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Two F-15s take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, becoming the second pair of fighter jets to take off from the base after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered it to launch all of its available aircraft. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 ; Spencer 2008, pp. 245-246; Richard 2010, pp. 18) The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis Air Base, and are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006) The 102nd Fighter Wing launched its two F-15s that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate takeoff—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) Another two of the unit’s F-15s have just taken off (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 245-246) Richard is one of several 102nd Fighter Wing pilots who were out for a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean earlier this morning (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The pilots were called back to their base following the attacks in New York (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unclear whether Martyn also participated in the training. (Lehmert 9/11/2006)
Pilot Doesn't Know What Is Going On - After landing back at Otis Air Base, Richard headed into the operations building and phoned his wife. He told her, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I am going flying.” Richard will later recall: “My feelings were of trepidation. I didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know what the two scrambled aircraft [i.e. the two fighters launched from his base in response to Flight 11] were doing.” Richard and Martyn had then been called to the operations desk, where Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, their unit’s supervisor of flying, told them they would be flying two of the first four fighters to be subsequently taking off from the base. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Richard 2010, pp. 14-15) Around that time, NEADS called the unit and instructed it to launch all of its available fighters, and the pilots had then been sent out to their aircraft (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 245)
Fighter Only Has One Missile Loaded - When he arrived at his fighter, Richard found Technical Sergeant Matthew Jackson loading the second of two AIM-9 heat-seeking missiles onto it. Dennis Mills, the crew chief, told Richard that his plane was fueled up and had a “hot gun with bullets,” meaning the 20mm gun was loaded and armed for use. Richard, who was impatient to get airborne, instructed Jackson to not bother loading the second missile onto his aircraft.
Intelligence Officer Warns of Eight Suspicious Aircraft - Then, Sergeant Joe Kelleher, the unit’s intelligence specialist, arrived, out of breath. Kelleher said: “There are up to eight airliners airborne with bombs on board. We know of an American [Airlines] jet out of Dulles [International Airport] and a United [Airlines] jet. I think you are going after the United jet.” The United Airlines aircraft he referred to, according to Richard, was Flight 93. (Richard 2010, pp. 15-16) However, this plane crashed in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (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) Richard will comment, “We were finding out real-time what the actual air picture was, and the information was not accurate.” Kelleher continued: “They are turning jets away from Europe and the rumor is some have crashed because they’ve run out of fuel. It’s friggin’ chaos!”
Fighters Take Off from Base - In their fighters, Richard and Martyn now taxi to the runway and take off from Otis Air Base. While climbing to altitude, Richard keeps his fighter’s engines in afterburner so as to gather the most speed he can. (Richard 2010, pp. 16, 18) Richard and Martyn will be directed to intercept a C-130 military cargo plane (see (After 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and will subsequently be sent over New York to intercept and identify aircraft there (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Roughton 9/3/2011)
Two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts intercept a C-130 military cargo plane returning to the US from England, which has failed to check in with air traffic controllers and whose pilot is apparently unaware of the crisis taking place in the United States. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Allocco 10/2001 ; Richard 2010, pp. 19-20) The two F-15s, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. They recently took off from Otis Air Base (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered the base to launch all of its available fighters (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 245; Richard 2010, pp. 18)
Suspect Aircraft Has Not Checked in with FAA - NEADS now gives Richard the details of his first target, an aircraft that failed to check in with the FAA’s Boston Center as expected and is therefore under suspicion. Richard locks his radar to the target and passes on the details to Martyn, telling him the suspect aircraft is 38 miles northeast of them and at an altitude of 17,000 feet. The two fighters fly toward the aircraft at supersonic speed. They intercept it just east of Boston’s Logan International Airport, Richard will later recall. (Richard 2010, pp. 19-20) But according to a report written by the 102nd Fighter Wing’s historian, they intercept it 150 miles out over the Atlantic Ocean. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) And according to the Westover Patriot, a military newspaper, they intercept it about 75 miles north of Springfield, Massachusetts. (Allocco 10/2001 )
Pilot Unaware of Attacks in the US - As Richard and Martyn close in on the aircraft, they see that it is a C-130 military transport plane. They take up positions just off its wings. The plane’s pilot is apparently unaware of the terrorist attacks in the US. Richard will describe, “The pilot sitting in the left seat of the C-130,” who is “enjoying his boxed lunch,” is “unaware that the world below was on fire.”
Fighters Signal to C-130 that It Has Been Intercepted - The pilot looks to the left and suddenly notices Richard’s fighter off his wing. Richard and Martyn then rock their wings, signifying to the pilot that his plane has been intercepted, and he acknowledges the signal by rocking his wings back. The pilot then contacts Richard and Martyn on the universal emergency radio frequency known as “guard,” which can be heard by all aircraft, regardless of what other frequency they are on. In a panicked voice he says, “F-15s intercepting the C-130 over Boston, state intentions.” Martyn tells him, “Contact [the FAA’s] Boston Center immediately.” Then, Richard will recall, “[W]e were off.” (Richard 2010, pp. 20)
C-130 Returning from England - The C-130 is from Texas and is returning to the US from England. It will subsequently land at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. Its commander will comment, “I’d never had an escort like that before in my career.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Allocco 10/2001 ) Richard will reflect, “It was amazing to me that in the beginning moments of the most important mission of my life, our formation was scrambled to intercept a United States military C-130.” (Richard 2010, pp. 20-21) Richard and Martyn will subsequently be sent over New York to intercept and identify aircraft there (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Roughton 9/3/2011)
Two F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, patrol the airspace over New York, first assisting and then later replacing another pair of F-15s that arrived over the city earlier on. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 ; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Richard 2010, pp. 25-26, 88) The two fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing, and are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. They took off from Otis Air Base at around 10:30 a.m. (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and have already intercepted a military cargo plane that was returning to the US from England (see (After 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Allocco 10/2001 ; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 ; Richard 2010, pp. 18-20)
Fighters Directed toward New York - The fighters were flying southwest toward New York when their pilots received orders from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), instructing them to “continue southwest and set up a combat air patrol over bull’s-eye.” “Bull’s-eye”—the reference point from which all positional reporting originates—had been set as the location of the now-collapsed World Trade Center towers. The fighters therefore continued toward the city.
