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Context of '(9:36 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NEADS Personnel See Aircraft Disappear over Washington on Radar'

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Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), tries phoning Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), to get authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but Arnold is in a teleconference, so Marr has to leave an urgent message requesting that Arnold call him back. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31]
Arnold Unavailable to Authorize Launching Fighters - Marr has just learned that the FAA is requesting NORAD assistance with a possible hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and has therefore ordered that fighter jets at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, be placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] He now tries calling Arnold at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, to get authorization to scramble the fighters. However, Arnold is in a teleconference with other senior NORAD officials (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and is therefore unavailable to talk to Marr. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 31]
Marr Leaves Urgent Message for Arnold - Marr talks to Colonel Randy Morris, the assistant director of the CONR Regional Air Operations Center, and tells him about the possible hijacking. Morris replies that such an event “falls under law enforcement jurisdiction.” Marr says the FAA has requested military assistance with the hijacking and NEADS is “forward leaning” fighters from Otis Air Base, referring to his order to place Otis fighters on battle stations. [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] Marr leaves an urgent message for Arnold, stating that he is dealing with a hijacking and requesting that Arnold call him back. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31] Arnold will be given Marr’s message after he leaves the teleconference (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will promptly call Marr back (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] It is unclear why no one interrupts the teleconference to fetch Arnold to come and talk with Marr right away, or at least to immediately pass on Marr’s message.
Unclear if Marr Needs Authorization to Scramble Fighters - It is also unclear why Marr seeks authorization from his superior before ordering that fighters be scrambled. According to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, the aircraft control and warning officer at NEADS, the mission crew commander at NEADS—i.e. Major Kevin Nasypany—“is the lowest level rank that has the authority to give a scramble order.” However, Deskins will tell the 9/11 Commission: “[S]ince Colonel Marr was in the battle cab, it was his role. Since the decision involved a civilian aircraft, he had to be the one who made the decision.” [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file] The 1st Air Force’s book about the 9/11 attacks will similarly state that the “sector commander” at NEADS, i.e. Marr, “would have authority to scramble the airplanes.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 50] But Arnold will say the reason the Otis fighters are placed on battle stations instead of being scrambled immediately is that aircraft hijacking is “considered a law enforcement issue.” The correct procedure, according to Arnold, is therefore that, if the FAA wants fighters scrambled, it should call the duty officer at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon. He in turn contacts the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, to see if fighters are available. The operations center then seeks permission from someone representing the secretary of defense. Finally, “Once that is approved, then we scramble aircraft,” Arnold will say (see June 1, 2001). [Filson, 2002; Code One Magazine, 1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Randy Morris, Larry Arnold, Robert Marr, Dawne Deskins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), members of staff spot the radar track for an aircraft—later reported to be Flight 77—flying over Washington, DC and approaching the White House. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 65; Spencer, 2008, pp. 151] Around this time, Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, has called NEADS to report an unidentified aircraft six miles southeast of the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Deskins Sees Aircraft Circling and Disappear - Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins has noticed a suspicious track on the radar scope. She will later recall: “I had the scope focused in on the DC area and got blips of this aircraft that appeared to be going in a turn around DC. It was going fast for where it was located and I remember looking at the guy next to me and saying, ’What is that?’[Filson, 2003, pp. 65]
Tracker Spots Aircraft - One of the tracker technicians also thinks he has spotted the aircraft on radar, just a few miles south of the White House and heading north, but then loses it. He calls out: “Right here, right here, right here! I got him. I got him!” NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany says, “Get me coordinates!” and then picks up the phone to quickly brief Colonel Robert Marr in the NEADS battle cab. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 151]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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