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Context of 'November 6, 1999: NORAD Conducts Exercise Scenario Based around Hijackers Planning to Crash Plane into UN Headquarters in New York'

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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). (Arnold 4/1998; Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 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. (Porter 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. (Arnold 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. (McKenna 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. (Slobodian 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). (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27)

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; Weale 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.” (Margolis 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; Cooper 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. (Baker 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)

As the military community is discussing the future of continental air defense in a post-Cold War world (see May 19, 1997), Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force, orders a study to review the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission. At his request, Major General Paul Pochmara forms a 12-member roles and mission (RAM) team to gather information and ideas on the subject. The team has a one-hour presentation that outlines the military’s responsibility for protecting the nation’s air sovereignty. Major General Mike Haugen, a member of the team, will later say that the group discusses everything from technology to the future of the air sovereignty mission to the terrorist threat. Haugen will say: “We made some pretty bold predictions in our briefing.… In fact, it included a photo of Osama bin Laden as the world’s most dangerous terrorist.… We didn’t predict how the terrorists would strike but predicted they would strike.” (Filson 2003, pp. 37-38) A 9/11 Commission memorandum will add, “Osama bin Laden is featured on the cover of the brief developed by the RAM team, and he figures prominently in the study.” Colonel Alan Scott of the Continental US NORAD Region will tell the Commission: “As we started talking about Osama bin Laden, the examples we gave in our mission brief were the first WTC bombing, the Tokyo subway, Oklahoma City bombing, and Atlanta Olympics. What we did was connect those dots. The conclusion we drew was that we had a viable threat.” (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004)

The United Nations headquarters building in New York.The United Nations headquarters building in New York. [Source: Mark Garten / United Nations]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices a scenario in which five terrorists take over a transcontinental aircraft with the intention of crashing it into the United Nations headquarters building in New York. The simulation takes place during a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region, called Falcon Indian. NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US, including the Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, take part in this exercise. General Richard Myers, currently the commander in chief of NORAD, will reveal the details of the scenario during an August 2004 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. According to Myers, the scenario is based around a China Air aircraft flying from Los Angeles to JFK International Airport in New York, which is “hijacked east of Colorado Springs by five terrorists.” If the plane is not intercepted by the US military, the terrorists intend “to crash into [the] United Nations building.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 362) The UN headquarters building is a 39-story high-rise, located a few miles from the World Trade Center. (Arena 12/2/1999; Evening Standard 9/11/2002) In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants have to follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, coordinate with external agencies, and carry out a handover of responsibilities between NORAD sectors. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Like in this scenario, the teams of hijackers that take over three of the four aircraft targeted in the 9/11 attacks will comprise of five terrorists. And all four of the aircraft targeted on 9/11 will be making transcontinental flights, like the plane hijacked in this scenario, although they will be flying from the east coast to the west rather than from the west to the east. (Schmemann 9/12/2001; CNN 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 4, 11) A subsequent Falcon Indian exercise in June 2000 will include scenarios in which hijackers plan to crash aircraft into the White House and the Statue of Liberty (see June 5, 2000). (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force whose mission includes the protection of the continental US against air attacks, tells the Associated Press that he is deeply worried by the possibility of an airborne terrorist attack. He says: “I lie awake worrying. It is one thing to put a truck inside the twin trade towers and blow it up. It is quite another to be able to fly a weapon across our borders. That is an attack, a direct attack, an unambiguous attack from outside our country.” In 1999, a study commissioned by Arnold emphasized the continued importance of the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission and the threat of terrorism (see 1999). (Kaczor 2/1/2000; Kaczor 8/2/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 92) As one of the top commanders of NORAD, Arnold will play a pivotal role on the morning of 9/11 (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 42)

Robert De La Cruz, a Justice Department lawyer, writes a detailed analysis that considers the legal issues that would be involved in shooting down an aircraft that was under the control of terrorists who intended to use it as a weapon. De La Cruz, a trial attorney with the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section (TVCS), apparently writes the analysis on his own initiative. He sends it to Cathleen Corken, the TVCS’s deputy chief for domestic terrorism. The 34-page document is titled “Aerial Intercepts and Shoot-Downs: Ambiguities of Law and Practical Considerations.” In it, among other things, De La Cruz discusses Article 3 bis of the Chicago Convention, a set of rules created after a Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, in 1983 (see September 1, 1983), which is “now considered to be international law.” He states that the “Federal Aviation Administration believes, or at least operates as if, Article 3 bis is binding upon the United States.”
Article States that Using Weapons against Civil Aircraft Should Be Avoided - De La Cruz notes that, according to the article, “The contracting states recognize that every state must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of the aircraft must not be endangered.” He also notes that “contracting states recognize that every state, in the exercise of its sovereignty, is entitled to require the landing at some designated airport of a civil aircraft flying above its territory without authority [or] if there are reasonable grounds to conclude that it is being used for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of this convention.” De La Cruz then describes what he considers three failures of Article 3 bis.
Action Is Only Permitted Once an Aircraft Has Entered a State's Airspace - The first problem is that the article “only permits a state to avail itself of the article’s provisions once the offending aircraft has entered the territorial airspace of the state.” If the aircraft was carrying a weapon of mass destruction, he explains, “awaiting territorial arrival of the aircraft may be too late.” In this scenario, if the aircraft was allowed to enter the “territorial airspace” of the state, “prevailing winds could theoretically spread an airborne-detonated biological weapon or chemical weapon onto the targeted state.”
Analysis Considers the Effects of a Plane Being Crashed into a Building - De La Cruz then states that this failure of the article could still apply if the offending aircraft was carrying no weapons. Significantly, in light of what will happen on September 11, 2001, he points out that this is because “the aircraft itself can be a potent weapon.” He considers the destruction that could result from a commercial airliner being crashed into a building, writing: “An airborne Boeing 747 can weigh in excess of 2 million pounds, retain structural integrity at flight speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour, and can carry many thousands of gallons of kerosene-based jet fuel. If used as a weapon, such an aircraft must be considered capable of destroying virtually any building located anywhere in the world.”
Article Fails to Authorize 'Deadly Force' against a Hostile Aircraft - The second problem with Article 3 bis, according to De La Cruz, is that it fails to specify what actions are permitted when an aircraft refuses to comply with instructions. While the article “requires states to make noncompliance punishable by ‘severe penalties,’” he writes, “it does not explicitly authorize the use of deadly force.”
Article Is Not Designed to Deal with Planes under the Control of Terrorists - The third failure De La Cruz describes regards “what actions are permissible when dealing with a terrorist-controlled, hijacked, or surreptitiously armed plane that is carrying a weapon of mass destruction to an intended target.” He notes, “Notwithstanding various works of fiction (see August 17, 1994), to date there are no reported actual incidents of a hijacked civil aircraft being deliberately and successfully used as a flying bomb.” All the same, he continues, “Article 3 bis was designed to protect otherwise legitimate civil aircraft that have wandered off course; it is not designed to deal with the issue of… a passenger airliner that has been deliberately converted for use as a kamikaze.” He concludes that the US should be prepared to shoot down a hostile aircraft, irrespective of what the article states. “It is certainly neither the policy nor intention of the United States to shoot down civil aircraft,” he comments, “but if necessity demands it we shall do it regardless of our formal or informal ratification of Article 3 bis.”
Document Will Be Called a 'Prescient Pre-9/11 Analysis' - It is unclear whether any action will be taken in response to De La Cruz’s analysis after the lawyer sends it to Corken. But the 9/11 Commission Report will call the document a “prescient pre-9/11 analysis of an aircraft plot.” (US Department of Justice 3/30/2000; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 346, 561) On September 11, senior government officials including the president and vice president will discuss the possibility of shooting down a hijacked commercial aircraft (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41)

The Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center standing behind it.The Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center standing behind it. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices two scenarios in which aircraft are hijacked, and in one scenario the hijackers plan to crash the plane into the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, while in the other the hijackers plan to crash into the White House in Washington, DC. The scenarios are included in a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region called Falcon Indian. NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental United States, including the Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, are participating in this exercise. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 362)
Hijackers Take Over Learjet, Plan to Crash into White House - The two hijacking scenarios will be described by General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in August 2004. According to Myers, one of the scenarios involves a Learjet being hijacked and maintaining a “tight formation with [a] Canadair airliner, loaded with explosives.” (From Myers’s description it is unclear whether the Learjet or the Canadair airliner is the plane carrying explosives.) According to Myers, the “Learjet planned to crash into the White House.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants have to follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Communist Group Plans to Crash Plane into Statue of Liberty - The other scenario is based around a “Communist Party faction” that hijacks an aircraft “bound from [the] western to [the] eastern United States,” according to Myers. There are “[h]igh explosives on board” the aircraft and the fictitious hijackers intend “to crash into the Statue of Liberty.” During the simulation, the FAA requests assistance from the military. Exercise participants have to again follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, as well as carrying out a handover of responsibilities between NORAD sectors. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Even though these two NORAD exercise scenarios involve hijackers attempting to use planes as weapons, the 9/11 Commission will claim in its final report, “The threat of terrorists hijacking commercial airliners within the United States—and using them as guided missiles—was not recognized by NORAD before 9/11.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17) A previous Falcon Indian exercise in November 1999 included a scenario of hijackers planning to crash an aircraft into the United Nations headquarters building in New York (see November 6, 1999). (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are briefed about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD’s Continental United States Region has developed an “Osama bin Laden… threat briefing,” which is the last briefing of its kind before 9/11. The increased threat level relating to bin Laden and al-Qaeda is then “briefed at NEADS,” he will say. Further details of the briefing NEADS personnel receive are unstated. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS, based in Rome, New York, is responsible for protecting the airspace in which the hijackings take place on September 11. It will therefore be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), struggles to maintain funding for a plan to defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. Arnold has long been worried by the US’s vulnerability to an airborne attack by terrorists (see 1999 and February 2000). But, as he will later recount, not everyone shares his concern. He will say: “Just two weeks before September 11, 2001, I had met with Vice Admiral Martin Mayer, the deputy commander in chief of Joint Forces Command located in Norfolk, Virginia. He had informed me that he intended to kill all funding for a plan my command had been working on for two years, that would defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. While I convinced Admiral Mayer to continue his funding support, he told me in front of my chief of staff, Colonel Alan Scott; Navy Captain David Stewart, the lead on the project; and my executive officer, Lt. Col. Kelley Duckett, that our concern about Osama bin Laden as a possible threat to America was unfounded and that, to repeat, ‘If everyone would just turn off CNN, there wouldn’t be a threat from Osama bin Laden.’” (Spencer 2008, pp. 289)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) commences Northern Vigilance, a military operation that involves it deploying fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian Air Force training exercise. The Russian exercise is scheduled to take place over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans from September 10 to September 14 (see September 10, 2001), and the NORAD fighters are set to stay in Alaska and Northern Canada until it ends. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) As well as conducting this operation, NORAD is currently running a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian, which “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) The Russians will cancel their exercise on the morning of September 11 in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001), when they “knew NORAD would have its hands full,” according to the Toronto Star. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) It is unknown from which bases NORAD sends fighters for Northern Vigilance and how many US military personnel are involved. However, in December 2000, it took similar action—called Operation Northern Denial—in response to a “smaller scale” Russian “long-range aviation activity in northern Russia and the Arctic.” More than 350 American and Canadian military personnel were involved on that occasion. (Canadian Chief of Defense Staff 5/30/2001, pp. 6 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001)

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. (McKenna 1/1996; Dennehy 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. (Arnold 4/1998; Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 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.” (McKenna 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.” (Dennehy 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.” (McKenna 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.” (McKenna 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.” (Filson 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.” (McKenna 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.” (Doscher 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.” (Arnot 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). (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27)

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; McCullough 9/2011 pdf file)

The daily threat briefing at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) includes no indication of any increase in the terrorist threat level. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer working in the NEADS battle cab, will tell the 9/11 Commission that for his threat briefing today, there is “‘zero’ intelligence available concerning any increase in the terrorist threat level.” He will say that a briefing two days ago, on September 9, similarly “contained nothing on the terrorist threat.” Stuart will say the last briefing at NEADS that mentioned the threat posed by Osama bin Laden was on July 14, “as part of the increased threat warning during summer 2001” (see July 14, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/20/2004) NEADS, which is based in Rome, New York, will be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings later this morning (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)

Shortly after air traffic controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, its transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller’s screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” (Clayton 9/13/2001; MSNBC 9/15/2001; LeBlanc 8/12/2002) Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the air traffic controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. (MSNBC 9/11/2002) The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002)

After Flight 11 fails to respond to an instruction from air traffic control to climb to 35,000 feet (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), the controller handling it, Pete Zalewski, tries to regain contact with the aircraft. Over the following ten minutes, he makes numerous attempts but without success. (Zalewski says he makes 12 attempts; the 9/11 Commission says nine.) He tries reaching the pilot on the emergency frequency. Zalewski later recalls that initially, “I was just thinking that it was, you know, maybe they—pilots weren’t paying attention, or there’s something wrong with the frequency.… And at first it was pretty much, you know, ‘American 11,’ you know, ‘are you paying attention? Are you listening?’ And there was still no response.” He says, “I went back to the previous sector to see if the pilot had accidentally flipped the switch back over on the—on the radio.” But as Zalewski is repeatedly unable to get any response from Flight 11, he recalls, “I even began to get more concerned.” However, Zalewski claims, it is not until he sees the plane’s transponder go off at around 8:21 that he suspects something is “seriously wrong,” and calls his supervisor for assistance (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And it is not until about 8:25 that he realizes for sure that he is dealing with a hijacking (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is only then that Boston Center starts notifying its chain of command that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 7 and 10-11)

FAA’s Boston CenterFAA’s Boston Center [Source: ABC News]According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. (Wald 9/15/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001) ABC News will later say, “There doesn’t seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There’s a gap there that will have to be investigated.” (ABC News 9/14/2001) (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m. (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001)

Tom Roberts.Tom Roberts. [Source: NBC News]Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don’t know what. It’s either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I’m not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael’s assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.

American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15) Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453) The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19) )

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.” (Johnson 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.” (Wald and Sack 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.” (Murray 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. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 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).

According to Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, the center initially thought Flight 11 “was a catastrophic electrical failure and… was diverting to New York” (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 10/19/2002) However, at about 8:24 a.m., controllers heard two radio transmissions from it, with the voice of a hijacker declaring, “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). Pete Zalewski, who is handling Flight 11, says that after the second of these: “I immediately knew something was very wrong. And I knew it was a hijack.” He alerts his supervisor. Lino Martins, another Boston air traffic controller, says, “the supervisor came over, and that’s when we realized something was serious.” (Clayton 9/13/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, two senior FAA officials—Bill Peacock and David Canoles—later say that the hijacker transmissions were not attributed to a flight, so controllers didn’t know their origin. (Murray 9/11/2002) An early FAA report will similarly refer to them as having come “from an unknown origin.” But right away, the center begins notifying the chain of command that a suspected hijacking is taking place (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) However, some reports claim that controllers decided Flight 11 was probably hijacked earlier than this, by about 8:20 a.m. (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

At 8:26, Flight 11, which is already way off course, makes an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south over Albany, New York. A minute later, it turns right, to the south-southwest. Then, two minutes on, at 8:29, it turns left to the south-southeast. Boston air traffic controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude as the transponder is turned off. Its last known altitude was 29,000 feet. (Clayton 9/13/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; MSNBC 9/11/2002) Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11’s radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Boston air traffic controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” (Ross and Rackmill 9/6/2002) However, apparently, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS has to repeatedly phone the FAA, airlines, and others, for clues as to the plane’s location. NEADS will eventually focus on a radar blip they believe might be Flight 11, and watch it close in on New York. (Seely 1/25/2002; Scott 6/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002)

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here). [Source: CNN]The FAA’s Boston Center calls the FAA Command Center and says it believes Flight 11 has been hijacked and is heading toward the New York Center’s airspace. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland air traffic control centers, so Boston can help the other centers understand what is happening, in case Flight 11 should enter their airspace. Minutes later, in line with the standard hijacking protocol, the Command Center will pass on word of the suspected hijacking to the FAA’s Washington headquarters (see 8:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11; Spencer 2008, pp. 21)
National Operations Manager Learns of Hijacking - A supervisor at the Command Center promptly passes on the news of the possible hijacking to Ben Sliney, who is on his first day as the national operations manager there. The supervisor says the plane in question is “American Flight 11—a 767 out of Boston for Los Angeles.” According to author Lynn Spencer, “Sliney flashes back to the routine for dealing with hijackings from the days when they were more common.” The procedure is to “[k]eep other aircraft away from the errant plane. Give the pilots what they need. The plane will land somewhere, passengers will be traded for fuel, and difficult negotiations with authorities will begin. The incident should resolve itself peacefully, although the ones in the Middle East, he recalls, often had a more violent outcome.” Apparently not expecting anything worse to happen, Sliney continues to the conference room for the daily 8:30 staff meeting there (see 8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Command Center a 'Communications Powerhouse' - The FAA Command Center is located in Herndon, Virginia, 25 miles from Washington, DC. According to Spencer, it “is a communications powerhouse, modeled after NASA’s Mission Control. The operations floor is 50 feet wide and 120 feet long, packed with tiered rows of computer stations, and at the front, seven enormous display screens show flight trajectories and weather patterns.” The center has nearly 50 specialists working around the clock, planning and monitoring the flow of air traffic over the United States. These specialists work with airlines and air traffic control facilities to fix congestion problems and deal with weather systems. (Spencer 2008, pp. 1 and 19-20)

