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Context of '(10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Otis Air Base Ordered to Launch All Available Fighters'

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Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard.Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets are regularly scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft flying in US airspace in the years preceding 9/11. (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press 8/14/2002) For this task, NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order (see Before September 11, 2001). (Arnold 4/1998; Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003; Grant 2004, pp. 14) Various accounts offer statistics about the number of times fighters are scrambled:
bullet A General Accounting Office report published in May 1994 states that “during the past four years, NORAD’s alert fighters took off to intercept aircraft (referred to as scrambled) 1,518 times, or an average of 15 times per site per year.” Of these incidents, the number of scrambles that are in response to suspected drug smuggling aircraft averages “one per site, or less than 7 percent of all of the alert sites’ total activity.” The remaining activity, about 93 percent of the total scrambles, “generally involved visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress.” (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 4)
bullet In the two years from May 15, 1996 to May 14, 1998, NORAD’s Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), which is responsible for the “air sovereignty” of the western 63 percent of the continental US, scrambles fighters 129 times to identify unknown aircraft that might be a threat. Over the same period, WADS scrambles fighters an additional 42 times against potential and actual drug smugglers. (Porter 1998)
bullet In 1997, the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—another of NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US—tracks 427 unidentified aircraft, and fighters intercept these “unknowns” 36 times. The same year, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) handles 65 unidentified tracks and WADS handles 104 unidentified tracks, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on 9/11. (Arnold 4/1998)
bullet In 1998, SEADS logs more than 400 fighter scrambles. (Grant 2004, pp. 14)
bullet In 1999, Airman magazine reports that NORAD’s fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida are scrambled 75 times per year, on average. According to Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at the base, this is more scrambles than any other unit in the Air National Guard. (McKenna 12/1999)
bullet General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will later state that in the year 2000, NORAD’s fighters fly 147 sorties. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file)
bullet According to the Calgary Herald, in 2000 there are 425 “unknowns,” where an aircraft’s pilot has not filed or has deviated from a flight plan, or has used the wrong radio frequency, and fighters are scrambled 129 times in response. (Slobodian 10/13/2001)
bullet Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times to intercept suspicious aircraft, according to the Associated Press. (Associated Press 8/14/2002)
Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region at the time of the 9/11 attacks, will say that before 9/11, it is “not unusual, and certainly was a well-refined procedure” for NORAD fighters to intercept an aircraft. He will add, though, that intercepting a commercial airliner is “not normal.” (Air Force Magazine 9/2011 pdf file) On September 11, 2001, NEADS scrambles fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27)

A 20-year-old Ethiopian man hijacks a Lufthansa Airbus bound from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, via Cairo. Wielding a gun (which is subsequently found to be just a starter pistol), he forces the pilot to divert the plane to New York. The 11-hour ordeal ends after the plane lands at JFK International Airport and the hijacker surrenders to the FBI. (CNN 3/14/1996; Weale 2/8/2000; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 457)
Fears of Plane Being Crashed - Journalist Eric Margolis, who is on the plane, will later say that he and the other passengers are “convinced the hijacker… intended to crash the plane into Manhattan.” (Margolis 2/13/2000) While giving television commentary on the morning of 9/11, Larry Johnson—currently the deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism—will say it was feared when the plane was flown to New York “that it might be crashed into something.” (NBC 9/11/2001)
Air Force Responds - In response to the hijacking, F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from where fighters will also be launched in response to the first hijacking on 9/11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Later, F-16s are scrambled from Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fighters intercept the Lufthansa aircraft off the coast of eastern Canada, and initially trail it from a distance of about ten miles. As the plane approaches JFK Airport, the fighters move in to a distance of five miles. They do a low fly-by as the plane lands at JFK. They circle overhead for a while, until the hijacking situation is resolved, and then return to their bases. (Spencer 2008, pp. 29)
Participants in Response Also Involved on 9/11 - This is the last hijacking to occur prior to 9/11 involving US air traffic controllers, FAA management, and military coordination. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 14; Cooper 8/5/2004) At least two of the military personnel who participate in the response to it will play key roles in responding to the 9/11 attacks. Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is currently the assistant deputy commander of operations at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY. (Baker 3/27/2005) On this occasion, he talks with his counterpart at the FAA and explains that the FAA needs to start a request up its chain of command, so the military can respond quickly if the hijacking—which takes place in Europe—comes to the United States. He then informs his own chain of command to be prepared for a request for military assistance from the FAA. Several hours later, Marr is notified that military assistance has been authorized, and the fighter jets are scrambled from Otis and Atlantic City. (Spencer 2008, pp. 26-27) Timothy Duffy, who will be one of the F-15 pilots that launches from Otis Air Base in response to the first hijacking on 9/11, is also involved. His role on this occasion is unreported, though presumably he pilots one of the jets scrambled from Otis after the Lufthansa plane. (Spencer 2008, pp. 29)

Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), gains experience in military training exercises. After flying on active duty for nearly 18 years, in 1994 Marr leaves the service. For 20 months, he works as the captain of a Lear 36 business jet that is contracted as part of a simulated “target force,” hired to stage attacks on the United States. In 1996 he returns to NEADS as the director of exercise and analysis. In this post, Marr no doubt gains further experience around military exercises. In 1998, he is named vice commander of NEADS, and in 1999 he will be promoted to become the commander of NEADS. (Baker 3/27/2005; Spencer 2008, pp. 5-6) Marr’s particular experience around military exercises is notable, since NEADS will be in the middle of a major training exercise on the morning of 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seely 1/25/2002)

At its operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices dealing with hijackings five times per month, on average, during training exercises. A NORAD document produced a month after 9/11 will state that the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) “routinely conducts the Amazon Arizona series of internal exercises that include hijack scenarios.” Prior to September 11, 2001, the document continues, “CMOC averaged five hijack training events each month.” Further details of these “Amazon Arizona” exercises are unstated in the document. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 10/13/2001) But other sources provide additional information about what they might entail.
Exercises Are 'One of the Busiest Times' in Operations Center - According to a 1989 NORAD document, “Arizona” exercises are a “Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base internal system training mission.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989) And in 2004, NORAD will state that its exercises before 9/11 that include hijacking scenarios test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” (Starr 4/19/2004) According to Stacey Knott, a technician at the CMOC, “One of the busiest times” in the operations center “is during exercises.… We have the battle staff and CAT [Crisis Action Team] in here; generals and admirals are running in and out.” Knott has said that exercises at the CMOC give her “an idea what things would be like if something were to go down,” and so, “[i]f something actually did happen, we’d be ready for it.” (McKenna 1/1996)
Operations Center Is 'Focal Point for Air Defense Operations' - It is unclear over what period up to 9/11 the CMOC averages five hijack training events per month. It appears to be at least going back to 1998: In 2003, Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his office keeps computer hard drive information about NORAD exercises “roughly” back to that year. Merchant will add that he “did not believe that his office retained other exercise information, such as after-action reviews, for exercises prior to 1998.” (9/11 Commission 11/14/2003 pdf file) According to NORAD’s website, “the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center provides warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America, assists the air sovereignty mission for the United States and Canada, and, if necessary, is the focal point for air defense operations to counter enemy bombers or cruise missiles.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 11/27/1999) On the morning of 9/11, members of the battle staff at the CMOC will be participating in the exercise Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tudor 3/2002; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)

Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right). [Source: Associated Press]Two US embassies in Africa are bombed within minutes of each other. At 10:35 a.m., local time, a suicide car bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. Mohamed al-Owhali and someone known only as Azzam are the suicide bombers, but al-Owhali runs away at the last minute and survives. Four minutes later, a suicide car bomb attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. Hamden Khalif Allah Awad is the suicide bomber there. The attacks will be blamed on al-Qaeda. (PBS Frontline 2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38 5/2/2001) The Tanzania death toll is low because, remarkably, the attack takes place on a national holiday so the US embassy there is closed. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 195) The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. The Tanzania bombing appears to have been a late addition, as one of the arrested bombers will allegedly tell US agents that it was added to the plot only about 10 days in advance. (United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14 3/7/2001) A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda does not take place due to a last-minute delay (see August 7, 1998). (Associated Press 9/25/1998) August 7, 1998, is the eighth anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia and some people will speculate that this is the reason for the date of the bombings. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 46) In the 2002 book The Cell, reporters John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell will write: “What has become clear with time is that facets of the East Africa plot had been known beforehand to the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and to Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services.… [N]o one can seriously argue that the horrors of August 7, 1998, couldn’t have been prevented.” They will also comment, “Inexplicable as the intelligence failure was, more baffling still was that al-Qaeda correctly presumed that a major attack could be carried out by a cell that US agents had already uncovered.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 195, 206) After 9/11, it will come to light that three of the alleged hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, had some involvement in the bombings (see October 4, 2001, Late 1999, and 1993-1999) and that the US intelligence community was aware of this involvement by late 1999 (see December 15-31, 1999), if not before.

John Hamre.John Hamre. [Source: R. D. Ward / US Department of Defense]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducts an exercise, called Vigilant Virgo 99-1, in which simulated missiles are injected into its radar systems, apparently similar to the way simulated information will be injected onto its radar screens for a training exercise on the morning of September 11, 2001. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999; Simmie 12/9/2001; Arkin 2005, pp. 546) In August 1998, Secretary of Defense William Cohen directed the commanders in chief who are responsible for the Department of Defense’s unified combatant commands to plan, carry out, and report on a series of simulated Year 2000 “operational evaluations.” (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 8 pdf file; United States General Accounting Office 11/1999, pp. 15 pdf file) Vigilant Virgo is the first in a series of NORAD operational evaluations that are going to be held in response to this order. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999; United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 2 pdf file; Military Operations Research Society 6/22/1999, pp. 193 pdf file)
Exercise Tests NORAD's Year 2000 Preparedness - The three-day exercise is intended to evaluate if NORAD’s systems are vulnerable to the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem, which would be caused by computers being unable to properly read dates at the start of the new millennium. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999; Feder 2/9/1999) It evaluates the capability of NORAD’s systems to track and forward information about missile and space air threats when the command’s clocks are rolled forward to January 1, 2000. (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 8-9 pdf file) The exercise is a collaborative effort in which NORAD is supported by personnel, equipment, and facilities belonging to the US Space Command and the US Strategic Command. (US Department of Defense 1/14/1999; US Department of Defense 1/15/1999)
'Missile Events' Are Injected into NORAD's Sensors - Vigilant Virgo focuses on the missile warning element of NORAD’s integrated tactical warning and attack assessment function. (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 11 pdf file; Military Operations Research Society 6/22/1999, pp. 193 pdf file) It involves “well over 30 missile events” being “injected” into NORAD’s sensors, according to Lieutenant Colonel Warren Patterson, a member of the Joint Staff Year 2000 Task Force. These simulated events involve data that is injected “as though it [is] being sensed for the first time by a radar site,” Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre will later describe. Some of the simulations involve mass attacks, while others involve attacks by a single missile. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999) The Y2K preparedness of the entire ground radar array network is analyzed during the exercise. (Kraig 3/1999)
Exercise Finds No Vulnerabilities in NORAD's Systems - Vigilant Virgo will be considered a success. The exercise will find that there is “no degradation in any of the systems, whether they were in the Year 2000 environment, the virtual Year 2000 environment, or whether they were in the real world, 1998 environment,” Patterson will say. “We are highly confident now, at this point, that CINC [commander in chief] NORAD can do his early warning mission,” he will conclude. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999)
Exercise on 9/11 Will Use Simulated Radar Information - NORAD is the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending North American airspace. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16; Department of National Defence 7/25/2017) Personnel at its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), based in Rome, New York, will be responsible for coordinating the military’s response to the 9/11 hijackings. (Shenon 2008, pp. 203) It will be conducting an exercise on the morning of September 11, 2001, which, like Vigilant Virgo, involves simulated information being injected onto its radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 10:12 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Simmie 12/9/2001) NORAD will conduct a follow-on exercise to Vigilant Virgo from February 15 to February 28, 1999, called Amalgam Virgo 99-2, which will involve a comprehensive evaluation of its systems for aerospace control, air warning, missile warning, and space warning. (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 11 pdf file; Arkin 2005, pp. 253-254) Whether that exercise will involve simulated information being injected onto radar screens is unclear.

