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

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

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