James Sayer.James Sayer. [Source: Boston Globe]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston for the second time, and describes the trouble on her plane to an employee there. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sweeney called the flight services office at 8:25 a.m. and told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on Flight 11, but the call was cut off after less than two minutes (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sweeney now calls the flight services office again. Nunez is busy making a phone call, so Sweeney’s call is answered by James Sayer, a staff assistant.
Sweeney Describes Stabbings on Flight 11 - Sayer takes notes while he is talking to Sweeney. He will later describe to the FBI what she tells him. Sweeney apparently does not give her name during the call. Sayer will recall that “[o]n the telephone was [a] female flight attendant on… Flight 11, calling from the air, who stated that two flight attendants were stabbed and a man in business class had been stabbed in the throat.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) Sweeney would be referring to flight attendants Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin, and passenger Daniel Lewin (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), who were attacked by the hijackers. (ABC News 7/18/2002; Guttman 7/22/2004) Sweeney says that a “doctor and nurse on board the plane [are] caring for the injured man,” Sayer will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) Michael Woodward, a manager in the flight services office who talks with Sweeney in a subsequent call (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will also tell the FBI that Sweeney says a doctor and nurse are caring for a passenger who has been stabbed. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6) However, Betty Ong, another flight attendant on Flight 11, is currently talking over the phone to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), and she will say there are no doctors on the plane (see 8:36 a.m.-8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004 pdf file)
Hijackers Have a Bomb and Are in the Cockpit - Sweeney tells Sayer that the individuals who took over her plane “had Mace and pepper spray,” and she can “detect an odor in the cabin.” She says that “two people had gone in the cockpit and they said they had a bomb.” Apparently describing the bomb, Sweeney says she “observed two boxes connected with red and yellow wire.”
Sweeney Gives Incorrect Information about Plane's Location and Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Sweeney says Flight 11 is currently in the air over New York City, Sayer will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) However, Flight 11 recently turned south over Albany, which is about 150 miles north of New York (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so is still a long way from the city. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) Sweeney also indicates that she thinks there are only three hijackers on Flight 11, telling Sayer that the hijackers were in seats 9C, 9G, and 10B. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) However, apart from seat 10B, these seat numbers are different to those registered in the hijackers’ names. The five hijackers on Flight 11 had been in seats 2A, 2B, 8D, 8G, and 10B, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (BBC 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 2)
Call Is Disconnected, but Sweeney Phones Again - Sweeney’s call is cut off after 43 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sayer will answer the phone when Sweeney contacts the flight services office again at 8:32 a.m., but he will pass the call on to Woodward. It is unclear whether all the information that Sayer describes to the FBI, about the problems on Flight 11, is given to him by Sweeney in the current call, or if she provides some of it to him in the 8:32 a.m. call. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11)

A number of pilots with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts are preparing to take off for a training mission and see two of their unit’s fighter jets being scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but they are not asked to respond to the emerging crisis themselves and continue with their preparations for the training mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Richard 2010, pp. 9-12)
Pilots Preparing for Training over the Atlantic - The pilots are preparing to fly a defensive counter-air mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105.” (Richard 2010, pp. 10, 12; Roughton 9/3/2011) According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15 fighters will be participating in the training mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s take part in the mission. Richard will recall that after the coordination briefing for the training mission, he goes to the “life support shop” and puts on his flying gear, and then goes to the operations desk. There, the unit’s supervisor of flying, Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, briefs the pilots preparing for the training mission on current weather and airfield updates, and gives them the status of a KC-135 tanker plane that will be refueling their fighters during the training mission. Richard then heads to his F-15, inspects it, and speaks to his crew chief.
Pilots Notice Commotion as Fighters Are Scrambled - As Richard starts his fighter’s engines, he notices a commotion on one side of the flight line ramp. He will recall: “The broken, disjointed communication over the ultra high frequency (UHF) radio indicated confusion. Members of the 102nd Security Forces Squadron, the cops, marshaled into protective positions. Two vehicles appeared with their blue emergency lights flashing. We all knew what was going on.” The 102nd Fighter Wing keeps a pair of F-15s on alert—armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes of a scramble order—and, Richard will recall, “[T]he alert aircraft were being scrambled.” (Richard 2010, pp. 10-11)
Pilots Watch Alert Fighters Take Off, but Unconcerned about This - The pilots preparing to take off for the training mission idle their engines and wait while the two alert fighters take off (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Richard will describe: “I watched from my jet as the clamshell doors on the alert hangars opened, heard the alert jets’ engines whine to life, and saw them aggressively emerge from the facility like an eager predator in search of its prey. Suddenly, the command post announced, ‘Scramble!’ They blasted off, shattering the previously still, calm, peaceful morning.” (Richard 2010, pp. 12) The pilots involved in the training mission are apparently unaware of why these fighters are being scrambled. (Lehmert 9/11/2006) Richard will recall: “I wasn’t too concerned when I saw the scrambled aircraft take off. We see many scrambles during the year and most all are just aircraft or vessels that can’t be identified but are friendly.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001)
Pilots Continue Preparing for Training - Once the two alert fighters are airborne, the pilots on the ground continue preparing for their training mission. “Back on the flight line,” Richard will recall, “I arranged my formation for takeoff and followed the standard procedures en route to our training area southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.” (Richard 2010, pp. 12) Richard and the other pilots will begin their training mission in Whiskey 105 (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They will only learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center and be recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and some of them will take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will only be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246)
Unit's Mission Is to Protect Northeast US - The 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air Base, according to its own statement, has aircraft and their crews “on continuous 24-hour, 365-day alert to guard our skies.” The unit says its “mission is to protect the Northeast United States from armed attack from another nation, terrorist attack, and activities such as smuggling, illicit drug activity, and illegal immigration.” Its large area of responsibility includes “the major industrial centers of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and all national command centers in Washington, DC.” (Kinsella 9/12/2001) The 102nd Fighter Wing is equipped with 18 F-15 Eagles, including the two that are kept on alert. (Johnson 9/15/2001; Dennehy 9/21/2001)

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy.Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy. [Source: CBC]After being informed of the possible hijacking of Flight 11, an air traffic controller in the control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base calls the base’s operations desk to let it know that it might be receiving a call from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, has just called the control tower at Otis Air Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, alerting it to the problems with Flight 11 and requesting military assistance. The controller who took the call told Bueno he needed to call NEADS in order to get fighter jets launched (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)
Tower Controller Calls Operations Desk - According to author Lynn Spencer, the tower controller subsequently “figures a call [to Otis Air Base] will be coming from NEADS soon and a scramble order is likely. He knows the fighter pilots will appreciate the heads-up.” He therefore calls the Otis Air Base operations desk. According to Spencer, the phone is answered by Master Sergeant Mark Rose, who is the superintendent of aviation management, in charge of flight records and currency for the pilots of the 102nd Fighter Wing. (Spencer 2008, pp. 27) But according to the 102nd Fighter Wing’s own history of the 9/11 attacks, the call is answered by a Technical Sergeant “Margie Woody.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001)
Controller Confuses Superintendent - Rose (or Woody, if the wing’s account is correct) is initially confused by the call. The tower controller does not identify himself or say where he is calling from, but instead begins by asking, “What do you have available?” As Spencer will describe, “For all [Rose] knows, this could be a wrong number or a crank call,” so rather than giving information about the base, Rose responds, “What are you talking about?” The controller then identifies himself and explains that he has just received a report about a hijacking. Rose realizes he needs to pass the call on to someone more appropriate.
Pilot Informed of Hijacking - Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, who is the director of operations for the 102nd Fighter Wing, is standing next to Rose by the operations desk. Rose tells him, “Duff, you got a phone call,” and then says the caller is “Otis tower—something about an apparent hijacking under way: American 11, a 767, out of Boston and headed for California.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Duffy will later recall his response to this news: “As soon as we heard there was something about a hijacking we got moving.” (Filson 2003, pp. 50) On his handheld radio he calls Major Daniel Nash, who along with Duffy is an “alert” pilot on duty at this time, and instructs him to suit up ready for any scramble call. (Spencer 2008, pp. 28) The two pilots will run to the nearby locker room, put on their G-suits and helmets, and then head out toward their jets (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Viser 9/11/2005) Meanwhile, a commander at Otis will phone NEADS to report the FAA’s request for military assistance (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Call Is Not 'the First Notification Received by the Military' - The exact time the tower controller calls the operations desk at is unclear. Duffy will later guess that the call occurs “at about 8:30, 8:35.” (Duffy 10/22/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 50) But 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) According to the102nd Fighter Wing’s history of the 9/11 attacks, the call to the operations desk is made at 8:38 a.m. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Bueno also called the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), which is located on Otis Air Base, at 8:34 a.m., to request that fighters be launched from Otis (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and in response, the TRACON contacts the Otis tower and operations desk (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)

FAA headquarters in Washington, DC.FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. [Source: FAA]Four minutes after it is informed of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, passes on word of the hijacking to the operations center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. The headquarters is apparently already aware of the hijacking, as the duty officer who speaks with the Command Center responds that security personnel at the headquarters have just been discussing it on a conference call with the FAA’s New England regional office. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) According to the 9/11 Commission, “FAA headquarters is ultimately responsible for the management of the national airspace system,” and the operations center there “receives notifications of incidents, including accidents and hijackings.” FAA headquarters has a hijack coordinator, who is “the director of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security or his or her designate.” Procedures require that, if a hijacking is confirmed, the hijack coordinator on duty is “to contact the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) and to ask for a military escort aircraft to follow the flight, report anything unusual, and aid search and rescue in the event of an emergency.” Yet, the Commission will state, although “FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack protocol,” it does “not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16-19) Mike Canavan, who would normally be the FAA’s hijack coordinator, is away in Puerto Rico this morning, and it is unclear who—if anyone—is standing in for him in this critical role (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)

Cape TRACON.Cape TRACON. [Source: FAA]Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), located on Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to alert it to the possible hijacking of Flight 11 and request that it arrange for military assistance in response. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)
Bueno Requests Fighters - After his call is initially answered by an air traffic controller at the Cape TRACON, Bueno is quickly passed on to Tim Spence, an operational supervisor at the facility. Bueno says, “I have a situation with American 11, a possible hijack.” He adds that Flight 11 “departed Boston, going to LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]. Right now he’s south of Albany.” He says, “I’d like to scramble some fighters to go tail him.” Spence replies that he will contact Otis Air Base about the situation, and tells Bueno, “I’ll talk to these guys over here and see what we can do.” Bueno then adds that Flight 11 is currently airborne, is about 40 miles south of Albany, and is visible only on primary radar. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file) Bueno also calls the air traffic control tower at Otis Air Base around this time, to alert it to Flight 11 and request military assistance (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22) Whether he makes that call before or after he calls the Cape TRACON is unstated. Immediately after receiving the call from Bueno, Spence will call the Otis control tower to inform it of the situation, and he then calls the operations desk at Otis Air Base to let it know that it may be receiving orders (presumably from NEADS, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector) soon (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)
Bueno Supposedly Violating Protocol - Bueno will say he decided to call the Cape TRACON based on his memory of a previous aircraft hijacking. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, by trying to get military assistance through the TRACON, the “Boston Center did not follow the protocol in seeking military assistance through the prescribed chain of command.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Indeed, Bueno will tell the 9/11 Commission that he knows his call should instead be to NEADS, “but due to the urgency of the circumstance [he] called directly to the FAA contact point for Otis.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) And Spence will tell the Commission that arranging for fighters to be scrambled in response to a hijacking “is not the typical responsibility of an operations supervisor with the FAA,” like himself. He will also say that it is “unusual for the [air traffic control] centers to contact TRACON for information. Normally the FAA receives the call from the military for a scramble, but this time it went the other way around, and then the official order came back down from the military.” (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)
Bueno Praised by Colleagues for Actions - However, according to the 9/11 Commission, “Bueno gets high marks” from the Boston Center personnel it interviews, “for instinctively calling FAA traffic approach personnel at the location where he knew the fighters to be—Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Even Colin Scoggins, the Boston Center’s military liaison, “who knew that the call had to go to NEADS, did not fault Bueno for trying to call the Air Force wing directly through other FAA personnel.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file)

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, claims he makes his first call to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) regarding Flight 11. He later recalls that he informs NEADS that the aircraft is “20 [miles] south of Albany, heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots.” (Griffin 2007, pp. 43) Flight 11 was over Albany at 8:26 (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) At such a high speed, it would have reached 20 miles south of there around 8:28. However, Scoggins says he is quite certain he only arrives on the floor at Boston Center at around 8:35. He says that although he’d later tried to write up a chronology of events, he “couldn’t get a timeline that made any sense.” Furthermore, Scoggins claims that even before he’d arrived, Joseph Cooper, a Boston Center air traffic management specialist, had already phoned NEADS about the hijacking. (Griffin 2007, pp. 43 and 335) The 9/11 Commission makes no mention of either call. It says “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when 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) However, a report by ABC News is more consistent with Scoggins’ claims, indicating that Boston Center contacts NEADS about the hijacking earlier, at around 8:31. (ABC News 9/11/2002) (Boston Center also contacts the FAA’s Cape Cod facility at 8:34 and requests that it notify the military about Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Apparently around the same time, it tries contacting a military unit at Atlantic City (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Scoggins says he makes “about 40 phone calls to NEADS” in total on this day. (Griffin 2007, pp. 43) NEADS Commander Robert Marr later comments that Scoggins “deserves a lot of credit because he was about the only one that was feeding us information. I don’t know exactly where he got it. But he was feeding us information as much as he could.” (Michael Bronner 2006)

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)

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. (Bronner 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.” (Seely 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; Adcock 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; Bronner 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)

Following a call from the FAA’s Boston Center to the the FAA’s Cape Cod facility reporting the possible hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and a subsequent call from the Cape Cod facility to Otis Air National Guard Base (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001), Lt. Col. Jon Treacy, commander of the 101st Fighter Squadron at Otis, phones NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to report the FAA’s request for help and get authorization to launch fighters. By now though, the FAA has already gotten through to NEADS itself, and reported the hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 50)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), learns of the possible hijacking of Flight 11 after leaving a video teleconference, but initially thinks the reported hijacking is part of a NORAD training exercise. (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002) Arnold, who is at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, has been in the video teleconferencing room, participating in a teleconference with other senior NORAD officials (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), recently tried phoning Arnold to get authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but no one at CONR interrupted the teleconference to fetch Arnold, and so Marr left an urgent message for the CONR commander (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 31)
Note Informs Arnold of Hijacking - Arnold is now in the video teleconferencing room with Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force, discussing the just-concluded teleconference, when his executive officer, Kelley Duckett, hands him a note with Marr’s message on it. The note says the FAA’s Boston Center is reporting a hijacking and requesting assistance with it, and asks that Arnold phone Marr back immediately. (Filson 2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Arnold Thinks Hijacking Is 'Part of the Exercise' - NORAD is currently in the middle of a major training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 545) Arnold will later say that, as a result, when he learns of the possible hijacking: “The first thing that went through my mind was: ‘Is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?’” (ABC News 9/11/2002) According to author Lynn Spencer, “Even as NORAD’s commander for the continental United States, Arnold is not privy to everything concerning the exercise.” The exercise “is meant to test commanders also, to make sure that their war machine is operating as it should.”
Arnold Told Hijacking Is 'Real-World' - Since a simulated hijacking is scheduled as part of the day’s exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Arnold asks Duckett, “Is this part of the exercise?” Duckett replies that the hijacking is real-world. (Spencer 2008, pp. 38) Arnold will say that “understanding this is real-world is obviously important, so I rushed downstairs to our battle staff position.” (Filson 2002) It occurs to Arnold that it has been many years since NORAD handled a hijacking (see February 11, 1993). He is relieved that, “because we were in the middle of an exercise,” he recently reviewed the protocol for what to do in response to a hijacking, and so “we were pretty well familiar with those procedures.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Spencer 2008, pp. 38) Arnold will promptly phone Marr and instruct him to go ahead and scramble fighters in response to the hijacking (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39)