As the military community is discussing the future of continental air defense in a post-Cold War world (see May 19, 1997), Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force, orders a study to review the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission. At his request, Major General Paul Pochmara forms a 12-member roles and mission (RAM) team to gather information and ideas on the subject. The team has a one-hour presentation that outlines the military’s responsibility for protecting the nation’s air sovereignty. Major General Mike Haugen, a member of the team, will later say that the group discusses everything from technology to the future of the air sovereignty mission to the terrorist threat. Haugen will say: “We made some pretty bold predictions in our briefing.… In fact, it included a photo of Osama bin Laden as the world’s most dangerous terrorist.… We didn’t predict how the terrorists would strike but predicted they would strike.” (Filson 2003, pp. 37-38) A 9/11 Commission memorandum will add, “Osama bin Laden is featured on the cover of the brief developed by the RAM team, and he figures prominently in the study.” Colonel Alan Scott of the Continental US NORAD Region will tell the Commission: “As we started talking about Osama bin Laden, the examples we gave in our mission brief were the first WTC bombing, the Tokyo subway, Oklahoma City bombing, and Atlanta Olympics. What we did was connect those dots. The conclusion we drew was that we had a viable threat.” (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004)

Attendees of the Malaysian summit. Top row, from left: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Middle row, from left: Khallad bin Attash, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hambali. Bottom row, from left: Yazid Sufaat, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Bara al-Taizi. Attendees of the Malaysian summit. Top row, from left: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Middle row, from left: Khallad bin Attash, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hambali. Bottom row, from left: Yazid Sufaat, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abu Bara al-Taizi. [Source: FBI]About a dozen of Osama bin Laden’s trusted followers hold a secret, “top-level al-Qaeda summit” in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. (Ressa 8/30/2002; Eckert 9/27/2002) According to an unnamed senior CIA official, before the summit started, the CIA learned that “11 young guys” were going to attend, and “young guys” is slang for operatives traveling. (Bamford 2008, pp. 18) Plans for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the 9/11 attacks are discussed. (Kelley 2/12/2002; Ressa 8/30/2002) At the request of the CIA, the Malaysian Secret Service monitors the summit and then passes the information on to the US (see January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Attendees of the summit are said to include:
Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar - The CIA and FBI will later miss many opportunities to foil the 9/11 plot through Alhazmi and Almihdhar and the knowledge of their presence at this summit. The CIA already knows many details about these two by the time the summit begins (see January 2-4, 2000), and tracked Almihdhar as he traveled to it (see January 2-5, 2000).
Yazid Sufaat - Sufaat is a Malaysian who owns the condominium where the summit is held. He is also a trained biologist and is said to be a leading figure in al-Qaeda’s attempts to get a biological or chemical weapon. (Shenon and Johnston 1/31/2002; Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) Malaysian officials also recognize Sufaat from summit surveillance photos, as he is a long-time Malaysian resident (see Shortly After January 8, 2000). (Pereira 2/10/2002) A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through Sufaat’s presence at this summit will later be missed in September 2000 (see September-October 2000). Sufaat will travel to Afghanistan in June 2001 and be arrested by Malaysian authorities when he returns to Malaysia in late 2001 (see December 19, 2001). (Abuza 12/24/2002) He will be released in 2008 (see December 4, 2008).
Hambali - An Indonesian militant known as Hambali, or Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin (BBC 8/15/2003) , was heavily involved in the Bojinka plot, an early version of the 9/11 plot (see January 6, 1995 and June 1994). (Ressa 3/14/2002; Ressa 8/30/2002) The FBI was aware of who he was and his connections to the Bojinka plot at least by 1999 and identified a photograph of him by that time (see May 23, 1999). He will be arrested by Thai authorities in August 2003 (see August 12, 2003). (CNN 8/14/2003; CBS News 8/15/2003) Malaysian officials recognize Hambali from summit surveillance photos, as he is a long-time Malaysian resident. But the US does not tell them of his Bojinka connections, so they will not know to arrest him after the summit is over (see Shortly After January 8, 2000). (Pereira 2/10/2002)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed - Mohammed is sometimes referred to as “KSM,” an al-Qaeda leader and the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks. The US has known KSM is an Islamic militant since the exposure of Operation Bojinka in January 1995 (see January 6, 1995), and knows what he looks like. US officials will state that they only realized the summit was important in 2001, but the presence of KSM should have proved its importance. (Fineman and Drogin 2/2/2002) Although the possible presence of KSM at this summit will be disputed by US officials, one counterterrorism expert will testify before the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he has access to transcripts of KSM’s interrogations since his capture, and that KSM has admitted leading this summit and telling the attendees about a planes-as-weapons plot targeting the US (see July 9, 2003). (Isikoff and Hosenball 7/9/2003; Blomquist 7/10/2003) Many other media reports will identify him as being there. (Gumbel 6/6/2002; Ressa 8/30/2002; Ressa 11/7/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 10/29/2003) For instance, according to Newsweek: “Mohammed’s presence would make the intelligence failure of the CIA even greater. It would mean the agency literally watched as the 9/11 scheme was hatched—and had photographs of the attack’s mastermind… doing the plotting.” (Isikoff and Hosenball 7/9/2003) In Hambali’s 2008 Guantanamo file, it will be mentioned that KSM stays a week at Sufaat’s condominium with Alhazmi and Almihdhar, which would seem to make clear that KSM is there for the entire duration of the summit (see Early January 2000). (US Department of Defense 10/30/2008)
Khallad bin Attash - Khallad bin Attash, a “trusted member of bin Laden’s inner circle,” is in charge of bin Laden’s bodyguards, and serves as bin Laden’s personal intermediary at least for the USS Cole bombing. (Klaidman, Isikoff, and Hosenball 9/20/2001 pdf file) He is also thought to be a “mastermind” of that attack. Attash is reportedly planning to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but will be unable to get a US visa. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) US intelligence had been aware of his identity as early as 1995. (US Congress 9/18/2002) A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin Attash’s presence at this summit will be missed in January 2001 (see January 4, 2001). Bin Attash had been previously arrested in Yemen for suspected terror ties, but was let go (see Summer 1999). (Abuza 12/1/2002) He will be captured in Pakistan by the US in April 2003 (see April 29, 2003). In 2008, Newsweek will report that bin Attash confessed during interrogation that, while staying at Sufaat’s condominium, he and Alhazmi talked “about the possibility of hijacking planes and crashing them or holding passengers as hostages.” (Hosenball 12/16/2008)
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri - Al-Nashiri is one of al-Qaeda’s top field commanders and operates out of Malaysia while 9/11 is being prepared. (Los Angeles Times 10/10/2001; Gunaratna 2003, pp. 188; Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 59) He was involved in an arms smuggling plot (see 1997) and the East African embassy bombings (see August 22-25 1998), in which his cousin was martyred (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He also organized the attack against the USS The Sullivans (see January 3, 2000), and will be involved in the attacks against the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the Limburg (see October 6, 2002). He will be arrested in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002 (see Early October 2002). An al-Qaeda operative identified a photo of al-Nashiri for the FBI in late 1998 (see August 22-25 1998). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3) (Note: in the sources, al-Nashiri is referred to by two of his aliases: Muhammad Omar al-Harazi and Al Safani.) (CNN 12/11/2000; Central Intelligence Agency 9/6/2006)
Ramzi bin al-Shibh - Investigators believe he wants to be the 20th 9/11 hijacker. His presence at the summit may not be realized until after 9/11, despite the fact that US intelligence has a picture of him next to bin Attash, and has video footage of him. (Thomas 11/26/2001; Finn 7/14/2002; Elliott 9/15/2002; Schrom 10/1/2002; Ressa 11/7/2002) German police will have credit card receipts indicating bin al-Shibh is in Malaysia at this time. (McDermott 9/1/2002) Ulrich Kersten, director of Germany’s federal anticrime agency, the Bundeskriminalamt, will later say, “There are indications that Ramzi bin al-Shibh was in Kuala Lumpur for the meeting.” (Frantz and Butler 8/24/2002) Another account noting he was photographed at the summit will further note that he enters and leaves Thailand three times in the first three weeks of January 2000. (Drogin and Meyer 10/17/2001) Anonymous Malaysian officials will later claim he is at the summit, but US officials will deny it. Two local militants who serve as drivers for the attendees will later be arrested in Malaysia. They will be shown photos of the attendees, and confirm that bin al-Shibh was at the summit. (Sullivan 9/20/2002) One account will say he is recognized at the time of the summit, which makes it hard to understand why he is not tracked back to Germany and the Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and other 9/11 hijackers. (Gebauer 10/1/2002) Another opportunity to expose the 9/11 plot through bin al-Shibh’s presence at this summit will be missed in June. It appears bin al-Shibh and Almihdhar are directly involved in the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000 (see October 10-21, 2000). (Whitaker 10/15/2001; Finn 7/14/2002; Hosenball 9/4/2002)
Salem Alhazmi - Alhazmi, a 9/11 hijacker and brother of Nawaf Alhazmi, is possibly at the summit, although very few accounts will mention it. (Abuza 12/24/2002) US intelligence intercepts from before the summit indicate that he at least had plans to attend. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file)
Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) - A Yemeni al-Qaeda operative, al-Taizi is reportedly meant to be one of the 9/11 hijackers, but will be unable to enter the US due to greater scrutiny for Yemenis. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) Al-Taizi will be captured in Pakistan in February 2002, and then sent to the US prison in Guantanamo a few months later (see February 7, 2002). According to his 2008 Guantanamo file, he traveled from Afghanistan to Malaysia with bin Attash about two weeks before the summit. Bin Attash was missing a leg, and he had a prosthetic leg fitted and then stayed in the hospital to recover from the surgery. Bin Attash and al-Taizi stay at Sufaat’s house for the duration of the summit. Al-Taizi then flies to Yemen to visit his family there. (US Department of Defense 10/25/2008)
Others - Unnamed members of the Egyptian-based Islamic Jihad are also said to be at the summit. (King and Bhatt 10/21/2001) Islamic Jihad merged with al-Qaeda in February 1998. (James 11/17/2001) However, according to the Wall Street Journal, bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso are suspected of being Islamic Jihad members at one point, so this may just be a reference to them. (Cloud, Wartzman, and Tkacik 10/8/2001) Note that there are a total of 10 names mentioned above, and it will be reported that the CIA learned that 11 operatives were to attend, so either not all of them make it, or some names of attendees will remain unknown.
Summit Associates - The following individuals are probably not at the summit meetings, but are in the region and assisting or linked with the attendees at this time:
Fahad Al-Quso - Al-Quso is a top al-Qaeda operative who is involved in the bombing of the USS Cole. Some sources will indicate al-Quso is present in Malaysia, and a person who looks like him will later be seen in a photograph of the meeting (see June 11, 2001). (Klaidman, Isikoff, and Hosenball 9/20/2001 pdf file) However, other sources will say al-Quso did not reach Kuala Lumpur, but met with bin Attash around this time in Bangkok, Thailand (see January 5-6, 2000 and January 8-15, 2000). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 159; Wright 2006, pp. 330) Although al-Quso apparently is not at the summit, there are a series of phone calls during the time of the summit between his hotel in Bangkok, a phone booth near the condominium where the summit is held, and his family home in Yemen (see (January 5-8, 2000)). Al-Quso will be arrested by Yemeni authorities in the fall of 2000 (see Late October-Late November 2000), but the FBI will not be given a chance to fully interrogate him before 9/11. He will escape from prison in 2003. (CNN 5/15/2003)
Ahmad Sajuli Abdul Rahman - An operative of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s Southeast Asian affiliate, Sajuli takes the visiting Arabs around Kuala Lumpur, but apparently does not attend the summit meetings. (US Congress 10/17/2002) According to the later Guantanamo file of summit attendee al-Taizi, one of the attendees Sajuli escorts around town is future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. Sajuli also helps arrange al-Taizi’s transportation at the end of the summit. (US Department of Defense 10/25/2008) Sajuli will be arrested in Malaysia in December 2001 (see December 29, 2001).
Ahmad Hikmat Shakir - A suspected al-Qaeda agent of Iraqi nationality, Shakir is a greeter at Kuala Lumpur airport. He meets Almihdhar there and travels with him to the apartment where the summit is held, but he probably does not attend the summit meetings. (Associated Press 10/2/2002; Isikoff and Klaidman 10/7/2002; Abuza 12/24/2002; Landay 6/12/2004) After 9/11, he will be linked to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the 1995 Bojinka plot. Jordan will arrest him and let him go after the US says it doesn’t want to take custody of him (see September 17, 2001).
Dhiren Barot - Dhiren Barot (a.k.a. Abu Eissa al-Hindi) is a British citizen of Indian descent. According to a 2006 Observer article, Barot “is not believed to have been present” at the summit meetings. However, he does go to Kuala Lumpur during the time of the summit with summit attendee bin Attash. And shortly after the summit, Barot holds meetings with Hambali. It will later be reported that Barot is sent by KSM to New York City in early 2001 to case potential targets there, although whether this is part of the 9/11 plot or some other plot is unclear (see May 30, 2001). Barot will be arrested in 2004 in Britain for plotting attacks there, and sentenced to 30 years in prison (see August 3, 2004). (Doward 12/12/2006)
Another Unnamed Local Militant - Malaysian officials will say that two local Jemaah Islamiyah act as drivers for the attendees. These drivers apparently have no idea who the attendees are or what they are doing; they are just tasked to drive them around. In a 2002 Associated Press article, officials will not name these drivers, but will say that they are among the dozens of alleged Jemaah Islamiyah militants arrested in December 2001 and January 2002. Since Sajuli mentioned above is arrested at that time, he presumably is one of these drivers. It is not known who the other driver is. (Sufaat will be arrested at that time as well, but the Associated Press article will make clear Sufaat is not one of the drivers.) (Sullivan 9/20/2002)
Probably Not Involved: Mohamed al-Khatani - A Saudi, he allegedly will confess to attending the summit while being held in the US Guantanamo prison (see July 2002). He apparently will unsuccessfully attempt to enter the US in August 2001 to join the 9/11 plot (see August 4, 2001). However, al-Khatani will later recant his testimony and say he lied to avoid torture (see October 26, 2006). Furthermore, his 2008 Guantanamo file, leaked to the public in 2011, contains no hint of him even possibly attending the summit. The contents of the file must be treated with extreme caution, especially since he is repeatedly and brutally tortured (see August 8, 2002-January 15, 2003 and January 14, 2009). But according to the general narrative of the file, al-Khatani had no involvement with Islamist militancy in early 2000, only starts to get involved with militants in mid-2000, and first attends a militant training camp in Afghanistan in late 2000. (US Department of Defense 10/30/2008)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force whose mission includes the protection of the continental US against air attacks, tells the Associated Press that he is deeply worried by the possibility of an airborne terrorist attack. He says: “I lie awake worrying. It is one thing to put a truck inside the twin trade towers and blow it up. It is quite another to be able to fly a weapon across our borders. That is an attack, a direct attack, an unambiguous attack from outside our country.” In 1999, a study commissioned by Arnold emphasized the continued importance of the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission and the threat of terrorism (see 1999). (Kaczor 2/1/2000; Kaczor 8/2/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 92) As one of the top commanders of NORAD, Arnold will play a pivotal role on the morning of 9/11 (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 42)

