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Context of '(10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Air Force One Turns West, Away from Washington'

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Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, who is traveling with President Bush in Florida, is advised by the White House Situation Room not to bring the president back to Washington, DC. Air Force One’s flight plan currently has Washington as the destination of the president’s plane. [White House, 8/29/2002] And while he was being driven to Air Force One from the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Bush had been “itching to get back to Washington,” according to Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, who was with the president in his limousine. [White House, 8/12/2002] But as he was traveling in the president’s motorcade, shortly before it arrived at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport, Rosenker learned that a secure phone call from the Situation Room was holding for him. After the motorcade reaches the airport (see 9:43 a.m. September 11, 2001), therefore, Rosenker enters Air Force One and goes to an area at the back of the plane where he takes the call. The identity of the person in the Situation Room he speaks with is unstated. Rosenker will later recall that the person “indicated that it would be best if we did not come back to Washington, and that we should try to find some escort aircraft for us.” Rosenker then heads to the to the communications area of the plane and waits for takeoff, so he can then discuss these matters with the pilot, the president’s military aide, and Card. [White House, 8/29/2002] Air Force One will divert from its original course and head west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then at around 10:20 a.m., Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana will be chosen as its new destination (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One departs Sarasota.Air Force One departs Sarasota. [Source: Associated Press]Air Force One takes off from off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida with President Bush on board. [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] The plane takes off without any fighter jets protecting it. “The object seemed to be simply to get the president airborne and out of the way,” an administration official will later say. [Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001] There are still 3,520 planes in the air over the US. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] About half of the planes in the Florida region where Bush’s plane is are still airborne. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/7/2002] Apparently, fighters don’t meet up with Air Force One until over an hour and a half later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will claim to have heard at around 9:50 a.m. from the White House bunker containing Vice President Dick Cheney that a fighter escort had been authorized. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8-9]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Thomas Gould.Thomas Gould. [Source: Nathan Lipscomb / US Air Force]A discussion takes place on Air Force One between Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, Edward Marinzel, the head of President Bush’s Secret Service detail, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, Bush’s military aide, and Colonel Mark Tillman, the pilot, about where the president’s plane should go. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Air Force One’s original flight plan had Washington, DC, as the destination. [White House, 8/29/2002] And Bush has been anxious to return to Washington, to lead the government’s response to the terrorist attacks. [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 130] But when it took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One had no fixed destination. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the objective had been “to get up in the air—as fast and as high as possible—and then decide where to go.”
Washington Considered 'Too Unstable for the President to Return' - Now, in the discussion, it is decided that the plane should head somewhere other than Washington. Marinzel says he feels “strongly that the situation in Washington [is] too unstable for the president to return there” and Card agrees with him, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [White House, 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, who is also on Air Force One, will recall that the decision to head to a destination other than Washington is “made based on the fact that the Pentagon had been hit, Washington was now clearly a target. There were a host of reports coming in that we could not tell [if they] were factual or not.” There is therefore “a consensus type of a decision made that perhaps we should look at an alternative site, clear the fog, and then make the final decision on where we would be going.” (It is unclear, however, whether Rosenker participates in the meeting between Card, Marinzel, Gould, and Tillman.) [White House, 8/29/2002]
President Reluctantly Accepts Decision - The time when the discussion of Air Force One’s destination takes place is unclear. Apparently describing this meeting, Card will say it takes place “up in the bedroom compartment” of the plane during the first “maybe five or 10 minutes of the flight,” meaning between around 9:55 a.m. and 10:05 a.m. [White House, 8/16/2002] But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, it takes place at about 9:45 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] After the meeting, Bush will reluctantly accept the advice he is given, to head for a destination other than Washington, and at around 10:10 a.m. Air Force One will change course and fly west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 315; Bush, 2010, pp. 130]

Entity Tags: Mark Tillman, Mark Rosenker, Edward Marinzel, Andrew Card, Thomas Gould