Victor Saracini.Victor Saracini. [Source: Family photo]Just after Flight 175 enters the airspace of the FAA’s New York Center (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), its pilot reports to the air traffic controller now managing the flight a suspicious transmission he had heard on departing Boston’s Logan Airport. The pilot, Captain Victor Saracini, tells the controller, Dave Bottiglia: “We figured we’d wait to go to your center. Ah, we heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston, ah, with someone, ah, it sounded like someone keyed the mikes and said, ah, ‘Everyone, ah, stay in your seats.’” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21; Spencer 2008, pp. 36) Saracini is presumably referring to one of the three radio transmissions from Flight 11, where the voice of a hijacker could be heard (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, none of these had included the hijacker telling people to stay in their seats, as Saracini describes, although the second and third transmissions included the hijacker telling the passengers, “Nobody move.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Bottiglia responds: “Oh, okay. I’ll pass that along.” Referring to the fact that this was the end of the transmission he heard, Saracini adds, “It cut out,” and then asks Bottiglia, “Did you copy that?” (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37) This is the last radio transmission from Flight 175. The 9/11 Commission will conclude that the plane is hijacked within the next four minutes (see (Between 8:42 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20) According to author Lynn Spencer, since controllers are only given information on a need-to-know basis, Bottiglia was unaware there were problems with Flight 11, which has not yet entered his airspace. He touches his computer screen to connect to the hotline for his sector controller, and then reports: “UAL 175 just came on my frequency and he said he heard a suspicious transmission when they were leaving Boston. ‘Everybody stay in your seats’—that’s what he heard… just to let you know.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37)

Major General Larry Arnold.Major General Larry Arnold. [Source: US Air Force]Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), calls Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), who is seeking authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, and instructs him to “go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get authorities later.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) After learning that the FAA wants NORAD assistance with a possible hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Marr tried calling Arnold at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, for permission to scramble fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold was in a teleconference (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so Marr left a message requesting that Arnold call him back. (Scott 6/3/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 55-56; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) With the teleconference now over, Arnold calls Marr on a secure phone line and is informed of the ongoing situation. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Marr Reports Hijacking, Wants to Scramble Fighters - Marr says the FAA’s Boston Center is “reporting a possible hijacked aircraft, real-world, somewhere north of JFK Airport.” He says, “I’ve got Otis [fighters] going battle stations [i.e. with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off] and I’d like to scramble them to military airspace while we try to get approval for an intercept.” Arnold had wondered if the reported hijacking was a simulation, as part of a NORAD training exercise taking place on this day (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and therefore asks, “Confirm this is real-world?” Marr confirms that the hijacking is “real-world.”
Marr Lacks Details of Hijacked Flight - Arnold asks where the hijacked aircraft is and Marr replies: “We don’t have a good location. The FAA says they don’t have it on their scopes, but had it west of Boston and thought it was now heading to New York.” Arnold then asks, “Do we have any other information, type, tail, number of souls on board?” to which Marr replies, “I don’t have all the particulars yet, but we’ll pass them on as we get them.”
Arnold Tells Marr to Scramble Fighters - According to author Lynn Spencer, in response to Marr’s request to scramble the Otis fighters, “Arnold’s instincts tell him to act first and seek authorizations later.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) He therefore says, “Go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get authorities later.” (Filson 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Marr tells Arnold he will “scramble Otis to military airspace” while they try to figure out what is going on. (Grant 2004, pp. 20) Arnold will later recall that it is his and Marr’s intention to place the fighters in “Whiskey 105”—military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island—“since neither he nor Marr knew where the hijacked aircraft was.” (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Arnold ends by saying, “Let me know when the jets get airborne,” and adds that he will “run this up the chain” of command. Marr will then direct the NEADS mission crew commander to issue the scramble order (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Meanwhile, Arnold will call the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, about the hijacking, and officers there tell him they will contact the Pentagon to get the necessary clearances for the scramble (see (8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 56; Spencer 2008, pp. 39)

An emergency locator transmitter (ELT).An emergency locator transmitter (ELT). [Source: ELTA]A special radio transmitter that is carried by aircraft and designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the New York area, more than two minutes before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center. (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009)
Pilots Inform Controller of Emergency Signal - At 8:44 a.m. and 5 seconds, David Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, receives information from one of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of US Airways Flight 583 tells him: “I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5. It was brief, but it went off.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) (121.5 megahertz is an emergency frequency that ELTs transmit their distress signals on. (Aircraft Electronics Association 2009, pp. 36 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) ) A minute later, at 8:45 a.m. and 8 seconds, Bottiglia hears the same thing from another of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of Delta Airlines Flight 2433 tells him, “We picked up that ELT too, but it’s very faint.” (New York Times 10/16/2001) However, Flight 11 has not yet crashed, and will hit the WTC over 90 seconds later, at 8:46 a.m. and 40 seconds (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)
ELTs Help Locate Crashed Aircraft - An emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, is a small electronic device, which is designed to automatically begin emitting a continuous and distinctive radio signal when subjected to crash-generated forces, so as to facilitate the locating of an aircraft if it crashes. ELTs are carried aboard most general aviation aircraft in the US and are usually located far back in the plane’s fuselage or in the tail surface, so that they will suffer only minimal damage in the event of a crash impact. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; US Department of the Army 8/12/2008, pp. E-6 pdf file; Aircraft Electronics Association 2009, pp. 36 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009)
Location Signal Comes from Unclear - The precise location from where the ELT signal is being transmitted is unclear. Around the time Flight 11 crashes, a participant in an FAA teleconference will say the signal was coming from the area Flight 11’s track was in before it disappeared from primary radar, about 20 miles from New York’s JFK International Airport. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Peter McCloskey, a traffic management coordinator at the New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT goes off “in the vicinity of Lower Manhattan.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file)
Many Signals Are False Alarms - ELT signals not determined to be false alarms are reported to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) Major Allan Knox, who works at the AFRCC, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not recall being informed of any ELT signals on September 11, but says the AFRCC will review its data to verify this statement. He will also say that at least 20 ELT signals go off each day, and that 97 percent of ELT signals are false alarms. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file)
ELT Signal Is 'Clearly Indicative of a Crash' - However, Paul Thumser, an operations supervisor at the FAA’s New York Center with 20 years’ experience as an air traffic controller, and who is also an experienced airline pilot, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT in a Boeing 767 cannot be triggered by the pilot. (The two aircraft that hit the WTC are 767s.) He will also say that the sensitivity setting for the ELT in a 767 is not low, and so it should be impossible for a hard turn or a hard landing to accidentally cause the ELT to go off. Thumser will say that “he judged it would have to be a serious impact to set the ELT off.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will similarly tell the 9/11 Commission that an ELT signal “is clearly indicative of a crash.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003)
FAA Manager Believes Signal Unrelated to Flight 11 Crash - Noting that the ELT goes off prior to Flight 11 hitting the WTC, Mike McCormick, the manager of the FAA’s New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “best hypothesis” is that the activation of an ELT at this time is “unrelated to the event” of Flight 11 crashing. (9/11 Commission 12/15/2003 pdf file) However, there are no reports of an ELT going off at the time when Flight 11 hits the WTC. Furthermore, another ELT will be activated in the New York area around five minutes before the second plane hits the WTC (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001, pp. 37 pdf file) Despite the pilots’ reports of picking up an ELT signal just before Flight 11 crashes, the AFRCC will inform the 9/11 Commission that a “historical ELT data search” found “no ELT signal being heard by the satellites” for the area within a radius of 50 nautical miles (about 57.5 miles) of JFK International Airport between 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on this day. (9/11 Commission 2003)

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. (Bronner 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.” (Bronner 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)

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). (Graham 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). (Bronner 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. (Dennehy 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)

In the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, personnel apparently become aware of the first attack on the World Trade Center from watching the reports on television. According to Steve Hahn, an operations officer there, “We monitor the television networks in the center, and along with the rest of America we saw the smoke pouring from the tower.” Dan Mangino, who is also an operations officer at the NMCC, says, “At first, we thought it was a terrible accident.” (Garamone 9/7/2006) The 9/11 Commission later says, “Most federal agencies learned about the crash in New York from CNN.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35) Whether the NMCC was already aware that a hijacking was underway is unclear. According to military instructions, the NMCC is “the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings in US airspace, and is supposed to be “notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA.” (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file) Boston Air Traffic Control Center started notifying the chain of command of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 more than 20 minutes earlier (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). And at 8:32, the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon informed FAA headquarters of the possible hijacking (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, although the “FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack protocol,” it “did not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.” Supposedly, the first that the military learned of the hijacking was when Boston Air Traffic Control Center contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about it, at around 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The earliest time mentioned by the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC learns of the Flight 11 hijacking is 9 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19-20 and 35)

The National Military Joint Intelligence Center.The National Military Joint Intelligence Center. [Source: Joseph M. Juarez / Defense Intelligence Agency]Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the National Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) at the Pentagon regarding the hijacking of Flight 11, but the center is unable to provide him with any more information than he already has. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Stuart now calls the Air Force desk at the NMJIC about it. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) The NMJIC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, constantly monitors worldwide developments for any looming crises that might require US involvement. (Blazar 9/25/1997; Joint Chiefs of Staff 2/6/2006) It “forms the heart of timely intelligence support to national-level contingency operations,” according to James Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And during a crisis, it “serves as a clearinghouse for all requests for national-level intelligence information.” (Clapper 3/1994 pdf file) However, Stuart will later recall that the NMJIC can provide him with “no additional relevant information” on the hijacking. Stuart then calls Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. But, Stuart will say, the 1st Air Force also has “no further information” about the hijacking. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file)

An intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) checks the SIPRNET—the Department of Defense’s classified version of the Internet—for information relating to the hijacking of Flight 11, but finds none. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Since then, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, has contacted various facilities, in search of further information about it. He called the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, and 1st Air Force headquarters in Florida (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but none of them had any additional information on the crisis. Stuart now informs Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, of his efforts. He also directs a “Major Edick”—another intelligence officer at NEADS—to search the SIPRNET for information on the hijacking. However, Stuart will later say, Edick is unable to find any such information on the SIPRNET “that morning or afternoon.” (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file)

Technicians on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) receive what is apparently their first notification that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, in a phone call from the FAA’s Boston Center. (Bronner 8/1/2006) NEADS ID technicians are currently trying to locate Flight 11, when they are called by Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center. ID tech Stacia Rountree answers the call. In response to Scoggins’s information, Rountree says to her colleagues, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” She asks Scoggins, “Was it American 11?” He tells her this is not confirmed. (Spencer 2008, pp. 50) Another of the ID techs, Shelley Watson, starts murmuring in response to the news: “Oh my God. Oh God. Oh my God.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) A computer maintenance technician then runs onto the operations floor and announces that CNN is broadcasting that a 737 has hit the WTC. (Spencer 2008, pp. 51)
NEADS Calls New York Center - Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, the leader of the ID techs, tells Watson: “Update New York! See if they lost altitude on that plane altogether.” Watson immediately calls the FAA’s New York Center and asks, “Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?” When the person who answers her call says no, Watson explains, “Being hit by an aircraft.” The person at New York Center says, “You’re kidding,” but Watson adds, “It’s on the world news.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) One of the NEADS technicians is finally able to display the live CNN coverage on one of the 15-foot screens at the front of the room. People stare in silence at the footage of the burning North Tower. (Spencer 2008, pp. 51)

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. (Graham 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). (Bronner 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.” (Bronner 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)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center directs the two fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 toward a new heading, based on instructions he has just received from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS).
NEADS Gave New Heading for Fighters - The Boston Center controller, who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, has just been contacted by someone from NEADS. The caller from NEADS, referring to the two fighters from Otis Air Base, said, “The heading that we gave him on, I guess, is a bad heading.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (The original flight strip for the fighters gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) ) The caller said the fighters’ target was “now south of JFK,” and added, “Can you direct the Panta flight [i.e. the two Otis fighters] towards that now?” The controller replied: “If I’m talking to him, I don’t know where that target [is]. I don’t even see the target at all.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The “target,” Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) However, the caller explained that NEADS had just talked to Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center, and Scoggins said the target was “south of JFK now.” The caller therefore reiterated, “We want to get [the Otis fighters] headed in that direction.” The controller confirmed, “I’ll do that.”
Controller Passes on New Heading to Pilot - Seconds later, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots of the two fighters out of Otis Air Base, checks in with the Boston Center controller. Duffy says, “Boston Center, Panta 45 with you out of 13-5 for 290.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (“Panta 45” is Duffy’s call sign. (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) ) The controller tells Duffy, “Panta 45, roger, fly heading of 260.” Duffy confirms the new heading. The controller then instructs, “Maintain block 290.” Duffy confirms, “Six zero on the heading, climbing to flight level [of] 290.” The controller will then tell Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed into the WTC (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

One of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 is told by air traffic control that Flight 11 has crashed into the World Trade Center, and yet both pilots will later claim they are unaware of this crash until after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the WTC. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Dennehy 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy and Major Daniel Nash took off in their F-15s from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)
Controller Tells Pilot that Flight 11 Crashed into WTC - Duffy has just checked in with the air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, and the controller has given him a new heading to fly toward (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). The controller now asks Duffy, “I understand you’re going out to look for American 11, is that correct?” Duffy replies, “Affirmative.” The controller then tells Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed. He says, “Okay, I just got information that the aircraft has been, uh, crashed into the World Trade Center, so I’m not quite sure what your intentions are, if you’re still going to head that way or you may want to talk to your operations.” Duffy responds, “Okay, we’re going to go over and talk to Huntress right now.” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, NEADS.) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Although Duffy contacts NEADS (see (8:56 a.m.-8:57 a.m.) September 11, 2001), it is unclear whether he talks about the crash, as he indicates he is going to, since, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis [Air National Guard Base] scramble” (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) It is also unclear whether Duffy passes on the information about Flight 11 hitting the WTC to Nash. But in later interviews, both pilots will claim they were unaware of Flight 11 hitting the WTC until they were informed that a second aircraft had hit the WTC, shortly after that second crash occurred (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)
Pilots Deny Learning of First Crash - The Cape Cod Times will report that Nash “doesn’t even recall hearing that the first plane hit.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002) Nash will tell author Leslie Filson that when he and Duffy are informed of the second plane hitting the WTC, they are “still under [the] impression [that] American 11 was still airborne” and are “shocked, because we didn’t know the first one had even hit.” (Nash 10/2/2002) And Nash will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember at which point during the morning of 9/11 he heard of the first crash at the WTC.” He will say he does “remember that the FAA controller he communicated with during flight told him of the second crash,” but add that “this was strange to hear at the time, since he had not been told of the first.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Duffy will tell ABC News that when he is informed of the second crash, “I thought we were still chasing American 11.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) He will tell Filson that when he learns of this second crash, “I didn’t know [the] first one hit” the WTC. (Duffy 10/22/2002) And he will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he “received word that a second aircraft had hit the WTC,” he “still thought they were responding to a hijacked American [Airlines] airliner.” (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file)

Paul Worcester.Paul Worcester. [Source: Paul Blackmore / Cape Cod Times]Senior commanders at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, become aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center from television coverage, and one commander then orders the base’s battle staff to assemble. The commanders have just been in the first of the base’s regular Tuesday morning meetings, which ended at 8:55 a.m. They are taking a short break before the next meeting, which is scheduled for 9:00 a.m., and are apparently unaware that a plane has crashed into the WTC.
Wing Commander Sees Burning WTC on Television - One of those in the meeting was Lieutenant Colonel Paul Worcester, the logistics group commander of the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis. As Worcester walks past the break room he notices that everyone inside it is fixated on the television. He goes in to find what they are watching and gets his first sight of the coverage of the burning North Tower. Worcester finds it odd that a plane could have hit the WTC, and thinks to himself: “On such a clear day, planes don’t just go astray. That just doesn’t happen.” Although he is aware that the base’s two F-15s that are kept on alert have been scrambled in response to a suspected hijacking (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), he does not connect this with what he is seeing on television.
Commanders See Second Attack - Worcester is joined in the break room by more of the senior commanders. They watch as the live television coverage shows Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and all of them then realize that America is under attack. One commander immediately shouts out, “We need to go to battle staff!” The senior commanders disperse and head toward the adjacent operations building, where they will reconvene in the battle cab of the installation operations center (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). A voice sounds out over the base’s loudspeakers: “The commander has ordered the 102nd core battle staff to assemble. Please report to the operations building immediately.”
Unit Mobilizes for War - Subsequently, as author Lynn Spencer will describe: “Under the leadership of the [102nd Fighter] Wing commander, the various subordinate group commanders cross-brief on scramble activity, training flight issues, available munitions, personnel available to begin uploading more fighters to combat-ready status, security force increases, and more. In short, they begin to mobilize the wing for war, keeping NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector] in the loop on their preparations.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 87-88, 153-154)
Base Learned of First Hijacking 20 Minutes Earlier - The 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which is based at Otis Air Base, is responsible for protecting the Northeast United States, including New York, Washington, and Boston. Its mission includes defending the region against terrorist attacks. (Kinsella and Dennehy 9/12/2001; Kinsella 9/12/2001) On a typical day, it has about a dozen pilots on duty. (Dennehy 9/15/2001) It is equipped with 18 F-15 fighter jets, two of which are kept on 24-hour alert, ready to be in the air within five minutes of being called upon. (Johnson 9/15/2001; Dennehy 9/21/2001) These were the two jets that launched at 8:46 a.m. in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) The base was notified about this first hijacking shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Why the senior commanders did not initiate their crisis response at that time is unclear.

