJet 956—tracks Flight 93 for what is described as “a substantial period of time” before it crashes, and picks up some of the radio transmissions from it, as both planes are operating on the same frequency. [Government's motion for protective order regarding cockpit voice recorder pursuant to 49 USC 1154. United States v. Zacarias Moussaoui, 8/8/2002 pdf file; Washington Post, 8/9/2002] The exact period over which ExecuJet 956 follows Flight 93 is unclear. But as early as 9:31 it calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center and, referring to Flight 93, reports: “[W]e’re just answering your call. We did hear that, uh, yelling too.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 461] At 9:40, after being asked, “did you understand that transmission [from Flight 93]?” ExecuJet 956 tells Cleveland Center: “Affirmative. He said that there was a bomb on board.” [Associated Press, 4/12/2006] Cleveland Center then asks the ExecuJet pilot if he can change course and try to spot Flight 93. He sees it, loses it, and then sees it again. He then has to make an evasive turn, as Flight 93 is heading directly for him. [Longman, 2002, pp. 104] ExecuJet 956 is one of a fleet of small jets available for hire from a company based in Woodbridge, New Jersey called NetJets, which sells shares in private business aircraft. [Associated Press, 8/8/2002; Washington Post, 8/9/2002] NetJets’ owner is the multi-billionaire Warren Buffet. [Knight Ridder, 11/6/2001; Observer, 1/12/2003] Another small business jet is reportedly within 20 miles of Flight 93 when it crashes, but this is apparently a different one, belonging to a North Carolina clothing firm (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Chris Stephenson, head flight controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport tower, says that he is called by the Secret Service around this time. He is told an unidentified aircraft is speeding toward Washington. Stephenson looks at the radarscope and sees Flight 77 about five miles to the west. He looks out the tower window and sees the plane turning to the right and descending. He follows it until it disappears behind a building in nearby Crystal City, Virginia. [USA Today, 8/11/2002] However, according to another account, just before 9:30 a.m., a controller in the same tower has an unidentified plane on radar, “heading toward Washington and without a transponder signal to identify it. It’s flying fast, she says: almost 500 mph. And it’s heading straight for the heart of the city. Could it be American Flight 77? The FAA warns the Secret Service.” [USA Today, 8/12/2002] In short, it is unclear whether the Secret Service warns the FAA, or vice versa.

Entity Tags: Chris Stephenson, Federal Aviation Administration, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secretary of State Colin Powell is in Lima, Peru for a meeting of the Organization of American States. He is having breakfast with the president of Peru and his cabinet. As Powell later recalls, “[S]uddenly a note was handed to me saying that something had happened in New York City, some planes had crashed into the World Trade Center.… And then a few moments later, more information came in, and it was… obviously a terrorist attack. So we concluded the breakfast.… I told my staff, ‘Get the plane ready. We got to get home.’ Because clearly this was—this was [a] catastrophe and I had to get back to the United States.” It will take an hour to get his plane ready, so Powell stops off at the Organization of American States conference where he gives a brief statement, and other foreign ministers give speeches of support. Powell then leaves immediately for Lima’s military airport to fly back to Washington. [Guardian, 9/12/2001; Woodward, 2002, pp. 9-10; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004 pdf file] However, his plane reportedly does not take off until about 12:30 p.m. EDT. [US Department of State, 9/11/2001] His flight will take seven hours, during which time he has significant problems communicating with colleagues in Washington (see (12:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/11/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Organization of American States (OAS), Colin Powell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A group from FAA headquarters, who are apparently oblivious to the morning’s crisis, request and are given a tour of the air traffic control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, until they are forced to leave there just before the time of the Pentagon attack. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 157-158] Reagan Airport is located less than a mile from the Pentagon. [St. Petersburg Times, 10/3/2001]
Tour Group Wants to See Tower - At 9:32, the tower supervisor, Chris Stephenson, receives a phone call from one of the airport’s maintenance workers. The maintenance worker says he has a group there from the FAA’s Washington headquarters that is visiting the airport to go over some maintenance issues, but they are also curious to see what goes on in the control tower. It appears the FAA personnel are unaware of the attacks in New York, and Stephenson is asked if it is okay to bring them up. Though he is busy dealing with the chaos resulting from the ground stop recently ordered by the FAA’s Command Center (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Stephenson reluctantly agrees. The group arrives moments later, but Stephenson tries to ignore them. According to author Lynn Spencer, Stephenson is as yet unaware that an errant aircraft has been spotted heading toward Washington (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 157] But according to USA Today, the Secret Service warned him about this aircraft at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/11/2002]
Group Ordered to Leave - Shortly after the group arrives, Stephenson is called by a controller at the TRACON and notified of the unidentified aircraft (presumably Flight 77), which is five miles west of the tower (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he looks out the window, he sees it, now less than a mile away and approaching fast. Stephenson yells at the tour group: “Out! Get out!” The FAA group heads off down the stairs, but the last in the line looks out the window at the descending aircraft and asks, “What’s that guy doing?” ”Get out!” Stephenson repeats, and pushes the man into the stairwell. Soon afterwards, the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 158]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Chris Stephenson, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Reagan National Airport.Reagan National Airport. [Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport are contacted by controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport, and informed of a fast-moving unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, which is approaching the restricted airspace around the White House. [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/4/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33] Reagan Airport is less than a mile from the Pentagon and only a few miles from the White House. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/19/2001] During a shift, it has 10 or 11 controllers working in its Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and seven or eight controllers working in its air traffic control tower. [9/11 Commission, 7/28/2003 pdf file] Controllers at the Dulles TRACON have recently noticed the unidentified aircraft on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9]
TRACON Told of Aircraft - A Dulles Airport controller now calls the TRACON at Reagan Airport, and says: “Hey! Untracked target 15 [miles] west of you. Primary target eastbound! Heading toward P-56!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 145-146] (P-56, or Prohibited Area 56, is the restricted airspace above and near the White House. [Department of Transportation, 8/4/2005] ) Reagan Airport controller Dan Creedon checks his radar screen and sees the aircraft’s target about 10 miles west of the White House. The radar track is untagged, so he attaches a data box to it with the word “LOOK” in it. This will allow other controllers to quickly spot the aircraft. It also causes its ground speed to appear on the screen. According to author Lynn Spencer, the aircraft is shown to be flying at 290 miles per hour. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 146] But other accounts will claim it is flying at between 400 and 500 mph as it approaches Washington. [CBS News, 9/21/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/28/2003 pdf file] Creedon then calls out to Victor Padgett, the operations supervisor in the TRACON, and tells him about the aircraft heading their way. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 146]
Controllers Notify Others - After the Reagan Airport controllers learn of the approaching aircraft, they promptly contact other agencies about it. Padgett calls the Secret Service (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/14/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] And another controller will issue traffic advisories on the aircraft to a C-130 military cargo plane that is flying in the area, and then instruct the C-130 to identify and follow the aircraft (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33; Spencer, 2008, pp. 146-147] A controller in the TRACON will also call the Reagan Airport control tower, and alert it to the approaching aircraft (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 158]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Victor Padgett, Dan Creedon, Washington Dulles International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport.President Bush trying to use a cell phone as his motorcade nears the Sarasota airport. [Source: Associated Press]President Bush has difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while he is being driven to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Bush left the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. to be driven to Air Force One (see (9:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; Bloomberg, 6/17/2004] While he is in his limousine, he tries calling colleagues at the White House over a secure telephone line, but all the secure lines are down. He ends up trying to call Washington using a borrowed cell phone. Even this doesn’t work, according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, he talks with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice around this time, which means he is able to make at least one call (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 128] Dave Wilkinson, assistant special agent in charge of the presidential protection division, will later comment on the difficulties Bush and his entourage have communicating with Washington today, saying, “Every kind of communication… was challenged” and the “communications network did not hold up.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Lee Hamilton, vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will claim that Bush had difficulty communicating with Washington while he was being driven to the airport because members of his entourage all tried calling the capital at the same time after leaving the school, thereby causing a “communication jam.” However, the communication problems will continue after Bush takes off from Sarasota on Air Force One (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] The president’s difficulty reaching his colleagues in Washington during the drive to the airport is particularly notable since, just a few months ago, Bush instructed Joseph Hagin, his deputy chief of staff for operations, to promptly ensure that he is always able to make phone calls, after he had trouble making a call from his limousine (see Spring 2001). Hagin has apparently not yet fixed the problem. [National Journal, 4/11/2011]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Lee Hamilton, Condoleezza Rice, Dave Wilkinson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A number of witnesses see a helicopter flying near the Pentagon in the minutes before the attack there.
bullet Jeffrey Mark Parsons, an assistant chief patrol agent with the United States Border Patrol, sees a blue and white helicopter that appears as if it is coming in to land, from a window on the 17th floor of the hotel he is staying at, near the Pentagon. Parsons will later recall that two or three minutes before the Pentagon attack occurs: “I saw [the helicopter] circle… between the hotel and the Pentagon, going toward the landing pad [at the Pentagon] where that airliner ultimately hit. And I thought that he landed on the pad.” Parsons will say the helicopter flies in at “a weird angle,” and recall that he has been staying at the Marriott Residence Inn in Arlington for almost a month, but has “never seen a helicopter approach the Pentagon from that direction before.” He will recognize the helicopter as a Huey because he has flown Hueys and knows they make “a very distinct sound.” According to John Darrell Sherwood, a Navy historian who interviews Parsons about the incident, the helicopter belongs to the US Park Police and has been instructed to intercept the aircraft that subsequently hits the Pentagon (see Shortly Before 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Naval Historical Center, 12/13/2001; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 258]
bullet A senior Air Force officer who is somewhere outside the Pentagon also sees a helicopter circling the Pentagon around this time, although he believes it to be a US military helicopter. Shortly after the Pentagon attack, the unnamed officer will tell a CNN reporter that the helicopter “disappeared behind the building where the helicopter landing zone is… and he then saw [a] fireball go into the sky” when the Pentagon is hit. [CNN, 9/11/2001]
bullet Jennifer Reichert, who is stuck in traffic on Route 27 in front of the Pentagon, will describe that just before the attack, “A helicopter takes off from the heliport at the Pentagon.” She will add: “Minutes—maybe seconds—later, I hear it: American Airlines Flight 77 screams toward the Pentagon. The explosion [of the crash] shakes my car.” [Washington Post, 9/5/2002]
bullet Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Denny Watson, his CIA briefer, who are in Rumsfeld’s office at the Pentagon, see a helicopter flying very close to the building, outside the window of the office, and then pulling away just before the building is attacked (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Priess, 2016, pp. 244-245]
Perhaps due to the presence of this helicopter in the area, some people will initially think the attack on the Pentagon involves a helicopter hitting the building. Captain William Durm, the commander of the Pentagon’s Triservice Dental Clinic, will head to the building’s center courtyard shortly after the Pentagon is hit. Someone there will tell him a helicopter has hit the other side of the building. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 11] Some early news reports will suggest a helicopter crashed into the Pentagon. [Thomas Crosbie Media, 9/11/2001; Poynter Institute, 9/2/2002] One report will claim that “one aircraft and a helicopter have crashed into the Pentagon.” [Airline Industry Information, 9/11/2001] Vice President Dick Cheney will tell NBC’s Meet the Press that “the first reports on the Pentagon attack suggested a helicopter” hit the building. [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001] The Guardian will report that one witness claims the explosion that occurs when the Pentagon is hit blows up a helicopter circling overhead. [Guardian, 9/12/2001] New York Times columnist William Safire will report that, at approximately this time, Cheney is told that either another plane or “a helicopter loaded with explosives” is heading for the White House. [New York Times, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Jennifer Reichert, Jeffrey Mark Parsons, John Darrell Sherwood, Pentagon, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, United States Park Police, Denny Watson, William Safire, William Durm, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A typical C-130.A typical C-130. [Source: US Air Force Reserve Command]Washington’s Reagan National Airport air traffic control instructs a military C-130 cargo plane that has just departed Andrews Air Force Base to intercept Flight 77 and identify it. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; Guardian, 10/17/2001] Remarkably, this C-130 is the same C-130 that will be 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] The pilot, Lt. Col. Steve O’Brien, will claim that he took off around 9:30 a.m., planning to return to Minnesota after dropping supplies off in the Caribbean. He will describe his close encounter: “When air traffic control asked me if we had him [Flight 77] in sight, I told him that was an understatement—by then, he had pretty much filled our windscreen. Then he made a pretty aggressive turn so he was moving right in front of us, a mile and a half, two miles away. I said we had him in sight, then the controller asked me what kind of plane it was. That caught us up, because normally they have all that information. The controller didn’t seem to know anything.” O’Brien reports that the plane is either a 757 or 767 and its silver fuselage means it is probably an American Airlines plane. “They told us to turn and follow that aircraft—in 20 plus years of flying, I’ve never been asked to do something like that.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] O’Brien and his crew, Maj. Robert Schumacher and flight engineer Master Sgt. Jeffrey Rosenthal, are unaware of the attacks in New York. Schumacher will say that, after being directed to follow Flight 77, he first thought that the plane was having technical difficulties, “that the pilots were really just trying to fly the airplane, and get it on the ground safely.” After the impact, O’Brien tunes in to a news broadcast, but is surprised to hear about a second crash in New York, not at the Pentagon. He will recall: “The first thing we heard on there was ‘We’re now hearing about a second airplane hitting the World Trade Center.’ That was not what we were expecting to hear. We were expecting to hear about an airplane impacting the Pentagon… and the light goes on, and it’s like, ‘Oh my God, the nation’s under attack!’” [Minnesota Public Radio, 5/31/2004] The 9/11 Commission will report that O’Brien specifically identifies the hijacked plane as a Boeing 757. Seconds after impact, he reports to the Washington tower, “Looks like that aircraft crashed into the Pentagon, sir.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Robert Schumacher, Pentagon, Steve O’Brien, Jeffrey Rosenthal