FAA's New York Center Does Not Respond to Communication - Richard and Martyn tried checking in with the FAA’s New York Center, but received no reply. NEADS therefore instructed them to instead check in with the FAA’s New York Terminal Radar Approach Control. As they were flying to New York, NEADS also told the two pilots that their mission was “to intercept, divert, or, if unsuccessful in those, to call them for authorization to shoot down” aircraft. Richard will later comment, “That certainly got our attention.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Richard 2010, pp. 24)
Fighters Join Two Aircraft Already over New York - Two fighters that took off from Otis Air Base at 8:46 a.m. in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy and Major Daniel Nash, arrived over New York earlier in the morning (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and established a combat air patrol over the city. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 24; Viser 9/11/2005) Richard and Martyn arrive, joining these two fighters over New York, at approximately 11:00 a.m., Nash will say. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 )
Fighters Set Up a 'Point Defense' around New York - Martyn then calls Duffy over the radio. Referring to his own fighter by its call sign, Martyn says, “Panta one is on station at 15,000 feet.” Duffy instructs him, “Panta one, orbit over bull’s-eye and stand by.” Richard will describe the tactic the four fighters then employ, writing: “Duff decided to set up a point defense around the city.… Ground Zero was our reference point and the targets in the area were called out in reference to it.… Since we were flying in a void of actionable information, we decided that the most effective way to win this battle was to let the enemy come to us.” (Richard 2010, pp. 25-26) While Duffy and Nash fly about 10,000 feet above New York, Richard and Martyn fly at around 18,000 feet. (Nash 10/2/2002)
Fighters Intercept and Identify Aircraft - Richard will recall that he and Martyn “darted around the city, chasing down airliners, helicopters, and anything else in the air,” making sure that “everything in the air was visually identified, intercepted, and guided to land at the closest airfield.” (Richard 2010, pp. 36) They spend several hours identifying helicopters that have no flight plans and are heading for Ground Zero. Many of these helicopters belong to organizations that want to help, and are there to provide relief and aid. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Richard 2010, pp. 74) When necessary, the two fighters are able to refuel from a KC-135 tanker plane that is orbiting above them at 20,000 feet.
Fighters Replaced by Other Aircraft from Otis Air Base - After Duffy and Nash head back to Otis Air Base (see (2:15 p.m.) September 11, 2001), Richard and Martyn continue clearing the skies over New York and eastern New Jersey. Richard will describe the following few hours as “mostly boredom interspersed with moments of sheer terror.” (Richard 2010, pp. 72, 74, 88) Richard and Martyn finally return to Otis Air Base at around 6:00 p.m. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Another two F-15s belonging to the 102nd Fighter Wing take their place patrolling the airspace above New York. These fighters are flown by pilots that Richard will only refer to by their nicknames, “Psycho Davis” and “Doo Dah Ray.” These pilots participated, along with Richard, in a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean early this morning (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Richard 2010, pp. 88)
Two F-15 fighter jets that have been patrolling the airspace above New York are instructed to investigate a supposedly suspicious aircraft, but upon inspection find it to be the tanker plane that has been providing them with fuel. (Richard 2010, pp. 130-131) The two fighters, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) They arrived over New York at around 11:00 a.m., after being instructed to set up a combat air patrol over the city (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 ; Richard 2010, pp. 24)
NEADS Reports Suspect Aircraft over Long Island - After patrolling the New York airspace for several hours, the two pilots are preparing to fly back to Otis Air Base. Suddenly, a controller at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) calls and alerts them to a suspicious aircraft in the area. The controller says, “We have a report of a light aircraft flying erratically, 15 west of your position over Long Island.” After Martyn acknowledges the message, the two fighters bank hard to the left and descend. Richard reaches an altitude of about 500 feet, but, as his plane’s radar sweeps, he looks around and sees nothing there. He calls out, “Picture clear,” and then reports back to NEADS. The NEADS controller then tells Richard to “skip it,” and says the suspect aircraft is now “20 northeast of your position, at 30,000 feet.” He asks if the two fighters have enough fuel to investigate it and Richard responds, “Affirmative.” Richard and Martyn then reform and increase their power. However, Richard will later write, “It didn’t make any sense that a large aircraft would make it from the city, head northeast, and climb to 30,000 feet undetected.”
Pilot Inspects Aircraft, Finds It Is Tanker Plane - Martyn asks the NEADS controller, “Are you sure that’s not the tanker we just used over Ground Zero?” but the controller retorts, “Unknown.” Martyn says to Richard over the radio, “That’s the tanker we just were refueling with,” and asks him if he has enough fuel left to go and identify the target. Richard says he has and then flies above Martyn. He closes in to within about three miles of the aircraft NEADS identified, and can see the engines and the boom, revealing it to indeed be the tanker that has been providing them with fuel. He thinks to himself, “How could [NEADS] have screwed this up?” He will later reflect, “It was incredible to me that they didn’t know this was the tanker we had just left!” Richard calls NEADS and tells the controller there, “It’s the tanker.” Sheepishly, the controller confirms the message. (Richard 2010, pp. 130-131) Richard and Martyn then return to Otis Air Base at around 6:00 p.m. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001)
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