A special radio transmitter that is carried by aircraft and designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the New York area, several minutes before Flight 175 hits the World Trade Center. David Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, receives information from one of the aircraft he is monitoring. A few seconds before 8:59 a.m., the pilot of US Airways Flight 583 tells him, “I hate to keep burdening you with this stuff, but now we’re picking up another ELT on 21.5.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001, pp. 37 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically begin transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue attempts at locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; US Department of the Army 8/12/2008, pp. E-6 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) “21.5” refers to the emergency frequency of 121.5 megahertz that ELTs transmit their distress signals on. (Aircraft Electronics Association 2009, pp. 36 pdf file) While the pilot’s information would mean an ELT is activated at around 8:58 a.m., Flight 175 will crash into the WTC several minutes later, at 9:03 a.m. and 11 seconds (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) And yet there are no reports of an ELT going off at the time of the crash itself. The pilot of Flight 583 earlier on informed Bottiglia of another ELT signal, which had been transmitted shortly before Flight 11 hit the WTC (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file)

Martin Richard.Martin Richard. [Source: Kevin Mingora]Several F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts fly out over the Atlantic Ocean for a scheduled training mission, but the pilots are unaware of the hijackings taking place and the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Roughton 9/3/2011) Their mission is an “ordinary training session,” according to the Cape Cod Times. (Lehmert 9/11/2006) Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will describe it as a “normal training mission.” (Richard 2010, pp. 9) It is being carried out in “Whiskey 105,” an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Roughton 9/3/2011) According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are taking part. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) But Richard will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s are involved.
Training Mission Is a 'Mock War Scenario' - The “defensive counter-air” mission, according to Richard, is intended to have the fighters splitting into two teams: the “blue air”—the “good guys”—versus the “red air,” their adversaries. In a defensive counter-air mission, Richard will write, “the goal is [to] protect a point on the ground. Our training objective focused on ensuring flawless radar operations to be able to build an accurate picture of the threat’s formation, target the threat in the most effective manner, and ensure, through mutual support, that all blue air forces returned unscathed.” The “mock war scenario” that is played out is “an exciting sortie to do as a practice mission, and it took a great deal of organization to make happen,” according to Richard. (Richard 2010, pp. 10) A KC-135 tanker plane from the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, Maine, is scheduled to refuel the fighters during the mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 153; Ricker 9/9/2011)
Pilot Hears Unusual Radio Communications - The fighters take off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) They then fly out toward the Whiskey 105 training airspace. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Roughton 9/3/2011) Richard will recall that at this time, “[e]verything was exceedingly normal until we heard some unfamiliar radio communication between [the FAA’s] Boston Center and some civilian airliners.” He will say that this “got my attention, but more because it was out of the norm, not because it was especially noteworthy.”
Fighters Fly to Opposite Sides of Airspace - Richard commands the other fighter pilots to complete their pre-mission safety checks and then readies them “for the simulated war we had planned hours before.” After entering Whiskey 105, the fighters carry out a warm-up maneuver. Richard then sends the fighters simulating the “red air” to the west side of the training airspace, while the other fighters—the “blue air”—take up their position about 80 miles away, on the east side of the airspace. (Richard 2010, pp. 12-13) But then, shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, at around 9:25 a.m., the pilots will learn of the first crash at the WTC and be recalled to their base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Some of the fighters subsequently take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246; Richard 2010, pp. 13)
Fighters on Training Are Unarmed - The fighters involved in the training mission have no ordnance on them. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) According to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base, they are “in an exercise configuration” and therefore “at a ‘safe guns’ (non-firing) weapons posture.” Furthermore, the fighters “more than likely had only one fuel tank.” (F-15s can carry three fuel tanks.) If these fighters were to be used for “long air superiority/sovereignty missions,” Kelly will say, they would need “‘hot’ (live) guns, missiles, and extra gas tanks.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file)
Fighters Scrambled after Flight 11 Also Fly in Training Airspace - The pilots on the training mission saw the two of their unit’s F-15s that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off from Otis Air Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware of the reason for the scramble (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006) (One of the pilots of those F-15s, Daniel Nash, is reportedly standing in for the usual “alert” pilot, who is “scheduled for training” on this day, presumably taking part in the training mission in Whiskey 105. (Dennehy 8/21/2002) ) The two F-15s launched in response to Flight 11 were actually directed toward Whiskey 105 after taking off (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are in the training area from 9:09 a.m. to 9:13 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)

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. (Wald 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)

The minute Flight 175 hits the South Tower, fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash will recall, clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD will say he is 71 miles away from there. (Dennehy 8/21/2002) The other Otis pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We’re 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) for an update, and, as Duffy will recall: “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) In another account Duffy will relate: “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” (BBC 9/1/2002) He asks NEADS for clarification of their mission, but the request is met with “considerable confusion.” (Scott 6/3/2002) Bob Varcadipane, a Newark, New Jersey, air traffic controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, will claim: “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) However, the 9/11 Commission appears to believe that the pilots never get near New York City at this time. According to the Commission’s account, lacking a clear target, the Otis fighters took off toward military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island. A map released by the Commission indicates that at 9:03 they are about 100 miles away and heading southwest instead of west to New York City. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor reveal Major Kevin Nasypany telling Colonel Robert Marr, “Fighters are south of—just south of Long Island.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) The 9/11 Commission says that, at 9:10 a.m., the FAA’s Boston Center tells the Otis fighters about the second WTC tower being struck. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459)

Two officers in the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC)—a small office at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, manned by military reservists—contact the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, to ask about military assistance in response to the terrorist attacks. (US Air Force 9/11/2001; Scott 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 4/14/2004)
Military Leaders 'in a Meeting to Determine Their Response' - Apparently shortly after the south World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m., Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the Command Center, asks the ATSC for a military response to the ongoing events (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). Therefore, Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, one of the three officers on duty in the ATSC, calls the NMCC. However, according to a chronology of the ATSC’s actions on this day, Cherry is told that “senior leaders” at the NMCC are “in a meeting to determine their response” to the attacks, and will call back.
Second Officer Calls NMCC, Told Fighters Have Been Launched - Then, at around 9:08 a.m., Sliney talks to another of the officers on duty in the ATSC, Colonel John Czabaranek, and asks if fighter jets have been launched toward New York. (US Air Force 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/14/2004) Two F-15s have already taken off from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, toward the New York area (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but, according to the 9/11 Commission, “Lacking a target,” these fighters have been “vectored toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast” (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) In response to Sliney’s inquiry, Czabaranek calls the NMCC. The NMCC indicates that it is aware of the request for fighter support, and says aircraft have been scrambled from Otis Air Base. Czabaranek passes this information on to Sliney, telling him that fighters are en route.
ATSC's Secure Phones Initially Not Working - According to the chronology of the ATSC’s actions, the unit’s secure phones do not work for an incoming call from the NMCC that is apparently made shortly after 9:03 a.m. The ATSC’s keys for its secure phones are recalibrated, and the phones then “worked fine.” (US Air Force 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/14/2004)

Andrews Air Traffic Control Tower.Andrews Air Traffic Control Tower. [Source: FAA]The Secret Service tells FAA headquarters that it wants fighter jets launched over Washington, DC, and this message is then relayed to the air traffic control tower at Andrews Air Force Base, which is 10 miles from Washington. The District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews is notified, but no jets will take off from the base until 10:38 a.m. (9/11 Commission 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44, 465) The request for fighter jets is apparently made by Secret Service agent Nelson Garabito, who is responsible for coordinating the president’s movements, during a phone call with his counterpart at FAA headquarters in Washington, Terry Van Steenbergen. This call began shortly after the second tower was hit at 9:03 a.m. (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 3/30/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 464)
FAA Headquarters Calls Andrews Tower - According to the 9/11 Commission, “The FAA tower” at Andrews is then “contacted by personnel at FAA headquarters” who are “on an open line with senior agents from the president’s detail,” and is informed that the Secret Service wants fighters airborne. Karen Pontius at FAA headquarters tells Steve Marra, an air traffic controller at the Andrews control tower, “to launch F-16s to cap the airspace over Washington.”
Message Passed to DCANG - Marra then relays Pontius’s message to the 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews. (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 465) Marra apparently passes the message to Major Daniel Caine, the 113th Wing’s supervisor of flying, when Caine phones the control tower (see (Between 9:05 a.m. and 9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Caine will later recall that the tower controller (i.e. Marra) tells him “that they just received the scramble order.” But Caine will also tell the 9/11 Commission that the Andrews tower “would not have been in the loop for any Secret Service orders to scramble aircraft.” (Filson 2003, pp. 76; 9/11 Commission 3/8/2004 pdf file) Despite receiving this message from the Secret Service, the DCANG will not launch its first fighter jet until 10:38 a.m. (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 44)

The FAA’s Boston Center notifies the two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) that a second aircraft has been hijacked, and then tells the fighters of the second crash at the World Trade Center. The fighters are currently flying into a military training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see 9:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). They are being handled by Boston Center air traffic controller Stephen Roebuck.
Pilots Told of Second Hijacking and Crash - Roebuck asks the pilots of the fighters if they are in contact with “company,” meaning the military, and they say they are. He then informs them of the report of a second aircraft being hijacked. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004) However, one of the pilots, Major Daniel Nash, will later say he is not told the call sign of this second hijacked aircraft, “UAL 175, until after he landed.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Roebuck hears from a colleague at the Boston Center that a second plane has hit the WTC. Just before 9:08 a.m., he notifies the Otis pilots of this. Roebuck will recall that he tries to communicate this “second event” to them calmly. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Pilot Switches into 'Combat Mode' - Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the other Otis pilot along with Nash, will later recall his response to the news of the second crash, saying: “I look up and we’re about 60 or 70 miles outside Manhattan, and I can see the towers burning.… Okay, obviously everything just changed from my personal mind-set. We take off to go help somebody, and now as I look up and can see the burning I say, ‘Okay, now people are dying.’ It’s kind of hard to explain, but basically you switch into a combat mode where you say, ‘Okay, this just got real serious real fast.‘… Now people are dying and you’re thinking, ‘Okay, what do I have to do?’ And you have to put emotion aside because you don’t have time for it.” (Filson 2003, pp. 60) Both pilots will later claim that prior to learning of the second hijacking and the second crash, they had been unaware that the first hijacked plane, Flight 11, had hit the WTC. (Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file) However, recordings of communications at the Boston Center reveal that Duffy was told of that first crash at 8:55 a.m. (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Duffy and Nash are also told about the second crash by someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) around this time (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Nash 10/2/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)

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.” (Dennehy 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; Bronner 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)

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.” (Tyson 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; Tyson 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)

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. (Bronner 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)

The two F-15s launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 finally exit their “holding pattern” off the Long Island coast, and fly directly toward New York. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) According to the 9/11 Commission, the two fighters had been sent to the military-controlled airspace over the Atlantic Ocean because they lacked a target, and so have been flying in this area for the last few minutes (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). They are currently about 115 miles from the city. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20 and 24) Visibility is extremely clear and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, one of the two Otis pilots, will later recall that he can see the World Trade Center towers burning in the distance. He has just called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and asked: “What do you want me to do next? What do you need from me right this second?” (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 63)
NEADS Takes Control of Airspace - At NEADS, battle commander Colonel Robert Marr had lost patience waiting for approval from the FAA to send the Otis jets to New York, and so has just declared “AFIO” (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for New York airspace, which gives the military authority to enter that airspace without permission (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) Therefore, a couple of minutes after Duffy made his inquiry, NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick gets back to him to relay the AFIO directive. Hedrick instructs Duffy: “Proceed direct to Manhattan and set up combat air patrol. NORAD has taken over control of the airspace.” Duffy confirms, “Okay, got that.”
Fighters Request Lower Altitude Clearance - Duffy, who is currently flying at 20,000 feet, immediately requests clearance from the FAA to fly at lower altitude. He calls its New York Center and identifies himself with his military call sign, saying, “Panta 4-5 needs to go direct to New York City and I need lower [altitude]… right now.” The controller gives him a heading and clears him to descend to 18,000 feet. After the two Otis jets exit military airspace at 9:13, they descend to 18,000 feet and Duffy asks the New York Center controller again for lower altitude clearance. He is given permission to descend to 16,000 feet, and upon further requests is allowed to go down to 11,000 feet. Finally, Duffy insists, “Guys, I need all the way to the surface!” and the controller replies: “Roger. Panta 4-5 is clear all altitudes.” “They just gave us the airspace,” Duffy will later recall. (Filson 2003, pp. 63; Spencer 2008, pp. 113-114)
Conflicting Times - According to the 9/11 Commission, the two Otis fighters will arrive over Manhattan at 9:25 (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but numerous witnesses on the ground there will later recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24)

Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, begins preparing all of its available fighter jets to take off. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) The base has already launched its two F-15s that are kept on alert, in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) After the second attack on the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., commanders at the base convened and decided to recall all aircraft out on training, and begin loading fuel and weapons onto all available fighters (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153-154)
Officer Ordered to Prepare Fighters - Jeff Isch, the weapons supervisor for the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis, will later recall, “As soon as that second tower was hit, we all started to scramble to action.” (Dennehy 9/8/2002) However, author Lynn Spencer will indicate that the base does not begin preparing fighters to launch until about 10 to 15 minutes later. She will write that the aircraft maintenance squadron officer, whose job is to get aircraft ready for combat, has been awaiting orders since the time of the second crash. Then, “Less than 15 minutes after the second impact into the World Trade Center, the order came.” An officer from the base’s battle cab gives him the instruction, “Listen, I want you to generate as many airframes [i.e. fighter jets] as you can!” Immediately, the aircraft maintenance squadron officer starts directing all available workers to the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft) to prepare the base’s available F-15s for combat. (Spencer 2008, pp. 155)
Base Personnel Load Aircraft with Weapons - A report written by the 102nd Fighter Wing’s historian will describe: “Operations [personnel] along with maintenance [personnel] did a survey of which aircraft had bullets loaded and prioritized those aircraft to be first on status. They immediately began to pre-position wing tanks to increase range for future flights. Munitions started flowing at 9:30 and the aircraft were loaded with a mix of different types of weapons.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Isch’s crew hurries to fix fighters with live weapons. Some aircraft are fitted with newer missiles that are rarely pulled out. (Dennehy 9/8/2002) According to Boston Magazine, “Jets undergoing maintenance [are] rushed back into service, fitted out for combat instead of training.” (Tarcy 1/2002)
Fighters Recalled from Training Mission and Armed - A number of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are away for a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006) At 9:25 a.m., these fighters will be instructed to return to their base and will land back at Otis around 20 minutes later (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 155; Roughton 9/3/2011) Two of the aircraft have mechanical problems and will therefore be unable to fly again immediately. But the other fighters will be refueled and loaded with 940 rounds of 20 mm bullets. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) The first F-15s to subsequently take off from Otis Air Base will launch at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246) Fourteen of the base’s fighters are “mission capable” by the end of the day, 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) But according to Spencer, by 6:00 p.m., 21 of the 24 F-15s that are stationed at Otis Air Base will be airborne. (Spencer 2008, pp. 281)