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A C-130 transport plane that has been sent to follow Flight 77 (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001) is trailing only a short distance behind the plane as it crashes. This curious C-130, originally bound for Minnesota, is the same C-130 that will be 17 miles from Flight 93 when it later crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002] A number of people see this plane fly remarkably close to Flight 77:
bullet Kelly Knowles says that seconds after seeing Flight 77 pass, she sees a “second plane that seemed to be chasing the first [pass] over at a slightly different angle.” [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001]
bullet Keith Wheelhouse says the second plane is a C-130; two other witnesses are not certain. [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/15/2001] Wheelhouse “believes it flew directly above the American Airlines jet, as if to prevent two planes from appearing on radar, while at the same time guiding the jet toward the Pentagon.” As Flight 77 descends toward the Pentagon, the second plane veers off west. [Daily Press (Newport News), 9/14/2001]
bullet USA Today reporter Vin Narayanan, who sees the Pentagon explosion, later says, “I hopped out of my car after the jet exploded, nearly oblivious to a second jet hovering in the skies.” [USA Today, 9/17/2001]
bullet USA Today Editor Joel Sucherman sees a second plane but gives few details. [eWeek, 9/13/2001]
bullet Brian Kennedy, press secretary for a Congressman, and others also see a second plane. [Sacramento Bee, 9/15/2001]
bullet An unnamed worker at Arlington National Cemetery, which is about a mile from the Pentagon, will recall that “a mysterious second plane was circling the area when the first one attacked the Pentagon.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 12/20/2001]
bullet An interment foreman at Arlington Cemetery also sees a second plane. He will recall: “There was a second plane behind it.… It appeared to be a cargo plane… mostly white.… I think it was somebody who observed him [Flight 77] and was following him and saw where he was going or what was going on… he was probably behind that far and when he saw [the explosion], he banked it back hard and went back the other way.” [Army Center for Military History, 12/13/2001 pdf file]
bullet John O’Keefe is driving in his car when he sees the Pentagon crash. He will recall: “The first thing I did was pull over onto the shoulder, and when I got out of the car I saw another plane flying over my head.… Then the plane—it looked like a C-130 cargo plane—started turning away from the Pentagon, it did a complete turnaround.” [New York Law Journal, 9/12/2001]
bullet Phillip Thompson, a former Marine, is sitting in traffic when he witnesses the crash of Flight 77 and then sees a cargo plane overhead. He will recall that, following the Flight 77 crash, “a gray C-130 flew overhead, setting off a new round of panic. I tried to reassure people that the plane was not a threat.” [Militarycity (.com), 9/22/2001]
The pilot of the C-130, Lieutenant Colonel Steve O’Brien, will later be interviewed, but his account differs from the on-the-ground eyewitnesses. He will claim that just before the explosion, “With all of the East Coast haze, I had a hard time picking him out,” implying he is not nearby. He also says that just after the explosion, “I could see the outline of the Pentagon,” again implying he is not nearby. He then asks “the controller whether [I] should set up a low orbit around the building,” but he is told “to get out of the area as quickly as possible.” He will add, “I took the plane once through the plume of smoke and thought if this was a terrorist attack, it probably wasn’t a good idea to be flying through that plume.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: John O’Keefe, Vin Narayanan, Keith Wheelhouse, Kelly Knowles, Phillip Thompson, Brian Kennedy, Pentagon, Joel Sucherman, Steve O’Brien

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Davison Army Airfield.Davison Army Airfield. [Source: Airnav.com]Shortly after the Pentagon crash, an air traffic control supervisor at Davison Army Airfield sees two unidentified aircraft near the Pentagon on the radar of his facility, which is located at Fort Belvoir, about 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The supervisor, who is working in the airfield’s control tower, looks out the window toward where the Pentagon is and sees a large black cloud of smoke. He is told by a colleague that news reports are saying a small airplane has hit the Pentagon. He then looks at the facility’s radar scope, which shows two aircraft circling above the Pentagon. The transponder of one of these is transmitting the emergency code. The supervisor will recall: “I look at where the Pentagon area is [on the radar scope], and I look, and there was an aircraft squawking 7700, meaning emergency. And it was circling—it was coming down and fast.… [A]nd there was another target with no markings or anything—it was just a target,” with none of the accompanying information that would be emitted by a transponder. This second aircraft is “descending rapidly and very fast.” The supervisor will recall that the two aircraft “circled around and both tags they disappeared. But they stay in the air.” He will provide no further information on the identities of the aircraft or why one of them is transmitting the emergency code. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 pdf file] There will be eyewitness accounts of aircraft near the Pentagon around this time (see (9:35 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Davison Army Airfield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 177] NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file] NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28] It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-179] But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12] Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28] According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. [New York Times, 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 32] Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28] But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 10/18/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Arizona Daily Star, 9/24/2007; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]

Entity Tags: Maureen Dooley, Stacia Rountree, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The ‘white jet’ seen circling above the White House and Capitol. The ‘white jet’ seen circling above the White House and Capitol. [Source: Discovery Channel]Several television networks interrupt their coverage of events in New York to report that a mysterious white aircraft is circling over the White House and the Capitol.
bullet At 9:41 a.m., Peter Jennings of ABC News reports that “there is a plane circling the White House at the moment. And they’re clearing the grounds there.… And this plane circling the White House adds to the trauma that people are feeling today, but we have no idea precisely what the means.” [ABC News, 9/11/2001]
bullet At 9:52 a.m., CNN correspondent John King, who is standing about 200 yards from the White House, says: “About 10 minutes ago, there was a white jet circling overhead. Now, you generally don’t see planes in the area over the White House. That is restricted air space. No reason to believe that this jet was there for any nefarious purposes, but the Secret Service was very concerned, pointing up at the jet in the sky. It is out of sight now, best we can tell.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] Another CNN correspondent, Kate Snow, also reports seeing a plane at around this time, “circling over the Capitol.” She says: “Now whether that may have been an Air Force plane, it’s unclear. But that seemed to be the reason, according to security guards that I talked with, towards the evacuation of the Capitol.” [CNN, 9/11/2001] (The Capitol is reportedly evacuated at 9:48 a.m. (see 9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Fox News, 9/11/2003] )
bullet At 9:55 a.m., NBC News turns to a live report from its correspondent Bob Kur, who recalls: “And in the most surreal of this morning’s scenes here at the White House, a white plane, a very big jet, was flying an unusual pattern near the White House over Lafayette Park, very slowly. It made one circle and then we have not seen it since. There was a lot of concern about what that plane might be. But, again, it’s only speculation, but most people say that since flights have been cleared from US air space, and it was a totally white plane, looked unusual to all of us, that it was a government plane of some kind.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001]
A CNN comparison between video footage of this plane and an official Air Force photograph will suggest it is an E-4B. This is a militarized version of a Boeing 747 that is used as a flying command post. An E-4B has in fact just been launched from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so this could plausibly be the same plane as is witnessed by the reporters. Two government sources familiar with the incident will later tell CNN the plane was a military aircraft, but that its details are classified. Even by 2007, the Pentagon, FAA, and Secret Service will have offered no public explanation for this plane over the White House. [Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144; CNN, 9/12/2007] In 2009, John Farmer, the former senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will claim that this “mystery plane” is an E-4B with the call sign “Venus 77” that takes off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Farmer, 2009, pp. 206-207, 372]

Entity Tags: Bob Kur, Kate Snow, John Farmer, E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, John King, Peter Jennings

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing.An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing. [Source: Brett R. Ewald / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries to get fighter jets from a military unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, but the unit is unable to respond. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file] NEADS has been contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center and incorrectly told that Delta 1989 is a possible hijacking (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). The aircraft is just south of Toledo, Ohio, and Colonel Robert Marr and Major Kevin Nasypany order the troops at NEADS to call Air National Guard bases in that area to see if any of them can launch fighters. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
NEADS Calls Duluth - The staff attempts to get a unit in Duluth to send jets toward the Delta flight. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 pdf file] Presumably the unit they call is the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which is located at the Duluth International Airport and flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] Unlike Otis Air National Guard Base and Langley Air Force Base, the 148th FW at Duluth is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. However, its mission does include “air superiority and air defense functions.” [Airman, 12/1999; US Air Force, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17]
Duluth Has 'Nobody Available' - The Duluth unit is unable to respond to NEADS’s request for help. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file] The reason for this is unclear. At 9:46 a.m., a member of staff on the NEADS operations floor will report that “Duluth has night flying, so there’s nobody available.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Donaldson and Johnson, 6/2008, pp. 47 pdf file] Marr will subsequently instruct NEADS personnel to contact every Air National Guard unit in the Northeast US with instructions to get their fighters airborne (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). NEADS will also order Air National Guard jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept Delta 1989 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-180]

Entity Tags: 148th Fighter Wing, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, Robert Marr

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An Associated Press news alert at 9:43 a.m. states, “An aircraft has crashed into the Pentagon, witnesses say.” [Associated Press, 2001 pdf file; Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] This is apparently the first news of the crash. Initial television reports stated there had been an explosion at the Pentagon, but not that a plane caused it (see 9:39 a.m.-9:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). Minutes later, there is still uncertainty over what caused the explosion. At 9:49, CNN’s Chris Plant reports from the Pentagon, “[I]nitial reports from witnesses indicate that there was in fact a helicopter circling the building, contrary to what the AP reported, according to the witnesses I’ve spoken to anyway, and that this helicopter disappeared behind the building, and that there was then an explosion” (see (9:35 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001] It is not until 9:53 that CNN confirms, “it was a plane that crashed into the Pentagon.” [CNN, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: CNN, Associated Press

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Pittsburgh International Airport is evacuated, because of concerns that Flight 93, which is heading in the direction of the airport, could crash into it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. 11-13; Lancaster New Era, 11/3/2006]
Cleveland Center Notifies Pittsburgh Tower - At 9:44 a.m., an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center calls the Pittsburgh Airport control tower and notifies it of the loss of radio contact with Flight 93, and the loss of a secondary radar return from that aircraft (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Cleveland Center controller also says Flight 93 has made an unanticipated turn (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and its flight path will take it close to Pittsburgh Airport, if not directly over it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. 11-12] The controller at the Pittsburgh tower who answers the call, apparently Paul Delfine, begins tracking Flight 93’s primary target on radar, and calls over his operations supervisor, Mal Fuller. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Lancaster New Era, 11/3/2006]
Supervisor Orders Evacuation - Delfine points to a plane—which Fuller only later learns is Flight 93—on a radar scope. He tells Fuller it was hijacked over Cleveland, and controllers don’t know where it is heading. Fuller will later recall: “In two sweeps of the radar, I could tell it was going very fast. It was headed directly for the control tower.” Fuller is aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and, at 9:49, gives the order, “Evacuate the facility.” [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001; Lancaster New Era, 11/3/2006] By 9:51, the facility has been evacuated. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] However, one controller refuses to leave his post and remains in the tower. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 193-194]
Employees Do Not See Flight 93 Overhead - Some of the evacuated employees are so upset that they immediately head home. Others mill around in a parking lot. Fuller will later guess that Flight 93 passed directly overhead as he was heading outside, but he assumes it was too high for anyone to see it. He will recall: “We watched and watched and watched. We never saw anything.” [Lancaster New Era, 11/3/2006]
Controllers Return to Facility - Minutes after evacuating, at 9:56 a small number of tower controllers will volunteer to return to their facility. Once back inside, they find that Flight 93’s track is no longer visible on their radar screens. At 10:05 a.m., tower personnel will contact the FAA’s Herndon Command Center to explain why they evacuated. They say they did so because there had been an aircraft, thought to be Flight 93, which appeared to be on a collision course with the tower, and this aircraft allegedly had a bomb on board. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. 12-13] Around the time the Pittsburgh Airport control tower evacuates, while Flight 93 is heading east, NEADS battle commander Colonel Robert Marr hears that the FAA’s Cleveland Center is being evacuated (see (10:17 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 73]

Entity Tags: Paul Delfine, Pittsburgh International Airport, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Mal Fuller