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One, the president’s plane, changes course and heads west instead of north toward Washington, DC, but it currently has no specific destination. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Washington had been Air Force One’s original destination. [White House, 8/29/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] And President Bush has been anxious to return to the capital. [White House, 8/12/2002; White House, 8/16/2002] But when it took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One had no fixed destination. There has been a discussion between the plane’s pilot, the lead Secret Service agent on the plane, Bush’s military aide, and Bush’s chief of staff, about where to go, and it was decided that Washington was too unsafe to be their destination (see (9:55 a.m.-10:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] This decision is now passed on to the president.
President Notified of Decision to Change Course - In his 2010 memoir, Bush will recall that “[s]hortly after we took off from Sarasota,” Andrew Card, his chief of staff, and Edward Marinzel, the lead Secret Service agent, “said conditions in Washington were too volatile, the danger of attack too high. The FAA believed six planes had been hijacked, meaning three more could be in the air.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 130] Card tells Bush: “We’ve got to let the dust settle before we go back. We’ve got to find out what’s going on.” [White House, 8/16/2002] Bush tells Card and Marinzel he is “not going to let terrorists scare me away.” He says: “I’m the president. And we’re going to Washington.” However, Card and Marinzel refuse to back down. [Bush, 2010, pp. 130] Finally, “Bush reluctantly acceded” to their advice, and so “Air Force One changed course and began heading due west,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Bush wants to know where they are now going. Card tells him that their new destination is still being decided. [White House, 8/16/2002]
Plane Turns West within '20 Minutes of Takeoff' - Air Force One begins heading west “at about 10:10,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] A reporter who is traveling on Air Force One at this time will write that the plane “suddenly veered west” within “perhaps 20 minutes of takeoff,” meaning before 10:15 a.m. Describing the plane’s initial route after taking off, this reporter will write, “Assuming that a direct flight from Sarasota to Barksdale Air Force Base [in Louisiana] would have taken us over the Gulf of Mexico, we can conclude that we flew east (to within sight of the Atlantic Ocean), then north, then west.” [USA Today, 9/11/2001] However, a few accounts will claim that Air Force One continues flying toward Washington at this time, and only changes course and heads west at around 10:45 a.m. (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; National Journal, 8/31/2002] At around 10:20 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Barksdale Air Force Base will be identified “as an appropriate interim destination,” and so Air Force One heads toward there (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Edward Marinzel, George W. Bush, Andrew Card

