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9:54 a.m.-11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001: White House Situation Room Is Unable to Communicate with Air Force One

Scott Heyer.Scott Heyer. [Source: T.J. Kirkpatrick / MCT]Scott Heyer, a communications officer in the White House Situation Room, is unable to contact Air Force One, the president’s plane, as it travels from Florida to Louisiana. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] Air Force One takes off from Sarasota, Florida, with President Bush on board at 9:54 a.m. (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001) and lands at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana at 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325] Personnel in the Situation Room, meanwhile, are working hard to keep information flowing to key White House officials. [McClatchy Newspapers, 8/29/2011] Heyer tries to establish contact with Air Force One, which is equipped with state-of-the-art communications systems, over an ultra-high-frequency (UHF) data circuit. This system can be used for voice communications, faxes, and computer communications with the president’s plane while it is airborne. However, Heyer will later recall, the UHF data circuit “was failing.” Heyer tries calling the Inmarsat satellite phone on Air Force One, but the line is busy. [Inside the White House, 9/1998; Hardesty, 2003, pp. 167; 9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] A communicator on the plane will in fact later comment that on this day, “Inmarsat was clobbered immediately after the attack.” [SpaceNews, 5/18/2011] Heyer waits to hear back from Air Force One, but receives no communications from the plane while it is flying from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base. [9/11 Commission, 3/16/2004] Bush will complain to the 9/11 Commission about his inability to make communications while he is on Air Force One today (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Scott Heyer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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