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney.FAA National Operations Manager Ben Sliney. [Source: Publicity photo]Ben Sliney, FAA’s National Operations Manager, orders the entire nationwide air traffic system shut down. All flights at US airports are stopped. Around 3,950 flights are still in the air. Sliney makes the decision without consulting FAA head Jane Garvey, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, or other bosses, but they quickly approve his actions. It’s Sliney’s first day on the job. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001; MSNBC, 9/22/2001; USA Today, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/12/2002; USA Today, 8/12/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] Seventy-five percent of the planes land within one hour of the order. [USA Today, 8/12/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later remark that this “was an unprecedented order” that the “air traffic control system handled… with great skill.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] The Washington Post has reported that Mineta told Monte Belger at the FAA: “Monte, bring all the planes down,” even adding, “[Expletive] pilot discretion.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, it is later reported by a different Post reporter that Mineta did not even know of the order until 15 minutes later. This reporter “says FAA officials had begged him to maintain the fiction.” [Slate, 4/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, Federal Aviation Administration, Jane Garvey, Monte Belger, Norman Mineta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The plane that has been flying General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over the Atlantic Ocean has to spend two hours in a “holding pattern” near Greenland and then more time in a holding pattern over Canada before it is cleared to fly back into the United States. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Shelton was flying toward Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), but, after he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center, ordered that his plane turn around and return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, air traffic controllers have denied the request to do so because US airspace has been shut down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. G-1; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 430-432]
Plane Has to Fly in a Holding Pattern near Greenland - Therefore, although Shelton’s plane, nicknamed “Speckled Trout,” does turn around, it doesn’t initially fly back to the United States. For a couple of hours, since its crew doesn’t have clearance to return to the US and it doesn’t have a destination, the plane goes into a “holding pattern” near Greenland. Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator, comes up with a list of alternative landing sites, which include Thule Air Base in Greenland and Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland. Although the crew decides to head back to the US, Pedersen will later recall, it is still difficult to get a security clearance, even for such a high-profile passenger as Shelton.
Plane Goes into Another Holding Pattern over Canada - Speckled Trout eventually reaches Canada, but the plane is still refused entry into US airspace and so it goes into a holding pattern again. “In the beginning we had a few problems convincing [the air traffic controller] to allow us back into the country, [even though] we were ordered at a significantly high level to come back,” Pedersen will recall. “You can’t say over the radio who you are carrying because they don’t have secure communications at the FAA.… We had to tell them over an open line that we had a DV Code 2, which is a ranking that a lot of DVs [distinguished visitors] fall under.” Eventually, the crew receives permission to fly into the US, although the time when this occurs is unstated. “It took a little bit of time, and I’m sure there were a lot of phone calls made, before they let us back in,” Pedersen will say. [Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file] Shelton, however, will contradict this account and claim his plane is cleared to enter US airspace significantly earlier. He will recall that those on the plane are told they have permission to enter US airspace 10 minutes after he talks on the phone with General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean they receive clearance possibly as early as around 10:15 a.m. [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432-433]
Myers Takes Shelton's Place as Chairman While Shelton Is outside the US - After flying over New York, Speckled Trout will land at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; UNC-TV, 1/27/2013] While the plane is being denied permission to enter US airspace, Myers remains as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Shelton’s place. This is “how the law reads whenever the chairman is out of the country,” Shelton will write. “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be Dick’s to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” [Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell, 2010, pp. 432]

Entity Tags: Rob Pedersen, Henry Hugh Shelton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate.Senator John Kerry looks up to the sky as he and others evacuate. [Source: CBC]The Capitol building in Washington, DC is evacuated. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] It is the first time in US history this has ever happened. [Chicago Tribune, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001] Both the Senate and the House are in session at the time. [CNN, 8/17/2002] Capitol Police officers go through the building and order people to leave at once. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/11/2002]
Reports of Plane Approaching the Capitol - The evacuation appears to be in response to reports of a plane heading toward the Capitol. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; CNN, 8/17/2002; Bamford, 2004, pp. 80-81] According to CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash, “the Capitol Police were hearing, in their radio, that there was a plane—another plane in the air, likely headed for the Capitol.” [CNN, 9/11/2006] When a Capitol Police officer instructs Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) to leave the building, he says: “We have word that an airplane is heading this way and could hit the building anytime. You need to evacuate.”
'Nothing Orderly' about Evacuation - However, there are problems with the evacuation. According to Daschle, “The fire alarm system, which was working in the nearby Senate office buildings, was never activated in the Capitol, so there were people who weren’t aware that an evacuation was taking place.” Also, some individuals are reluctant to leave. [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 109-110] Rep. Bob Stump (R-AZ) will recall: “They tried to throw me out three times, but they didn’t succeed. I figured I was safer in the building than out on the street.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] Daschle will recall that there is “nothing orderly” about the evacuation. Outside the building “No one knew what to do or where to go. People congregated on the grass and in the parking lot. Senators and staff were mixed in with tourists, all staring up at the sky, wondering what might be headed our way.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 110] CNN will report, “[S]ome of the most high ranking officials in the United States government were just kind of scattered around this area without a gathering point.” [CNN, 9/11/2006]
Sergeant at Arms Concerned over Poor Security - Al Lenhardt, the Senate’s sergeant at arms, will later say how alarmed he was “to see members of Congress and their staffs mixed in with visitors and passersby wandering in the open around the Capitol grounds. One of the tactics that terrorists have been known to employ is to create a diversion to move their intended target to the area where the actual attack will take place. Al imagined a bomb or gunfire erupting right there on the lawn outside the Capitol.” [Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 111] Eventually, many of the members of Congress go to the Capitol Police headquarters, which then serves as their command center for the day (see (9:55 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001 and (10:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2002; Daschle and D'Orso, 2003, pp. 112]

Entity Tags: Al Lenhardt, Robert Lee Stump, US Capitol Police, Tom Daschle

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

General Ralph Eberhart.General Ralph Eberhart. [Source: NORAD]As the 9/11 Commission will later describe, the commander of NORAD, General Ralph Eberhart, now directs “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations, fully armed.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] Being at “battle stations” means the pilots have to suit up into their flight gear and get into their planes, ready to start the engines and taxi out if a scramble order follows. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 27] Senior NORAD officials will subsequently give the order to launch available fighter jets across the nation (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178, 180]
Clarke Requested Combat Air Patrols - A few minutes earlier, according to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, learned of an aircraft hitting the Pentagon and instructed his deputy: “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want combat air patrol over every major city in this country” (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Whether Clarke’s actions influenced Eberhart to issue his order is unknown. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-8]
Fighter Units Possibly Offered Help Much Earlier - The Toledo Blade will state that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) only begins calling bases across the US to request help “[b]y 10:01 a.m.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] But an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine will indicate that NORAD and NEADS began receiving calls from various fighter units, asking, “What can we do to help?” right after the second World Trade Center tower was hit at 9:03, when it had become obvious the US was under attack (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] It is therefore unclear why the instruction to put available fighters on battle stations—or to scramble them—was not issued significantly earlier.

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Richard A. Clarke, Ralph Eberhart, Northeast Air Defense Sector, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the battle cab at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Colonel Robert Marr instructs his troops to contact every Air National Guard unit in the Northeast US and tell them to get their fighter jets airborne. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 180] NEADS has already launched the four fighters in the Northeast US that are kept on alert, ready to take off at a moment’s notice: Two F-15s were scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and two F-16s were scrambled from Langley Air Force Base at 9:24 (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17, 20, 27]
NEADS Calls Air National Guard Units - Marr now realizes these four jets are not enough, and tells his troops: “The nation is under attack. Get ‘em in the air!” Officers in the NEADS battle cab and on its operations floor begin calling Air National Guard units, one after another. The NEADS officers are surprised to find that wing commanders have been anticipating their call for help, and have already started arming fighter jets. According to author Lynn Spencer: “Although wing commanders do not necessarily have the authority to arm their planes with live missiles, nor Marr the authority to call them into action, these are not ordinary times. Marr can’t help but think that the incredible response is due to the fact that the Guard units are Title 32, or state-owned. They report to the governors of their respective states, and the wing commanders have every confidence that their governors will support them.” [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 180]
Time of Order Unclear - Exactly when Marr instructs his officers to contact the Air National Guard units is unclear. It appears to be at around 9:50 a.m., or some time shortly after. At the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters in Florida, CONR commander Major General Larry Arnold began contacting all three CONR sectors (which includes NEADS) at around 9:45 a.m., after learning the Pentagon had been hit and realizing the attacks were no longer isolated to New York. His instruction to the sectors was, “Generate, generate, generate!” meaning, “Get as many fighters as you can into the sky now!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 177-178] General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, directed “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations, fully armed,” at 9:49 a.m. (see 9:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] But “battle stations” means only that pilots get into their aircraft with the engines turned off, so they are ready to launch if a scramble order follows. [Filson, 2003, pp. 55; Spencer, 2008, pp. 27] The Toledo Blade will report, “By 10:01 a.m., [NEADS] began calling several bases across the country for help.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] According to the Newhouse News Service, though, Marr apparently gave his order significantly earlier. It will report that, when the South Tower was hit at 9:03, NEADS personnel “looked to Col. Robert Marr, who rallied the operation: Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack” (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Air National Guard jets will reportedly take off from Toledo Express Airport in Ohio at 10:17 a.m., in response to NEADS’s call for help, and, according to Spencer, NEADS instructs Otis Air Base to launch all its available aircraft at around 10:20 a.m. (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-245]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Air National Guard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NORAD’s Continental United States Region (CONR) is told it will not need to provide fighter jets to escort Air Force One when the plane takes off from Sarasota, Florida. [National Guard Bureau, 11/19/2001] While President Bush is visiting the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Air Force One is on the ground at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will later recall that around this time, CONR “knew that the president was down in Florida” but it “didn’t know what he was going to do.” “Eventually,” he will say, “we asked the question: If he takes off, do we need to escort?” Arnold will not state who CONR, which is based at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, asks this question to. But the person or agency says no. CONR will only be asked to provide fighters to escort Air Force One after 9:54 a.m., when the plane takes off from Sarasota (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). “[T]he airplane took off and we got immediate word that the Secret Service had asked us to escort [it],” Arnold will recall. [National Guard Bureau, 11/19/2001] He will say that CONR “received tasking from the Secret Service through the Joint [Chiefs of] Staff and NORAD to follow the president and protect him.” [Code One Magazine, 1/2002] In Florida, NORAD has two fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base and two fighters on alert at Tyndall Air Force Base. [Airman, 12/1999; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] However, its Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) will scramble fighters from Ellington Field in Texas to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Your Houston News, 9/19/2001; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40] Furthermore, these fighters will only reach Air Force One at around 11:29 a.m., more than 90 minutes after the plane takes off (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004]