Robert De La Cruz, a Justice Department lawyer, writes a detailed analysis that considers the legal issues that would be involved in shooting down an aircraft that was under the control of terrorists who intended to use it as a weapon. De La Cruz, a trial attorney with the Department of Justice Criminal Division’s Terrorism and Violent Crime Section (TVCS), apparently writes the analysis on his own initiative. He sends it to Cathleen Corken, the TVCS’s deputy chief for domestic terrorism. The 34-page document is titled “Aerial Intercepts and Shoot-Downs: Ambiguities of Law and Practical Considerations.” In it, among other things, De La Cruz discusses Article 3 bis of the Chicago Convention, a set of rules created after a Soviet fighter jet shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007, in 1983 (see September 1, 1983), which is “now considered to be international law.” He states that the “Federal Aviation Administration believes, or at least operates as if, Article 3 bis is binding upon the United States.”
Article States that Using Weapons against Civil Aircraft Should Be Avoided - De La Cruz notes that, according to the article, “The contracting states recognize that every state must refrain from resorting to the use of weapons against civil aircraft in flight and that, in case of interception, the lives of persons on board and the safety of the aircraft must not be endangered.” He also notes that “contracting states recognize that every state, in the exercise of its sovereignty, is entitled to require the landing at some designated airport of a civil aircraft flying above its territory without authority [or] if there are reasonable grounds to conclude that it is being used for any purpose inconsistent with the aims of this convention.” De La Cruz then describes what he considers three failures of Article 3 bis.
Action Is Only Permitted Once an Aircraft Has Entered a State's Airspace - The first problem is that the article “only permits a state to avail itself of the article’s provisions once the offending aircraft has entered the territorial airspace of the state.” If the aircraft was carrying a weapon of mass destruction, he explains, “awaiting territorial arrival of the aircraft may be too late.” In this scenario, if the aircraft was allowed to enter the “territorial airspace” of the state, “prevailing winds could theoretically spread an airborne-detonated biological weapon or chemical weapon onto the targeted state.”
Analysis Considers the Effects of a Plane Being Crashed into a Building - De La Cruz then states that this failure of the article could still apply if the offending aircraft was carrying no weapons. Significantly, in light of what will happen on September 11, 2001, he points out that this is because “the aircraft itself can be a potent weapon.” He considers the destruction that could result from a commercial airliner being crashed into a building, writing: “An airborne Boeing 747 can weigh in excess of 2 million pounds, retain structural integrity at flight speeds exceeding 500 miles per hour, and can carry many thousands of gallons of kerosene-based jet fuel. If used as a weapon, such an aircraft must be considered capable of destroying virtually any building located anywhere in the world.”
Article Fails to Authorize 'Deadly Force' against a Hostile Aircraft - The second problem with Article 3 bis, according to De La Cruz, is that it fails to specify what actions are permitted when an aircraft refuses to comply with instructions. While the article “requires states to make noncompliance punishable by ‘severe penalties,’” he writes, “it does not explicitly authorize the use of deadly force.”
Article Is Not Designed to Deal with Planes under the Control of Terrorists - The third failure De La Cruz describes regards “what actions are permissible when dealing with a terrorist-controlled, hijacked, or surreptitiously armed plane that is carrying a weapon of mass destruction to an intended target.” He notes, “Notwithstanding various works of fiction (see August 17, 1994), to date there are no reported actual incidents of a hijacked civil aircraft being deliberately and successfully used as a flying bomb.” All the same, he continues, “Article 3 bis was designed to protect otherwise legitimate civil aircraft that have wandered off course; it is not designed to deal with the issue of… a passenger airliner that has been deliberately converted for use as a kamikaze.” He concludes that the US should be prepared to shoot down a hostile aircraft, irrespective of what the article states. “It is certainly neither the policy nor intention of the United States to shoot down civil aircraft,” he comments, “but if necessity demands it we shall do it regardless of our formal or informal ratification of Article 3 bis.”
Document Will Be Called a 'Prescient Pre-9/11 Analysis' - It is unclear whether any action will be taken in response to De La Cruz’s analysis after the lawyer sends it to Corken. But the 9/11 Commission Report will call the document a “prescient pre-9/11 analysis of an aircraft plot.” (US Department of Justice 3/30/2000; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 346, 561) On September 11, senior government officials including the president and vice president will discuss the possibility of shooting down a hijacked commercial aircraft (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41)

Damage to the USS Cole.Damage to the USS Cole. [Source: Department of Defense]The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by two al-Qaeda militants, Hassan al-Khamri and Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras). Seventeen US soldiers are killed and 30 are wounded. The CIA will later conclude that with just slightly more skilled execution, the attack would have killed 300 and sunk the ship. (ABC News 10/13/2000; Coll 2004, pp. 532; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 191) The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) immediately takes credit for the attack. This is a Yemen-based Muslim militant group widely believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda (see 1996-1997 and After). (Whitaker 10/14/2000) The IAA statement is released by its spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, (June 1998), and December 28, 1998 and After). Abu Hamza says that the attack was timed to mark the anniversary of the execution of the IAA’s former commander (see October 17, 1999). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 184) The prime minister of Yemen at the time of the bombing will say shortly after 9/11, “The Islamic Army was part of al-Qaeda.” (Whitaker 10/13/2001) The US soon learns the names of some al-Qaeda operatives involved in the attack, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000), and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). 9/11 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see October 10-21, 2000) and Khalid Almihdhar (see Around October 12, 2000) may also have been involved. This is a repeat of a previously attempted attack, against the USS The Sullivans, which failed and was apparently undetected (see January 3, 2000). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) The 9/11 Commission will later say the Cole bombing “was a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation, supervised directly by bin Laden. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 190)

A FedEx MD-11 aircraft.A FedEx MD-11 aircraft. [Source: Alan Radecki]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices scenarios based around suicidal pilots planning to deliberately crash stolen aircraft into the United Nations headquarters—a skyscraper in New York. The two scenarios are practiced on October 16 and October 23 as part of NORAD’s annual command post exercise called Vigilant Guardian. All of NORAD, including its Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, participates in this exercise. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005)
Simulation Involves Planned Suicide Plane Attack - General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe the scenario practiced on October 16: “Due to recent arrests involving illegal drug trafficking in Maine, an individual steals a Federal Express plane and plans a suicide attack into the United Nations building in New York City.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Simulation Involves WMD Directed at the UN - The October 23 scenario, according to Myers, is based around “[w]eapons of mass destruction directed at the United Nations. An individual steals a Federal Express aircraft and plans a suicide attack on the United Nations building in New York City.” In response, exercise participants practice command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, and fighter jets conduct an interception of the stolen aircraft. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Federal Express currently flies mostly the DC-10 and the MD-11, which are both large jet planes, so presumably one of these kinds of aircraft is considered in the exercise scenarios. (Schneider 1/17/2001) The UN headquarters building—the target in the scenarios—is a 39-story high-rise, located just a few miles from the World Trade Center. (Arena 12/2/1999; Evening Standard 9/11/2002)
Scenarios Revealed in 2004 - The details of these two scenarios will come to light in August 2004 during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will be revealed by Myers, at that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) asks him, “Did NORAD conduct exercises or develop scenarios, prior to September 11, 2001, to test a military reaction to an aircraft hijacking which appeared destined to result in a suicide crash into a high-value target?” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) NORAD will state in 2004 that, until 9/11, it conducts four major exercises each year. Most of these include a hijack scenario, but not all of them involve planes being used as weapons. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004) NORAD’s next Vigilant Guardian exercise, in 2001, will actually be several days underway on 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It will include a number of scenarios based around plane hijackings, with the fictitious hijackers targeting New York in at least one of those scenarios (see September 6, 2001, September 9, 2001, September 10, 2001, and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

After entering the US, Zacarias Moussaoui engages in activities that appear to mirror those of the 9/11 hijackers. Both Moussaoui and the hijackers do the following:
bullet Take flight training (see February 23-June 2001 and July 6-December 19, 2000);
bullet Physically import large amounts of cash (see October 2000-February 2001 and January 15, 2000-August 2001);
bullet Purchase knives with short blades that can be carried onto airliners (see August 16, 2001 and July 8-August 30, 2001);
bullet Take fitness training (see August 16, 2001 and May 6-September 6, 2001);
bullet Obtain several identification documents (see April 12-September 7, 2001 and August 1-2, 2001); and
bullet Purchase flight deck videos from the same shop (see November 5, 2000-June 20, 2001).
In addition, Moussaoui is supported by some of the same al-Qaeda operatives as the 9/11 hijackers: Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001 and June 13-September 25, 2000) and Yazid Sufaat (see September-October 2000 and January 5-8, 2000). At Moussaoui’s trial, the prosecution will cite these parallel activities in its argument that Moussaoui was connected to 9/11, rather than some follow-up plot. There is also one reported meeting between Moussaoui and two of the lead hijackers before 9/11 (see August 1, 2001), but this will not be mentioned at the trial (see March 6-May 4, 2006). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 3/9/2006)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are briefed about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD’s Continental United States Region has developed an “Osama bin Laden… threat briefing,” which is the last briefing of its kind before 9/11. The increased threat level relating to bin Laden and al-Qaeda is then “briefed at NEADS,” he will say. Further details of the briefing NEADS personnel receive are unstated. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS, based in Rome, New York, is responsible for protecting the airspace in which the hijackings take place on September 11. It will therefore be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)

Zacarias Moussaoui writes the phone number of Amer el-Azizi in his notebook. El-Azizi is a Spain-based militant who is linked to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see (November 2001)) and is thought to have helped set up a meeting between Mohamed Atta and Ramzi bin al-Shibh in Spain in July 2001 (see Before July 8, 2001 and July 8-19, 2001). It is unclear when the number is written in Moussaoui’s notebook or what type of contact there is between Moussaoui and el-Azizi, if any. (Johnson and Crawford 4/7/2004) However, the connection to el-Azizi does not appear to be mentioned at Moussaoui’s trial (see March 6-May 4, 2006), even though it would be one of very few pieces of evidence potentially tying Moussaoui to the 9/11 plot. The reason for this is unclear. El-Azizi’s arrest shortly after 9/11 will be frustrated by Spanish intelligence (see October 2001 and Shortly After November 21, 2001) and he will go on to be involved in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see Before March 11, 2004 and 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004).

