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Context of 'August 30, 2001: Transportation Department Holds Plane Hijacking Exercise'

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A tabletop exercise is held at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, DC, as part of its preparations for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. According to Ellen Engleman, the administrator of the DOT’s Research and Special Programs Administration, this is “actually much more than a tabletop” exercise, though she does not explain how. She will later recount, “During that exercise, part of the scenario, interestingly enough, involved a potentially hijacked plane and someone calling on a cell phone, among other aspects of the scenario that were very strange when 12 days later, as you know, we had the actual event [of 9/11].” [Mineta Transportation Institute, 10/30/2001, pp. 108] Further details of this exercise are unknown. The DOT’s Crisis Management Center will be heavily involved in the 9/11 crisis response, acting as a focal point for the transportation response to the attacks (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: US Department of Transportation, Ellen Engleman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A number of key senior FAA personnel happen to be away from their usual bases this morning, at the time of the attacks.
bullet Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, is in New Orleans for a meeting with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). Among his many duties, Peacock is “the ultimate manager of all the air traffic controllers in the country’s system.” He will be transported from New Orleans later in the day in an FAA business jet, one of the few aircraft permitted to fly, and only arrive at FAA headquarters shortly after 5:00 p.m. [Freni, 2003, pp. 12 and 70]
bullet Jack Kies, the FAA’s manager of tactical operations, is in Nashua, New Hampshire for a meeting with representatives of the Canadian air traffic control organization. [Freni, 2003, pp. 65-66] Consequently Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations, has to take his place in charge of the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. [Federal Aviation Administration, 5/18/2006]
bullet Tony Ferrante, the manager of the FAA’s air traffic investigation arm, is in Chicago to testify at a hearing. He will become frustrated later in the day about being stuck there, knowing he should he at his post in Washington gathering forensic data on the hijackings and crashes. [Freni, 2003, pp. 7, 19 and 47-48]
bullet Rick Hostetler, a member of the FAA’s planning and procedures organization, is at the dentist’s in Waldorf, Maryland when the attacks begin. His job includes acting as the FAA’s primary air traffic liaison for the Secret Service, the US Special Operations Command, and the Pentagon. After seeing the second WTC tower hit live on television, reportedly while sitting in the dentist’s chair, he will quickly set out for his duty station at the FAA Command Center. But due to the heavy traffic, his journey will take hours and the attacks will be over by the time he gets there. [Freni, 2003, pp. 27, 47 and 90]
bullet Mike Canavan, the director of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security, is visiting the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He will only make it back to Washington in the evening, on a special Army flight. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] As part of his job, Canavan is the FAA’s hijack coordinator, responsible for requesting military assistance in the event of a hijacking (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17-18]
bullet FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is in a breakfast meeting at the Department of Transportation, in Washington, DC. She will quickly relocate to FAA headquarters soon after the first attack (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Freni, 2003, pp. 62-63]
Whether the absence of these senior personnel impairs the FAA’s ability to respond to the attacks is unknown.

Entity Tags: Jack Kies, Federal Aviation Administration, Tony Ferrante, Bill Peacock, Mike Canavan, Jane Garvey, Rick Hostetler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is in a breakfast meeting with the Belgian transportation minister, to discuss aviation issues. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is also in the meeting, which is in the conference room next to Mineta’s office at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, DC. Soon after 8:45 a.m., Mineta’s Chief of Staff John Flaherty interrupts, and takes Mineta and Garvey aside to Mineta’s office to tell them that news agencies are reporting that some kind of aircraft has flown into the WTC. While Garvey immediately goes to a telephone and contacts the FAA Operations Center, Mineta continues with the meeting. But a few minutes later Flaherty again takes him aside to tell him the plane is confirmed to be a commercial aircraft, and that the FAA had received an unconfirmed report of a hijacking. The TV is on and Mineta sees the second plane hitting the WTC live. He terminates his meeting with the Belgian minister, and Garvey heads off to the FAA headquarters. The White House calls and requests that Mineta go and operate from there, so he quickly heads out too. He will soon arrive there, and enters its underground bunker at around 9:20 a.m. (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress, 9/20/2001; Freni, 2003, pp. 62-63; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Before leaving the Department of Transportation, Mineta orders the activation of the DOT’s Crisis Management Center (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Congress, 10/10/2001]

Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Jane Garvey, John Flaherty

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the order of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the Department of Transportation’s Crisis Management Center (CMC) was quickly activated after the first WTC tower was hit (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is thus fully operational by this time, with security procedures initiated, secure lines of communication, and key contacts on line. The CMC is located in the Office of Emergency Transportation, on the 8th floor of the DOT’s Washington headquarters. It serves as a focal point for the transportation response during emergencies, enabling senior department personnel to conduct operations in a coordinated manner. [US Department of Transportation, 12/30/1999 pdf file; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 9/20/2001; US Congress, 10/10/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] It includes representatives from all nine transportation modes (i.e., the different means of transport, such as road, rail, air), including Federal Aviation, as well as public affairs, and intelligence and security functions. It is capable of gathering information in real time via its own reporting system, and provides a flow of information to the DOT leadership, the White House, and Cabinet leaders on developments within the nation’s transportation infrastructure (including in the air). The CMC will remain fully operational, manned on a 24/7 basis, even in the weeks after the attacks have ended. [US Congress, 10/10/2001; Mineta Transportation Institute, 10/30/2001, pp. 12] Furthermore, according to Mineta, in an incident “involving a major crash of any type,” the Office of the Secretary of Transportation “goes into a major information-gathering response. It contacts the mode of administration overseeing whatever mode of transportation is involved in the incident. It monitors press reports, contacts additional personnel to accommodate the surge in operations, and centralizes the information for me through the chief of staff. In major incidents, it will follow a protocol of notification that includes the White House and other agencies involved in the incident.” He says that these activities, “albeit in the nascent stage of information-gathering,” took place in the initial minutes after Flight 11 hit the WTC. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Transportation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey arrives at her office at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, and is informed that a second aircraft has just hit the World Trade Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 88] Garvey learned of the first crash while at the nearby Department of Transportation, where she had been in a meeting with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and the Belgian transportation minister (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She had phoned FAA headquarters and was told by a supervisor, “We know a plane has just gone in, but we’re also tracking a hijacking.” She immediately went out to her car and headed back to headquarters, which is located two blocks away from the Department of Transportation. [Boston Globe, 11/4/2001] When Garvey arrives at her office on the 10th floor of the headquarters, she finds Monte Belger, her acting deputy, there. She asks him, “What do we know?” and he replies: “[T]his is something beyond a hijacking. This is not an accident. There is something here. [The Department of] Defense is going to be taking the lead.” Belger also informs Garvey that, just before she arrived, a second plane hit the WTC. Garvey heads across the hall to the Operations Center, where security personnel have already established a “hijacking net”—a teleconference that includes several agencies, including the Defense Department (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, Garvey “understands that it will be her job to pull information from the [FAA] Command Center in Herndon and forward that information as quickly as possible up the chain, to the Department of Transportation and any other agencies requiring it.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 88-89] Garvey and Belger spend the next 40 minutes going back and forth between their offices and the Operations Center. Staffers keep them informed about decisions being made by Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA Command Center. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]

Entity Tags: Monte Belger, Jane Garvey, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who saw the second plane hitting the WTC on television while at the Department of Transportation, had been called to the White House (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he arrives there, as he later recalls, he sees “People… coming out of the White House, pouring out of the Executive Office Building, running over towards Lafayette Park.” As he enters the White House, Mineta is told he has to be briefed by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. He goes to the Situation Room where Clarke talks to him for four or five minutes, briefly informing him of what is going on. Clarke instructs him, “You have to get over to the Presidential Emergency Operation Center to be with the vice president.” The Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) is the bunker located below the White House. As Mineta does not know where it is, a Secret Service agent leads him to it. He will arrive there around 9:20-9:27, according to his own recollections (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Californian, 3/18/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. 
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. [Source: US Department of Transportation]Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta arrives at the White House bunker—the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—containing Vice President Dick Cheney and others. Mineta will tell NBC News that he arrives there at “probably about 9:27,” though he later says to the 9/11 Commission that he arrives at “about 9:20 a.m.” He also later recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006] This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Questioned about this in 2007 by an activist group, Mineta will confirm that Cheney was “absolutely… already there” in the PEOC when he arrived, and that “This was before American Airlines [Flight 77] went into the Pentagon,” which happens at 9:37. Yet, while admitting there is “conflicting evidence about when the vice president arrived” in the PEOC, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the “vice president arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” Mineta also later claims that when he arrives in the PEOC, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is already there. Yet the 9/11 Commission will claim she only arrives at the White House at 9:52 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; 911truthseattle (.org), 6/26/2007] Once in the PEOC, Mineta establishes open phone lines with his office at the Department of Transportation and with the FAA Operations Center. [Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Lynne Cheney, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Norman Mineta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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