Norman Seip.Norman Seip. [Source: US Air Force]A National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call is established to allow government agencies in the Washington, DC, area to quickly share information regarding the ongoing events, but the call reportedly contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/13/2004; Brewin 6/1/2009) The NOIWON call is convened by the CIA sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m., according to FAA chronologies. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) According to an officer at the Pentagon, the White House Situation Room is taking the lead at the time he answers the NOIWON call. (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004)
FAA Participates in Call - At the FAA headquarters in Washington, the NOIWON call is answered by Bart Merkley, one of two officers on duty in the ACI Watch—a small, 24-hour intelligence facility located on the building’s third floor. (9/11 Commission 7/13/2004) Merkley stays on the call for its entire duration. He passes onto it information he has learned from the Tactical Net—a teleconference established by the operations center at FAA headquarters at 8:50 a.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/19/2004)
NMCC Participates in Call - At the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, the initial call on the NOIWON line is answered by Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant deputy director for operations. (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) Subsequently, Brigadier General Norman Seip will take over the line and remain on it for most of the day. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, this is because the “White House Situation Room insisted on having a flag officer on an open line” with it. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file)
NOIWON Call of Little Use - The NOIWON call apparently contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. Darrel Smith, who is working alongside Merkley in the ACI Watch at FAA headquarters, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember any useful or significant information coming as a result of the NOIWON call.” (9/11 Commission 7/13/2004) Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC throughout the attacks, will tell the Commission that he “recalled no situational awareness that came from the NOIWON call.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) Gardner will say he “doesn’t remember specifically what was discussed” on the call. (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) FAA records will state, “It is believed that the [Department of Defense] received information” concerning the attacks over the NOIWON call, but the FAA “holds no records of that communication.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)
Call Delays Establishing of NMCC's Conference - Furthermore, the NOIWON call delays the Pentagon’s response to the attacks. The NMCC’s usual first action in response to a crisis is to establish a “significant event conference” in order to gather and disseminate information from government agencies, and discuss what actions should be taken. However, the NOIWON call reportedly intervenes with the preparations for such a conference call. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “The NMCC abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The significant event conference will therefore only commence at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)
No Recording of Call - The NOIWON is described as “a dedicated secure telephone system with a conferencing capability for the rapid exchange and sharing of high interest and time-sensitive information between Washington-area operations centers.” (Brewin 6/1/2009) During breaking crises it is used by the major national security watch centers around Washington, including the NMCC and the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, the State Department Operations Center, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA’s operations center, the NSA’s operations center, and the White House Situation Room. (Radi 3/1997 pdf file) The 9/11 Commission will later request a transcript of the NOIWON call conducted on this day, but despite “multiple searches,” no recording of it will be found. (9/11 Commission 8/22/2003; Stephen A. Cambone 10/14/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/16/2004)

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. (Bronner 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)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center. Colin Scoggins, Boston Center’s military liaison, tells it: “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s on its way towards—heading towards Washington.… That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have.… I’m going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he’s somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks: “He—American 11 is a hijack?… And he’s heading into Washington?” Scoggins answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston Center has been told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the 9/11 Commission will say it hasn’t been able to find where this mistaken information came from.
Scoggins Makes Error - Vanity Fair magazine will later add, “In Boston, it is Colin Scoggins who has made the mistaken call.” Scoggins will explain why he believes he made this error: “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if [Flight 11] was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” He says he was monitoring a conference call between FAA centers (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), “when the word came across—from whom or where isn’t clear—that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington.” However, Boston Center was never tracking Flight 11 on radar after losing sight of it near Manhattan: “The plane’s course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward DC. This was all controllers were going on.” Scoggins says, “After talking to a supervisor, I made the call and said [American 11] is still in the air.” (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
Myers Refers to Mistaken Report - In the hours following the attacks, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers will apparently refer to this erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, telling the Associated Press that “prior to the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington.” Myers will say “he assumed that hijacked plane was the one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn’t be sure.” (Fournier 9/11/2001)

Having just received an incorrect report that Flight 11—which has already hit the World Trade Center—is still airborne and heading toward Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try, unsuccessfully, to locate the aircraft on their radar screens. (Spencer 2008, pp. 137-139) At NEADS, Major James Anderson says the hijackers are “probably not squawking anything anyway,” meaning their plane’s transponder is not broadcasting a signal. He adds, “I mean, obviously these guys are in the cockpit.” Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander, replies, “These guys are smart.” Another member of staff adds, “Yeah, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) After giving the order to launch the F-16s kept on alert at Langley Air Force Base (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001), Nasypany calls out, “I need more trackers!” He needs his technicians to locate the hijacked plane on radar so that his weapons team can pass on its coordinates to the Langley fighters. But the trackers are unable to find the transponder code for Flight 11 on their radar screens. They begin calling up, one at a time, the tracks on their screens that are in the airspace between New York and Washington, and attach a tag to each after it has been identified. One technician draws a line on a map between New York and Washington, showing the area across which Flight 11 would be traveling. It includes Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Baltimore. He looks at his radar screen and sees there are hundreds of tracks in that area. (Spencer 2008, pp. 138-139) Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, who gave NEADS the incorrect report about Flight 11, will later say he’d only heard the plane was still airborne and heading for Washington on a conference call between FAA centers. According to Vanity Fair, air traffic controllers “were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan, but if it had been flying low enough, the plane could have gone undetected.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)

Major Kevin Nasypany inside NEADSMajor Kevin Nasypany inside NEADS [Source: Mark Schafer/ Vanity Fair]According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS has just been told that the hijacked Flight 11 is still in the air and heading toward Washington. Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander, says to NEADS Commander Robert Marr, “Okay, uh, American Airlines is still airborne. Eleven, the first guy, he’s heading towards Washington. Okay? I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I’m gonna take the fighters from Otis, try to chase this guy down if I can find him.” After receiving approval to do so, Nasypany issues the order. “Okay… scramble Langley,” he says. “Head them towards the Washington area.” The Langley, Virginia, base gets the scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS keeps its fighters from the Otis base over New York City. In 2004 the 9/11 Commission will state, “this response to a phantom aircraft, American 11, is not recounted in a single public timeline or statement issued by FAA or [Defense Department]. Instead, since 9/11, the scramble of the Langley fighters has been described as a response to the reported hijacking of American 77, or United 93, or some combination of the two.” Yet the “report of American 11 heading south as the cause of the Langley scramble is reflected not just in taped conversations at NEADS, but in taped conversations at FAA centers, on chat logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD, and in other records.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

Alan Scott.Alan Scott. [Source: United States Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) processes and transmits an order to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, to scramble three of its F-16 fighter jets. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16) NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany instructed his personnel to issue this order one minute earlier (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001). Although he’d originally wanted the Langley jets sent to the Washington area, he will soon adjust this heading to send them to the Baltimore area. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
NEADS Orders Jets North - A NEADS officer calls Langley Air Force Base and instructs: “Langley command post, this is Huntress with an active air defense scramble for Quit 2-5 and Quit 2-6.… Scramble immediately.… Scramble on a heading of 010, flight level 290.” This means the jets are to head in a direction just east of north, at an altitude of 29,000 feet. (9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96; Spencer 2008, pp. 142) At Langley Air Force Base, a Klaxon horn will sound, notifying the pilots of the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they will be airborne by 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 63; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16; Spencer 2008, pp. 141)
Fighters Launched in Response to Flight 77? - In later testimony, military officials will give contradictory explanations for why the Langley F-16s are scrambled. An early NORAD timeline will indicate the fighters are launched in response to NORAD being notified at 9:24 that Flight 77 has been hijacked (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR), will suggest the same, telling the 9/11 Commission: “At 9:24 the FAA reports a possible hijack of [Flight] 77.… And at that moment as well is when the Langley F-16s were scrambled out of Langley.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 1st Air Force 8/8/2006) And a timeline provided by senior Defense Department officials to CNN will state, “NORAD orders jets scrambled from Langley” in order to “head to intercept” Flight 77. (CNN 9/17/2001)
In Response to Flight 93? - However, Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will give a different explanation. He will tell the 9/11 Commission, “we launched the aircraft out of Langley to put them over top of Washington, DC, not in response to American Airline 77, but really to put them in position in case United 93 were to head that way.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
In Response to Incorrect Report about Flight 11? - In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will dispute both these previous explanations, and conclude that the Langley jets are scrambled in response to an incorrect report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, DC (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26-27; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 15) Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor will corroborate this account. (Bronner 8/1/2006) According to the 9/11 Commission, its conclusion is also confirmed by “taped conversations at FAA centers; contemporaneous logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD; and other records.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34) Major Nasypany will tell the Commission that the reason the Langley jets are directed toward the Baltimore area is to position them between the reportedly southbound Flight 11 and Washington, as a “barrier cap.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27 and 461) John Farmer, senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will later suggest that NORAD deliberately misled Congress and the Commission by hiding the fact that the Langley scramble takes place in response to the erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne. He will write that the mistaken report “appears in more logs, and on more tapes, than any other single event that morning.… It was the reason for the Langley scramble; it had triggered the Air Threat Conference Call. Yet it had never been disclosed; it was, instead, talked around.” (Farmer 2009, pp. 266-267)
Conflicting Times - Early news reports will put the time of the scramble order slightly later than the 9/11 Commission places it, between 9:25 and “about 9:27.” (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; CNN 9/19/2001) But a NORAD timeline released a week after the attacks will give the same time as the Commission does, of 9:24. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)

According to the 9/11 Commission, the two fighters launched from Otis Air Force Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) arrive over Manhattan at this time, after exiting their holding pattern off the Long Island coast at 9:13 a.m. They then establish a combat air patrol (CAP) over New York. The commission bases this conclusion on its analysis of FAA radar data and interviews with the two Otis pilots. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24 and 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 92) However, numerous eyewitnesses on the ground will report first noticing fighters over New York significantly later, more than an hour after the 9/11 Commission claims according to some accounts (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

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. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 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; Levin 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). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 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; Levin 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.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 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). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 168; Levin 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; Bronner 8/1/2006)

The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon.The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense]The National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon finally commences and runs a “significant event conference” in response to the ongoing crisis, 26 minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center and officers in the NMCC realized the US was under terrorist attack. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Garamone 9/7/2006)
NMCC Directors Decided to Establish Conference - After those in the NMCC saw Flight 175 hitting the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations (DDO) in the center throughout the attacks, and Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant DDO, talked about the need to convene a significant event conference so there could be a discussion of what actions were to be taken in response. The DDO and the assistant DDO are the two officers responsible for deciding what type of conference the NMCC should convene, and when it should do so. Because there is no specific procedure for dealing with terrorist attacks, Leidig and Gardner decided a significant event conference would most suit their needs, because it would have the flexibility of allowing more people to be added in as required. They also discussed who would need to be on this conference. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) But Major Charles Chambers, who is currently on duty in the NMCC, will give a slightly different account. According to Chambers, Staff Sergeant Val Harrison had a phone in her hand and said NORAD was asking for a significant event conference. Leidig had agreed, and so Harrison started establishing the conference.
Conference Begins with Recap of Situation - According to Chambers, “The computer does a mass dialing to connect to those command centers that are always included” in an NMCC conference call, but Harrison also had to manually call the civilian agencies that were going to be included in the conference, such as the FAA, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (US Department of Defense 9/2001) The conference then begins at 9:29 a.m. with a brief recap: Two aircraft have hit the WTC, there is a confirmed hijacking of Flight 11, and fighter jets have been scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA is asked to provide an update, but its line is silent as the agency has not yet been added to the call (see (9:29 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). A minute later, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) NMCC conference calls are moderated by the DDO. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Leidig will tell the 9/11 Commission that they are conducted over “a special phone circuit, and it’s classified to be able to pass information, relay information between very senior leadership all the way over to the White House.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
NMCC Struggled to Convene Conference - Some officers currently on duty in the NMCC will later complain about circumstances that delayed the establishing of the significant event conference. Chambers will recall that the conference took “much longer than expected to bring up.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Gardner will tell the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC had been “struggling to build the conference,” which “didn’t get off as quickly as hoped.” (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) He will describe his “frustration that it wasn’t brought up more quickly.” (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Other Conference and Connection Problems Delayed Call - Preparations for the conference were disrupted as a result of the CIA convening a National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call between government agencies in the Washington area, reportedly at sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. (see (Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, the NMCC had “abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Another factor that slowed attempts to convene the significant event conference was a problem with connecting some agencies to it. According to Chambers, “A couple of the civil agencies couldn’t be reached and others kept dropping off moments after connecting.” He will recall, “We finally decided to proceed without those agencies that were having phone problems.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Leidig had announced that the NMCC would have to start without those agencies and add them to the conference later on. (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Call Ends after Five Minutes - The significant event conference ends after only a few minutes, following a recommendation by NORAD that it be reconvened as an “air threat conference.” It is brought to an end at around 9:34 a.m., and will resume as an air threat conference at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)

Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington.Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com]The three F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) head east, out over the Atlantic Ocean, instead of north toward the Baltimore area, as NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) instructed when it issued the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sack 11/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Three Reasons Jets Head East - The 9/11 Commission will give three reasons why the Langley jets go east instead of north: “First, unlike a normal scramble order, this order did not include a distance to the target or the target’s location. Second, a ‘generic’ flight plan—prepared to get the aircraft airborne and out of local airspace quickly—incorrectly led the Langley fighters to believe they were ordered to fly due east (090) for 60 miles. Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ superseded the original scramble order.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
NORAD Commander Blames 'Peacetime Rules' - In his testimony before the 9/11 Commission in May 2003, Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will address the question of why the Langley jets head out over the sea. He says, “When we scramble an aircraft… the aircraft take off and they have a predetermined departure route.” According to Arnold, NORAD is “looking outward,” and so “our mission, unlike law enforcement’s mission, is to protect things coming towards the United States.” He concludes, “So our peacetime procedures, to de-conflict with civil aviation’s, so as to not have endanger[ed] civil aviation in any particular way.” Arnold will also suggest that “peacetime rules” might be partly to blame for the Langley jets heading in the wrong direction. He says, “[I]f we were operating under something other than peacetime rules… they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) According to the Wall Street Journal, the “peacetime rules” Arnold refers to are “noise restrictions requiring that [the Langley jets] fly more slowly than supersonic speed and take off over water, pointed away from Washington.” (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file) One of the Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, will later recall that, shortly after the jets take off, NEADS “gave us max-subsonic,” which is “as fast as you can go without breaking the sound barrier.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65)
Risk of Midair Collision - NORAD official Major General Craig McKinley will tell the 9/11 Commission that “another reason why” the Langley jets are “vectored east originally” is that “the air traffic over the Northeast corridor is so complex that to just launch fighters… into that air traffic system can cause potential damage or midair collision. So we rely on the FAA to de-conflict those corridors.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
Jets Far Away from Pentagon - When the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m., the Langley jets have flown nearly 60 miles out over the ocean and are 150 miles from Washington (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27; Spencer 2008, pp. 151)

The Norfolk Tower TRACON.The Norfolk Tower TRACON. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]The FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) is briefly in charge of the three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but it does not redirect them northward in line with the military’s orders, after the Langley air traffic control tower previously instructed them to fly east. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96)
Jets Are Sent East instead of North - When NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) issued the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), it specified that the Langley jets be directed north toward Washington, DC. But as the jets were taking off, the Langley tower instructed them to go “090 for 60,” meaning they were to fly east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 142-143)
TRACON Does Not Redirect the Jets - When aircraft take off from Langley Air Force Base, control of them is passed from the Langley tower to the Norfolk TRACON. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file) Controllers at the TRACON are permitted to change an aircraft’s flight plan, in the case of the Langley jets the “090 for 60” instruction. (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003 pdf file) A 9/11 Commission memorandum will state that the Langley jets are “not bound to the 60 mile distance and could have turned to the north at any time they were directed to or had orders to do so.” (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file) However, although the TRACON is aware that NEADS ordered the jets to head north, it does not redirect them toward this heading instead of going east. (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, the reason is that “both the lead Langley pilot,” Major Dean Eckmann, “and the FAA’s Norfolk TRACON facility… assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ was newer guidance that superseded the original scramble order instructions” issued by NEADS. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96)
Pilot Agrees to Follow the Tower's Directions - At 9:33 a.m., Norfolk TRACON controller Michael Strother asks Eckmann what direction he wants to head in. Strother says, “Quit 2-5, are you going directly to the Langley 090 at 60?” If Eckmann wanted to go somewhere other than what is specified in the flight plan, Strother has the authority to grant the request. But Eckmann replies, “Affirmative.” He says, “That’s our second clearance,” and, referring to the NEADS scramble order, adds, “We had an earlier clearance of a vector and an altitude.” The 9/11 Commission will summarize, “Put simply, the Langley pilots received flight direction guidance from both the scramble order and the Langley AFB departure flight plan, and continued on the latter heading for several minutes until a direction and geographic destination was provided.” (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96)
Navy Facility Takes Over Control of the Jets - Norfolk TRACON subsequently passes control of the three F-16s on to “Giant Killer,” the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia (see 9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Wald 2/10/1997; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 143) It will not be until around the time the Pentagon is hit that the Langley jets are redirected to their correct heading (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), after NEADS notices they are going in the wrong direction (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 149-151)