Hussein al-Attas.Hussein al-Attas. [Source: Public domain]Hours after Zacarias Moussaoui is taken into custody in Minnesota, his friend and roommate Hussein al-Attas is interviewed by the FBI. The two men had recently driven together to Minnesota from Oklahoma (see August 10-11, 2001).
bullet According to a summary of the interview written at the time, “Al-Attas indicated that Moussaoui believes that it is acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims and that he approves of martyrs.”
bullet Al-Attas says Moussaoui talked about holy war every day when they roomed together.
bullet When asked if he had ever heard Moussaoui make a plan to kill those who harm Muslims, “Al-Attas admit[s] that he may have heard him do so, but that because it is not in [al-Attas’] own heart to carry out acts of this nature, he claimed that he kept himself from actually hearing and understanding.”
bullet Al-Attas says Moussaoui holds strong anti-American views and might be willing to act on his beliefs.
bullet Al-Attas describes Moussaoui as so secretive that he refuses to give his full name, identifying himself only as “Shaqil.”
bullet He also says that Moussaoui told him “true” Muslims must prepare themselves to fight and they should understand the suffering of Muslims in places like Palestine and Kosovo.
bullet He mentions that he and Moussaoui are carrying fighting gloves and shin guards to practice martial arts as part of Moussaoui’s philosophy that Muslims should be ready to fight nonbelievers.
bullet He has not heard Moussaoui mention any specific terrorist plot, but says that Moussaoui “is suspicious to me, too.”
FBI agents interview al-Attas again the following day, then charge him with violating the terms of his student visa by working at a mosque in Oklahoma, and arrest him. During the second interview, al-Attas says that Moussaoui follows the teachings of a sheikh whose name he would not disclose to him (see August 17, 2001). The agents contact FBI supervisors in Washington to seek approval to get a warrant to search Moussaoui’s computer. The supervisors are aware of what al-Attas said in the interview, but nevertheless they tell the Minnesota FBI agents that they do not want to attempt to get the warrant because it has not been shown that Moussaoui is an agent of a foreign power. The New York Times will note that the content of al-Attas’ interview “raise[s] new questions about whether top [FBI] officials… were aggressive enough in responding to that information.” (Woodward and Balz 1/31/2002; Yardley 5/24/2002; Barakat 3/21/2006) Al-Attas will be arrested shortly after 9/11 and held as a material witness. He will later plead guilty to lying about Moussaoui. He lied in claiming that he did not know Moussaoui’s real name, lied about plans to go with Moussaoui to New York City in late August 2001, lied about Moussaoui’s desire to participate in holy war, and lied about a planned trip to speak to religious scholars who would encourage al-Attas to participate in holy war. He will be sentenced to time served, but will be kept imprisoned until the conclusion of Moussaoui’s trial in 2006 (see March 6-May 4, 2006). (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 7/22/2002; Associated Press 10/22/2002) It is also later revealed that Moussaoui had recently convinced al-Attas to fight in Chechnya in order to prepare for holy war. (Cohen, Carreyrou, and Gauthier-Villars 2/4/2002) Furthermore, the person who attempts to post bond for al-Attas had been the subject of a full-field FBI international terrorism investigation in Oklahoma. This unnamed person was a recruiter for a radical Palestinian group and a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. (US Congress 7/24/2003) In post-9/11 media accounts, al-Attas is generally portrayed as someone who had been innocently and accidentally caught up with Moussaoui. But it appears that in the weeks before 9/11, US intelligence will consider the possibility that al-Attas may have been plotting with Moussaoui. For instance, a CIA cable that will be sent on August 24 is titled “Subjects Involved in Suspicious 747 Flight Training,” (see August 24, 2001) one that will be sent on August 28 has Moussaoui and al-Attas’ names as the title. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 7/22/2002; Associated Press 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 540)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), struggles to maintain funding for a plan to defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. Arnold has long been worried by the US’s vulnerability to an airborne attack by terrorists (see 1999 and February 2000). But, as he will later recount, not everyone shares his concern. He will say: “Just two weeks before September 11, 2001, I had met with Vice Admiral Martin Mayer, the deputy commander in chief of Joint Forces Command located in Norfolk, Virginia. He had informed me that he intended to kill all funding for a plan my command had been working on for two years, that would defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. While I convinced Admiral Mayer to continue his funding support, he told me in front of my chief of staff, Colonel Alan Scott; Navy Captain David Stewart, the lead on the project; and my executive officer, Lt. Col. Kelley Duckett, that our concern about Osama bin Laden as a possible threat to America was unfounded and that, to repeat, ‘If everyone would just turn off CNN, there wouldn’t be a threat from Osama bin Laden.’” (Spencer 2008, pp. 289)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices for dealing with the simulated hijackings of two commercial aircraft by terrorists, as part of its annual training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. Whether the simulated hijackings take place simultaneously or at different times of the day is unclear. (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 3)
Terrorists Threaten to 'Rain Terror from the Skies' - One of the two exercise scenarios involves the hijacking of a Boeing 747 bound from Tokyo, Japan, to Anchorage, Alaska. According to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission, the scenario involves the “[t]hreat of harm to [the plane’s] passengers and possibly [a] large population within [the] US or Canada.” It includes what is apparently a fictitious Asian terrorist group called “Mum Hykro,” which is threatening to “rain terror from the skies onto a major US city unless the US declares withdrawal from Asian conflict.” During the hijacking scenario, some of the plane’s passengers are killed. The plane’s course is changed to take it to Vancouver, Canada, and then to San Francisco, California. In response to the hijacking, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and FAA headquarters direct military assistance, in the form of “covert shadowing” of the hijacked aircraft. NORAD has to liaise with the appropriate air traffic control centers. Its Alaskan region (ANR) and its Canadian region (CANR) participate in the scenario.
Group Threatens to Blow up Plane - In the other hijacking scenario, 10 members of another fictitious terrorist group, “Lin Po,” seize control of a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to Anchorage. The hijackers have weapons on board that were smuggled onto the plane in small tote bags by ground crew members prior to takeoff. Gas containers were also smuggled onto the aircraft by baggage handlers before takeoff. Arming devices are attached to these containers, which can be remotely detonated. The terrorist group issues demands and threatens to blow up the plane if these are not met. The CIA and NSA caution that the group has the means and motivation to carry out a chemical and biological attack. The group kills two of the plane’s passengers and threatens to use the gas it has on board in some manner. In response to the simulated hijacking, NORAD directs fighter jets to get in a position to shoot down the hijacked airliner, and orders ANR to intercept and shadow it. In the scenario, the 747 eventually lands in Seattle, Washington. (9/11 Commission 2004)
Most NORAD Exercises Include Hijack Scenario - Vigilant Guardian is one of four major exercises that NORAD conducts each year. Most of these exercises include a hijack scenario. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004) Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he cannot “remember a time in the last 33 years when NORAD has not run a hijack exercise.” (9/11 Commission 11/14/2003 pdf file) This year’s Vigilant Guardian will include additional aircraft hijacking scenarios on September 9 and September 10 (see September 9, 2001 and September 10, 2001), and a further simulated plane hijacking is scheduled for the morning of September 11 (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) commences Northern Vigilance, a military operation that involves it deploying fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian Air Force training exercise. The Russian exercise is scheduled to take place over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans from September 10 to September 14 (see September 10, 2001), and the NORAD fighters are set to stay in Alaska and Northern Canada until it ends. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) As well as conducting this operation, NORAD is currently running a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian, which “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) The Russians will cancel their exercise on the morning of September 11 in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001), when they “knew NORAD would have its hands full,” according to the Toronto Star. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) It is unknown from which bases NORAD sends fighters for Northern Vigilance and how many US military personnel are involved. However, in December 2000, it took similar action—called Operation Northern Denial—in response to a “smaller scale” Russian “long-range aviation activity in northern Russia and the Arctic.” More than 350 American and Canadian military personnel were involved on that occasion. (Canadian Chief of Defense Staff 5/30/2001, pp. 6 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001)

Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base.Florida Air National Guard crew chiefs and a pilot scrambling to an F-15 during an alert drill at Homestead Air Reserve Base. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets that are scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft in US airspace are able to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order, in the years preceding 9/11. (McKenna 1/1996; Dennehy 9/15/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 117) NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed and fueled, ready for takeoff. (Arnold 4/1998; Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003) Even before 9/11, the fighters are regularly scrambled to intercept errant aircraft (see 1990-2001). (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press 8/14/2002)
Pilots Stay Close to Their Aircraft - Pilots on alert duty live near to their fighters, so they will be ready for a prompt takeoff if required. Author Lynn Spencer will write that pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia “live, eat, and sleep just steps from jets.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 117) According to Major Martin Richard, a pilot with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, “Every day” at his base, “365 days a year, 24 hours a day, at least two fighter pilots and four maintenance personnel ate, slept, and lived nestled adjacent to three fully loaded F-15 jets.” (Richard 2010, pp. 8)
Fighters Can Get Airborne in Minutes - The fighters on alert are required to be in the air within minutes of a scramble order. General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will tell the 9/11 Commission that they “have to be airborne in 15 minutes.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Richard will write that the objective of the alert pilots at his base is “to be airborne in 10 minutes or less if the ‘horn’ went off.” (Richard 2010, pp. 8) According to other accounts, fighters on alert are generally airborne in less than five minutes. Airman magazine reports in 1996 that NORAD’s alert units “work around the clock, and usually have five minutes or less to scramble when the warning klaxon sounds.” (McKenna 1/1996) A few days after 9/11, the Cape Cod Times will report that, “if needed,” the fighters on alert at Otis Air Base “must be in the air within five minutes.” (Dennehy 9/15/2001) According to Spencer, pilots on alert duty at Langley Air Force Base are “always just five minutes away from rolling out of the hangars in their armed fighters.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 117) Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida, says in 1999, “If needed, we could be killing things in five minutes or less.” (McKenna 12/1999) In 1994, NORAD is planning to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States and, according to a report published that year by the General Accounting Office, “Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 16)
'Everything Else Just Stops' following Scramble Order - Once an order to scramble is received, alert pilots try to get airborne as quickly as they can. According to Richard, being a pilot sitting on alert is “akin to being a fireman.” Richard will later recall that when the horn goes off, signaling for him to get airborne, “no matter where I was or what I was doing, I had to swiftly don my anti-g suit, parachute harness, and helmet, run to the jet where my maintenance crew was waiting, fire up the powerful jet engines, and check all of the systems while simultaneously talking with the Otis command post who had a direct feed from NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector]. When the horn blew, a frantic, harrowing race into a high pressure situation ensued.” (Richard 2010, pp. 8) Herring says: “We go full speed when that klaxon sounds and people know not to get in front of us, because we take scrambles very seriously.… We’re fired up about what we do and we’re the best at what we do.” (McKenna 12/1999) Technical Sergeant Don Roseen, who keeps the alert fighters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida ready for instant takeoff, says in 1999 that these fighters are “hot and cocked, they are ready.” Roseen says that when the klaxon goes off, “everything else just stops.”
Suspicious Aircraft 'Could Be a Terrorist' - When they are taking off, pilots may be unaware exactly why they are being scrambled. Major Steve Saari, an alert pilot at Tyndall Air Force Base, says: “There are several different things you could run into and you don’t know until you’re airborne. And sometimes you can’t tell until you have a visual identification.” Saari says: “The unknown [aircraft] could be something as simple as a lost civilian or it could be somebody defecting from Cuba. It could be a terrorist or anything in-between.” (Filson 3/1999) According to Airman magazine, the unidentified aircraft might be “Cuban MiGs, drug traffickers, smugglers, hijackers, novice pilots who’ve filed faulty flight plans, or crippled aircraft limping in on a wing and a prayer.” (McKenna 12/1999)
Intercepted Aircraft Could Be Shot Down - Fighters can respond in a number of ways when they intercept a suspect aircraft. In 2011, Jeff Ford—at that time the aviation and security coordinator for the NORAD and USNORTHCOM Interagency Coordination Directorate—will say that before 9/11, scrambled fighters can “intercept the aircraft, come up beside it, and divert it in the right direction toward an airfield or find out what the problems are in order to assist.” (Doscher 9/8/2011) According to MSNBC: “[I]nterceptors can fly alongside a plane to see who’s flying it. They can also try to force it off course. Once it is apparent that it is not following directions, it might be forced over the ocean or to a remote airport—or even shot down.” (Arnot 9/12/2001) On September 11, 2001, NEADS will scramble fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27)

NORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, ColoradoNORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado [Source: Val Gempis]Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins and other day shift employees at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, start their workday. NORAD is conducting a week-long, large-scale exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Seely 1/25/2002) Deskins is regional mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Exercise Includes Simulated Attack on the US - Vigilant Guardian is described as “an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide”; as a “simulated air war”; and as “an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States.” According to the 9/11 Commission, it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” (Seely 1/25/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 55 and 122; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) Vigilant Guardian is described as being held annually, and is one of NORAD’s four major annual exercises. (Filson 2003, pp. 41; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) However, one report says it takes place semi-annually. (Scott 6/3/2002) Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 is the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Seely 1/25/2002; Kampouris 9/11/2002) Vigilant Guardian is a command post exercise (CPX), and in at least some previous years was conducted in conjunction with Stratcom’s Global Guardian exercise and a US Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian. (US Congress n.d.; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) All of NORAD is participating in Vigilant Guardian on 9/11. (Scott 6/3/2002)
Exercise Includes Simulated Hijacking - Vanity Fair reports that the “day’s exercise” (presumably Vigilant Guardian) is “designed to run a range of scenarios, including a ‘traditional’ simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) However, at NEADS, most of the dozen or so staff on the operations floor have no idea what the exercise is going to entail and are ready for anything. (Cooper 8/5/2004)
NORAD Fully Staffed and Alert - NORAD is currently running a real-world operation named Operation Northern Vigilance (see September 9, 2001). It may also be conducting a field training exercise calling Amalgam Warrior on this morning (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command will be in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on September 11.” (Scott 6/3/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003) Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, will say: “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused about whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise (see (8:38 a.m.-8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’The specially modified C-135 nicknamed ‘Speckled Trout.’ [Source: United States Air Force]General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, takes off to fly to Europe for a NATO conference, and will therefore be away from the US when the 9/11 terrorist attacks occur. (Giesemann 2008, pp. 20, 22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-433) Shelton is scheduled to attend a meeting of the Military Committee—NATO’s highest military authority—in Budapest, Hungary, on September 12, to discuss the situation in the Balkans, the European Security and Defense Identity, and NATO’s new force structure. On his return journey, he is set to stop in London, Britain, to be knighted by the Queen. (North Atlantic Treaty Organization 9/10/2001; North Atlantic Treaty Organization 9/11/2001; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430) Shelton takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, on a specially modified C-135 (the military version of a Boeing 707) nicknamed “Speckled Trout.” Normally he flies on a VIP Boeing 757 often used by the vice president, but that aircraft is presently unavailable, so he is flying instead on the C-135, which is usually reserved for the Air Force chief of staff. Those accompanying Shelton on the flight include his wife, Carolyn; his executive assistant, Colonel Doug Lute; his aides, Master Sergeant Mark Jones and Lieutenant Commander Suzanne Giesemann; and his personal security agent, Chief Warrant Officer Marshall McCants. (Giesemann 2008, pp. 20-22; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 431, 434) When Shelton is out of the country, General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is designated by law as acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his place. Shelton will later recall, “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be [Myers’s] to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” (Myers 2009, pp. 10; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 432) After learning of the attacks in New York, Shelton will give the order for his plane to return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Giesemann 2008, pp. 22-23; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 431) However, the plane will repeatedly be denied permission to enter US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will only land back in the US at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). Shelton will only arrive at the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers 2009, pp. 159; McCullough 9/2011 pdf file)

