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Profile: Michael Kelly (102nd FW)
Michael Kelly (102nd FW) was a participant or observer in the following events:
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; Airman, 9/3/2011] Their mission is an “ordinary training session,” according to the Cape Cod Times. [Cape Cod Times, 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; Airman, 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; Cape Cod Times, 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; Bangor Daily News, 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 ] They then fly out toward the Whiskey 105 training airspace. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 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 ; Cape Cod Times, 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 ]
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; Cape Cod Times, 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. [Cape Cod Times, 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]
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). [Cape Cod Times, 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.” [Cape Cod Times, 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. [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002] According to Boston Magazine, “Jets undergoing maintenance [are] rushed back into service, fitted out for combat instead of training.” [Boston Magazine, 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; Cape Cod Times, 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 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155; Airman, 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 ; 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 ] 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]
Joe McGrady. [Source: John P. Meyer]Two F-15 fighter jets take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the first to do so after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered the base to launch all of its available aircraft (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, these two fighters are unarmed. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246] The 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard operates from Otis Air Base, and is responsible for defending the northeastern US against various threats, including terrorist attacks. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] The aircraft maintenance squadron officer started preparing the unit’s F-15s for combat less than 15 minutes after the second attack in New York (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But despite the reportedly “furious pace of the weapons handlers” who “hurried to fix all available jets with live weapons,” only a few fighters have so far been loaded with any armament. [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245]
Fighters Launch with No Weapons - The first two fighters to take off are piloted by Dennis Doonan and Joe McGrady. As they are the first pilots to start their F-15s and taxi off the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft), they are paired up. But Doonan suddenly realizes that, though he is being sent into a combat situation, his fighter is unarmed. He radios McGrady and tells him, “I’m Winchester!” (“Winchester” is the code word for having no weapons.) McGrady’s aircraft is also unarmed, so McGrady immediately radios squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy and in a panic tells him: “We’re Winchester, SOF [supervisor of flying]! We’re Winchester!” But Treacy instructs him: “Just go! You need to get airborne now!” McGrady and Doonan head out for takeoff, not knowing where they are going or what they will have to do, but realizing that if they have to take out a target, they must do so with their own aircraft. Once they are airborne, they will intercept a KC-10 tanker plane and four A-10 jets (see (11:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then set up a combat air patrol over Boston. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-247]
Other Fighters Take Off Armed - Another two F-15s will take off from Otis Air Base shortly after McGrady and Doonan’s fighters (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These aircraft will have had their guns loaded and armed for use, but one of them will take off with only one missile loaded instead of two. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Richard, 2010, pp. 15-16, 18] The 102nd Fighter Wing’s two F-15s that are kept on “alert”—armed and ready for immediate takeoff—launched at 8:46 a.m., in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Fourteen of the base’s fighters will be “mission capable” by the end of the day, and six fighters will be airborne at a time, according to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 ]
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