Entity Tags: Continental US NORAD Region, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base.President Bush on the phone during the flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [Source: White House]President Bush and his staff have difficulty communicating with colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are traveling on Air Force One, after the plane takes off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Bush had problems calling his colleagues at the White House while he was being driven to the airport, after leaving the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, at around 9:35 a.m. (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006]
Air Force One Should Have 'Outstanding Communications' - He ought to have more success after he boards Air Force One, at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), since the plane has state-of-the-art communications systems. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167] Its capabilities are “just as good as the communications from the Oval Office in terms of [the president] being able to call, in a secure way, the secretary of defense, the secretary of state, the generals that might have to fight a war, or the vice president or… the national security adviser,” White House chief of staff Andrew Card will later comment. The plane has the “capacity to have… outstanding communications,” he will say. [White House, 8/12/2002]
Communications Systems Are 'All Jammed' - However, Bush and his staff have great difficulty sending and receiving information about the day’s events while they are on Air Force One. [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002] The “multiple [communications] systems—commercial and terrestrial systems” on the plane are “all jammed,” according to Master Sergeant Dana Lark, superintendent of communications. Lark actually wonders, “Did someone sabotage our comms?” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Bush Has Problems Communicating with Vice President Cheney - Bush finds that his calls are successful only intermittently. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Attempts are made to establish an open line with Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who are at the White House, but the line keeps dropping. [Bush, 2010, pp. 131] “It was absolutely stunning, standing next to the president as he was talking to the vice president, then holding the phone off his ear because it cut off,” White House press secretary Ari Fleischer will comment. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] At one point, Bush pounds his desk in frustration and shouts: “This is inexcusable. Get me the vice president.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002] He also has difficulty reaching his wife, Laura, since the line keeps dropping when he tries to call her. He eventually talks to her shortly before 11:45 a.m., when Air Force One is approaching Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (Shortly Before 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bush, 2010, pp. 132]
Officials in Washington Are Unable to Call the Plane - Some key individuals in Washington are unsuccessful when they try calling Air Force One. Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base, even when he tries calling its satellite phone (see 9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] And White House counselor Karen Hughes is unable to reach the president when she tries calling him while he is airborne (see (Between 10:31 a.m. and 11:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; NBC, 4/4/2004]
Bush Has His First Teleconference Hours after Leaving Sarasota - As a result of his problems communicating from the plane, Bush will hold his first teleconference with his principal advisers at around 3:15 p.m. (see (3:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001)—more than five hours after he takes off from Sarasota—after he arrives at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, where there is sophisticated communications equipment (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Business Week, 11/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326] By that time, the communication problems will apparently have started to ease. Lark will recall that as Air Force One is flying to Offutt, “some of the commercial systems finally began to become available” and she actually receives a call from her chief. [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]
Good Communications Are 'Critical' for the President - Bush’s communication problems may have a significant impact on the government’s ability to respond to the terrorist attacks. Thomas Kean, the chairman of the 9/11 Commission, will explain why the president’s ability to communicate during a crisis is so important, saying, “In the case of any kind of attack in the United States, what you’re supposed to do is get the president off the ground and Air Force One then becomes the command center.” Once he is airborne, the president is “commanding the forces of the United States from the air,” Kean will say. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] “The president literally can’t function in his constitutional role unless he can communicate, so [good communications are] absolutely critical,” Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Herman, a senior presidential communications officer, will similarly comment. [Marist Magazine, 10/2002] The president “is the only one who can give certain orders that need to be given,” Kean will note. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] However, Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will claim that the communication problems have only a limited impact. “[F]or the most part I believe the president had the ability to do what was necessary to be in control and have command of his forces, and talk with his national security structure,” he will say. [White House, 8/29/2002]
Communications Systems Are Supposedly 'Saturated' - Lark will learn at a later date that the communication problems occur because, she will say, “the commercial systems were all just saturated.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] Rosenker will similarly suggest that the problems may be partly due to the fact that communications from Air Force One “have to get through a regular telephone network,” and when there is a crisis, the increased volume of communications “jam and overuse the structure.” [White House, 8/29/2002] On top of their problems making and receiving calls, Bush and his staffers have difficulty monitoring the television coverage of the attacks while they are airborne, because the reception on the plane is poor and intermittent (see (9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Condoleezza Rice, Ari Fleischer, Thomas Herman, Scott Heyer, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Dana Lark, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Laura Bush, Karen Hughes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FAA radar displays begin showing that a growing number of international flights approaching America are transmitting warning codes from their transponders. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 196-197]
Airspace Shut Down - At around 9:45 a.m., the FAA shut down US airspace and ordered all aircraft to land (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Shortly afterwards, Canada took similar action. However, international flights that are over the oceans and approaching America are getting low on fuel. As their crews establish radio contact with air traffic controllers, they are told that American airspace is closed. Many of the worried pilots dial emergency codes into their transponders. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Spencer, 2008, pp. 196]
Radar Screens Highlight Numerous Flights - A plane’s transponder is a device that sends that aircraft’s identifying information, speed, and altitude to radar screens. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] There are three specific codes that pilots can dial into their transponder to signal an emergency: “7500” signifies a hijacking, “7600” signifies a loss of radio, and “7700” signifies other emergencies. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 25-26] Amid the current crisis, FAA radar screens begin highlighting a growing number of flights over the oceans that are transmitting warning codes. According to author Lynn Spencer, “One foreign crew dials in the four-digit code for ‘hijack,’ just to let the authorities know they are aware of what is taking place.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 196-197] In response to a request from the FAA, Canada will agree to open its airspace to all international flights that are diverted away from the United States, allowing those flights to land at Canadian airports (see 10:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/12/2001; Time, 9/14/2001; NAV Canada, 7/22/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A US Park Police helicopter flying above the burning Pentagon.A US Park Police helicopter flying above the burning Pentagon. [Source: Mark D. Faram / US Navy]A US Park Police helicopter that recently arrived over the Pentagon is contacted by an air traffic controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport and given responsibility for controlling the airspace over Washington, DC, since the control tower at Reagan Airport is being evacuated. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-48 pdf file; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 pdf file] The Park Police Aviation Unit’s two helicopters arrived at the Pentagon within minutes of the attack there (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001] While one of the helicopters landed to conduct medical evacuations, the other, which has the call sign “Eagle I,” circled overhead. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 20-21 pdf file]
Airport Tower Being Evacuated - Eagle I has made three or four orbits around the Pentagon when a controller in the Reagan Airport tower radios its pilot, Sergeant Ronald Galey. The controller says the tower is currently evacuating. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; National Park Service, 1/17/2002] According to some accounts, the tower is being evacuated due to reports of more hijacked aircraft heading in its direction (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 215-216] But according to other accounts, the controller tells Galey the tower is evacuating because it is being affected by smoke that is drifting across from the burning Pentagon. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-48 pdf file; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 pdf file; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 162] Galey will recall the controller saying: “Eagle I, we can’t see anything outside the tower. [The smoke is] getting in our ventilation system. We’re abandoning the tower.” Therefore, the controller gives Galey control of the airspace for the entire Washington area, telling him, “You’ve got the airspace.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 pdf file]
Pilot Alarmed at Being Given Control of Airspace - The control tower at Reagan Airport is “normally the ‘nerve center’ for directing any response to this type of incident,” according to a National Park Service news article. [National Park Service, 9/21/2002] Galey is initially alarmed. He will recall thinking, “Exactly what I need right now is I’ve got control of the airspace.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] However, he is unaware that the FAA has ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which will make his task easier. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29]
NORAD Advises Pilot on Controlling Airspace - The controller gives Galey the radio frequency for NORAD, and tells him to contact NORAD. [National Park Service, 1/17/2002; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21-22 pdf file] The person Galey then talks to at NORAD informs him: “Look, you have no [air] traffic in DC, except for the traffic that you’re calling. The aircraft that you’re calling in, we’re going to allow to come in. Other than that, there should be no one besides the military, and we’ll call you out the military traffic.” Galey will later reflect: “So that helped tremendously. That function alone was not very taxing.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] The person at NORAD also tells Galey there is “an unauthorized aircraft inbound from the Pennsylvania area, with the estimated time of arrival approximately 20 minutes into DC.” Galey will recall that he and the rest of his crew discuss what they should do, and decide that “we’d take our chances and stay there [at the Pentagon], and do what we came there to do.” [National Park Service, 1/17/2002]
Airspace Control Passed on to Metropolitan Police Helicopter - Eagle I becomes “the air traffic control function for the area, flying a slow racetrack pattern over the site and clearing aircraft in and out,” according to Lieutenant Philip Cholak, the Park Police Aviation Unit commander. [Aviation International News, 10/1/2001] But after a time Galey asks his paramedic to request that a Metropolitan Police helicopter be launched to take over the command and control of the Washington airspace. He tells the paramedic: “You know we’re going to have to do a medevac mission here. We’re going to have to relinquish the command/control function to somebody else.” A Metropolitan Police helicopter subsequently arrives and relieves Eagle I of its command and control function. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 22 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, United States Park Police, Philip W. Cholak, Ronald A. Galey, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing.Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing. [Source: Gonda Moncada / Texas Military Forces]Four armed F-16 fighter jets belonging to the Texas Air National Guard are directed toward Air Force One in order to escort the president’s plane. [BBC, 9/1/2002; CBS News, 9/11/2002; Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40]
SEADS Sends Fighters toward Air Force One - Air Force One has taken off from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the White House has requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) orders jets that belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard toward the president’s plane. [Code One Magazine, 4/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40] Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will later recall: “We were not told where Air Force One was going. We were told just to follow the president.” [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
Ellington Field an 'Alert' Site - The 147th Fighter Wing is based at Ellington Field, a joint civil and military use airport about 15 miles south of Houston. [Houston Chronicle, 12/9/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/21/2006] Ellington Field is one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, which all have a pair of armed fighters ready to take off immediately if called upon. [Airman, 12/1999; Air Force Magazine, 2/2002]
Pilots Not Told What Their Target Is - Two of the F-16s sent toward Air Force One are on the ground at Ellington Field and have been placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots sitting in the cockpits, when the scramble order is received. [Code One Magazine, 4/2002] The other two have been flying a training mission (see After 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001), and are pulled off it to escort Air Force One. [American Defender, 12/2001 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255] Among the four pilots are Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts. Their new mission is so secret that their commander does not tell them where they are going. When they ask what their target is, the commander says, “You’ll know when you see it.” Brotherton will later recall, “I didn’t have any idea what we were going up [for] until that point.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255]
Jets First to Reach Air Force One - At least two of the 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will be seen from Air Force One at around 11:30 a.m., although an official will tell reporters on board that fighters are escorting the plane about 15 minutes before that time (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are the first fighters to reach Air Force One after it left Sarasota, according to most accounts. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; CBS News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 87; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255] However, a few accounts will indicate the first jets to reach it belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard located at Jacksonville International Airport (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] The 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will accompany Air Force One all the way to Washington, DC. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88; Galveston County Daily News, 7/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, 147th Fighter Wing, Randy Roberts, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Shane Brotherton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center.
An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center. [Source: Air National Guard]An air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center radios the pilots launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and tells them they may have to take out a hijacked aircraft. One of the two Otis pilots, Major Daniel Nash, will later recall, “The New York controller did come over the radio and say if we have another hijacked aircraft we’re going to have to shoot it down.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] However, he will add that this is just “an off-the-cuff statement.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] It is unclear at what time this communication occurs, though a BBC documentary will place it at about the time the South Tower collapses, which would be around 9:59 a.m. [BBC, 9/1/2002] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has already radioed one of the Otis pilots to check that he is prepared to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153] But according to most accounts, the two pilots never receive an order from the military to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43; Boston Globe, 9/11/2005]

Entity Tags: New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Timothy Duffy, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Maryland State Police helicopter.A Maryland State Police helicopter. [Source: Maryland State Police]Sergeant Ronald Galey, the pilot of a US Park Police helicopter responding to the attack on the Pentagon, asks the Maryland State Police to send medical evacuation (medevac) helicopters to help out at the crash scene, but is told, “No, we can’t respond,” apparently because the airspace has been shut down. [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] Galey is flying one of the two Park Police Aviation Unit helicopters that arrived at the Pentagon within minutes of the attack there (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). His helicopter has been circling overhead while the other Park Police helicopter landed to conduct medical evacuations. They are currently the only helicopters to have arrived on the scene.
Pilot Wants More Helicopters to Assist at the Pentagon - Realizing that his helicopter cannot provide its current command and control function and conduct medical evacuations at the same time, Galey requests assistance from other departments that have helicopters equipped to transport injured patients. The first department he calls is the Maryland State Police. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 20-22 pdf file] The Maryland State Police Aviation Command owns 12 helicopters and most of its work involves medical transport, with its helicopters carrying injured patients to hospital. [Maryland State Police, 2/16/2003; Baltimore Sun, 3/7/2006] According to Galey, the unit has “the most resources for aircraft, medevac aircraft, that we knew were manned and ready to go.” However, Galey will later recall, in response to his request, “they came back and said, ‘No, we can’t respond.’”
Maryland Police Think They Cannot Launch Helicopters - When Galey is told that the unit cannot respond, he and the rest of his crew are “very shocked,” and, Galey will say, “[T]hat’s when we were starting to suspect there was something more to it.” According to later accounts, the unit cannot respond because the airspace has been shut down. [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] (The FAA has issued a nationwide “ground stop” that prevents any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and has also ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25, 29] Galey is currently unaware that the airspace has been shut down. However, the Maryland State Police helicopters should be able to respond all the same, because NORAD has told him, “The aircraft that you’re calling in, we’re going to allow to come in” (see (Shortly After 9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Galey, the Maryland State Police “just didn’t know [that] if we requested them they could come.”
Other Departments Send Helicopters - Galey then contacts MedStar at the Washington Hospital Center and AirCare at Inova Fairfax Hospital in Virginia. Each of them dispatches helicopters to the Pentagon. Galey will recall that these two departments “hadn’t gotten the word that the airspace was shut down, and since I’m the one who requested the aircraft and informed NORAD, NORAD allowed them to come in.” [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001; US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] It is unclear exactly when Galey contacts the different departments. But according to the Arlington County After-Action Report, the helicopter that MedStar launches arrives at the Pentagon at around 10:18 a.m. Inova Fairfax Hospital launches one helicopter at “approximately 10:00 a.m.” and then sends a second helicopter to the Pentagon at around 10:40 a.m. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-45 pdf file]

Entity Tags: MedStar Health, Ronald A. Galey, Maryland State Police, United States Park Police, AirCare

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) contacts an Air National Guard unit in Toledo, Ohio, and requests that it launch two fighter jets in response to the attacks. [WTOL, 9/11/2006; Lynn Spencer, 2008; Spencer, 2008, pp. 178]
First Time that Unit Has Answered a NORAD Request - The 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard is based at Toledo Express Airport. It has 20 F-16 fighter jets and about three dozen pilots. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] Its “primary mission” is “to provide combat ready F-16C and support units capable of deploying worldwide in minimum response time.” [180th Fighter Wing, 9/19/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org.), 10/21/2001] The unit is not one of NORAD’s seven alert facilities around the US, and this is believed to be the first time it has ever answered a request for help from NORAD. [Airman, 12/1999; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]
Call due to Concern over Delta 1989 - According to author Lynn Spencer, a weapons technician at NEADS makes the call to the 180th FW due to concerns about Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is incorrectly thought to have been hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 177-178] NEADS has already contacted units in Minnesota and Michigan about this aircraft (see (Shortly After 9:41 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 pdf file; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] The weapons technician calls the Toledo unit after Master Sergeant Joe McCain gives an update across the NEADS operations floor: “Delta [19]89! Hard right turn!” According to Spencer, the weapons technician knows the 180th FW is much better positioned than the Selfridge unit’s fighters are to reach Delta 1989. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178]
NORAD Commander Gives Different Explanation - But according to Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, the weapons technician’s call might also be in response to concerns over Flight 93. Arnold will say that NEADS calls the 180th FW “because we thought [Flight] 93 or Delta Flight 1989 might be headed toward Chicago.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 71] Two Toledo pilots who initially answer the call from NEADS appear to believe the call is a joke, but their wing commander then picks up the line and responds appropriately (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-179]
Unit Prepared for Crisis Like This - Although it is not one of NORAD’s alert facilities, Lt. Col. Gary Chudzinski, a former commander of the 180th FW, will later comment that the Toledo unit has always been aware that it could be alerted to crises such as the current one, “but you just don’t expect it.” According to General Paul Sullivan, who heads all Ohio Air National Guard units, the 180th FW’s pilots practice “air interception,” but a typical mission focuses on either a plane ferrying drugs or enemy fighters approaching America’s coasts. [Airman, 12/1999; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] Two 180th FW jets will take off from the Toledo unit at 10:17 a.m. (see 10:17 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; WTOL, 9/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Gary Chudzinski, Joe McCain, Larry Arnold, 180th Fighter Wing, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Paul Sullivan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FBI is reportedly in “chaos,” in particular because its Critical Incident Response Group (CIRG) is stranded away from Washington, DC, being instead in California for a major training exercise. The CIRG would normally coordinate the FBI’s rapid response to a crisis incident, such as a terrorist attack. [NBC 4, 9/11/2001; Darling, 2010, pp. 73-75] But NBC News reports that the FBI has been “operating a massive exercise from their hostage rescue unit. All of their top teams, about 50 personnel, helicopters, equipment, [have been] in Monterey, California, for the last two days, scheduled to fly back today commercially. So all of those people are out of place.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] USA Today will add that the day’s attacks are “so unexpected that a joint FBI/CIA anti-terrorist task force that specifically prepared for this type of disaster was on a training exercise in Monterey.” [USA Today, 9/11/2001] NBC News concludes: “It’s fair to say, according to sources that we’ve talked to here at NBC, that the FBI rescue operations and other FBI operations are really in chaos right now, because they can’t reach their officials in New York, all of their phone lines are down. And now you’ve got all of their special experts on this stuck in Monterey, California.… So they are seriously out of pocket, and there is a real breakdown of the FBI anti-terror coordination team, which is of course the principal team that would lead any effort.” [NBC 4, 9/11/2001] The US politics website evote.com will similarly conclude, “[J]ust as the worst terrorist act was being committed on American lives and property, the chief federal agency responsible for preventing such crimes was being AWOL.” [Evote [.com], 9/11/2001] The CIRG arrived in California the previous day for a week of special weapons and tactics (SWAT)-related field training (see September 10, 2001). Its members will be flown back to Washington around late afternoon on a specially arranged flight (see Late Afternoon September 11, 2001). [Darling, 2010, pp. 75-76]