The daily threat briefing at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) includes no indication of any increase in the terrorist threat level. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer working in the NEADS battle cab, will tell the 9/11 Commission that for his threat briefing today, there is “‘zero’ intelligence available concerning any increase in the terrorist threat level.” He will say that a briefing two days ago, on September 9, similarly “contained nothing on the terrorist threat.” Stuart will say the last briefing at NEADS that mentioned the threat posed by Osama bin Laden was on July 14, “as part of the increased threat warning during summer 2001” (see July 14, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/20/2004) NEADS, which is based in Rome, New York, will be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings later this morning (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)

Shortly after air traffic controllers ask Flight 11 to climb to 35,000 feet, its transponder stops transmitting. A transponder is an electronic device that identifies a plane on a controller’s screen and gives its exact location and altitude. Among other vital functions, it is also used to transmit a four-digit emergency hijack code. Flight control manager Glenn Michael later says, “We considered it at that time to be a possible hijacking.” (Clayton 9/13/2001; MSNBC 9/15/2001; LeBlanc 8/12/2002) Initial stories after 9/11 suggest the transponder is turned off around 8:13 a.m., but Pete Zalewski, the air traffic controller handling the flight, later says the transponder is turned off at 8:20 a.m. (MSNBC 9/11/2002) The 9/11 Commission places it at 8:21 a.m. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Colonel Robert Marr, head of NEADS, claims the transponder is turned off some time after 8:30 a.m. where the Flight 11 hijack was first detected a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002)

John Ogonowski.John Ogonowski. [Source: Associated Press]At some unknown point after the hijacking begins, Flight 11’s talkback button is activated, which enables Boston flight controllers to hear what is being said in the cockpit. It is unclear whether John Ogonowski, the pilot, activates the talkback button, or whether a hijacker accidentally does so when he takes over the cockpit. A controller later says, “The button [is] being pushed intermittently most of the way to New York.” An article later notes that “his ability to do so also indicates that he [is] in the driver’s seat much of the way” to the WTC. Such transmissions continue until about 8:38 a.m. (Clayton 9/13/2001; MSNBC 9/15/2001) However, Ogonowski fails to punch a four-digit emergency code into the plane’s transponder, which pilots are taught to do the moment a hijack situation is known (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Grier 9/12/2001; CNN 9/13/2001; Johnson 11/23/2001)

FAA’s Boston CenterFAA’s Boston Center [Source: ABC News]According to some reports, Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently, it does not notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and does not notify NORAD for approximately 20 minutes. (Wald 9/15/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001) ABC News will later say, “There doesn’t seem to have been alarm bells going off, [flight] controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There’s a gap there that will have to be investigated.” (ABC News 9/14/2001) (Note the conflicting account at 8:21 a.m. (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001)

Tom Roberts.Tom Roberts. [Source: NBC News]Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don’t know what. It’s either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I’m not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael’s assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.

American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15) Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453) The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19) )

Pete Zalewski.Pete Zalewski. [Source: NBC]Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” (Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.” (Murray 9/11/2002) Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, the manager of Boston Center instructs the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. a Boston manager will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

According to Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, the center initially thought Flight 11 “was a catastrophic electrical failure and… was diverting to New York” (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 10/19/2002) However, at about 8:24 a.m., controllers heard two radio transmissions from it, with the voice of a hijacker declaring, “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). Pete Zalewski, who is handling Flight 11, says that after the second of these: “I immediately knew something was very wrong. And I knew it was a hijack.” He alerts his supervisor. Lino Martins, another Boston air traffic controller, says, “the supervisor came over, and that’s when we realized something was serious.” (Clayton 9/13/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, two senior FAA officials—Bill Peacock and David Canoles—later say that the hijacker transmissions were not attributed to a flight, so controllers didn’t know their origin. (Murray 9/11/2002) An early FAA report will similarly refer to them as having come “from an unknown origin.” But right away, the center begins notifying the chain of command that a suspected hijacking is taking place (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) However, some reports claim that controllers decided Flight 11 was probably hijacked earlier than this, by about 8:20 a.m. (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

At 8:26, Flight 11, which is already way off course, makes an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south over Albany, New York. A minute later, it turns right, to the south-southwest. Then, two minutes on, at 8:29, it turns left to the south-southeast. Boston air traffic controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude as the transponder is turned off. Its last known altitude was 29,000 feet. (Clayton 9/13/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; MSNBC 9/11/2002) Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11’s radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Boston air traffic controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” (Ross and Rackmill 9/6/2002) However, apparently, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS has to repeatedly phone the FAA, airlines, and others, for clues as to the plane’s location. NEADS will eventually focus on a radar blip they believe might be Flight 11, and watch it close in on New York. (Seely 1/25/2002; Scott 6/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002)

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here). [Source: CNN]The FAA’s Boston Center calls the FAA Command Center and says it believes Flight 11 has been hijacked and is heading toward the New York Center’s airspace. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland air traffic control centers, so Boston can help the other centers understand what is happening, in case Flight 11 should enter their airspace. Minutes later, in line with the standard hijacking protocol, the Command Center will pass on word of the suspected hijacking to the FAA’s Washington headquarters (see 8:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11; Spencer 2008, pp. 21)
National Operations Manager Learns of Hijacking - A supervisor at the Command Center promptly passes on the news of the possible hijacking to Ben Sliney, who is on his first day as the national operations manager there. The supervisor says the plane in question is “American Flight 11—a 767 out of Boston for Los Angeles.” According to author Lynn Spencer, “Sliney flashes back to the routine for dealing with hijackings from the days when they were more common.” The procedure is to “[k]eep other aircraft away from the errant plane. Give the pilots what they need. The plane will land somewhere, passengers will be traded for fuel, and difficult negotiations with authorities will begin. The incident should resolve itself peacefully, although the ones in the Middle East, he recalls, often had a more violent outcome.” Apparently not expecting anything worse to happen, Sliney continues to the conference room for the daily 8:30 staff meeting there (see 8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Command Center a 'Communications Powerhouse' - The FAA Command Center is located in Herndon, Virginia, 25 miles from Washington, DC. According to Spencer, it “is a communications powerhouse, modeled after NASA’s Mission Control. The operations floor is 50 feet wide and 120 feet long, packed with tiered rows of computer stations, and at the front, seven enormous display screens show flight trajectories and weather patterns.” The center has nearly 50 specialists working around the clock, planning and monitoring the flow of air traffic over the United States. These specialists work with airlines and air traffic control facilities to fix congestion problems and deal with weather systems. (Spencer 2008, pp. 1 and 19-20)

James Sayer.James Sayer. [Source: Boston Globe]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston for the second time, and describes the trouble on her plane to an employee there. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sweeney called the flight services office at 8:25 a.m. and told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on Flight 11, but the call was cut off after less than two minutes (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 57-58; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sweeney now calls the flight services office again. Nunez is busy making a phone call, so Sweeney’s call is answered by James Sayer, a staff assistant.
Sweeney Describes Stabbings on Flight 11 - Sayer takes notes while he is talking to Sweeney. He will later describe to the FBI what she tells him. Sweeney apparently does not give her name during the call. Sayer will recall that “[o]n the telephone was [a] female flight attendant on… Flight 11, calling from the air, who stated that two flight attendants were stabbed and a man in business class had been stabbed in the throat.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) Sweeney would be referring to flight attendants Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin, and passenger Daniel Lewin (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001), who were attacked by the hijackers. (ABC News 7/18/2002; Guttman 7/22/2004) Sweeney says that a “doctor and nurse on board the plane [are] caring for the injured man,” Sayer will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) Michael Woodward, a manager in the flight services office who talks with Sweeney in a subsequent call (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will also tell the FBI that Sweeney says a doctor and nurse are caring for a passenger who has been stabbed. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6) However, Betty Ong, another flight attendant on Flight 11, is currently talking over the phone to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), and she will say there are no doctors on the plane (see 8:36 a.m.-8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004 pdf file)
Hijackers Have a Bomb and Are in the Cockpit - Sweeney tells Sayer that the individuals who took over her plane “had Mace and pepper spray,” and she can “detect an odor in the cabin.” She says that “two people had gone in the cockpit and they said they had a bomb.” Apparently describing the bomb, Sweeney says she “observed two boxes connected with red and yellow wire.”
Sweeney Gives Incorrect Information about Plane's Location and Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Sweeney says Flight 11 is currently in the air over New York City, Sayer will recall. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) However, Flight 11 recently turned south over Albany, which is about 150 miles north of New York (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so is still a long way from the city. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) Sweeney also indicates that she thinks there are only three hijackers on Flight 11, telling Sayer that the hijackers were in seats 9C, 9G, and 10B. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8) However, apart from seat 10B, these seat numbers are different to those registered in the hijackers’ names. The five hijackers on Flight 11 had been in seats 2A, 2B, 8D, 8G, and 10B, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (BBC 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 2)
Call Is Disconnected, but Sweeney Phones Again - Sweeney’s call is cut off after 43 seconds. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Sayer will answer the phone when Sweeney contacts the flight services office again at 8:32 a.m., but he will pass the call on to Woodward. It is unclear whether all the information that Sayer describes to the FBI, about the problems on Flight 11, is given to him by Sweeney in the current call, or if she provides some of it to him in the 8:32 a.m. call. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 7-8; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11)

A number of pilots with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts are preparing to take off for a training mission and see two of their unit’s fighter jets being scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but they are not asked to respond to the emerging crisis themselves and continue with their preparations for the training mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Richard 2010, pp. 9-12)
Pilots Preparing for Training over the Atlantic - The pilots are preparing to fly a defensive counter-air mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105.” (Richard 2010, pp. 10, 12; Roughton 9/3/2011) According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15 fighters will be participating in the training mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s take part in the mission. Richard will recall that after the coordination briefing for the training mission, he goes to the “life support shop” and puts on his flying gear, and then goes to the operations desk. There, the unit’s supervisor of flying, Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, briefs the pilots preparing for the training mission on current weather and airfield updates, and gives them the status of a KC-135 tanker plane that will be refueling their fighters during the training mission. Richard then heads to his F-15, inspects it, and speaks to his crew chief.
Pilots Notice Commotion as Fighters Are Scrambled - As Richard starts his fighter’s engines, he notices a commotion on one side of the flight line ramp. He will recall: “The broken, disjointed communication over the ultra high frequency (UHF) radio indicated confusion. Members of the 102nd Security Forces Squadron, the cops, marshaled into protective positions. Two vehicles appeared with their blue emergency lights flashing. We all knew what was going on.” The 102nd Fighter Wing keeps a pair of F-15s on alert—armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes of a scramble order—and, Richard will recall, “[T]he alert aircraft were being scrambled.” (Richard 2010, pp. 10-11)
Pilots Watch Alert Fighters Take Off, but Unconcerned about This - The pilots preparing to take off for the training mission idle their engines and wait while the two alert fighters take off (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Richard will describe: “I watched from my jet as the clamshell doors on the alert hangars opened, heard the alert jets’ engines whine to life, and saw them aggressively emerge from the facility like an eager predator in search of its prey. Suddenly, the command post announced, ‘Scramble!’ They blasted off, shattering the previously still, calm, peaceful morning.” (Richard 2010, pp. 12) The pilots involved in the training mission are apparently unaware of why these fighters are being scrambled. (Lehmert 9/11/2006) Richard will recall: “I wasn’t too concerned when I saw the scrambled aircraft take off. We see many scrambles during the year and most all are just aircraft or vessels that can’t be identified but are friendly.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001)
Pilots Continue Preparing for Training - Once the two alert fighters are airborne, the pilots on the ground continue preparing for their training mission. “Back on the flight line,” Richard will recall, “I arranged my formation for takeoff and followed the standard procedures en route to our training area southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.” (Richard 2010, pp. 12) Richard and the other pilots will begin their training mission in Whiskey 105 (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They will only learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center and be recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and some of them will take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will only be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246)
Unit's Mission Is to Protect Northeast US - The 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air Base, according to its own statement, has aircraft and their crews “on continuous 24-hour, 365-day alert to guard our skies.” The unit says its “mission is to protect the Northeast United States from armed attack from another nation, terrorist attack, and activities such as smuggling, illicit drug activity, and illegal immigration.” Its large area of responsibility includes “the major industrial centers of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and all national command centers in Washington, DC.” (Kinsella 9/12/2001) The 102nd Fighter Wing is equipped with 18 F-15 Eagles, including the two that are kept on alert. (Johnson 9/15/2001; Dennehy 9/21/2001)