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush’s travels on 9/11.President Bush’s travels on 9/11. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion / MagicGrapix.com]Air Force One begins heading for Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana after the base is identified as a suitable interim destination for the president’s plane. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] Washington, DC, was the plane’s original destination. [White House, 8/29/2002; Lompoc Record, 9/11/2011] But after taking off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida without a fixed destination (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), Air Force One changed course at around 10:10 a.m. and headed west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). This was because it had been determined that Washington was too unsafe for President Bush to return there (see (9:55 a.m.-10:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39, 325] At that time, the plane’s new destination was undecided.
Military Base Sought for President to Make a Statement - Andrew Card, Bush’s chief of staff, who is with the president on Air Force One, will later recall, “And so we started looking at potential Air Force bases or Navy bases where we could land the plane.” [White House, 8/16/2002] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will recall that Card comes up to him in the communications area of the plane and says, “We need to find a facility, a base that we can get to in a relatively short period of time so that the president can make a statement.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Secret Service Told of Bush's Desire to Land - Card will recall: “I had a goal of landing the plane within an hour and a half. It was somewhat arbitrary, but I wanted to get the president down.” [White House, 8/16/2002] Card similarly tells Edward Marinzel, the head of the president’s Secret Service detail, that Bush wants to land so he can make a statement to the press. It is also noted “that the stop would provide an opportunity for the airplane to be refueled and those on board to effect necessary communication,” Marinzel will say. [United States Secret Service, 2001]
Offutt Air Base Rejected as Destination - Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Gould, Bush’s military aide, quickly researches the possibilities. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The first plan that is considered, according to Rosenker, is to fly all the way out to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, but this idea is dismissed because it would take too long to get there, and it is “very important to the president to address the nation and make sure that the people could see that he was safe and in total control of the situation.” [White House, 8/29/2002] (Air Force One will in fact head to Offutt later in the day, landing there at 2:50 p.m. (see 2:50 p.m. September 11, 2001).)
Barksdale Makes 'the Greatest Sense' - Instead, at around 10:20 a.m., Gould identifies Barksdale Air Force Base as “an appropriate interim destination,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325-326] Rosenker will recall: “Barksdale made the greatest sense to us. It was a highly secure Air Force base, had B-52s there; they had the capability to do what was necessary to secure Air Force One and to make sure that the president was safe, and make sure that we could provide the appropriate communications facility so the president could make his statement.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
Bush Agrees with Decision to Head to Barksdale - The final decision to head to Barksdale Air Base is made by Card, “after talking to the military and the Secret Service,” according to White House press secretary Ari Fleischer. [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 142] Bush agrees with the decision and Barksdale becomes his plane’s new destination. [Bush, 2010, pp. 130; Rove, 2010, pp. 255] Air Force One will land at Barksdale Air Force Base at around 11:45 a.m. (see 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Ari Fleischer, Edward Marinzel, Andrew Card, Mark Rosenker, Thomas Gould, George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, learn that Air Force One is airborne, around half an hour after it took off from Florida, and are told the plane is heading toward Washington, DC. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]
NEADS Learns President's Plane Is Airborne - Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NEADS, is briefed by a colleague that “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, heading to Washington.” This is apparently the first time NEADS knows that the president’s plane is in the air. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] But Air Force One took off from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport in Florida about half an hour ago (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] And while some later accounts will state that the plane is indeed heading north, toward Washington, at this time (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), according to other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, it has turned west (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and is now flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 108; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]
Commander Told Fighters Will Escort Air Force One - Nasypany’s colleague continues: “We’ve got those four F-15s coming out of Langley. They’re done rolling.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] He is presumably referring to F-15 fighter jets belonging to the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. [Langley Air Force Base, 11/2003; Airman, 9/2005] He says, “Two of [the F-15s] will be diverted to escort [Air Force One] at the appropriate time.” Nasypany says, “We need a plane out of the Air Force One.” He then asks his colleague, “Is he airborne now?” The colleague says yes.
Commander Told SEADS Is Providing Fighter Escort - Nasypany then says, “We’ve identified [Air Force One] as a special one.” His colleague replies: “We haven’t got him. Southeast does,” meaning NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Referring to SEADS, Nasypany asks, “So they’ll have fighters on him?” His colleague says yes. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] However, fighters will only be noticed escorting Air Force One by those on the plane more than an hour later (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001]
Commander Passes on News about Air Force One - Nasypany then passes on the information about Air Force One to another colleague. He tells them: “Air Force One is airborne out of Florida, going to Washington. There should be F-15s on them by the time they hit our AOR [area of responsibility].” Nasypany restates that the president’s plane is “going to Washington. This is what I was just passed.” He says, “SEADS should be putting fighters on it,” but adds that “we’ll have to take over [in providing a fighter escort for Air Force One] once they hit our AOR.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Kevin Nasypany, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney calls President Bush, who is on Air Force One, and urges him not to return to Washington, DC. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, wants Bush to instead go to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, according to the New York Times. This is because Cheney “knew from his days as secretary of defense” that Offutt has “an extraordinarily sophisticated Strategic Command communications center.” [New York Times, 9/16/2001] According to journalist and author Bill Sammon, Cheney tells Bush that he and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice both think Washington is “no longer safe enough for his return.” [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109] Cheney says, “There’s still a threat to Washington.” Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward will describe: “Signals intelligence and all kinds of reports were flooding in. Given what had happened—four hijackings—it wasn’t prudent to come back.” Cheney says he is worried that “the terrorists might be trying to decapitate the government, to kill its leaders,” and Bush agrees with him. Cheney says they have “a responsibility to preserve the government, its continuity of leadership.” [Woodward, 2002, pp. 18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who is with the president on Air Force One, will recall that around this time—presumably just after the call from Cheney—Bush tells others on the plane “that the vice president didn’t think it was safe for us to return to Washington until we could get a handle on how many hijacked planes there were. All planes flying in the continental United States had been ordered to land, but it wasn’t clear that all had done so.” [Fleischer, 2005, pp. 142] According to some reports, Air Force One is traveling north toward Washington at the time of Cheney’s call, and shortly afterwards it changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana (see (10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] However, other accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will state that Air Force One turned west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and began heading toward Barksdale about 10 minutes later (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Air Force One, with President Bush on board, changes course and heads west toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana around this time, according to some reports, significantly later than is claimed in other accounts, such as the 9/11 Commission Report. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] The president’s plane is currently flying off the coast of South Carolina and is about half way through its 900-mile journey from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), to Washington, DC, according to journalist and author Bill Sammon. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 109] At 10:41 a.m., Vice President Dick Cheney called Bush from the White House and urged him not to come back to Washington, because, Cheney told Bush, the capital was still too unsafe for him to return there (see 10:41 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002]
Air Force One Turns West - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, Air Force One changed course and headed west at around 10:10 a.m. (see (10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and it began flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base at about 10:20 a.m. (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 325] However, Sammon will write that Bush gives the order to divert his plane after receiving the 10:41 a.m. call from Cheney. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 108-109] “Within minutes” of Cheney calling Bush, according to the Washington Post, “those on board the president’s plane could feel it bank suddenly and sharply to the left, its course now westerly toward Barksdale Air Force Base.” [Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Barksdale is about 800 miles away, according to Sammon. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 109] Representative Dan Miller (R-FL), who is on Air Force One, will support the claim that the plane changes course at this time, around 10:45 a.m. According to the St. Petersburg Times, Miller thought Air Force One “flew due north for about 45 minutes. Then it turned west.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] Miller will tell the National Journal, “I would say 10:45, maybe 10:30 or so, the plane changed course.” [National Journal, 8/31/2002]
Other Evidence Indicates Plane Is Already Flying West - However, in addition to the 9/11 Commission Report, several other accounts will indicate that Air Force One turned west and headed toward Barksdale Air Force Base significantly earlier than this. A reporter who is on Air Force One will write that the plane “suddenly veered west” within “perhaps 20 minutes of takeoff,” meaning before 10:15 a.m. [USA Today, 9/11/2001] And Ann Compton, another reporter on Air Force One, writes in her notebook that at 10:29 a.m., “We were not en route to Washington.” [Gilbert et al., 2002, pp. 131-132] Furthermore, at 10:42 a.m., an ID technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) received a call about Air Force One, in which they were told, “It looks like he’s going westbound now.” The caller, someone at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS), added that the plane was “west of Tallahassee,” which is in north Florida, and said, “We called [the FAA’s Jacksonville Center] to see if he was deviating and they said he, it’s unknown where he’s going at this time.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Dan Miller, Ann Compton

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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