At the FAA’s Cleveland Center, an air traffic controller hears a transmission, presumably made by Flight 93 hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah, stating: “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down, keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39) As the 9/11 Commission later notes, “Like [Mohamed] Atta on Flight 11, Jarrah apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the [air traffic control] channel.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 98) While this communication is assumed to have come from Flight 93, an early FAA report states that it came “from an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) According to Newsweek, just prior to the communication, Cleveland Center controllers heard the sound of screaming from the flight. (Breslau 9/22/2001) The 9/11 Commission states that, around the time of the transmission, the plane’s cockpit voice recording indicates “that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39) Though the Cleveland air traffic controller understands the hijacker’s communication, he responds to it: “Calling Cleveland Center, you’re unreadable. Say again, slowly.” He also notifies his supervisor who passes the information up the chain of command, and the FAA’s Command Center is subsequently informed, “United 93 may have a bomb on board.” At 9:34 the Command Center will relay this information to FAA headquarters (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia, takes control of the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though, according to air traffic controllers at the facility, it should not be communicating with the fighters. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004) The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, known as “Giant Killer,” is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143; US Navy 2/11/2016) The flight plan for the Langley F-16s puts the fighters into its airspace (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) The facility consequently takes over control of the aircraft from the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004)
Fighters Shouldn't Be Switched to the Facility's Frequency, Controller Will Say - However, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Clipper, an air traffic controller at the facility, the Norfolk TRACON “should not have switched the flight to Giant Killer frequency, plain and simple.” “Giant Killer should not have been talking to the fighters,” Clipper will state. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer is “not expected to be [one of the] participants in active air scrambles.” If NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) scrambles fighters, he will say, the “onus is on the fighters and NEADS to go where they want to go,” and “it is Giant Killer’s responsibility to stay out of the way.” Based on the scramble order for the Langley fighters (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clipper will say, the FAA’s Washington Center and the Norfolk TRACON “should have made sure there was a clear path for the fighters to go direct” to the control of NEADS. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file)
Other Controllers Say the Facility Does Not Handle Scrambled Jets - Petty Officer Matthew Barcus, another controller at Giant Killer, will say a similar thing to what Clipper does. “Most of the time, Giant Killer does not talk to the scrambled aircraft,” he will tell the 9/11 Commission. He will say that a scrambled flight “is usually handed off to [NEADS] by Norfolk” TRACON or the FAA’s Washington Center. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) And Lieutenant Commander Mary Klug, the operations officer at the facility, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer does “not normally control scrambled aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) However, author Lynn Spencer will apparently contradict Clipper, Barcus, and Klug, writing, “Protocol dictates that Giant Killer direct the jets until they reach Washington Center’s airspace, where the FAA controllers take over.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 149)
Pilot Has Poor Experiences of Dealing with the Facility - Major Brad Derrig, the pilot of one of the fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his experience with Giant Killer is that the facility is “not very good.” Sometimes, he will say, when Langley fighters have contacted Giant Killer, controllers at the facility “didn’t know who the air defense fighters were.” (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003)

At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Staff Sergeant William Huckabone is the first person to notice that the three fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) are drastically off course.
Jets Heading to Training Airspace - Huckabone has spotted the radar returns for the Langley F-16s and notices that, instead of flying north toward the Baltimore area as instructed, the fighters are going east, out over the Atlantic Ocean, apparently toward a military training airspace called Whiskey 386 (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Unfortunately, NEADS cannot contact the jets directly, as they are out of its radio range. Furthermore, the supervisor of flying (SOF) for the alert unit at Langley AFB is unavailable. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 149) As the SOF, Captain Craig Borgstrom would normally be responsible for communicating with NEADS and getting information to pass on to his jets, but he has taken off himself, along with his unit’s two alert pilots (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
NEADS Calls 'Giant Killer' - Huckabone alerts fellow weapons director Master Sergeant Steve Citino, who is sitting next to him, to the off-course fighters. He then gets on the phone to “Giant Killer”—the Fleet Area Control Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Wald 2/10/1997; Spencer 2008, pp. 143, 149) Protocol requires that, because the Langley jets are in Giant Killer’s airspace, the Navy facility is responsible for directing them until they reach the airspace of the FAA’s Washington Center, where FAA controllers will take over.
Navy Controller Unconcerned - Citino and Huckabone speak to the Navy air traffic controller who is handling the three Langley fighters, but the controller appears not to grasp the urgency of the situation. Huckabone says, “Those fighters need to go north toward Baltimore, and now!” The Navy controller asks: “You’ve got [the Langley F-16s] moving east in airspace. Now you want ‘em to go to Baltimore?” Huckabone says yes, and adds, “We’re not gonna take ‘em in Whiskey 386.” He tells the Navy controller that, once the jets are heading toward Baltimore: “Have [the pilots] contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing ‘em back, just tell [the FAA’s Washington] Center they’ve got to go to Baltimore.” The Navy controller responds: “All right, man. Stand by. We’ll get back to you.” He seems to lack any sense of urgency, and Citino snaps at him: “What do you mean, ‘We’ll get back to you’? Just do it!” After hanging up the phone, Huckabone jokes, “I’m gonna choke that guy!” Looking at his radar screen, he sees that the Langley F-16s are continuing to fly out over the ocean. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 149-150)

In answer to a question from a weapons controller at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), one of the pilots that took off in response to Flight 11 confirms that he would be willing to shoot down a hijacked aircraft. (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, has already checked that his section heads and weapons technicians are prepared to order the shooting down of a civilian aircraft (see (9:19 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At 9:32, after NEADS received a report of a hijacked plane approaching Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), Major James Anderson asked Nasypany what would happen if they located that aircraft, saying, “Are we gonna shoot him down if they got passengers on board?” (Bronner 8/1/2006)
Duffy Says He Would Shoot down a Plane - Nasypany wants to be sure that his pilots are willing to follow a shootdown order, should one be issued. He therefore directs his weapons controller who is dealing with the fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) to check this. The weapons controller radios Otis pilot Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy and tells him, “If we get another hijack track, you’re going to be ordered to shoot it down.” He then asks, “Do you have a problem with that?” Somewhat startled by the question, Duffy replies, “No—no problem with that.” He reportedly thinks to himself, “If I have a problem with that order, I am in the wrong seat.” According to author Lynn Spencer, Duffy is “doing what he’s been trained to do.… [I]f he gets a legal, lawful order to take out an airliner, then that’s what he’s going to do. He knows every other fighter pilot would do the same.” Duffy and the other Otis pilot that launched with him, Major Daniel Nash, are “confident no plane will get past them: they’ll do what it takes, and follow any order, to protect New York.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) Duffy will later tell the Boston Globe: “[P]eople have said, ‘Would you have done it [i.e. shot down a hostile airliner]?’ Absolutely, that’s my job.” (Viser 9/11/2005)
No Shootdown Order Issued - However, according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS personnel will only learn that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42) And, according to most accounts, the two Otis pilots never receive an order from the military to shoot down an airliner (see (After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Viser 9/11/2005) Duffy and Nash will also be contacted by a civilian air traffic controller regarding the possibility of shooting down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (BBC 9/1/2002)

A KC-135 Stratotanker.A KC-135 Stratotanker. [Source: Boeing]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) are finally able to refuel, after they request to rendezvous with a tanker plane that was scheduled to refuel Otis fighters out on training missions this morning. (Scott 6/3/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 153)
Fighters Low on Fuel - By around 9:35 a.m., according to author Lynn Spencer, the two Otis fighters are running increasingly low on fuel and need to find a fuel tanker right away. For about the last 25 minutes, technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) have been searching for a tanker (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 112 and 152-153) A member of staff at NEADS in fact talked over the radio with a KC-135 tanker from Bangor, Maine, at around 9:05 a.m., and the plane’s crew agreed to provide support to the Otis fighters launched in response to Flight 11 (see 9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) However, the pilots of these fighters have apparently not heard back from NEADS about whether it has been able to find a tanker for them. Now one of the pilots, Major Daniel Nash, has come up with a solution. Prior to being put on alert duty, he had been acting as the scheduling officer at Otis Air Base, and he therefore knows that a training mission a number of Otis fighters were scheduled to fly today called for refueling (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Consequently he knows about the KC-135 tanker plane from Bangor that NEADS communicated with earlier on, which had been scheduled to support those fighters during their training. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 152-153)
Tanker Heading toward Training Airspace - The tanker plane, which has the call sign “Maine 85,” is one of the eight KC-135s that are attached to the 101st Air Refueling Wing, based at Bangor International Airport. Its pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Adam Jenkins and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Marshall. (Cohen 9/13/2001; Ricker 9/9/2011) It had been scheduled to rendezvous with the Otis fighters on their training mission about 20 minutes from now in “Whiskey 105,” the military training airspace just south of Long Island, where Nash and his fellow Otis pilot Timothy Duffy had earlier been flying in a “holding pattern” (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). The KC-135 should be on its way there now. Nash calls Duffy and tells him, “[W]e have a tanker scheduled for the training missions this morning off the coast in 105.” Duffy calls NEADS and requests that the KC-135 orbit at 20,000 feet above New York’s JFK International Airport. NEADS then coordinates with the 101st Air Refueling Wing to borrow the tanker. (Scott 6/3/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 153)
Tanker Directed toward New York - The KC-135 is instructed to fly toward Manhattan. Jenkins will later recall, “We were told to start heading west to the city.” The voice over his radio tells him, “We’ll give you details along the way.” (Ricker 9/9/2011) Soon, the KC-135 is flying an orbit over JFK Airport and the two Otis fighters then take turns refueling. (Grant 2004, pp. 21; Grant and Thompson 10/6/2006, pp. 4 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 153) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the two Otis fighters arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but accounts of most witnesses on the ground indicate they do not arrive there until after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24)

Diagram showing the area of impact at the Pentagon. The Navy Command Center is highlighted in red.Diagram showing the area of impact at the Pentagon. The Navy Command Center is highlighted in red. [Source: Washington Post] (click image to enlarge)Edward Earhart, Matthew Flocco, and their supervisor Lt. Nancy McKeown are inside the Pentagon, watching the televised footage of the burning World Trade Center. They belong to a small meteorological unit based in the Navy Command Center, located on the first floor of the building’s southwest face. McKeown asks her two young aides to bring up New York on the computer because the Command Center is going to send some fighter jets there, in case there is another attack on the city. She orders them to program weather updates for military aircraft converging on New York. However, very soon after this, the Command Center is directly impacted when the Pentagon is hit, and both Flocco and Earhart are killed. (Becker, Vogel, and Ruane 9/16/2001; McConnell 9/2002; CNN 9/8/2002; Riley 4/12/2006) Ronald Vauk, the watch commander in the Navy Command Center, is on the phone trying to get more fighters scrambled at the time the Pentagon is hit, though news reports say he wants them to protect Washington, not New York. (John Hopkins Magazine 11/2001; Clines 11/17/2001; Shane 9/11/2002) At 9:24 a.m., NORAD had ordered fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia to scramble (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), though these will not arrive over the Pentagon until after it is hit (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) According to Lt. Kevin Shaeffer, who works in the Command Center, just prior to the attack on the Pentagon, the watch section and watch leaders in the center are actively engaged in logging and recording the events going on in New York. He later says, “they all responded in exactly the way they were trained,” and, “Had the Command Center not been destroyed it surely would have been able to provide the highest levels of our Navy leadership with updates as to exactly what was occurring.” (Chips 3/2003)

Timothy Brown.Timothy Brown. [Source: Valorous Media, Inc.]Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), tries calling the White House and other agencies in Washington, DC, about getting fighter jets to protect New York, but is unable to reach them. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file; Brown 10/7/2015) Brown headed to the Fire Department’s command post in the lobby of the North Tower after the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). After arriving there, he discussed the need to have fighters over New York with senior officials. (Brown 1/15/2002; Brown 1/31/2003)
Firefighter Heard about an Additional Suspicious Aircraft - After the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), personnel in the OEM’s Emergency Operations Center contacted the FAA and requested “air security” over New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 16 pdf file) Brown went to the lobby of the South Tower to help open a command post. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file; Brown 10/7/2015) While there, he will later recall, he heard over his radio that another suspicious aircraft was heading toward New York and that “we should be prepared to get hit again” (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Firefighter Asks to Be Connected to the White House - At some point, he decides to try and call Washington, to make sure that New York will be getting air cover. (Brown 1/31/2003) He goes to the phones in the southeast corner of the South Tower’s lobby and tries to find one that works. Eventually he finds one that has a dial tone. (Brown 1/15/2002; Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) He dials zero and then talks to the operator. (Brown 10/7/2015) He tells her New York is under terrorist attack and he needs to talk to the White House to make sure the city has air cover.
Operator Cannot Reach Agencies in Washington - The operator tries hard to reach the White House. “She tried many different ways to get me through, many different offices in the White House,” Brown will recall. However, she is unable to get through, since the phones in Washington are overwhelmed. “Apparently [operators] had been getting a volume of phone calls similar to mine, of people trying to get through to federal agencies, trying to get help,” Brown will comment. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) Brown then learns from the operator about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). After failing to reach the White House, he says to her, “Well then get me the Pentagon” and she replies that the Pentagon has been attacked. “That’s the first time we knew it, knew that it was also under attack,” he will recall. (Brown 10/7/2015) He also asks the operator to try and connect him to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has its headquarters in Washington, but she is unable to reach it.
Firefighter Talks to the State Emergency Management Office - Finally, she is able to connect him to the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) in Albany. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) He asks the person there for assistance and is told the office already knows about the problem and is in the process of getting help from the military. (Brown 1/31/2003) They say fighters will be coming to protect New York as fast as they possibly can. (Brown 10/7/2015) Brown feels “pretty comfortable” with this response, he will say. (Brown 1/31/2003) After the call ends, he returns to the command post. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) Fighters arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) However, numerous witnesses on the ground there will recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The Flight 93 hijackers (probably inadvertently) transmit over the radio: “Hi, this is the captain. We’d like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board. And we are going to turn back to the airport. And they had our demands, so please remain quiet.” (Johnson 11/23/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 209; MSNBC 9/3/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The controller responds, “United 93, understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead,” but there is no response. There was a very similar “bomb on board” warning from the same flight at 9:32 a.m. (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission indicates that these are separate incidents. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Cleveland flight control apparently continues to wait for FAA superiors to notify NORAD. Earlier in the morning, Boston flight control directly contacted NORAD (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and local air force bases when they determined Flight 11 was hijacked.

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) issues coordinates to the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), sending them to Washington. However, the fighters head off in the wrong direction, reportedly because NEADS has accidentally given them incorrect coordinates. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181)
Communications Problems - The Langley AFB jets have already mistakenly been sent east over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). At 9:36 a.m., the NEADS mission crew commander ordered that they be directed toward the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27) However, weapons director Master Sergeant Steve Citino has been having difficulty communicating with the jets. According to author Lynn Spencer, “NEADS radio coverage east of Washington is poor, and the noise level on the [NEADS] operations floor has only been exacerbating the problem.”
NEADS Issues Wrong Coordinates - Citino now forwards coordinates to the Langley jets, telling them to establish a combat air patrol over Washington. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180) Apparently, it is Tech. Sgt. Ronald Belluscio, a senior weapons director technician, who contacts the jets at this time, although he will claim he orders them specifically toward the Pentagon. He will say: “I jumped on a frequency, per the senior director, and was told to ask the Langley birds to vector over the Pentagon. I didn’t know it had been hit.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65) However, Citino has apparently given out the wrong coordinates. According to Spencer, “He inadvertently transposed two of the coordinates, and the F-16s turned onto a flight path that would take them 60 miles southwest of Washington.”
Aircraft Instrument Malfunctioning - What is more, as soon as the Langley jets turn onto their new heading, lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann has a problem with his aircraft. The bearing pointer on its horizontal situation indicator (HSI)—the instrument that shows a plane’s position relative to its intended destination—freezes. Eckmann therefore has to get the heading from one of the other Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom. Shortly after sending the three jets in the wrong direction, Citino will contact them again with the correct coordinates (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181)

A weapons director at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) notices that the three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) are going in the wrong direction, and so he contacts them to get them on the correct course.
Citino Thinks FAA Has Redirected Fighters - The weapons director, Master Sergeant Steve Citino, recently forwarded coordinates to the jets, sending them to Washington, DC. However, according to author Lynn Spencer, he inadvertently gave them incorrect coordinates (see 9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). Now, shortly afterwards, Citino notices that the jets are going in the wrong direction. However, he does not realize his mistake with the coordinates, and instead assumes that the FAA’s Washington Center has redirected the jets so as to avoid air traffic. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181) He makes this assumption even though NEADS recently declared AFIO (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for Washington airspace, thereby giving the military authority over the FAA for that airspace (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 113, 150)
Fighters Given Correct Destination - Citino radios one of the three Langley AFB pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and gives him the correct course heading. Citino adds: “Just to reiterate. You are under AFIO control! Take all direction from Huntress!” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NEADS.) Borgstrom acknowledges the order, but mentions that the new heading conflicts with the coordinates he has just been given. He says, “We’re showing a CAP [combat air patrol] point of 250 [heading], 20 miles.” Citino snaps back at him: “Negative! That’s incorrect! The CAP is 312, 20 miles!” Borgstrom then relays the correct coordinates to his lead pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, and the three Langley jets set off toward their new destination. (Spencer 2008, pp. 181)

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; Bronner 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.” (McKenna 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)

According to the accounts of numerous witnesses on the ground near the World Trade Center, military fighter jets are first noticed flying over Manhattan either shortly before or soon after the second collapse, at 10:28 a.m. Some witnesses recall fighters arriving just before this collapse:
bullet Emergency medical technicians Dulce McCorvey and Michael D’Angelo hear fighters flying over Manhattan at unspecified times after the first tower’s collapse. (McCorvey 10/3/2001; D'Angelo 10/24/2001)
bullet Fire Lieutenant Sean O’Malley and firefighters Pete Giudetti and Dan Potter notice jet fighters flying overhead soon before the second collapse. (Guidetti 10/12/2001; O'Malley 12/6/2001; Smith 2002, pp. 49-50)
Other witnesses say the fighters arrive soon after this collapse:
bullet Deputy Fire Chief Robert Browne, police officer Peter Moog, and emergency medical technicians Richard Zarrillo and Jason Katz notice fighters overhead immediately after, or fairly soon after, the second tower’s collapse. (Browne 10/24/2001; Zarrillo 10/25/2001; Katz 12/20/2001; Fink and Mathias 2002, pp. 79-80)
bullet Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer are heading north together after leaving their temporary command post on Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In some accounts, all three of them recollect hearing the first military jets overhead soon after the second tower’s collapse. (Kerik 2001, pp. 339-340; Giuliani 2002, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file) However, according to another account, Giuliani hears the first jet slightly earlier, at around 10:20 a.m. And, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Kerik claims to have heard a fighter jet coming when he was heading to the temporary command post on Barclay Street, i.e. shortly before 9:50 a.m. (Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 348-349)
A few witnesses claim the fighters arrive earlier on, before the first collapse at 9:59 a.m.:
bullet Emergency medical technician Frank Puma and Port Authority Freedom of Information Administrator Cathy Pavelec say they see fighter jets overhead at unspecified times before the first collapse. (Puma 12/12/2001; Fink and Mathias 2002, pp. 68)
The fighter(s) are presumably the F-15s launched from Otis Air Force Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will claim that these arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is significantly earlier than most of the witnesses on the ground recall.