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy.Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy. [Source: CBC]After being informed of the possible hijacking of Flight 11, an air traffic controller in the control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base calls the base’s operations desk to let it know that it might be receiving a call from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, has just called the control tower at Otis Air Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, alerting it to the problems with Flight 11 and requesting military assistance. The controller who took the call told Bueno he needed to call NEADS in order to get fighter jets launched (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)
Tower Controller Calls Operations Desk - According to author Lynn Spencer, the tower controller subsequently “figures a call [to Otis Air Base] will be coming from NEADS soon and a scramble order is likely. He knows the fighter pilots will appreciate the heads-up.” He therefore calls the Otis Air Base operations desk. According to Spencer, the phone is answered by Master Sergeant Mark Rose, who is the superintendent of aviation management, in charge of flight records and currency for the pilots of the 102nd Fighter Wing. (Spencer 2008, pp. 27) But according to the 102nd Fighter Wing’s own history of the 9/11 attacks, the call is answered by a Technical Sergeant “Margie Woody.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001)
Controller Confuses Superintendent - Rose (or Woody, if the wing’s account is correct) is initially confused by the call. The tower controller does not identify himself or say where he is calling from, but instead begins by asking, “What do you have available?” As Spencer will describe, “For all [Rose] knows, this could be a wrong number or a crank call,” so rather than giving information about the base, Rose responds, “What are you talking about?” The controller then identifies himself and explains that he has just received a report about a hijacking. Rose realizes he needs to pass the call on to someone more appropriate.
Pilot Informed of Hijacking - Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, who is the director of operations for the 102nd Fighter Wing, is standing next to Rose by the operations desk. Rose tells him, “Duff, you got a phone call,” and then says the caller is “Otis tower—something about an apparent hijacking under way: American 11, a 767, out of Boston and headed for California.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Duffy will later recall his response to this news: “As soon as we heard there was something about a hijacking we got moving.” (Filson 2003, pp. 50) On his handheld radio he calls Major Daniel Nash, who along with Duffy is an “alert” pilot on duty at this time, and instructs him to suit up ready for any scramble call. (Spencer 2008, pp. 28) The two pilots will run to the nearby locker room, put on their G-suits and helmets, and then head out toward their jets (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Viser 9/11/2005) Meanwhile, a commander at Otis will phone NEADS to report the FAA’s request for military assistance (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Call Is Not 'the First Notification Received by the Military' - The exact time the tower controller calls the operations desk at is unclear. Duffy will later guess that the call occurs “at about 8:30, 8:35.” (Duffy 10/22/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 50) But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when the FAA’s Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) According to the102nd Fighter Wing’s history of the 9/11 attacks, the call to the operations desk is made at 8:38 a.m. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Bueno also called the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), which is located on Otis Air Base, at 8:34 a.m., to request that fighters be launched from Otis (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and in response, the TRACON contacts the Otis tower and operations desk (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)

FAA headquarters in Washington, DC.FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. [Source: FAA]Four minutes after it is informed of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, passes on word of the hijacking to the operations center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. The headquarters is apparently already aware of the hijacking, as the duty officer who speaks with the Command Center responds that security personnel at the headquarters have just been discussing it on a conference call with the FAA’s New England regional office. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) According to the 9/11 Commission, “FAA headquarters is ultimately responsible for the management of the national airspace system,” and the operations center there “receives notifications of incidents, including accidents and hijackings.” FAA headquarters has a hijack coordinator, who is “the director of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security or his or her designate.” Procedures require that, if a hijacking is confirmed, the hijack coordinator on duty is “to contact the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) and to ask for a military escort aircraft to follow the flight, report anything unusual, and aid search and rescue in the event of an emergency.” Yet, the Commission will state, although “FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack protocol,” it does “not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16-19) Mike Canavan, who would normally be the FAA’s hijack coordinator, is away in Puerto Rico this morning, and it is unclear who—if anyone—is standing in for him in this critical role (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)

Cape TRACON.Cape TRACON. [Source: FAA]Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), located on Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to alert it to the possible hijacking of Flight 11 and request that it arrange for military assistance in response. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)
Bueno Requests Fighters - After his call is initially answered by an air traffic controller at the Cape TRACON, Bueno is quickly passed on to Tim Spence, an operational supervisor at the facility. Bueno says, “I have a situation with American 11, a possible hijack.” He adds that Flight 11 “departed Boston, going to LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]. Right now he’s south of Albany.” He says, “I’d like to scramble some fighters to go tail him.” Spence replies that he will contact Otis Air Base about the situation, and tells Bueno, “I’ll talk to these guys over here and see what we can do.” Bueno then adds that Flight 11 is currently airborne, is about 40 miles south of Albany, and is visible only on primary radar. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file) Bueno also calls the air traffic control tower at Otis Air Base around this time, to alert it to Flight 11 and request military assistance (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22) Whether he makes that call before or after he calls the Cape TRACON is unstated. Immediately after receiving the call from Bueno, Spence will call the Otis control tower to inform it of the situation, and he then calls the operations desk at Otis Air Base to let it know that it may be receiving orders (presumably from NEADS, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector) soon (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)
Bueno Supposedly Violating Protocol - Bueno will say he decided to call the Cape TRACON based on his memory of a previous aircraft hijacking. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, by trying to get military assistance through the TRACON, the “Boston Center did not follow the protocol in seeking military assistance through the prescribed chain of command.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Indeed, Bueno will tell the 9/11 Commission that he knows his call should instead be to NEADS, “but due to the urgency of the circumstance [he] called directly to the FAA contact point for Otis.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) And Spence will tell the Commission that arranging for fighters to be scrambled in response to a hijacking “is not the typical responsibility of an operations supervisor with the FAA,” like himself. He will also say that it is “unusual for the [air traffic control] centers to contact TRACON for information. Normally the FAA receives the call from the military for a scramble, but this time it went the other way around, and then the official order came back down from the military.” (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)
Bueno Praised by Colleagues for Actions - However, according to the 9/11 Commission, “Bueno gets high marks” from the Boston Center personnel it interviews, “for instinctively calling FAA traffic approach personnel at the location where he knew the fighters to be—Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Even Colin Scoggins, the Boston Center’s military liaison, “who knew that the call had to go to NEADS, did not fault Bueno for trying to call the Air Force wing directly through other FAA personnel.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file)

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, claims he makes his first call to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) regarding Flight 11. He later recalls that he informs NEADS that the aircraft is “20 [miles] south of Albany, heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots.” (Griffin 2007, pp. 43) Flight 11 was over Albany at 8:26 (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) At such a high speed, it would have reached 20 miles south of there around 8:28. However, Scoggins says he is quite certain he only arrives on the floor at Boston Center at around 8:35. He says that although he’d later tried to write up a chronology of events, he “couldn’t get a timeline that made any sense.” Furthermore, Scoggins claims that even before he’d arrived, Joseph Cooper, a Boston Center air traffic management specialist, had already phoned NEADS about the hijacking. (Griffin 2007, pp. 43 and 335) The 9/11 Commission makes no mention of either call. It says “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) However, a report by ABC News is more consistent with Scoggins’ claims, indicating that Boston Center contacts NEADS about the hijacking earlier, at around 8:31. (ABC News 9/11/2002) (Boston Center also contacts the FAA’s Cape Cod facility at 8:34 and requests that it notify the military about Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Apparently around the same time, it tries contacting a military unit at Atlantic City (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Scoggins says he makes “about 40 phone calls to NEADS” in total on this day. (Griffin 2007, pp. 43) NEADS Commander Robert Marr later comments that Scoggins “deserves a lot of credit because he was about the only one that was feeding us information. I don’t know exactly where he got it. But he was feeding us information as much as he could.” (Michael Bronner 2006)

After being informed of the hijacking of Flight 11, Tim Spence, an operational supervisor at the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), calls the air traffic control tower and then the operations desk at Otis Air National Guard Base, to let them know that they might soon be receiving an order to scramble the base’s fighter jets. (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004) Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, has just called Spence at the Cape TRACON, which is located on Otis Air Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and said he wanted fighter jets scrambled in response to Flight 11, which is a “possible hijack.” Spence told Bueno he would contact Otis Air Base and see what it could do to help (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)
TRACON Supervisor Calls Otis Tower - Spence will later recall that in the five minutes following the call from Bueno, he makes “as many calls as possible.” He gets on the phone to the air traffic control tower at Otis Air Base, to notify the controllers there of the situation and receive information on who to call next, so as to facilitate Bueno’s request. Spence will recall that the Otis tower controller he speaks to gives him the telephone number for either Otis Air Base’s base operations or the supervisor of flying desk, which is the aviation section of the base operations desk. (He will be unable to recall exactly which number he is given.) Spence will say he “may have been given a second number” by the Otis tower controller, but he “does not recall directly.”
TRACON Supervisor Calls Operations Desk - Spence then calls Otis Air Base’s operations desk. He will later be unable to remember who he speaks with there. But, he will recall, the “general discussion” he has with them is “an introduction of his position, the relay of the information of a hijack from [the FAA’s Boston Center], and a request for information on how to get a fighter scramble.” During the call, Spence acknowledges that he has no authority to authorize a fighter scramble, but he advises those at the base to prepare to receive a scramble order (presumably from NEADS, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector), since such an order is “probably on its way.” The person at the operations desk gives Spence the phone number for NEADS.
Timing of Calls Unclear - The exact times when Spence calls the control tower and the operations desk at Otis Air Base are unclear. Spence will tell the 9/11 Commission that he makes the call to the control tower immediately after receiving the call from Bueno. (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file) That call ended just before 8:36 a.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002) However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when the FAA’s Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) If correct, that would indicate Spence calls the Otis tower at 8:38 a.m. or after. Bueno also called the Otis tower directly, to request military assistance in response to Flight 11 (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the tower controller subsequently contacts the base’s operations desk to alert it to the possible hijacking (see (Between 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22, 27-28) It is unclear whether the tower controller calls the operations desk before or after Spence calls it, although Spence will suggest to the 9/11 Commission that Otis Air Base “may have just received a call themselves regarding the situation” when he makes his calls, “but he is not sure.” (9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell.Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell. [Source: Scott A. Gwilt/ Rome Sentinel]The FAA’s Boston Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, to alert it to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 13) The call is made by Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at the Boston Center, and answered by Jeremy Powell, a technical sergeant on the NEADS operations floor. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 25) Beginning the call, Cooper says: “Hi. Boston Center TMU [traffic management unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Cooper answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Shortly into the call, Powell passes the phone on to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Deskins identifies herself to Cooper, and he tells her, “We have a hijacked aircraft and I need you to get some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” (Seely 1/25/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 8; Spencer 2008, pp. 26)
Military Claims Call Goes against Procedure - The 1st Air Force’s official history of the response to the 9/11 attacks will later suggest that Boston Center is not following normal procedures when it makes this call to NEADS. It states: “If normal procedures had taken place… Powell probably wouldn’t have taken that phone call. Normally, the FAA would have contacted officials at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center who would have contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The secretary of defense would have had to approve the use of military assets to assist in a hijacking, always considered a law enforcement issue.” The only explanation it gives for this departure from protocol is that “nothing was normal on Sept. 11, 2001, and many say the traditional chain of command went by the wayside to get the job done.” (Filson 2003, pp. 51)
Accounts Conflict over Time of Call - There will be some conflict between different accounts, as to when this vital call from Boston Center to NEADS occurs. An ABC News documentary will indicate it is made as early as 8:31 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Another ABC News report will state, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) NEADS logs indicate the call occurs at 8:40 a.m., and NORAD will report this as the time of the call in a press release on September 18, 2001. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 8:40 time will be widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report. (Associated Press 8/21/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002; CNN 9/11/2002) But tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor that are referred to in the 9/11 Commission Report place the call at 8:37 and 52 seconds. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Bronner 8/1/2006) If the 8:37 a.m. time is correct, this would mean that air traffic controllers have failed to successfully notify the military until approximately 12 minutes after they became certain that Flight 11 had been hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), 16 minutes after Flight 11’s transponder signal was lost (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and 24 minutes after the plane’s pilots made their last radio contact (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) At 8:34, the Boston Center tried contacting the military through the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, which is located on Otis Air National Guard Base, but was told that it needed to call NEADS (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)