Entity Tags: Critical Incident Response Group, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

John Fleegle, a manager at the Indian Lake Marina about 1.5 miles from where Flight 93 crashes, is indoors with some colleagues, watching the televised coverage of the World Trade Center attack. Then, as he later describes, “All of a sudden the lights flickered and we joked that maybe they were coming for us. Then we heard engines screaming close overhead. The building shook. We ran out, heard the explosion and saw a fireball mushroom,” following the crash. When he later describes this incident while on a training course in Atlanta, Fleegle will be told that what happened means Flight 93 “was shot down.” A man there who says he is a retired Air Force officer will tell Fleegle, “[W]hen your lights flickered, [it was because] they zap the radar frequency on everything before they shoot. Your lights didn’t flicker from the impact—your lights flickered because they zapped the radar system before they shot it.” However, William “Buck” Kernan, a retired four-star Army general, will dispute this claim, saying, “[R]egarding an aircraft engaging an airborne target having an electrical disruption on the ground, no, this would not be a result of lock on or any electromagnetic pulsing.” He will suggest it is “possible that overpressure from explosions could momentarily disrupt microwave connections or cause sensations on ground relays, wiring, etc.” that might result in the lights having flickered. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/14/2001; Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 35-36] But, consistent with Fleegle’s allegation, a number of local residents—including military veterans—say they heard the sound of a missile overhead just before the time of the crash (see Just Before 10:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). Another local resident, Val McClatchey, will report her lights and phone going out around the time of the crash. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/11/2002] According to Barry Lichty, the mayor of Indian Lake Borough, the town’s electricity goes out around this time. He later learns that the plane crash had disrupted service to the borough. [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001] Interestingly, one alternative theory later suggested is that Flight 93 could have been brought down using “electromagnetic interference” (see August 13, 2002). The US Air Force and Pentagon have in fact “conducted extensive research on ‘electronic warfare applications’ with the possible capacity intentionally to disrupt the mechanisms of an airplane in such a way as to provoke, for example, an uncontrollable dive.” [Independent, 8/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Barry Lichty, Val McClatchey, John Fleegle, William Kernan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Looking straight down onto the Flight 93 crash site. North is to the top. Note the impact point north of the road, and the burned trees to the south of it.Looking straight down onto the Flight 93 crash site. North is to the top. Note the impact point north of the road, and the burned trees to the south of it. [Source: FBI]A second plane, described “as a small, white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings,” is seen by at least ten witnesses flying low and in erratic patterns, not much above treetop level, over the crash site within minutes of United Flight 93 crashing. [Independent, 8/13/2002]
bullet Lee Purbaugh: “I didn’t get a good look but it was white and it circled the area about twice and then it flew off over the horizon.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
bullet Susan Mcelwain: Less than a minute before the Flight 93 crash rocked the countryside, she sees a small white jet with rear engines and no discernible markings swoop low over her minivan near an intersection and disappear over a hilltop, nearly clipping the tops of trees lining the ridge. [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001] She later adds, “There’s no way I imagined this plane—it was so low it was virtually on top of me. It was white with no markings but it was definitely military, it just had that look. It had two rear engines, a big fin on the back like a spoiler on the back of a car and with two upright fins at the side. I haven’t found one like it on the Internet. It definitely wasn’t one of those executive jets. The FBI came and talked to me and said there was no plane around.… But I saw it and it was there before the crash and it was 40 feet above my head. They did not want my story—nobody here did.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
bullet John Fleegle and two work colleagues arrive at the crash site “before any fireman or paramedics or anybody.” According to Fleegle, “When we got there, there was a plane flying up above and he was smart, he flew straight for the sun so you couldn’t look at it and see exactly what type of plane, if it was a fighter or what it was.” However, Fleegle claims the plane “was decent sized. It wasn’t just a little private jet or something like that, from what we could see.” [Lappe and Marshall, 2004, pp. 35-36]
bullet Dennis Decker and/or Rick Chaney, say: “As soon as we looked up [after hearing the Flight 93 crash], we saw a midsized jet flying low and fast. It appeared to make a loop or part of a circle, and then it turned fast and headed out.” Decker and Chaney described the plane as a Learjet type, with engines mounted near the tail and painted white with no identifying markings. “It was a jet plane, and it had to be flying real close when that 757 went down. If I was the FBI, I’d find out who was driving that plane.” [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001]
bullet Kathy Blades, who is staying about quarter of a mile from the impact site, runs outside after the crash and sees a jet, “with sleek back wings and an angled cockpit,” race overhead. [Philadelphia Daily News, 11/18/2001]
bullet Anna Ruth Fisher says, “After the crash, another jet went near over to look.” Her mother, Anna B. Fisher, adds, “We were looking at the smoke cloud when we saw the jets circling up there.” [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 27]
bullet Jim Brandt sees a small plane with no markings stay about one or two minutes over the crash site before leaving. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/12/2001]
bullet Bob Page sees a large plane circling the crash site for about two or three minutes, before climbing almost vertically into the sky. He cannot see what kind of plane it is or if there are any markings on it, but says, “It sure wasn’t no puddle jumper.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/12/2001]
bullet Tom Spinelli: “I saw the white plane. It was flying around all over the place like it was looking for something. I saw it before and after the crash.” [Mirror, 9/12/2002]
The FBI later claims this was a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet, directed after the crash to fly from 37,000 feet to 5,000 feet and obtain the coordinates for the crash site to help rescuers (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] The FBI also says there was a C-130 military cargo aircraft flying at 24,000 feet about 17 miles away (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001), but that plane wasn’t armed and had no role in the crash. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] Note that this is the same C-130 that flies very close to Flight 77 right as that planes crashes into the Pentagon (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Anna B Fisher, Dennis Decker, Anna Ruth Fisher, Bob Page, Susan Mcelwain, Kathy Blades, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Fleegle, Tom Spinelli, Lee Purbaugh, Jim Brandt, Rick Chaney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Falcon 20 business jet.Falcon 20 business jet. [Source: Portuguese Air Force]According to some accounts, following a request from the FAA’s Cleveland Center, a Fairchild Falcon 20 business jet reports seeing puffs of smoke in the area of Flight 93’s last known position. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] The FBI later says the business jet was within 20 miles of Flight 93 when it crashed, at an altitude of 37,000 feet, and on its way to Johnstown. It was asked to descend to 5,000 feet to help locate the crash site for the benefit of the responding emergency crews. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] Stacey Taylor appears to be the Cleveland Center controller who made the request. She later recalls: “I had another airplane [other than Flight 93] that I was working. And I told him, I said, ‘Sir,’ I said, ‘I think we have an aircraft down.’ I said, ‘This is entirely up to you, but if you’d be willing to fly over the last place that we spotted this airplane—and see if you can see anything.‘… So he flew over and at first he didn’t see anything and then he said, ‘We see a great big plume or a cloud of smoke.’” [MSNBC, 9/9/2006] The business jet belongs to VF Corp, a Greensboro, North Carolina clothing firm. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/16/2001] According to David Newell, VF Corp’s director of aviation and travel, Cleveland Center contacted the plane’s copilot Yates Gladwell when it was at an altitude “in the neighborhood of 3,000 to 4,000 ft,” rather than 37,000 feet, as claimed by the FBI. He will add: “They got down within 1,500 ft. of the ground when they circled. They saw a hole in the ground with smoke coming out of it. They pinpointed the location and then continued on.” [Popular Mechanics, 3/2005] This incident occurs around 40 minutes after the FAA initiated a nationwide ground stop, which required planes in the air to land as soon as reasonable (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25] The FBI will claim the VF Corp business jet is probably the plane some witnesses on the ground see up above, shortly after the crash of Flight 93 (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001] However, at least two witnesses say they saw a plane overhead even before the time of the Flight 93 crash, and one of them describes it as “definitely military,” rather than a business jet. Also, some will describe it as flying much lower than the Falcon 20 was—just “40 feet above my head,” according to one witness. [Bergen Record, 9/14/2001; Mirror, 9/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Stacey Taylor, Yates Gladwell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Lt. Col. Steve O’Brien standing in front of a C-130.Lt. Col. Steve O’Brien standing in front of a C-130. [Source: CBC]Cleveland Center air traffic controller Stacey Taylor has asked a nearby C-130 pilot to look at Flight 93’s last position and see if he can find anything. Remarkably, this C-130 pilot, Lt. Col. Steve O’Brien, is the same pilot who was asked by air traffic control to observe Flight 77 as it crashed into the Pentagon earlier on (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001). O’Brien tells Taylor that he saw smoke from the crash shortly after the hijacked plane went down. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] An article in the London Independent will later suggest that Flight 93 might have been brought down by the US military using “electronic warfare applications” that can disrupt the mechanisms of an airplane (See August 13, 2002); it will refer to this C-130, since “in 1995 the Air Force installed ‘electronic suites’ in at least 28 of its C-130s—capable, among other things, of emitting lethal jamming signals.” [Independent, 8/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Stacey Taylor, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Steve O’Brien

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Someone from the 174th Fighter Wing, which is based at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and speaks with Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander there. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] Earlier on, shortly after seeing the second plane hitting the World Trade Center at 9:03, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing called NEADS to offer fighter jets to help (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They’d said: “Give me ten [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; News 10 Now, 9/12/2006] Yet, now, more than an hour after the second attack, these fighters have still not been launched. Syracuse tells Nasypany, “I’ve got guys that’ll be launching in about 15 minutes.” Despite the earlier promise to have heat-seekers and slammers on the planes, Syracuse says: “We’ve got hot guns. That’s all I’ve got.” Nasypany says: “I’ve got another possible aircraft with a bomb on board. It’s in Pennsylvania, York, approximate area.” He adds that there is “another one, that’s possibly at Cleveland area.” These aircraft, he says, are United Airlines Flight 93 and Delta ‘89, respectively. (Although Flight 93 has already crashed, NEADS apparently does not learn of this until 10:15 (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001).) NEADS was alerted to Delta Flight 1989 at 9:41, and mistakenly suspects it has been hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Syracuse says: “I’ve got two jets right now. Do you need more than two?” After NEADS requests another two, Syracuse replies, “Get four set up, yep.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, the first fighters to launch from Hancock Field are two F-16s that take off at 10:42 a.m. A further three take off at about 1:30 p.m., and two more launch around 3:55 p.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, 174th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Irwin.Michael Irwin. [Source: Publicity photo]Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on his visit to Florida, makes a call requesting a fighter escort and other assets to support Air Force One as it flies away from Sarasota. Gould, who has tactical control of all the military assets that support the president, including presidential aircraft, was with Bush on Air Force One when the plane took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). He has talked with Colonel Mark Tillman, Air Force One’s pilot, about the plane’s ability to evade other aircraft. “At this point we don’t know the scope of this attack and what’s in front of us,” Gould will later recall. Gould will say that because he “thought there was a threat,” he makes a phone call and asks for three things: fighter jets to escort Air Force One, a refueling plane, and an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System plane) to provide the ability to “see” around the president’s plane.
Request Relayed over Conference Call - Gould will say, in 2011, that he calls the Pentagon to make this request. [Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011; Santa Barbara News-Press, 9/11/2011] However, other evidence indicates that he contacts the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House with the request, and the request is then passed on to the Pentagon over the air threat conference call. A transcript of the air threat conference call shows that at 10:14 a.m., Colonel Michael Irwin, the director of operations for the White House Military Office, who is in the PEOC, says he has “just talked to [the] mil aide” on Air Force One, and then adds: “We’d like AWACS over Louisiana. We’d like fighter escort.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file]
Fighters and AWACS Later Accompany Air Force One - An AWACS on a training mission off the coast of Florida is directed toward Air Force One and will accompany it all the way to Washington, DC (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Code One Magazine, 1/2002] Fighters will also arrive to escort the president’s plane. However, it will be over an hour before they reach it (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001] It is unclear if and when a refueling plane reaches Air Force One.