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. (McCullough 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 pdf file; 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. (McCullough 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)

Doug Davis.Doug Davis. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]John White, a manager at the FAA’s Command Center, suggests to Doug Davis, the special assistant for technical operations in air traffic services at FAA headquarters, that fighter jets should be launched in response to Flight 93. However, FAA headquarters is apparently unable to act on this suggestion. (Federal Aviation Administration 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) In the last few minutes, the Command Center has warned headquarters that Flight 93 is “29 minutes out of Washington” and approaching the city (see 9:41 a.m.-9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44)
Command Center Asks about Launching Fighters - Davis now tells White, “They’re pulling Jeff [Griffith, the FAA’s deputy director of air traffic] away to go talk about United 93.” White asks, “Uh, do we want to think, uh, about scrambling aircraft?” Davis replies, “Oh, God, I don’t know.” White says, “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s gonna have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.” However, Davis only responds, “Uh, ya know everybody just left the room.” (Federal Aviation Administration 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) This conversation takes place 13 minutes after the FAA’s Cleveland Center asked the Command Center whether anyone had asked the military to launch fighter jets to intercept Flight 93 (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 40)
Person Who Could Request Fighters Is Unavailable - Apparently there is only one person at FAA headquarters who is authorized to request military assistance, and Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, is told that no one can find him. Sliney will later recount: “I said something like, ‘That’s incredible. There’s only one person. There must be someone designated or someone who will assume the responsibility of issuing an order, you know.’ We were becoming frustrated in our attempts to get some information. What was the military response?” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) This lack of response to Flight 93 contrasts with the FAA’s earlier reaction to Flight 11, when Boston Center air traffic controllers contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) themselves (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and even called military bases directly (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)

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.” (Sallah and Mahr 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). (Seely 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). (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-245)

Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center.Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center. [Source: FAA]The three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that have been directed toward Washington request and are given permission to fly at high altitude over the city. After the Langley AFB pilots are given the correct coordinates they are to head to (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), at 9:51 lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann looks on his radar screen and sees that the area where he has been directed to set up a combat air patrol is filled with air traffic. He therefore contacts the FAA’s Washington Center and tells the controller, “I need 3,000 feet of altitude in a 20-mile ring around DC.” When the controller asks the reason, Eckmann replies, “Higher headquarters’ request!” The controller gives him an altitude range of 25,000 to 27,000 feet. Eckmann radios the other two Langley pilots and gives them their altitude assignments: he’ll fly at 25,000 feet, Major Brad Derrig will be at 26,000 feet, and Captain Craig Borgstrom at 27,000 feet. According to author Lynn Spencer, the jets then head toward Washington at 700 miles per hour, just under the speed of sound. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-182) However, Spencer’s account of this incident conflicts with the 1st Air Force’s book about the 9/11 attacks. According to that account, several minutes before Eckmann reportedly asks for altitude clearance—at around 9:45 a.m.—he had been directed to drop to lower altitude to check out two unidentified aircraft, and was then told to inspect the Pentagon (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 66)

A radio transmitter carried by aircraft that is designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the vicinity of the city of Ann Arbor in southeast Michigan, although the distress signal is presumably a false alarm. Details of the distress signal will be described when an unidentified individual calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center at around 10:19 a.m. and tells an air traffic controller there, “I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically begin transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue efforts in locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; Federal Aviation Administration 7/12/2001; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) The caller will not say who reported the ELT signal to him. But he will say the signal “started at 13:53” Zulu time, which is 9:53 a.m. Eastern time. Presumably realizing the signal was therefore activated over 25 minutes earlier, the caller will add, “Wait a minute, that don’t make any sense.” But the Cleveland Center controller will tell him: “Yeah, it does. It might have been late to be…” The caller will then say, “Okay, well I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor,” before the call ends. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Further details of the ELT signal and what might have caused it are unknown. Flight 93 will crash in rural Pennsylvania about 10 minutes after the signal over Ann Arbor is activated (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) However, apparently no ELT signal will go off when it crashes (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) According to Major Allan Knox, who works at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, most ELT signals are false alarms. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file)

Ben Robinson.Ben Robinson. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane is directed toward Sarasota, Florida, where President Bush is currently located, and will accompany Air Force One as it carries Bush back to Washington, DC. The AWACS has been flying a training mission off the east coast of Florida (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD now instructs it to head toward Sarasota, on Florida’s west coast.
Pilot Thinks This Is an Exercise - Several months previously, Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, made arrangements with Brigadier General Ben Robinson, the commander of the 552nd Air Control Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma, for AWACS support to be provided during training exercises simulating attacks on the United States. As Arnold will later recall, the pilot of the AWACS that NORAD now contacts “thought it was an exercise.” However the pilot is then told “what happened at the World Trade Center” and realizes “his responsibility was to follow the president.” Arnold will say: “We told him to follow Air Force One, and he asked the question we all asked: ‘Where is it going?’ We said: ‘We can’t tell you. Just follow it.’” (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 86-87)
AWACS Escorts President to Washington - The time the AWACS plane gets close enough to Air Force One to be of assistance to it is unclear. According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, by around 10:30 a.m., it has not yet arrived to protect the president’s plane. (Sammon 2002, pp. 107) Arnold will recall that NORAD maintains “the AWACS overhead the whole route,” as Air Force One flies to Barksdale Air Force Base, then Offutt Air Force Base, and then back to Washington. (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
AWACS Is a 'Wonderful Asset' - According to Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” Rosenker, who will fly with Bush on Air Force One after it takes off from Sarasota (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), says the AWACS is “a wonderful asset to have up there for us, it tremendously helped us to be able to guide for where we needed to go, to what potential problems we might encounter.… [I]t was an important part of what we needed to do to guarantee the safety of the president of the United States.” (White House 8/29/2002)

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. [Source: John S. Swanson / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) contacts Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan to arrange for two of its F-16 fighter jets that are out on a training mission to intercept a suspicious aircraft. Accounts will conflict over whether this aircraft is Flight 93 or Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is wrongly thought to have been hijacked. (Associated Press 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178) Delta 1989 was flying about 25 miles behind Flight 93 when air traffic controllers mistakenly suspected it might be hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and since then it has been instructed to land at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Levin 9/11/2008) Flight 93 is currently flying east across Pennsylvania. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) NEADS has already tried getting fighter jets from a unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta 1989, but the unit was unable to respond (see (Shortly After 9:41 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file)
NEADS Calls Selfridge Base - A NEADS weapons technician now calls the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. He knows the unit has two F-16s in the air on a training mission. Although these jets are unarmed and only have a limited amount of fuel remaining, the commander at the Selfridge base agrees to turn them over to NEADS. (Spencer 2008, pp. 178) The commander says: “[H]ere’s what we can do. At a minimum, we can keep our guys airborne. I mean, they don’t have—they don’t have any guns or missiles or anything on board.” The NEADS technician replies, “It’s a presence, though.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)
Fighters May Have to Crash into Hijacked Plane - Military commanders realize that, without weapons, the Selfridge fighter pilots might have to slam their jets into a hijacked plane to stop it in its tracks. Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will later reflect, “As a military man, there are times that you have to make sacrifices that you have to make.” (Raddatz 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002) However, the Selfridge jets never have to intercept either of the two suspect aircraft, and instead are able to head back to base. (Filson 2003, pp. 70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file)
Selfridge Called due to Concerns about Delta 1989? - According to author Lynn Spencer, the NEADS weapons technician’s call to the Selfridge unit is made in response to a report NEADS received about the possible hijacking of Delta 1989 (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178) Vanity Fair magazine and the 9/11 Commission will also say NEADS calls the Selfridge unit in response to this report about Delta 1989. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NORAD Commander Gives Different Account - However, Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will suggest the Selfridge unit is called due to concerns about both Delta 1989 and Flight 93. He will say: “We were concerned about Flight 93 and this Delta aircraft [Flight 1989] and were trying to find aircraft in the vicinity to help out. We didn’t know where it was going to go. We were concerned about Detroit… and the fighters up there were out of gas with no armament.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71)
NEADS Commander Claims Fighters Sent toward Flight 93 - Robert Marr will give another different account. He will claim that NEADS contacts the Selfridge base solely because of its concerns over Flight 93. He tells author Leslie Filson that before Flight 93 reversed course and headed back east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), NEADS thought it was “headed toward Detroit or Chicago. I’m thinking Chicago is the target and know that Selfridge Air National Guard Base has F-16s in the air.” NEADS contacts “them so they could head off 93 at the pass.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68) Marr will tell the 9/11 Commission that the Selfridge F-16s are going to be “too far from Cleveland to do any good,” and so he believes NEADS directs them to intercept Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) (Presumably, he means the jets cannot be responding to Delta 1989, which has been told to land in Cleveland (Levin 9/11/2008) )
9/11 Commission Disputes Arnold's and Marr's Accounts - The 9/11 Commission will reject Arnold’s and Marr’s accounts. It will state, “The record demonstrates, however, that… the military never saw Flight 93 at all” before it crashes, and conclude, “The Selfridge base was contacted by NEADS not regarding Flight 93, but in response to another commercial aircraft in the area that was reported hijacked (Delta Flight 1989, which ultimately was resolved as not hijacked).” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 101) Lt. Col. Doug Champagne, the pilot of one of the Selfridge F-16s, will recall that “he and his colleague never received orders to intercept [Flight 93] in any way.” (Casey 9/6/2006) Reports based on interviews with the two Selfridge pilots will make no mention of the jets being directed to intercept Delta 1989 either (see (9:56 a.m.-10:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)

Douglas Champagne.Douglas Champagne. [Source: David Kujawa / US Air Force]Although NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has contacted Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, reportedly to arrange that two of its F-16s be diverted from a training mission to intercept either Flight 93 or Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 (accounts conflict over which aircraft is concerned), the pilots of those jets apparently never receive an order to intercept a plane, and so return directly to their base. (Filson 2003, pp. 68, 71; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178) However, some accounts will claim the pilots are indeed ordered to intercept the suspect aircraft. (Raddatz 8/30/2002; Associated Press 8/30/2002; Baker 3/27/2005; Spencer 2008, pp. 188)
Jets Returning from Training Mission - The F-16s, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Tom Froling and Major Douglas Champagne of the 127th Wing, had taken off from Selfridge Air National Guard Base at around 8:50 a.m. for a routine training mission at Grayling Range in central northern Michigan. The two pilots were oblivious to the attacks taking place in New York and Washington. (Filson 2003, pp. 68; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/26/2005; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file) When they started heading back to Selfridge after completing their training mission, they began hearing “unusual radio traffic” as air traffic controllers began diverting flights from their original destinations. (Casey 9/6/2006)
Pilots Learn of Plane Hitting Pentagon - Froling will later recall: “Something strange was occurring and I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening. I could hear [the FAA’s] Cleveland Center talking to the airlines and I started putting things together and knew something was up.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70) Champagne hears an air traffic controller stating that a plane has crashed at the Pentagon. He then hears the Cleveland Center announcing a “demon watch,” which means pilots have to contact their operations center for more information.
Commander Asks if Pilots Have Used up Their Ammunition - When Champagne calls the Selfridge base, his operations group commander, General Michael Peplinski, wants to know if he and Froling have used up their ammunition during the training mission. Champagne will recall: “[Peplinski] asked if we had expended all our munitions and specifically asked if we had strafed. We replied that all ordnance was gone. I assumed we had strafed without clearance and had injured someone down range. We had no idea what was happening on the Eastern seaboard.” (Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)
Pilots Directed to Return to Base - According to author Lynn Spencer, because a commander with the 127th Wing agreed to turn the two F-16s over to NEADS (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Champagne and Froling are instructed to call NEADS. When they do so, they are ordered to intercept Delta 1989. (Spencer 2008, pp. 178, 180, 188) But according to other accounts, they are “ordered south in case United Airlines 93 was targeting Chicago.” (ABC News 9/11/2002; Baker 3/27/2005) However, according to two reports based on interviews with Champagne, Peplinski only instructs the two pilots to return to their base and land on its auxiliary runway.
Pilots Apparently Not Ordered to Intercept Aircraft - Accounts based on interviews with the pilots will make no mention of the jets being directed to intercept Delta 1989 or Flight 93. According to Champagne, the air traffic controller’s announcement that an aircraft hit the Pentagon “was the only indication we received that other aircraft and buildings were involved.” Champagne will say that “he and his colleague never received orders to intercept [Flight 93] in any way.” The two pilots “had no ammunition… and only an hour’s worth of fuel remaining. And as they approached Selfridge amid the puzzling radio transmissions, they still were oblivious to what was transpiring.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)
Jets Land at Base - The two F-16s land back at Selfridge Air National Guard Base at 10:29 a.m. (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file) As Champagne pulls in his aircraft, his friend Captain Sean Campbell approaches and mouths the words to him: “It’s bad. It’s really, really bad.” (Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)

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; Kohn 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). (Martin 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. (Hehs 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. (Rendon 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. (McKenna 12/1999; Hebert 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. (Hehs 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. (Arnold 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.” (Kohn 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. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 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; Langley 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; Cousins 7/9/2005)

Since around 9:54, Flight 93 passenger Elizabeth Wainio has been speaking by phone with her stepmother Esther Heymann (see (9:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44) Wainio ends her call saying, “They’re getting ready to break into the cockpit. I have to go. I love you. Good-bye.” She then hangs up. (Longman 2002, pp. 172) The 9/11 Commission concludes that the passengers’ revolt against the hijackers that Wainio is referring to begins at 9:57 a.m. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 45) Yet according to journalist and author Jere Longman, Wainio’s call lasts 11 minutes, and ends at “just past ten” o’clock, which is several minutes after the revolt starts. (Longman 2002, pp. 171-172) In fact, if Wainio’s call began around 9:54, as is officially claimed, and lasts 11 minutes, it would end around 10:05. This is after official accounts claim Flight 93 crashed, but before the crash time of 10:06 later provided by an analysis of seismic records (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, according to the 9/11 Commission and a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, Wainio’s call only lasts four-and-a-half minutes. This would mean it ends just shortly after the passenger revolt begins. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44 and 46; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)

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.” (Dennehy 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; Viser 9/11/2005)