Following a call from the FAA’s Boston Center to the the FAA’s Cape Cod facility reporting the possible hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and a subsequent call from the Cape Cod facility to Otis Air National Guard Base (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001), Lt. Col. Jon Treacy, commander of the 101st Fighter Squadron at Otis, phones NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to report the FAA’s request for help and get authorization to launch fighters. By now though, the FAA has already gotten through to NEADS itself, and reported the hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 50)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), learns of the possible hijacking of Flight 11 after leaving a video teleconference, but initially thinks the reported hijacking is part of a NORAD training exercise. (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002) Arnold, who is at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, has been in the video teleconferencing room, participating in a teleconference with other senior NORAD officials (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), recently tried phoning Arnold to get authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but no one at CONR interrupted the teleconference to fetch Arnold, and so Marr left an urgent message for the CONR commander (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 31)
Note Informs Arnold of Hijacking - Arnold is now in the video teleconferencing room with Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force, discussing the just-concluded teleconference, when his executive officer, Kelley Duckett, hands him a note with Marr’s message on it. The note says the FAA’s Boston Center is reporting a hijacking and requesting assistance with it, and asks that Arnold phone Marr back immediately. (Filson 2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Arnold Thinks Hijacking Is 'Part of the Exercise' - NORAD is currently in the middle of a major training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 545) Arnold will later say that, as a result, when he learns of the possible hijacking: “The first thing that went through my mind was: ‘Is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?’” (ABC News 9/11/2002) According to author Lynn Spencer, “Even as NORAD’s commander for the continental United States, Arnold is not privy to everything concerning the exercise.” The exercise “is meant to test commanders also, to make sure that their war machine is operating as it should.”
Arnold Told Hijacking Is 'Real-World' - Since a simulated hijacking is scheduled as part of the day’s exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Arnold asks Duckett, “Is this part of the exercise?” Duckett replies that the hijacking is real-world. (Spencer 2008, pp. 38) Arnold will say that “understanding this is real-world is obviously important, so I rushed downstairs to our battle staff position.” (Filson 2002) It occurs to Arnold that it has been many years since NORAD handled a hijacking (see February 11, 1993). He is relieved that, “because we were in the middle of an exercise,” he recently reviewed the protocol for what to do in response to a hijacking, and so “we were pretty well familiar with those procedures.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Spencer 2008, pp. 38) Arnold will promptly phone Marr and instruct him to go ahead and scramble fighters in response to the hijacking (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39)

Victor Saracini.Victor Saracini. [Source: Family photo]Just after Flight 175 enters the airspace of the FAA’s New York Center (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), its pilot reports to the air traffic controller now managing the flight a suspicious transmission he had heard on departing Boston’s Logan Airport. The pilot, Captain Victor Saracini, tells the controller, Dave Bottiglia: “We figured we’d wait to go to your center. Ah, we heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston, ah, with someone, ah, it sounded like someone keyed the mikes and said, ah, ‘Everyone, ah, stay in your seats.’” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21; Spencer 2008, pp. 36) Saracini is presumably referring to one of the three radio transmissions from Flight 11, where the voice of a hijacker could be heard (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, none of these had included the hijacker telling people to stay in their seats, as Saracini describes, although the second and third transmissions included the hijacker telling the passengers, “Nobody move.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Bottiglia responds: “Oh, okay. I’ll pass that along.” Referring to the fact that this was the end of the transmission he heard, Saracini adds, “It cut out,” and then asks Bottiglia, “Did you copy that?” (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37) This is the last radio transmission from Flight 175. The 9/11 Commission will conclude that the plane is hijacked within the next four minutes (see (Between 8:42 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20) According to author Lynn Spencer, since controllers are only given information on a need-to-know basis, Bottiglia was unaware there were problems with Flight 11, which has not yet entered his airspace. He touches his computer screen to connect to the hotline for his sector controller, and then reports: “UAL 175 just came on my frequency and he said he heard a suspicious transmission when they were leaving Boston. ‘Everybody stay in your seats’—that’s what he heard… just to let you know.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37)

Major General Larry Arnold.Major General Larry Arnold. [Source: US Air Force]Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), calls Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), who is seeking authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, and instructs him to “go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get authorities later.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) After learning that the FAA wants NORAD assistance with a possible hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Marr tried calling Arnold at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, for permission to scramble fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold was in a teleconference (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so Marr left a message requesting that Arnold call him back. (Scott 6/3/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 55-56; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) With the teleconference now over, Arnold calls Marr on a secure phone line and is informed of the ongoing situation. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Marr Reports Hijacking, Wants to Scramble Fighters - Marr says the FAA’s Boston Center is “reporting a possible hijacked aircraft, real-world, somewhere north of JFK Airport.” He says, “I’ve got Otis [fighters] going battle stations [i.e. with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off] and I’d like to scramble them to military airspace while we try to get approval for an intercept.” Arnold had wondered if the reported hijacking was a simulation, as part of a NORAD training exercise taking place on this day (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and therefore asks, “Confirm this is real-world?” Marr confirms that the hijacking is “real-world.”
Marr Lacks Details of Hijacked Flight - Arnold asks where the hijacked aircraft is and Marr replies: “We don’t have a good location. The FAA says they don’t have it on their scopes, but had it west of Boston and thought it was now heading to New York.” Arnold then asks, “Do we have any other information, type, tail, number of souls on board?” to which Marr replies, “I don’t have all the particulars yet, but we’ll pass them on as we get them.”
Arnold Tells Marr to Scramble Fighters - According to author Lynn Spencer, in response to Marr’s request to scramble the Otis fighters, “Arnold’s instincts tell him to act first and seek authorizations later.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) He therefore says, “Go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get authorities later.” (Filson 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Marr tells Arnold he will “scramble Otis to military airspace” while they try to figure out what is going on. (Grant 2004, pp. 20) Arnold will later recall that it is his and Marr’s intention to place the fighters in “Whiskey 105”—military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island—“since neither he nor Marr knew where the hijacked aircraft was.” (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Arnold ends by saying, “Let me know when the jets get airborne,” and adds that he will “run this up the chain” of command. Marr will then direct the NEADS mission crew commander to issue the scramble order (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Meanwhile, Arnold will call the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, about the hijacking, and officers there tell him they will contact the Pentagon to get the necessary clearances for the scramble (see (8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 56; Spencer 2008, pp. 39)

An emergency locator transmitter (ELT).An emergency locator transmitter (ELT). [Source: ELTA]A special radio transmitter that is carried by aircraft and designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the New York area, more than two minutes before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center. (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009)
Pilots Inform Controller of Emergency Signal - At 8:44 a.m. and 5 seconds, David Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, receives information from one of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of US Airways Flight 583 tells him: “I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5. It was brief, but it went off.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) (121.5 megahertz is an emergency frequency that ELTs transmit their distress signals on. (Aircraft Electronics Association 2009, pp. 36 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) ) A minute later, at 8:45 a.m. and 8 seconds, Bottiglia hears the same thing from another of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of Delta Airlines Flight 2433 tells him, “We picked up that ELT too, but it’s very faint.” (New York Times 10/16/2001) However, Flight 11 has not yet crashed, and will hit the WTC over 90 seconds later, at 8:46 a.m. and 40 seconds (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)
ELTs Help Locate Crashed Aircraft - An emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, is a small electronic device, which is designed to automatically begin emitting a continuous and distinctive radio signal when subjected to crash-generated forces, so as to facilitate the locating of an aircraft if it crashes. ELTs are carried aboard most general aviation aircraft in the US and are usually located far back in the plane’s fuselage or in the tail surface, so that they will suffer only minimal damage in the event of a crash impact. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; US Department of the Army 8/12/2008, pp. E-6 pdf file; Aircraft Electronics Association 2009, pp. 36 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009)
Location Signal Comes from Unclear - The precise location from where the ELT signal is being transmitted is unclear. Around the time Flight 11 crashes, a participant in an FAA teleconference will say the signal was coming from the area Flight 11’s track was in before it disappeared from primary radar, about 20 miles from New York’s JFK International Airport. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Peter McCloskey, a traffic management coordinator at the New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT goes off “in the vicinity of Lower Manhattan.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file)
Many Signals Are False Alarms - ELT signals not determined to be false alarms are reported to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) Major Allan Knox, who works at the AFRCC, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not recall being informed of any ELT signals on September 11, but says the AFRCC will review its data to verify this statement. He will also say that at least 20 ELT signals go off each day, and that 97 percent of ELT signals are false alarms. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file)
ELT Signal Is 'Clearly Indicative of a Crash' - However, Paul Thumser, an operations supervisor at the FAA’s New York Center with 20 years’ experience as an air traffic controller, and who is also an experienced airline pilot, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT in a Boeing 767 cannot be triggered by the pilot. (The two aircraft that hit the WTC are 767s.) He will also say that the sensitivity setting for the ELT in a 767 is not low, and so it should be impossible for a hard turn or a hard landing to accidentally cause the ELT to go off. Thumser will say that “he judged it would have to be a serious impact to set the ELT off.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file) Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will similarly tell the 9/11 Commission that an ELT signal “is clearly indicative of a crash.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003)
FAA Manager Believes Signal Unrelated to Flight 11 Crash - Noting that the ELT goes off prior to Flight 11 hitting the WTC, Mike McCormick, the manager of the FAA’s New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “best hypothesis” is that the activation of an ELT at this time is “unrelated to the event” of Flight 11 crashing. (9/11 Commission 12/15/2003 pdf file) However, there are no reports of an ELT going off at the time when Flight 11 hits the WTC. Furthermore, another ELT will be activated in the New York area around five minutes before the second plane hits the WTC (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001, pp. 37 pdf file) Despite the pilots’ reports of picking up an ELT signal just before Flight 11 crashes, the AFRCC will inform the 9/11 Commission that a “historical ELT data search” found “no ELT signal being heard by the satellites” for the area within a radius of 50 nautical miles (about 57.5 miles) of JFK International Airport between 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on this day. (9/11 Commission 2003)

On the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, instructs Major James Fox, the leader of the weapons team, to launch fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. (Bronner 8/1/2006) Nasypany has just received this order—to launch the jets—from Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 15 and 88) Marr issued it after seeking permission to do so from Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region (CONR) (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Marr will later claim, “My intent was to scramble Otis to military airspace while we found out what was going on.” (Filson 2003, pp. 56) Nasypany gives Fox a coordinate for just north of New York City, and tells him, “Head ‘em in that direction.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) The jets will be scrambled from Otis a minute later (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but there will be conflicting accounts of what their initial destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission will later state that, “Because of a technical issue, there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis scramble.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459)

Two F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is 153 miles from New York City. The fighters are launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but this plane is already crashing into the World Trade Center at this time (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Graham 9/15/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
Delay - The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to the hijacking of Flight 11 and requested that fighter jets be scrambled at just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the mission crew commander at NEADS only instructed the leader of his weapons team to launch the Otis fighters at 8:45 a.m. (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006)
Otis Aircraft Head to Runway - As soon as the pilots at Otis Air Base are strapped into their aircraft, the green light directing them to launch goes on. They start their engines and taxi out of the hangar to the nearest runway. One of the pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, radios his command post for guidance, asking, “Do you have words?” The response he gets is, “Possible hijack, American Flight 11, 737, flight level 290 [29,000 feet], over JFK [International Airport in New York City].” (This flight information is partly incorrect, since American 11 is a 767, not a 737.) According to the Cape Cod Times, the jets will be up in the air before their radar kicks in. (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 42) The Otis pilots have already been preparing for the scramble order to come since learning of the hijacking from the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, some time shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (BBC 9/1/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 27-30) Their jets are reportedly not airborne until seven minutes after being scrambled, at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and there will be conflicting accounts of what their original destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

In the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, personnel apparently become aware of the first attack on the World Trade Center from watching the reports on television. According to Steve Hahn, an operations officer there, “We monitor the television networks in the center, and along with the rest of America we saw the smoke pouring from the tower.” Dan Mangino, who is also an operations officer at the NMCC, says, “At first, we thought it was a terrible accident.” (Garamone 9/7/2006) The 9/11 Commission later says, “Most federal agencies learned about the crash in New York from CNN.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35) Whether the NMCC was already aware that a hijacking was underway is unclear. According to military instructions, the NMCC is “the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings in US airspace, and is supposed to be “notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA.” (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file) Boston Air Traffic Control Center started notifying the chain of command of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 more than 20 minutes earlier (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). And at 8:32, the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon informed FAA headquarters of the possible hijacking (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, although the “FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack protocol,” it “did not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.” Supposedly, the first that the military learned of the hijacking was when Boston Air Traffic Control Center contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about it, at around 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The earliest time mentioned by the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC learns of the Flight 11 hijacking is 9 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19-20 and 35)

The FBI arrives at the FAA’s Boston Center, in Nashua, New Hampshire, “minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center,” and seizes tape recordings of radio transmissions from the hijacked plane. Boston Center handled Flight 11, and recorded intermittent radio transmissions from its cockpit (see (After 8:14 a.m.-8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Clayton 9/13/2001) According to FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, the FAA has to turn over all its records from 9/11 to the FBI immediately afterwards. She says it is not unusual for the FAA to turn over its records after a major disaster, but normally this is to the National Transportation Safety Board, not the FBI. (Griffin 2004, pp. 185)

An intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) checks the SIPRNET—the Department of Defense’s classified version of the Internet—for information relating to the hijacking of Flight 11, but finds none. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Since then, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, has contacted various facilities, in search of further information about it. He called the FBI’s Strategic Information and Operations Center (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, and 1st Air Force headquarters in Florida (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but none of them had any additional information on the crisis. Stuart now informs Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, of his efforts. He also directs a “Major Edick”—another intelligence officer at NEADS—to search the SIPRNET for information on the hijacking. However, Stuart will later say, Edick is unable to find any such information on the SIPRNET “that morning or afternoon.” (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file)