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Michael Irwin, Thomas Gould, Mark Tillman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS calls Washington flight control at this time. Asked about Flight 93, flight control responds, “He’s down.” It is clarified that the plane crashed “somewhere up northeast of Camp David.… That’s the last report. They don’t know exactly where.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The crash site is in fact about 85 miles northwest of Camp David. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Cleveland Center.Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Cleveland Center. [Source: Paul M. Walsh]Most members of staff at the FAA’s Cleveland Center are evacuated from the facility, due to a report of a small aircraft flying erratically above the center. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. S-19; Newsnet5, 8/12/2002; Associated Press, 8/15/2002] The Cleveland Center, in Oberlin, Ohio, had the last contact with Flight 93 before it crashed. [Associated Press, 6/15/2002] The center’s air traffic controllers have been working on clearing the skies over the US after FAA facilities were ordered to instruct all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsnet5, 8/12/2002; Lake County News-Herald, 9/10/2011]
Operations Manager Orders Evacuation - The police in Oberlin now contact the Cleveland Center and warn it about a small plane that is still airborne and circling above the facility. As a result, the decision is made to evacuate the center. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001, pp. 9 pdf file; Associated Press, 8/15/2002; Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/3/2011] The order to evacuate is apparently given by Leo Wolbers, the center’s operations manager. Wolbers will later recall, “[W]e made the decision to evacuate all non-essential personnel and get as many controllers out as possible.” He will say that he gathers together the supervisors at the center “to make sure they all knew to tell their controllers to get the planes down as quickly and safely as possible, and then leave the center.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/19/2001, pp. 6-7 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file] Non-essential personnel are sent home, while essential personnel who leave the building go to the parking lot. By 10:30 a.m., the facility will be running on a skeleton crew of eight controllers and eight supervisors.
Center Considered a Possible Terrorist Target - The Cleveland Center is evacuated “because someone feared the facility could be targeted for a terrorist attack,” according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/12/2001, pp. 70 pdf file; Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/3/2011] But Bill Keaton, a controller at the center, thinks to himself that “the evacuation [is] a little silly.” He will comment: “Though Cleveland Center might be a great strategic target, it was an awful terrorist target. Most people have no idea what goes on at a [air traffic control] center, and the terrorists were striking symbolic targets… the World Trade Center, the Pentagon.” [Lorain Morning Journal, 9/11/2011]
Center Is Searched - Around the time it is being evacuated, the Cleveland Center is receiving a number of bomb threats (see 10:07 a.m.-10:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002, pp. S-17, S-19] Possibly in response to these, the building is searched, apparently during the period when many of its employees are outside in the parking lot. Wolbers will recall, “After we got all of our aircraft on the ground, we went to one person in each area until the building was searched and found to be secure.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/19/2001, pp. 6-7 pdf file] Around two hours after the evacuation, employees who left the building but have not gone home will go back inside and return to their posts. By then, though, the airspace will be empty, apart from some military aircraft, and so the controllers will have little to do. [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 7/3/2011]
Identity of Plane Unknown - The suspicious aircraft that prompted the evacuation is not identified. Rick Kettell, the manager of the Cleveland Center, will recall that it “flew off to the north and we lost radar on it.” Eleven months after 9/11, the FAA will reportedly still be investigating what the plane was and what it was doing. [Newsnet5, 8/12/2002]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Bill Keaton, Rick Kettell, Leo E. Wolbers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer]Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, a Boeing 767 out of Boston that is wrongly suspected of being hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio, and is directed to a remote area of the airport. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006]
Plane Flies Long Path toward Airport - Delta Air Lines had been concerned about Flight 1989, and ordered it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167; USA Today, 9/11/2008] As it was heading in to land, air traffic controllers instructed Delta 1989 to follow a trajectory that initially took it far past Cleveland Airport. Unknown to the plane’s pilots, the controllers incorrectly believe the flight has been hijacked and contains a bomb, and they were therefore making time to evacuate the airport before the plane landed (see (9:50 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 191]
Plane Directed to Remote Area - Once Delta 1989 is on the ground, the Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) informs the FAA’s Cleveland Center that Delta 1989 is “on the ground at 1418,” where “1418” means 10:18 a.m. Cleveland Center asks, “Very safely too, I hope?” The TRACON responds that the plane is being taken to the bomb area to check. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] Delta 1989 is directed to “taxi left onto taxiway Bravo and wait there.” This taxiway leads to a remote part of the airport that is far away from the terminal. The pilot does as instructed. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 229]
Passengers Not Allowed Off - The pilots radio the airport’s air traffic control tower and say: “Just to make sure we don’t have any misunderstandings here, our flaps are up, we are landing only as a precaution at the company’s request. You understand that?” They ask if they are going to get to their gate soon, but the controller responds that city authorities are in charge and he believes people will be coming to search the aircraft. The controller advises that city authorities have said to keep the plane’s passengers on the aircraft for now. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] The passengers and crew will have to remain on board for perhaps a couple of hours, until FBI agents allow them off (see 11:28 a.m.-12:23 p.m. September 11, 2001). [WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 270-271]
Conflicting Reports of Landing Time - Subsequent accounts will give conflicting times for when Delta 1989 lands at Cleveland Airport. According to a detailed timeline provided by the airport’s control tower, the aircraft is “on the ground” at 10:18 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] Several accounts will give similar landing times of between 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002] But a NORAD official will tell the 9/11 Commission that Delta 1989 landed at 9:47 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Other accounts will say it lands at between 10:33 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, David Dunlap, Paul Werner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jon Treacy.Jon Treacy. [Source: US Air Force]Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, receives the order from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to launch all its available fighter jets.
Commander Briefs Pilots - A number of Otis pilots that were recalled from a training mission about an hour earlier (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and other pilots that have recently come to the base from their homes are gathered in front of the operations desk. Squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy tells them: “This is what we know. This is clearly a national emergency. Two aircraft have been hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. The Pentagon has been attacked. We need to get all our jets ready to go because we’re not sure where this is heading. We have information that there are more coming.” He instructs the pilots: “You must be prepared to meet any surprise.… You may be taking out an airliner. You must engage. You cannot fail. Our nation is relying on us.” He gives them their assignments, saying whether they are required to fly now or whether they will be needed later on, to take over when other pilots have landed.
Launch Order Received - Just after Treacy finishes giving his briefing, someone comes into the room yelling out that NEADS has called the base with important orders. The person says, “We have to get everything we have airborne now!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-245] NEADS started contacting Air National Guard bases around the Northeast US by about 10:00 a.m., with the instruction to get their fighters airborne (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 180]
Pilots Head Out, but Most Jets Not Yet Armed - Treacy yells at his men, “Go, go, go!” and then the pilots run out to their aircraft. But, according to author Lynn Spencer, since the time the group of pilots returned from their training mission, “there has not been time to do much more than fuel their jets.” Most of the base’s fighters “are still unarmed. Despite the furious pace of the weapons handlers, only a handful of jets have been uploaded with some armament.” The first two F-15s that take off from Otis Air Base in response to the NEADS order will both be unarmed (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246] Another two F-15s will take off shortly after them with their guns loaded, but one of them will have only one missile loaded instead of two (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Richard, 2010, pp. 15-16, 18] Two F-15s that are kept on alert at Otis Air Base took off at 8:46 a.m. in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jonathan T. Treacy, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Patrick Madigan, the commander of the Somerset Barracks of the Pennsylvania State Police, arrives at the Flight 93 crash scene around 10:20 a.m. [Department of the Army and the Air Force National Guard Bureau, 2002 pdf file] He says that at some point later in the day (he does not specify a time), a “strange incident” occurs: “We were there at the site and an airplane started circling. It was a jetliner circling the crash site very low. No one knew what to expect because we knew that all of the planes were supposedly grounded.” (The FAA had, at about 9:45 a.m., ordered that all aircraft be instructed to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) After a few minutes of uncertainty, it is announced that the plane is carrying United Airlines executives, who are circling the site to view it before they land in nearby Johnstown. [Kashurba, 2002, pp. 63] Another low-flying jet plane was witnessed over the site earlier on, around the time Flight 93 went down (see (Before and After 10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Patrick Madigan, United Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Moncton Area Control Center.The Moncton Area Control Center. [Source: Nav Canada]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and a Canadian air traffic control facility, to let them know that the Boston Center is shutting down its airspace and being evacuated, due to a possible airborne threat.
Scoggins Does Not Immediately Evacuate - The Boston Center in Nashua, New Hampshire, has just received a call from the FAA’s New England regional office, alerting it to an unidentified aircraft heading its way. In response, the center’s managers ordered the evacuation of the facility (see (Shortly After 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and declared “ATC zero,” which completely shuts down the center’s airspace (see (Shortly After 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But while others leave the building, Scoggins stays behind to make two phone calls.
Scoggins Calls Canadian Facility and NEADS - His first call is to the Moncton Center, which is the Canadian air traffic control facility that handles flights arriving from over the Atlantic. He tells a supervisor there, “We’re going to ATC zero and evacuating.” Scoggins then calls NEADS with the same information. He says: “I wanted to let you know, Boston Center has declared ATC zero and we are evacuating due to an airborne threat. It’s approaching Martha’s Vineyard and it’s coming our way.” Before hanging up, he gives NEADS the speed and coordinates of the approaching aircraft. Scoggins then heads out of the building. According to the account of author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins’s call prompts NEADS to immediately call Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and order it: “Get everything you’ve got in the air! Now!” (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
FBI and SWAT Teams Surround Center - By the time Scoggins is outside the Boston Center, FBI and SWAT teams are surrounding the facility. Scoggins will later recall that he sees the “Nashua SWAT team in the parking lot with automatic weapons, [and] the FBI running with the audio tapes with Bob Jones [a quality assurance specialist at the Boston Center] by their side.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 243-245] (The FBI reportedly arrived at the Boston Center “minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center,” and seized tape recordings of radio transmissions from the hijacked plane (see Soon after 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001] )
Scoggins Tracking Other Unidentified Plane - Before the Boston Center received the call from the FAA regional office about the approaching aircraft, Scoggins was tracking another unidentified target on his radar screen: a slow-moving aircraft also flying toward the center from the east (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Whether he alerts NEADS to that aircraft when he calls it is unclear. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 242-243]

Entity Tags: Moncton Area Control Center, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, learn that Air Force One is airborne, around half an hour after it took off from Florida, and are told the plane is heading toward Washington, DC. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]
NEADS Learns President's Plane Is Airborne - Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NEADS, is briefed by a colleague that “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, heading to Washington.” This is apparently the first time NEADS knows that the president’s plane is in the air. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] But Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida about half an hour ago (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] And while some later accounts will state that the plane is indeed heading north, toward Washington, at this time (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), according to other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, it has turned west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and is now flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 108; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]
Commander Told Fighters Will Escort Air Force One - Nasypany’s colleague continues: “We’ve got those four F-15s coming out of Langley. They’re done rolling.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] He is presumably referring to F-15 fighter jets belonging to the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. [Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; Airman, 9/2005] He says, “Two of [the F-15s] will be diverted to escort [Air Force One] at the appropriate time.” Nasypany says, “We need a plane out of the Air Force One.” He then asks his colleague, “Is he airborne now?” The colleague says yes.
Commander Told SEADS Is Providing Fighter Escort - Nasypany then says, “We’ve identified [Air Force One] as a special one.” His colleague replies: “We haven’t got him. Southeast does,” meaning NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Referring to SEADS, Nasypany asks, “So they’ll have fighters on him?” His colleague says yes. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] However, fighters will only be noticed escorting Air Force One by those on the plane more than an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Commander Passes on News about Air Force One - Nasypany then passes on the information about Air Force One to another colleague. He tells them: “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, going to Washington. There should be F-15s on them by the time they hit our AOR [area of responsibility].” Nasypany restates that the president’s plane is “going to Washington. This is what I was just passed.” He says, “SEADS should be putting fighters on it,” but adds that “we’ll have to take over [in providing a fighter escort for Air Force One] once they hit our AOR.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Kevin Nasypany, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Joe McGrady.Joe McGrady. [Source: John P. Meyer]Two F-15 fighter jets take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the first to do so after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered the base to launch all of its available aircraft (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, these two fighters are unarmed. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246] The 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard operates from Otis Air Base, and is responsible for defending the northeastern US against various threats, including terrorist attacks. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] The aircraft maintenance squadron officer started preparing the unit’s F-15s for combat less than 15 minutes after the second attack in New York (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But despite the reportedly “furious pace of the weapons handlers” who “hurried to fix all available jets with live weapons,” only a few fighters have so far been loaded with any armament. [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245]
Fighters Launch with No Weapons - The first two fighters to take off are piloted by Dennis Doonan and Joe McGrady. As they are the first pilots to start their F-15s and taxi off the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft), they are paired up. But Doonan suddenly realizes that, though he is being sent into a combat situation, his fighter is unarmed. He radios McGrady and tells him, “I’m Winchester!” (“Winchester” is the code word for having no weapons.) McGrady’s aircraft is also unarmed, so McGrady immediately radios squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy and in a panic tells him: “We’re Winchester, SOF [supervisor of flying]! We’re Winchester!” But Treacy instructs him: “Just go! You need to get airborne now!” McGrady and Doonan head out for takeoff, not knowing where they are going or what they will have to do, but realizing that if they have to take out a target, they must do so with their own aircraft. Once they are airborne, they will intercept a KC-10 tanker plane and four A-10 jets (see (11:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then set up a combat air patrol over Boston. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-247]
Other Fighters Take Off Armed - Another two F-15s will take off from Otis Air Base shortly after McGrady and Doonan’s fighters (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These aircraft will have had their guns loaded and armed for use, but one of them will take off with only one missile loaded instead of two. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Richard, 2010, pp. 15-16, 18] The 102nd Fighter Wing’s two F-15s that are kept on “alert”—armed and ready for immediate takeoff—launched at 8:46 a.m., in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Fourteen of the base’s fighters will be “mission capable” by the end of the day, and six fighters will be airborne at a time, according to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joe McGrady, Dennis Doonan, Michael Kelly (102nd FW), Jonathan T. Treacy, Otis Air National Guard Base, 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA allows “military and law enforcement flights to resume (and some flights that the FAA can’t reveal that were already airborne).” All civilian, military, and law enforcement flights were ordered at 9:26 a.m. to land as soon as reasonably possible. [Time, 9/14/2001] Civilian flights remain banned until September 13. Note that the C-130 cargo plane that witnessed the Flight 77 crash (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001) and which came upon the Flight 93 crash site (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001) right after it had crashed was apparently not subject to the grounding order issued about an hour earlier.

