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Context of '(10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Air Force One Heads toward New Destination of Barksdale Air Force Base'

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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

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