An F-15 Eagle from the 125th Fighter Wing.An F-15 Eagle from the 125th Fighter Wing. [Source: Shaun Withers / US Air Force]Fighter jets belonging to a military unit in Jacksonville, Florida, launch to escort Air Force One after it takes off from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), some accounts will later indicate. (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) However, other accounts will indicate that these jets, if launched, never reach the president’s plane. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Fighters Reportedly Launched - The New York Times will report that at 10:41 a.m., Air Force One is “headed toward Jacksonville to meet jets scrambled to give the presidential jet its own air cover.” (Sanger and van Natta 9/16/2001) And, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph, after Air Force One climbs to 40,000 feet, it is “joined by an escort of F-16 fighters from a base near Jacksonville.” (Langley 12/16/2001) These reports are presumably referring to jets belonging to the 125th Fighter Wing, a unit of the Florida Air National Guard located at Jacksonville International Airport. The wing keeps two F-15s on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base, near Miami, ready for immediate takeoff, as part of NORAD’s air sovereignty mission. (McKenna 12/1999; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005; Florida Air National Guard 2009)
Fighters Likely Launched from Homestead - If 125th Fighter Wing jets are scrambled to accompany Air Force One, it appears they would be the unit’s F-15s on alert at Homestead, rather than its fighters at Jacksonville Airport. Major Charles Chambers, who is at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon, will state within a week of the attacks, “Fighters had been scrambled from Homestead [Air Reserve Base] and were escorting Air Force One westward.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) In contrast, at Jacksonville International Airport, according to a 2007 report in the Florida Times-Union, “Within hours of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the wing’s aircraft were sitting on a JIA runway ready for the order to scramble.” (Brumley 9/15/2007) And an account published by the Florida Air National Guard will only say, “On Sept. 11, 2001, several loaded F-15 aircraft lined Runway 13/31 [at Jacksonville Airport] for the first time in history.” (Guard 2007 pdf file)
Fighters Apparently Do Not Reach Air Force One - Most accounts will contradict Chambers’ claim that, if indeed 125th Fighter Wing jets are scrambled toward the president’s plane, they are subsequently “escorting Air Force One westward.” According to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, it is in fact “[f]our F-16s from the 147th Fighter Wing, Texas Air National Guard,” that accompany Air Force One “from the panhandle of Florida to Barksdale Air Force Base.” (Filson 2003, pp. 87) CBS News will report that the first fighters to reach Air Force One are two F-16s from the 147th Fighter Wing (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) And Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will only say that 147th Fighter Wing F-16s “chased Air Force One and landed with the president at Barksdale AFB in Louisiana,” making no mention of any 125th Fighter Wing jets being scrambled. (Code One Magazine 1/2002) At NORAD’s other alert site in Florida besides Homestead—a unit at Tyndall Air Force Base—the two alert fighters are put on “battle stations,” but apparently do not take off to escort Air Force One (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 87)

General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks over the phone with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is at the Pentagon, and is given information about the Pentagon attack and the military’s response to the terrorist attacks. Shelton took off at 7:15 a.m. to fly to Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learned of the attacks in New York while his plane was over the Atlantic Ocean, and has just been told of a “big explosion at the Pentagon” (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Report Is of a Hand Grenade Going Off at Pentagon - Shelton heads to the communications console just behind the plane’s cockpit. From there, he talks over a secure, encrypted phone line with Myers, who is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. Myers updates Shelton on what is known about the explosion at the Pentagon. He says the first report is that a hand grenade went off in the Pentagon parking lot.
Myers Updates Shelton on Military Response to Attacks - Myers then gives Shelton a complete status report. He says: “We’ve transitioned the SIEC [significant event conference] into an air threat conference call, which is in progress as we speak (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). FAA has requested that NORAD take over control of US airspace. Fighters have scrambled to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and we’re sending AWACS up to provide further monitoring (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). We’ve escalated to Threatcon Delta and are about to launch the NAOC [National Airborne Operations Center plane]. Bases around the world are locked tight, [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz has been relocated to Site R (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), plus, [Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley has requested we implement full ‘Continuity of Government measures’ (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and we are proceeding along those lines.”
Myers Says Plane Hit the Pentagon - Myers is then interrupted by some commotion in the background. When he returns to the line, he tells Shelton, “Okay, we just got the word: the prior report was incorrect; it was not a hand grenade that exploded, it was another commercial airline that struck the Pentagon.” He then continues with his status report, saying, “[P]er the president, we’ve gone weapons free in the event of a hijacked aircraft or one that threatens the White House.” (Giesemann 2008, pp. 20, 22-24; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-433)
Shelton Wants to Return to Washington - Myers will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the NMCC—presumably referring to the time of this phone call—he “recommended General Shelton return to Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file) But Shelton will recall that he tells Myers, “I need you to call Ed Eberhart [General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD] at NORAD and let him know that we’re coming back [to Washington] on Speckled Trout [the nickname of the plane he is on], and tell him that I would consider it a personal favor if he would see to it that the chairman and his crew are not shot down on their way back to Andrews.” Myers confirms, “Will do.” According to Shelton, his plane is called back 10 minutes later “with confirmation that we had been officially cleared to fly through the shutdown airspace.” (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 433) 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). (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) The plane will therefore only land at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, 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) The exact time of the call between Shelton and Myers is unclear, though it would be at some time after about 10:00 a.m., when Myers arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38)

Flight 93’s transponder, which was switched off after Flight 93 was hijacked, is turned back on just before the plane crashes, thereby revealing the plane’s altitude to air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002) A transponder is a device that sends a plane’s identifying information, speed, and altitude to controllers’ radar screens. (Maraniss 9/16/2001) Flight 93’s transponder was switched off at around 9:40 a.m. (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although Cleveland Center controllers have still been able to follow Flight 93 on “primary radar,” which shows less information about a flight (see (9:41 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 1/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Sangiacomo 7/3/2011)
Plane Shown to Be Flying at 8,200 Feet - Flight 93’s transponder is reactivated at 10:02 a.m. and 50 seconds, and then stays on for “approximately 20 seconds,” according to “information from the flight data” provided to the FBI later today by Rick Kettell, the manager of the Cleveland Center. After the transponder is turned back on, Flight 93’s radar track is observed by Cleveland Center controllers Linda Justice and Stacey Taylor. The information from the transponder shows them that Flight 93 is at an altitude of 8,200 feet. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file)
Plane Soon Disappears from Radar Screens - Flight 93 will crash into the ground at 10:03 a.m. and 11 seconds, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, less than 30 seconds after the transponder is reactivated (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) Cleveland Center controllers will see the plane completely disappear from their radar screens around that time. (MSNBC 9/11/2002) A Cleveland Center controller will then report, apparently over an FAA teleconference, that Flight 93’s transponder “came on briefly and then it went back off with the primary, and now we’ve lost him completely.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) “I had two radar hits on [Flight 93],” Taylor will recall, adding that she then “lost the primary target on [Flight 93] and we suspected it had gone down.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001 pdf file) The reason Flight 93’s transponder is switched back on just before the plane crashes is unclear. Taylor will comment, a year after 9/11: “That’s something we’ve always wanted to know. Why did the transponder come back on?” She will say Cleveland Center controllers wondered this because they believed that “the hijackers had shut it off so that they couldn’t be tracked.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002)

Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania.Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania. [Source: CNN]Exactly when Flight 93 crashes is unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. It will claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff’s radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” It does note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army and drafted by scientists Won-Young Kim and Gerald Baum to determine when the plane crashed will conclude that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. (Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Perlman 12/9/2002) The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News will publish an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” This notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. (Bunch 9/16/2002) The New York Observer will note that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don’t have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’” (Sheehy 2/15/2004)

In response to the terrorist attacks in the United States, the Russian military cancels a major training exercise it has been holding, turning back its bomber aircraft and calling off planned missile testing. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) The Russian Air Force began the exercise—which was being conducted over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans—on September 10 (see September 10, 2001), and had planned for it to continue until September 14. NORAD has deployed fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the exercise (see September 9, 2001).
Russians Cancel Exercise to Avoid Confusion - The Russians now call off their exercise, “to avoid misunderstandings, since US defenses were now on high alert in case of further possible terrorist attacks,” according to BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) “The Russians knew NORAD would have its hands full,” the Toronto Star will report. Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will say the Russians stop their exercise “because they understood the magnitude of what had happened to us in the United States. They didn’t want any questions; they didn’t want us worrying about what they would be doing or entering our Air Defense Identification Zone.”
Russia Tells US about Canceling Exercise - The Russians notify the US of their actions. Captain Michael Jellinek, the director of plans, requirements, and readiness at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will later recall: “They sent the message to the State Department clearly and unambiguously: ‘Don’t worry about our movements, we’re going to stay down for a while.’”
Russia's Actions Are 'Very Helpful' to US - It is unclear when exactly the Russians call off their exercise. According to the Toronto Star, they “immediately” cancel it “on seeing the attacks in New York and Washington.” Glover will say the Russians notify the US that they are stopping their exercise “after the United Flight 93 went into Shanksville” (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Jellinek will call the Russians’ actions in canceling their exercise “[v]ery, very useful. Very helpful.” Glover will comment, “[T]hat was amazing to me, personally, the fact that they stopped their exercise and… that they told us that they were going to stop the exercise.” (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) Russian President Vladimir Putin will contact the White House and inform National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the Russians are voluntarily canceling their exercise (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)

The military liaison at the FAA’s Cleveland Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and alerts it to the hijacked Flight 93. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is the first notification NEADS receives about Flight 93, but it comes too late, since the plane has already crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 46)
'Bomb on Board' Flight 93 - At 10:05 a.m., the military liaison at the Cleveland Center, who is unaware that Flight 93 has just crashed, calls NEADS to inform it that Flight 93 is heading toward Washington, DC. Even though communicating with NEADS is not one of his responsibilities, he wants to make sure it is in the loop. (Spencer 2008, pp. 224) At NEADS, the call is answered by Tech Sergeant Shelley Watson. Shortly into the call, at 10:07, the military liaison tells her: “We got a United 93 out here. Are you aware of that?” He continues, “That has a bomb on board.” Watson asks: “A bomb on board? And this is confirmed? You have a mode three [beacon code], sir?” The military liaison replies, “No, we lost his transponder” (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The news about Flight 93 is shouted out to Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander. Nasypany responds: “Gimme the call sign. Gimme the whole nine yards.… Let’s get some info, real quick. They got a bomb?”
Liaison Wants Fighters Sent toward Flight 93 - The military liaison continues, asking Watson if NEADS scrambled fighter jets in response to Delta 1989, an aircraft that was mistakenly reported as having been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Watson replies: “We did. Out of Selfridge and Toledo” (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), and says these jets are airborne. When the military liaison asks if the fighters can be directed to where Flight 93 is, Watson asks him if the Cleveland Center has latitude and longitude coordinates for this aircraft. The military liaison replies that he has not got this information available right now. All he knows is that Flight 93 has “got a confirmed bomb on board… and right now, his last known position was in the Westmoreland area.… Which is… in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NEADS Searches on Radar - The news of a bomb on board Flight 93 spreads quickly at NEADS, and personnel there search for the aircraft’s primary return on their radar screens. But because the plane has already crashed, they will be unable to locate it. NEADS will only learn that Flight 93 has crashed at 10:15 a.m., during a call with the FAA’s Washington Center (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30-31)
FAA Failed to Notify Military Earlier - The Cleveland Center’s notification to NEADS about Flight 93 comes 39 minutes after the plane was hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and 33 minutes after FAA headquarters was alerted to the hijacking (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28) At the time NEADS is alerted to Flight 93, NORAD is similarly uninformed about this aircraft, according to the 9/11 Commission. The Commission will state, “At 10:07, its representative on the air threat conference call stated that NORAD had ‘no indication of a hijack heading to DC at this time.’” According to the Commission, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon learned about the Flight 93 hijacking slightly earlier on, at 10:03 a.m. (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the NMCC was notified by the White House, not the FAA. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42) A former senior FAA executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, will later try to explain why it takes the FAA so long to alert NEADS to Flight 93. He will say, “Our whole procedures prior to 9/11 were that you turned everything [regarding a hijacking] over to the FBI.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet military instructions contradict this, stating, “In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA.” (US Department of Defense 7/31/1997 pdf file; US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file)
NORAD Commanders Claim Earlier Awareness of Flight 93 - Two senior NORAD officials will contradict the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion, and claim they were aware of Flight 93 well before it crashed (see Shortly Before 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 68, 71-73) Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will tell the Commission that, while the flight was still airborne, “his focus was on UAL 93, which was circling over Chicago,” and he “distinctly remembers watching the flight UAL 93 come west, and turn over Cleveland.” (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, will recall, “[W]e watched the [Flight] 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward DC.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71)

Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance.Flight 93 crashed in the Pennsylvania countryside. Resue vehicles arrive in the distance. [Source: Keith Srakocic/ Associated Press]Flight 93 crashes into an empty field just north of the Somerset County Airport, about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, 124 miles or 15 minutes from Washington, D.C. Presumably, hijackers Ziad Jarrah, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Saeed Alghamdi, and all the plane’s passengers are killed instantly. (CNN 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Hillston 10/28/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002) The point of impact is a reclaimed coal mine, known locally as the Diamond T Mine, that was reportedly abandoned in 1996. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 9/12/2001; Zapinski 9/12/2001; Frederick 9/11/2002) Being “reclaimed” means the earth had been excavated down to the coal seam, the coal removed, and then the earth replaced and planted over. (Kashurba 2002, pp. 121) A US Army authorized seismic study times the crash at five seconds after 10:06 a.m. (Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Perlman 12/9/2002) As mentioned previously, the timing of this crash is disputed and it may well occur at 10:03 a.m., 10:07 a.m., or 10:10 a.m.

The FAA’s Cleveland Center, which had the last contact with Flight 93 before it crashed, suggests that no distress signal indicating a plane crash has occurred was picked up at the time Flight 93 went down. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Flight 93 reportedly crashed in rural Pennsylvania at 10:03 a.m. (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30; Levin 9/11/2008) An air traffic controller at the Cleveland Center now says, apparently over an FAA teleconference, that someone has reported seeing black smoke in the vicinity of Flight 93’s last known position, near Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The controller then says, “We’re trying to see if we can get an ELT check.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically start transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue efforts in locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; Federal Aviation Administration 7/12/2001; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) The Cleveland Center controller’s information, as an FAA timeline will later state, therefore indicates that “[n]o ELT” signal has been picked up in the area where Flight 93 apparently crashed “at this time.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Someone at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, acknowledges the controller’s communication, responding, “Copy that, Command Center.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Whether anyone will subsequently report picking up an ELT signal in the area where Flight 93 apparently crashed is unclear. Major Allan Knox, who works at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, which is “the contact for credible” ELT signals, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not recall an ELT detection being brought to his attention” today. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file) However, an ELT signal was picked up in the New York area by the pilot of an aircraft minutes before Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001) and another ELT signal was picked up in the New York area by the same pilot minutes before Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; New York Times 10/16/2001)

Two senior NORAD officials, Colonel Robert Marr and Major General Larry Arnold, have to address the possibility of issuing shootdown authorization to fighter jets under their command, after a report is received about an aircraft over the White House. (Spencer 2008, pp. 224-225)
Aircraft over White House - Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, is in the NEADS battle cab. On the NEADS operations floor, mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany has just learned of a report of an aircraft flying over the White House (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001), and now talks to Marr over the phone. Nasypany asks: “Okay, did you hear that? Aircraft over the White House. What’s the word? Intercept and what else?” Marr has a phone to each ear and does not hear what Nasypany says. Nasypany therefore repeats, “Aircraft… over… the White House!” pausing on each word for emphasis. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 224)
Commanders Discuss Shootdown Order - The news of an aircraft over the White House forces Marr and Arnold, with whom he has been communicating, to address the issue of authorizing the shooting down of aircraft. (Spencer 2008, pp. 225) Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region (CONR), is at the CONR air operations center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. (Code One Magazine 1/2002) According to author Lynn Spencer, he has not yet received any instructions from his higher-ups regarding shootdown authorization. “He talked to Major General Rick Findley,” who is at NORAD’s operations center in Colorado, “and asked him to get shootdown authority from the vice president, but he’s still heard nothing back.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 225)
Arnold Possibly Authorizes Shootdown - Arnold will later tell author Leslie Filson that he has “the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” (Filson 2003, pp. 75) But according to Vanity Fair, he only passes the current request for rules of engagement further up his chain of command. (Bronner 8/1/2006) However, Spencer will claim otherwise, stating, “In light of the imminent attack on the White House,” Arnold “decides he will exercise the authority he has to protect the nation in an emergency.” He tells Marr: “We will intercept and attempt to divert. If we can’t, then we’ll shoot it down.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 225)
Alleged Shootdown Authorization Not Passed On - Minutes later, though, Nasypany will tell his staff that the pilots that took off from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) have “negative clearance to shoot” aircraft over Washington (see 10:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 31) And according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS only learns that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then it does not pass this order along to the fighter pilots under its command (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43)

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