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are confused over the nature and effect of an order they have received, which states that the military can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to its directions, and they do not pass this order on to fighter pilots under their command. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240-241; Farmer, 2009, pp. 228-229] NEADS has just received a message over the NORAD computer chat system from Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), stating that Vice President Dick Cheney has authorized NORAD to shoot down suspicious aircraft (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42]
Weapons Director Alerted to Order - Major Steve Ovens sees the chat message and alerts Major James Fox, the leader of the NEADS weapons team, to it. Ovens says: “We need to read this. Region commander has declared that we can shoot down tracks that do not respond to our direction. Okay?” Fox replies, “Okay,” but Ovens is unconvinced that he has understood Arnold’s message, so he says again, “The region commander has declared that we can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our directions, okay?” Fox replies, “Copy that.”
NEADS Director Opposes Order - Ovens continues, “So if you’re trying to divert somebody and he won’t divert…” but Fox says, “DO [the director of operations] is saying no.” According to author Lynn Spencer, Fox means that Colonel Lanny McNeely, the NEADS director of operations, is indicating “no.” McNeely has “understood that the battle staff wanted to keep shootdown authority in the [NEADS] battle cab. The commanders were not prepared to pass such authorizations to airborne fighters.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240-241] However, a 9/11 Commission memorandum will state that McNeely is away from NEADS on this day, in Texas, and no one is currently sitting in the director of operations position. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file] According to John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, Fox is instead referring to Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, saying “no,” not McNeely. [Farmer, 2009, pp. 229]
Fox Agrees to Pass on Order to Commander - Ovens responds: “No? It came over the chat.… You got a conflict on that direction?” Fox replies, “Right now, no, but…” Showing Fox the chat message, Ovens says: “Okay. You read that from the vice president, right? Vice president has cleared…” Fox reads the message out loud, saying, “Vice president has cleared us to intercept traffic and shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC.” Finally, he says, “Okay, I will pass it to MCC,” meaning Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 241]
NEADS Does Not Pass on Order to Pilots - NEADS personnel will later express to the 9/11 Commission their “considerable confusion over the nature and effect” of this shootdown order, and explain why they fail to pass it on to the fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Langley Air Force Base (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) that are under their command. Nasypany and Fox indicate to the Commission that “they did not pass the order to the fighters circling Washington and New York because they were unsure how the pilots would, or should, proceed with this guidance.” Consequently, “while leaders in Washington believed that the fighters above them had been instructed to ‘take out’ hostile aircraft, the only orders actually conveyed to the pilots were to ‘ID type and tail.’” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43; Farmer, 2009, pp. 229]

Entity Tags: Lanny McNeely, James Fox, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, Robert Marr, Steve Ovens

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Westover Air Reserve Base.Westover Air Reserve Base. [Source: Andrew Biscoe / US Air Force]Two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts intercept a C-130 military cargo plane returning to the US from England, which has failed to check in with air traffic controllers and whose pilot is apparently unaware of the crisis taking place in the United States. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Westover Patriot, 10/2001 pdf file; Richard, 2010, pp. 19-20] The two F-15s, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. They recently took off from Otis Air Base (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered the base to launch all of its available fighters (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245; Richard, 2010, pp. 18]
Suspect Aircraft Has Not Checked in with FAA - NEADS now gives Richard the details of his first target, an aircraft that failed to check in with the FAA’s Boston Center as expected and is therefore under suspicion. Richard locks his radar to the target and passes on the details to Martyn, telling him the suspect aircraft is 38 miles northeast of them and at an altitude of 17,000 feet. The two fighters fly toward the aircraft at supersonic speed. They intercept it just east of Boston’s Logan International Airport, Richard will later recall. [Richard, 2010, pp. 19-20] But according to a report written by the 102nd Fighter Wing’s historian, they intercept it 150 miles out over the Atlantic Ocean. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] And according to the Westover Patriot, a military newspaper, they intercept it about 75 miles north of Springfield, Massachusetts. [Westover Patriot, 10/2001 pdf file]
Pilot Unaware of Attacks in the US - As Richard and Martyn close in on the aircraft, they see that it is a C-130 military transport plane. They take up positions just off its wings. The plane’s pilot is apparently unaware of the terrorist attacks in the US. Richard will describe, “The pilot sitting in the left seat of the C-130,” who is “enjoying his boxed lunch,” is “unaware that the world below was on fire.”
Fighters Signal to C-130 that It Has Been Intercepted - The pilot looks to the left and suddenly notices Richard’s fighter off his wing. Richard and Martyn then rock their wings, signifying to the pilot that his plane has been intercepted, and he acknowledges the signal by rocking his wings back. The pilot then contacts Richard and Martyn on the universal emergency radio frequency known as “guard,” which can be heard by all aircraft, regardless of what other frequency they are on. In a panicked voice he says, “F-15s intercepting the C-130 over Boston, state intentions.” Martyn tells him, “Contact [the FAA’s] Boston Center immediately.” Then, Richard will recall, “[W]e were off.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 20]
C-130 Returning from England - The C-130 is from Texas and is returning to the US from England. It will subsequently land at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. Its commander will comment, “I’d never had an escort like that before in my career.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Westover Patriot, 10/2001 pdf file] Richard will reflect, “It was amazing to me that in the beginning moments of the most important mission of my life, our formation was scrambled to intercept a United States military C-130.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 20-21] Richard and Martyn will subsequently be sent over New York to intercept and identify aircraft there (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Airman, 9/3/2011]

Entity Tags: Robert Martyn, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Martin Richard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The press incorrectly reports that an airliner has crashed on or near Camp David. [Daily Record (Baltimore), 9/12/2001; US Department of Transportation, 3/2002] Camp David is the presidential retreat, located about 70 miles north of Washington, DC, in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. [Federation of American Scientists, 10/2/2000; Associated Press, 7/30/2007] On Air Force One, at 10:37, White House chief of staff Andrew Card relays to the president the incorrect report of the crash. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108] At around 11:09, CBS News reports that “a plane apparently has crashed at or near Camp David.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002] An early article by Forbes states, “There are reports of a fourth airliner [having] been brought down near Camp David… by US military fighters.” [Forbes, 9/11/2001] And an early report by the Northwestern Chronicle similarly states, “Air Force officials say an airliner has been forced down by F-16 fighter jets near Camp David.” [Northwestern Chronicle, 9/11/2001] Theresa Hahn, the catering manager for a restaurant in the Camp David area, hears the erroneous report. She subsequently describes, “Lots of fire trucks were on the road and no one can get up there.” But J. Mel Poole, the Catoctin Mountain Park superintendent, states there has been “no crash at Camp David.” [Daily Record (Baltimore), 9/12/2001] At some point, the FAA calls the military to confirm the crash, and is reassured that no crash occurred at Camp David. [Freni, 2003, pp. 42] The actual Flight 93 crash site is about 85 miles northwest of Camp David. [PBS, 9/11/2001] The Secret Service reportedly tells the White House that Flight 93 may have been on a course for Camp David. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/11/2001] And, following a military briefing, Representative James Moran (D-VA) tells reporters that Flight 93 was apparently heading for Camp David. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Wall Street Journal, 9/12/2001] (However, the 9/11 Commission will later state that its intended target was either the White House or the Capitol building. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 14] ) The source of the incorrect report of the Camp David crash is unclear. However, when the FAA’s Washington Center first informed NEADS that Flight 93 had crashed, at 10:15, it simply reported that it had gone down “somewhere up northeast of Camp David” (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), so this may have created some of the confusion. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] There are also numerous false reports of terrorist attacks having taken place in Washington, DC around this time (see (Between 9:50-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Some commentators make the connection that the 9/11 attacks come 23 years after the signing of the Camp David accords—a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt—on September 17, 1978. [Forbes, 9/11/2001; Village Voice, 9/11/2001; Daily Record (Baltimore), 9/12/2001] WCBS reports, “[T]here is speculation that perhaps, perhaps, this may be in retaliation for those accords.” [Broadcasting and Cable, 8/26/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, J. Mel Poole, Andrew Card, James Moran, Theresa Hahn, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft is ordered to land by the FAA’s Cleveland Center, but Ashcroft is intent on reaching Washington, DC, and instructs his pilot to ignore the order. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 117; Spencer, 2008, pp. 258] Ashcroft learned of the attacks in New York while flying to Milwaukee in a small government jet, and immediately wanted to return to Washington, but his plane needed to land first in Milwaukee to refuel (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Even though the FAA had issued a nationwide ground stop to prevent aircraft from taking off, Ashcroft then insisted that his plane leave Milwaukee to fly back to Washington (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).
FAA Manager Furious, Wants Plane to Land - When Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, hears about Ashcroft’s plane defying the ground stop order, he is livid. He immediately calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center and tells it to order the plane to land. An air traffic controller at the Cleveland Center then issues this order to Ashcroft’s plane. [Newsweek, 3/10/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257-258] David Clemmer, the plane’s pilot, tells Ashcroft, “They’re instructing me to land outside of Detroit,” but Ashcroft tells him, “No, keep going.” [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 117]
Controller Reports that Plane Is Not Complying - According to a 2002 FAA report, Ashcroft then requests that his plane be allowed to immediately return to Washington, and he receives permission to do so. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002] But author Lynn Spencer will give a different account, saying that Clemmer “chooses to ignore the controller and continues toward Washington.” The Cleveland Center controller then informs the FAA Command Center that the pilot of Ashcroft’s plane is not responding and not complying. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 258] Ashcroft’s plane will subsequently be redirected toward Richmond, Virginia, and is threatened with being shot down if it does not land (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Daily Record (Glasgow), 9/29/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 118]

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, David Clemmer, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Ben Sliney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two F-16 fighters take off from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, near Syracuse, NY. The fighters belong to the 174th Fighter Wing, a unit of the New York Air National Guard. A commander from Syracuse had called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) offering to help earlier in the morning (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although at that time they’d promised: “Give me 30 minutes and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers,” the fighters now launching have bullets but no missiles. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 10/18/2002] The Hancock pilots are ordered to “Identify all aircraft… Intercept them. Tell them to land. ‘Engage’ them if they [don’t].” [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001] Also at some time this morning, following the attacks, 174th FW officials form a command center to monitor the situation across the US. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/11/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001] A hundred of the 174th FW’s staff have spent the last month deployed to Saudi Arabia and are due back this afternoon. However, they are diverted to Canada and arrive back at the base later in the week (see Mid-August-September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: 174th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

James K. Will.James K. Will. [Source: WTAE-TV]After hearing a plane has crashed in his area, a farmer flies over the Flight 93 crash site to take photos of the wreckage. James K. Will, who is an aerial photographer as well as a farmer, had just landed his Cessna on a private airstrip at his farm in Berlin, Pennsylvania, after visiting nearby Altoona. His mother rushed out and told him there were reports of a plane having crashed near Shanksville. He’d grabbed his camera and set off in his plane for the site, to take photos of the wreckage. He later recalls that he circles the Flight 93 crash scene around 45 minutes after the crash occurred. He says, “I thought it was just an accident.” He is then intercepted by a state police helicopter, which escorts him to the Johnstown airport. He will be questioned and briefly detained there before being released. His plane will be searched and then released. [Pittsburgh Channel, 9/15/2001; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 9/15/2001] At around 9:45 a.m., all FAA facilities had been ordered to instruct every aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). About 20 minutes earlier, the FAA had initiated a nationwide ground stop, which prohibited takeoffs and required planes in the air to land as soon as reasonable (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Time, 9/14/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25 and 29]

