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Context of '9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001: NEADS Requests Refueling Planes from McGuire Air Force Base'

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

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Cape Cod Times, 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.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 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]

Entity Tags: Bob Varcadipane, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Timothy Duffy, World Trade Center, Kevin Nasypany, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey.McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey. [Source: Ken Mann / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) contacts McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey and asks if it has any tanker planes available that would be able to support the fighter jets that took off in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 and McGuire says it has two tankers currently airborne that are carrying plenty of fuel. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003] Two F-15 fighters took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] They are currently south of Long Island (see 9:01 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and personnel at NEADS are trying to locate refueling tankers for them. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Jones, 2011, pp. 35]
NEADS Tells McGuire about the Hijacking - Technical Sergeant Ronald Belluscio, a senior weapons director technician at NEADS, contacts McGuire Air Force Base and his call is answered by a “Major Rice” there. He says, “We got a hijack, I don’t know if you guys are aware of that.” He says NEADS has scrambled a couple of fighters in response to it and asks if McGuire has any tanker planes out in “Whiskey 107.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] Whiskey 107 is an area over the Atlantic Ocean, about 70 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is frequently used for military training. [CNN, 2/7/1997; New York Times, 2/7/1997; Global Security (.org), 5/7/2011]
McGuire Has Two Tankers Airborne - Rice replies that McGuire has “a crew airborne right now,” but adds, “I don’t know where they went, though.” He says the base actually has “two crews airborne right now,” which have the call signs “Team 23 and Team 24.” He says the FAA’s New York Center will be in control of these planes, which are currently flying “up northeast of New York.” He mentions that the tankers have “a lot of fuel.” He adds that they should have “enough fuel to be airborne almost all day.” Rice ends by telling Belluscio, “New York Center is who you need to get a hold of.” Belluscio confirms, “Okay sir, I’ll do that,” before terminating the call. He then tells a colleague at NEADS about the two tanker planes from McGuire and the colleague says they will pass this information along. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
Tankers Are Taking Off around This Time - The two tankers that Rice refers to in the call actually take off from McGuire Air Force Base around this time for routine training missions. The plane with the call sign Team 23, piloted by Major Carlos Vilella, takes off at 9:02 a.m. Team 24, piloted by Major William Sherrod, takes off at 9:05 a.m. These planes are KC-10s. [Air Force Print News, 9/9/2011; Kennedy et al., 2012, pp. 42, 66, 69] The KC-10 is the military version of the DC-10. [Albany Times Union, 4/29/2016] The two planes will initially be sent to Whiskey 107 (see 9:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
Tankers Will Refuel Planes over New York and Washington - Team 23 will subsequently provide fuel to aircraft over Washington, DC, including the fighters performing combat air patrols there. It will fly two sorties, lasting around 12 and a half hours in total, and refuel 10 aircraft today. Team 24, meanwhile, will apparently provide fuel to aircraft over New York City, including the fighters performing combat air patrols there. It will be airborne for five hours and refuel 13 aircraft. [Air Force Print News, 9/9/2011; Kennedy et al., 2012, pp. 66, 69] NEADS also talks with the crew of a KC-135 tanker plane from Bangor International Airport in Maine around this time about providing fuel to the fighters from Otis Air Base (see 9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: McGuire Air Force Base, Carlos Vilella, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Ronald Belluscio, William Sherrod

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), instructs a colleague of his to send a tanker plane from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey into military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. Ten minutes ago, NEADS contacted McGuire Air Force Base and asked if it had any tankers available to support the fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. An officer at McGuire said the base had two KC-10 tankers airborne and these planes were carrying plenty of fuel (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Staffer Is Told to Send a Tanker into Training Airspace - A member of staff at NEADS now discusses what to do with these tankers with Nasypany. “We’ve got McGuire offering two more tankers if we need them,” he says. Nasypany says in response, “Okay” and then instructs, “Get me that KC-10, stick him in 107.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] “107” is “Whiskey 107,” an area over the Atlantic Ocean, about 70 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is frequently used for military training. [CNN, 2/7/1997; New York Times, 2/7/1997; Global Security (.org), 5/7/2011] The staffer asks Nasypany if he wants to send one or both of the tankers into Whiskey 107. Nasypany replies, “One” and adds: “Two KC-10s should do it fine. Put him in 107.”
Both Tankers Are Apparently Sent over the Ocean - Nasypany then tells another person about the tankers and what he intends to do with them. “I got two offers up from McGuire for KC-10s,” he says, adding, “I’m taking one KC-10, putting him in Whiskey 107, gonna hold him there for the Langley guys.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] The “Langley guys” are the F-16 fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that have been put on “battle stations” (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will be scrambled at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24, 27] Despite what Nasypany has said, both—not just one—of the KC-10s from McGuire Air Force Base will apparently be directed into Whiskey 107. At 9:25 a.m., Nasypany will tell a colleague he has “two KC-10s” out of McGuire and he is “sticking them in Whiskey 107.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, McGuire Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) instructs a tanker plane to remain in military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, presumably so it will be available to refuel fighter jets if necessary. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] The KC-10 tanker, which has the call sign “Team 21,” took off from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey at dawn. [Kennedy et al., 2012, pp. 42]
Plane Is Told to 'Orbit' within the Training Area - The NEADS staffer begins by saying to someone on the plane, “I show you at Angels 23 in 107.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] “Angels 23” means the tanker is flying at 23,000 feet. [Scout, 10/12/2016] “107” is “Whiskey 107,” an area over the Atlantic Ocean, about 70 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is frequently used for military training. [CNN, 2/7/1997; New York Times, 2/7/1997; Global Security (.org), 5/7/2011] The person on the plane responds, “Team 21.” The NEADS staffer then gives them the instruction, “Your mission is to orbit [in] Whiskey 107.” The person on the plane confirms, “Team 21, copy” and asks, “I guess we’ll hang out here until you tell us otherwise?” The NEADS staffer replies, “That’s affirmative for Team 21.”
Another Tanker Is Heading toward the Training Area - He also mentions that another tanker should be joining Team 21 in Whiskey 107 soon. “We have Team 23, should be entering the airspace in a few more minutes,” he says. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] “Team 23,” another KC-10, took off from McGuire Air Force Base at 9:02 a.m. and was subsequently directed by NEADS to fly to Whiskey 107 (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Kennedy et al., 2012, pp. 42, 66]
NEADS Wants to Know How Much Fuel the Tanker Has - The person on the plane then asks, “Is this a fuel emergency?” The NEADS staffer replies, “Negative for now” and says they “just wanna know what your offload is for potential problems.” The person on the plane says, “We can offload 43K,” meaning the plane is carrying 43,000 pounds of fuel. The NEADS staffer thanks him for the information. Whether Team 21 will subsequently refuel any fighters is unclear. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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