Entity Tags: James K. Will

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, NORAD commander in chief, General Ralph Eberhart, orders a limited version of a little known plan to clear the skies and give the military control over US airspace. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] The plan, Security Control of Air Traffic and Navigation Aids (SCATANA), was developed in the 1960s as a way to clear airspace above the US and off the US coast in the event of a confirmed warning of a nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. Once it is activated a wartime air traffic priority list is established, allowing essential aircraft and personnel to use the airspace. Among others, this list includes the US president, essential national security staff, aircraft involved in continental defense missions, and airborne command posts. [Schwartz, 1998]
Eberhart Suggests Limited Version of Plan - Eberhart and his staff suggest implementing the limited version of SCATANA over the air threat conference call. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta immediately concurs. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 73] Unlike a full SCATANA, this modified version allows ground navigation aids to stay on, for the benefit of aircraft that are still airborne. Under the plan, for about the next three days all flights other than military, law enforcement, fire fighters, and medevac, will require approval from the national Defense Department/FAA Air Traffic Services Cell, located within the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Notice is sent out to all civil and military air traffic control facilities, informing them that the skies now officially belong to NORAD. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 269]
Order Supposedly Made Late Due to Safety Concerns - The SCATANA order is issued over an hour after the FAA ordered all planes down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and after at least three-quarters of them have already landed. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Eberhart will later say the delay is due to safety concerns, because NORAD would have been unable to control US airspace—with over 4,000 planes airborne at the time of the attacks—with its radar capabilities. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Defense Week magazine will suggest SCATANA is not implemented until even later, at around 2:00 p.m. It says NORAD issues a “notice to airmen” implementing the modified version of SCATANA about five hours after Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 11/2001]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Ralph Eberhart, Norman Mineta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, sends out an advisory that suspends operations in the national airspace system, requiring all aircraft to land and prohibiting aircraft from taking off from all airports. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002; Federal Aviation Administration, 4/15/2002] At 9:26 a.m., the FAA ordered a national ground stop that prevented any aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:45 a.m. it instructed all airborne aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001] According to a 2002 FAA report, “With this advisory, the shutdown of the air traffic system en masse had officially begun.” The advisory states: “Due to extraordinary circumstances and for reasons of safety. Attention all aircraft operators. By order of the Federal Aviation Command Center all airports/airdromes are not authorized for landing and takeoff. All traffic including airborne aircraft are encouraged to land shortly, including all helicopter traffic. Aircraft involved in firefighting in the Northwest US are excluded. Please read this notice over the emergency frequencies, and VOR [VHF omnidirectional range] voice.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft, which is heading toward Washington, DC, is threatened with being shot down by the military if it does not land, and is diverted to Richmond, Virginia. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 258] Even though the FAA had issued a national ground stop preventing aircraft from taking off (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Ashcroft insisted that his plane take off and fly back to Washington after it landed in Milwaukee to refuel (see After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). And though the FAA has been instructing all aircraft to land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Ashcroft told his pilot to ignore an order to land near Detroit, and instead continue toward Washington (see 10:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 117; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257-258]
Fighters Intercept Ashcroft's Plane - When Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, hears that Ashcroft’s pilot is refusing to land, he notifies NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). As a result, two F-16 fighter jets from a nearby Air National Guard base intercept Ashcroft’s plane, but they remain out of sight and undetected by its pilot. The F-16s’ pilots report to NEADS that the errant plane is a private corporate jet without any markings, which is heading for Washington and does not seem to have any intention of landing.
Sliney Wants Plane 'out of My Sky' - Ashcroft’s pilot, David Clemmer, has started broadcasting a message “in the blind,” meaning it is not intended for any specific air traffic controller, stating that the attorney general is on the plane and they are returning to Washington. The F-16 pilots notify NEADS of this, but when a NEADS officer then tells Sliney about the message, Sliney asks, “Can you guarantee me that it is indeed John Ashcroft on that plane?” The officer replies, “No sir, we cannot,” and so Sliney demands, “Then get him out of my sky!” NEADS issues the order to the two F-16 pilots that if the plane will not land voluntarily, then they must take it down. The F-16 flight lead calls the FAA’s Washington Center and arranges for one of its controllers to call the plane’s pilot and tell him that if he does not divert and land, his plane will be shot down. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 258]
Pilot Warned Plane Could Be Shot Down - The Washington Center controller tells Clemmer, “Land your plane immediately, or risk getting shot down by the US Air Force.” [Newsweek, 9/24/2001] Clemmer relays this warning to Ashcroft, telling him: “Sir, there’s a shootdown order. If we get any closer to Washington, they might blow us out of the sky.” [Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 118] Clemmer also turns to an FBI agent who has been assigned to guard Ashcroft, and says, “Well, Larry, we’re in deep kimchi here, and basically, all the rules you and I know are out the window.” He tells air traffic controllers that he is carrying the attorney general, but is worried that this information won’t get through to military commanders who control the airspace around Washington. [Newsweek, 9/24/2001] Clemmer will later recall: “We didn’t want to do anything that would jeopardize our safety or the safety of the [attorney general]. I know I didn’t want to get shot down either.”
Plane Diverted to Richmond - According to some accounts, Ashcroft finally relents, and, at the insistence of the FAA, his plane is diverted to Richmond. Ashcroft will later recall, “It was a real negotiation [with the FAA].” [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Newsweek, 3/10/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 258] However, according to a 2002 FAA report, Ashcroft’s plane is diverted to Richmond “due to air traffic requests for the release of medevac aircraft in the Washington, DC, area.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002] As the plane flies toward Richmond, Clemmer negotiates getting a fighter escort for it. Ashcroft will persist in his desire to reach Washington, and his plane will eventually be cleared to land in the capital (see 11:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 272]

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Northeast Air Defense Sector, David Clemmer, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, Ben Sliney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

One of the FAA’s Cessna Citation V jet planes.One of the FAA’s Cessna Citation V jet planes. [Source: Unknown]Although it was recently redirected toward Richmond, Virginia, the plane carrying Attorney General John Ashcroft tries again to head to Washington, DC, and a military fighter jet arrives to escort it into the capital. [Washington Post, 9/28/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002; Ashcroft, 2006, pp. 118] Ashcroft’s plane, a small government Cessna jet, has been trying to return to Washington after an engagement in Milwaukee was aborted due to the terrorist attacks (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ashcroft has ignored requests to land, and so his plane has been threatened with being shot down by the military and diverted to Richmond (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Newsweek, 3/10/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 257-258]
Pilot Persuaded to Head toward Washington - However, Ashcroft still wants to reach Washington. He therefore calls the Justice Department command center for assistance. Then, according to author Lynn Spencer, “With some high-level coordination,” one of the protective agents on Ashcroft’s plane “convinced the pilot to try once again to enter the city.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 272] The pilot, David Clemmer, negotiates to have fighter jets escort the plane into Washington. [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Washington Post, 9/28/2001]
Controller Requests Fighter Escort - The FAA’s Washington Center consequently calls the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington’s Reagan National Airport. The Washington Center controller says: “Hey, we’ve got November 4 out here. He wants to land at [Reagan Airport]. There’s some concern and they want a fighter escort.” TRACON controller Dan Creedon recognizes the plane’s N-number (specifically, N4) as belonging to one of the FAA’s jet aircraft, and confirms, “Yeah, November 4 is based out of Washington.” He then calls District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) pilot Major Daniel Caine, who recently launched from Andrews Air Force Base to defend Washington (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), and tells him of the plane requesting a fighter escort. When Caine asks who is on it, Creedon replies: “I don’t know. My assumption is FAA-1 or DOT-1,” meaning FAA Administrator Jane Garvey or Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta.
DCANG Pilot Gets Langley Jets to Provide Escort - Caine says the jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that are defending Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will handle this. He forwards Creedon’s request to Major Dean Eckmann, the lead pilot from Langley. Eckmann responds that the inbound plane “can have one” of his fighters. He then directs his wingman, Major Brad Derrig, to intercept it. [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; 9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 272-273] While Ashcroft’s plane is waiting for Derrig’s fighter to arrive, it is put in a holding pattern outside of Washington. [9/11 Commission, 12/17/2003 pdf file] Ashcroft’s plane will be escorted to Reagan Airport, but the time it lands at is unclear (see (12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newsweek, 9/24/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 3/21/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Vogel, 2007, pp. 453]

Entity Tags: John Ashcroft, Dean Eckmann, Brad Derrig, Daniel Caine, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, US Department of Justice, Dan Creedon, David Clemmer, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, is informed that unidentified fast-moving aircraft are heading toward his plane, and he becomes concerned that these may be armed fighter jets flown by foreign nationals. While Air Force One is heading out over the Gulf of Mexico, Tillman receives a call from an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Houston Center who tells him, “Air Force One, you have fast movers coming up at your 7 o’clock,” which means they are behind and to the left of his plane. Tillman thinks these aircraft could be fighters that are coming to escort Air Force One. He suggests this to Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, a military aide who is accompanying President Bush on the plane. But Gould says: “I haven’t’ asked for fighters yet. We haven’t had the chance to do it yet.” [Aero-News Network, 7/19/2012; Wichita Eagle, 11/13/2012; KFDI, 12/11/2012] (However, a transcript of the Pentagon’s air threat conference call will show that Gould in fact requested fighters to escort Air Force One at around 10:13 a.m. (see (10:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] )
Pilot Told about Foreigners Flying Training Missions in the Gulf - Tillman asks the Houston Center controller, “Who are they?” The controller replies: “We don’t know. They just popped up on radar.” [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] He says the suspicious aircraft have “come somewhere out of Texas, we think, or somewhere out of the Gulf.” Around this time, Gould tells Tillman that the Air Force has informed him there are “foreign nationals in the Gulf of Mexico” who are out training in American F-16 fighters that are “heavily armed.” Tillman asks the Houston Center controller how fast the suspicious aircraft are flying and is told, “They’re supersonic.”
Aircraft Are Fighters Sent to Escort Air Force One - But then Tillman is called over radio by the pilot of one of the unidentified aircraft, who says, “Air Force One, Cowry 4-5, flight of two, we are your cover.” [Aero-News Network, 7/19/2012; KFDI, 12/11/2012] The pilot says his estimated time of arrival with Air Force One is in three minutes. [US Air Force, 2/29/2012 pdf file] The aircraft are in fact two F-16s belonging to the Texas Air National Guard that launched from Ellington Field, an airport about 15 miles south of Houston, in order to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/1/2002; Aviationist, 9/9/2011] Tillman will later describe this communication as the “coolest radio call I’ve ever heard in my life.” The reason, he will say, is that even though he can tell the pilots are “Texans, and they had an accent, it was not a foreign accent. So I knew: good people.” [KFDI, 12/11/2012] The F-16s “joined up on us, fighter on each wing, and they protected us for the rest of the day,” Tillman will recall. [Aero-News Network, 7/19/2012] Passengers on Air Force One will first notice fighters escorting their plane at around 11:29 a.m. (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; USA Today, 9/7/2011]

Entity Tags: Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Mark Tillman, 147th Fighter Wing, Thomas Gould

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush (center, bending) and others look out  the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives.President Bush (center, bending) and others look out the windows of Air Force One as their fighter escort arrives. [Source: White House]President Bush, his entourage, and reporters accompanying them on board Air Force One notice fighter jets escorting their plane for the first time. Air Force One is currently flying westward over Mississippi, toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 109; CBS News, 9/11/2002] The White House requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the Secret Service asked Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, to provide that escort. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255]
Passengers Notice Fighters - Now, air traffic control radios Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot of Air Force One, and notifies him, “[Y]ou’ve got two F-16s at about your—say, your 10 o’clock position.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255] Reporters on board notice a fighter flying alongside the plane’s right wing, and then spot another one alongside its left wing. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] According to a photographer on the plane, these jets are “so close that we could see the pilot’s head.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] Bush also notices the fighters. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 109] White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett will later recall: “The staff, and the president and us, were filed out along the outside hallway of his presidential cabin there and looking out the windows. And the president gives them a signal of salute, and the pilot kind of tips his wing, and fades off and backs into formation.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002]
Fighters Maybe Arrived Earlier, but Remained out of Sight - According to most accounts, the jets alongside Air Force One belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard. [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 87; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255] But a few accounts will indicate they belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard in Jacksonville (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] Four 147th Fighter Wing jets have been directed toward the president’s plane to accompany it (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross, 2007, pp. 40] But according to Sarasota Magazine, Air Force One is “currently being escorted by six jet fighters.” [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001] Fifteen minutes earlier, at 11:14 a.m., an official, whose identity is unstated but who is not a member of the White House staff, told the reporters on Air Force One that the plane already had plenty of military escort, but the fighters were not visible at that time, presumably meaning they were escorting the plane from a distance. [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Jets Protecting '80-Mile Bubble' around Air Force One - The two jets seen by the passengers on Air Force One are reportedly being flown by pilots Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts of the 147th Fighter Wing. Roberts will later recall, “We were trying to keep an 80-mile bubble… around Air Force One, and we’d investigate anything that was within 80 miles.” [CBS News, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 255] The 147th Fighter Wing jets will accompany Air Force One to Barksdale Air Force Base, then on to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, and finally to Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC. [Filson, 2003, pp. 87-88; Galveston County Daily News, 7/9/2005]

Entity Tags: Dan Bartlett, 147th Fighter Wing, Randy Roberts, Mark Tillman, Shane Brotherton, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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