Technicians on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) receive what is apparently their first notification that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, in a phone call from the FAA’s Boston Center. (Bronner 8/1/2006) NEADS ID technicians are currently trying to locate Flight 11, when they are called by Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center. ID tech Stacia Rountree answers the call. In response to Scoggins’s information, Rountree says to her colleagues, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” She asks Scoggins, “Was it American 11?” He tells her this is not confirmed. (Spencer 2008, pp. 50) Another of the ID techs, Shelley Watson, starts murmuring in response to the news: “Oh my God. Oh God. Oh my God.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) A computer maintenance technician then runs onto the operations floor and announces that CNN is broadcasting that a 737 has hit the WTC. (Spencer 2008, pp. 51)
NEADS Calls New York Center - Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, the leader of the ID techs, tells Watson: “Update New York! See if they lost altitude on that plane altogether.” Watson immediately calls the FAA’s New York Center and asks, “Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?” When the person who answers her call says no, Watson explains, “Being hit by an aircraft.” The person at New York Center says, “You’re kidding,” but Watson adds, “It’s on the world news.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) One of the NEADS technicians is finally able to display the live CNN coverage on one of the 15-foot screens at the front of the room. People stare in silence at the footage of the burning North Tower. (Spencer 2008, pp. 51)

An article in the New York Times will later suggest that officials in the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly become aware of the problems with Flight 77, long before NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is alerted to the flight. The article will state, “During the hour or so that American Airlines Flight 77 [is] under the control of hijackers, up to the moment it struck the west side of the Pentagon, military officials in [the NMCC are] urgently talking to law enforcement and air traffic control officials about what to do.” (Wald 9/15/2001) This appears consistent with what would be expected under normal procedures. According to the FAA’s acting Deputy Administrator Monte Belger: “Prior to 9/11, FAA’s traditional communication channel with the military during a crisis had been through the National Military Command Center (NMCC). They were always included in the communication net that was used to manage a hijack incident.” He will say that, since the FAA does not have direct dedicated communication links with NORAD, in a hijack scenario the NMCC has “the responsibility to coordinate [the Defense Department]‘s response to requests from the FAA or the FBI.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) NEADS reportedly is not alerted to Flight 77 until significantly later: at 9:24 a.m. by some accounts (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), or, according to other accounts, at 9:34 a.m., when it only learns that Flight 77 is missing (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. (Graham 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006) It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459)
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. (Filson 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center directs the two fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 toward a new heading, based on instructions he has just received from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS).
NEADS Gave New Heading for Fighters - The Boston Center controller, who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, has just been contacted by someone from NEADS. The caller from NEADS, referring to the two fighters from Otis Air Base, said, “The heading that we gave him on, I guess, is a bad heading.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (The original flight strip for the fighters gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) ) The caller said the fighters’ target was “now south of JFK,” and added, “Can you direct the Panta flight [i.e. the two Otis fighters] towards that now?” The controller replied: “If I’m talking to him, I don’t know where that target [is]. I don’t even see the target at all.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The “target,” Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) However, the caller explained that NEADS had just talked to Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center, and Scoggins said the target was “south of JFK now.” The caller therefore reiterated, “We want to get [the Otis fighters] headed in that direction.” The controller confirmed, “I’ll do that.”
Controller Passes on New Heading to Pilot - Seconds later, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots of the two fighters out of Otis Air Base, checks in with the Boston Center controller. Duffy says, “Boston Center, Panta 45 with you out of 13-5 for 290.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (“Panta 45” is Duffy’s call sign. (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) ) The controller tells Duffy, “Panta 45, roger, fly heading of 260.” Duffy confirms the new heading. The controller then instructs, “Maintain block 290.” Duffy confirms, “Six zero on the heading, climbing to flight level [of] 290.” The controller will then tell Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed into the WTC (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

One of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 is told by air traffic control that Flight 11 has crashed into the World Trade Center, and yet both pilots will later claim they are unaware of this crash until after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the WTC. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Dennehy 8/21/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 2004) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy and Major Daniel Nash took off in their F-15s from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)
Controller Tells Pilot that Flight 11 Crashed into WTC - Duffy has just checked in with the air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, and the controller has given him a new heading to fly toward (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). The controller now asks Duffy, “I understand you’re going out to look for American 11, is that correct?” Duffy replies, “Affirmative.” The controller then tells Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed. He says, “Okay, I just got information that the aircraft has been, uh, crashed into the World Trade Center, so I’m not quite sure what your intentions are, if you’re still going to head that way or you may want to talk to your operations.” Duffy responds, “Okay, we’re going to go over and talk to Huntress right now.” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, NEADS.) (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Although Duffy contacts NEADS (see (8:56 a.m.-8:57 a.m.) September 11, 2001), it is unclear whether he talks about the crash, as he indicates he is going to, since, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis [Air National Guard Base] scramble” (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) It is also unclear whether Duffy passes on the information about Flight 11 hitting the WTC to Nash. But in later interviews, both pilots will claim they were unaware of Flight 11 hitting the WTC until they were informed that a second aircraft had hit the WTC, shortly after that second crash occurred (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)
Pilots Deny Learning of First Crash - The Cape Cod Times will report that Nash “doesn’t even recall hearing that the first plane hit.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002) Nash will tell author Leslie Filson that when he and Duffy are informed of the second plane hitting the WTC, they are “still under [the] impression [that] American 11 was still airborne” and are “shocked, because we didn’t know the first one had even hit.” (Nash 10/2/2002) And Nash will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember at which point during the morning of 9/11 he heard of the first crash at the WTC.” He will say he does “remember that the FAA controller he communicated with during flight told him of the second crash,” but add that “this was strange to hear at the time, since he had not been told of the first.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Duffy will tell ABC News that when he is informed of the second crash, “I thought we were still chasing American 11.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) He will tell Filson that when he learns of this second crash, “I didn’t know [the] first one hit” the WTC. (Duffy 10/22/2002) And he will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he “received word that a second aircraft had hit the WTC,” he “still thought they were responding to a hijacked American [Airlines] airliner.” (9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file)

Paul Worcester.Paul Worcester. [Source: Paul Blackmore / Cape Cod Times]Senior commanders at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, become aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center from television coverage, and one commander then orders the base’s battle staff to assemble. The commanders have just been in the first of the base’s regular Tuesday morning meetings, which ended at 8:55 a.m. They are taking a short break before the next meeting, which is scheduled for 9:00 a.m., and are apparently unaware that a plane has crashed into the WTC.
Wing Commander Sees Burning WTC on Television - One of those in the meeting was Lieutenant Colonel Paul Worcester, the logistics group commander of the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis. As Worcester walks past the break room he notices that everyone inside it is fixated on the television. He goes in to find what they are watching and gets his first sight of the coverage of the burning North Tower. Worcester finds it odd that a plane could have hit the WTC, and thinks to himself: “On such a clear day, planes don’t just go astray. That just doesn’t happen.” Although he is aware that the base’s two F-15s that are kept on alert have been scrambled in response to a suspected hijacking (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), he does not connect this with what he is seeing on television.
Commanders See Second Attack - Worcester is joined in the break room by more of the senior commanders. They watch as the live television coverage shows Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), and all of them then realize that America is under attack. One commander immediately shouts out, “We need to go to battle staff!” The senior commanders disperse and head toward the adjacent operations building, where they will reconvene in the battle cab of the installation operations center (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). A voice sounds out over the base’s loudspeakers: “The commander has ordered the 102nd core battle staff to assemble. Please report to the operations building immediately.”
Unit Mobilizes for War - Subsequently, as author Lynn Spencer will describe: “Under the leadership of the [102nd Fighter] Wing commander, the various subordinate group commanders cross-brief on scramble activity, training flight issues, available munitions, personnel available to begin uploading more fighters to combat-ready status, security force increases, and more. In short, they begin to mobilize the wing for war, keeping NEADS [NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector] in the loop on their preparations.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 87-88, 153-154)
Base Learned of First Hijacking 20 Minutes Earlier - The 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which is based at Otis Air Base, is responsible for protecting the Northeast United States, including New York, Washington, and Boston. Its mission includes defending the region against terrorist attacks. (Kinsella and Dennehy 9/12/2001; Kinsella 9/12/2001) On a typical day, it has about a dozen pilots on duty. (Dennehy 9/15/2001) It is equipped with 18 F-15 fighter jets, two of which are kept on 24-hour alert, ready to be in the air within five minutes of being called upon. (Johnson 9/15/2001; Dennehy 9/21/2001) These were the two jets that launched at 8:46 a.m. in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) The base was notified about this first hijacking shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Why the senior commanders did not initiate their crisis response at that time is unclear.

A special radio transmitter that is carried by aircraft and designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the New York area, several minutes before Flight 175 hits the World Trade Center. David Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, receives information from one of the aircraft he is monitoring. A few seconds before 8:59 a.m., the pilot of US Airways Flight 583 tells him, “I hate to keep burdening you with this stuff, but now we’re picking up another ELT on 21.5.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001, pp. 37 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically begin transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue attempts at locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; US Department of the Army 8/12/2008, pp. E-6 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) “21.5” refers to the emergency frequency of 121.5 megahertz that ELTs transmit their distress signals on. (Aircraft Electronics Association 2009, pp. 36 pdf file) While the pilot’s information would mean an ELT is activated at around 8:58 a.m., Flight 175 will crash into the WTC several minutes later, at 9:03 a.m. and 11 seconds (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8) And yet there are no reports of an ELT going off at the time of the crash itself. The pilot of Flight 583 earlier on informed Bottiglia of another ELT signal, which had been transmitted shortly before Flight 11 hit the WTC (see 8:44 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file)

Martin Richard.Martin Richard. [Source: Kevin Mingora]Several F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts fly out over the Atlantic Ocean for a scheduled training mission, but the pilots are unaware of the hijackings taking place and the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Roughton 9/3/2011) Their mission is an “ordinary training session,” according to the Cape Cod Times. (Lehmert 9/11/2006) Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will describe it as a “normal training mission.” (Richard 2010, pp. 9) It is being carried out in “Whiskey 105,” an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Roughton 9/3/2011) According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are taking part. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) But Richard will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s are involved.
Training Mission Is a 'Mock War Scenario' - The “defensive counter-air” mission, according to Richard, is intended to have the fighters splitting into two teams: the “blue air”—the “good guys”—versus the “red air,” their adversaries. In a defensive counter-air mission, Richard will write, “the goal is [to] protect a point on the ground. Our training objective focused on ensuring flawless radar operations to be able to build an accurate picture of the threat’s formation, target the threat in the most effective manner, and ensure, through mutual support, that all blue air forces returned unscathed.” The “mock war scenario” that is played out is “an exciting sortie to do as a practice mission, and it took a great deal of organization to make happen,” according to Richard. (Richard 2010, pp. 10) A KC-135 tanker plane from the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, Maine, is scheduled to refuel the fighters during the mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 153; Ricker 9/9/2011)
Pilot Hears Unusual Radio Communications - The fighters take off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) They then fly out toward the Whiskey 105 training airspace. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Roughton 9/3/2011) Richard will recall that at this time, “[e]verything was exceedingly normal until we heard some unfamiliar radio communication between [the FAA’s] Boston Center and some civilian airliners.” He will say that this “got my attention, but more because it was out of the norm, not because it was especially noteworthy.”
Fighters Fly to Opposite Sides of Airspace - Richard commands the other fighter pilots to complete their pre-mission safety checks and then readies them “for the simulated war we had planned hours before.” After entering Whiskey 105, the fighters carry out a warm-up maneuver. Richard then sends the fighters simulating the “red air” to the west side of the training airspace, while the other fighters—the “blue air”—take up their position about 80 miles away, on the east side of the airspace. (Richard 2010, pp. 12-13) But then, shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, at around 9:25 a.m., the pilots will learn of the first crash at the WTC and be recalled to their base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Some of the fighters subsequently take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246; Richard 2010, pp. 13)
Fighters on Training Are Unarmed - The fighters involved in the training mission have no ordnance on them. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) According to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base, they are “in an exercise configuration” and therefore “at a ‘safe guns’ (non-firing) weapons posture.” Furthermore, the fighters “more than likely had only one fuel tank.” (F-15s can carry three fuel tanks.) If these fighters were to be used for “long air superiority/sovereignty missions,” Kelly will say, they would need “‘hot’ (live) guns, missiles, and extra gas tanks.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file)
Fighters Scrambled after Flight 11 Also Fly in Training Airspace - The pilots on the training mission saw the two of their unit’s F-15s that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off from Otis Air Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware of the reason for the scramble (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006) (One of the pilots of those F-15s, Daniel Nash, is reportedly standing in for the usual “alert” pilot, who is “scheduled for training” on this day, presumably taking part in the training mission in Whiskey 105. (Dennehy 8/21/2002) ) The two F-15s launched in response to Flight 11 were actually directed toward Whiskey 105 after taking off (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are in the training area from 9:09 a.m. to 9:13 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)

The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) are given guidance by an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center on flying into military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, and then discuss details of their intended hold in that airspace with another Boston Center controller. (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Fighters Heading into Training Area - Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the pilot of one of the fighters, talks over radio with the Boston Center controller who is working at the Cape Sector radar position. Duffy says the two fighters are “proceeding [on] our present heading of 250 for about 100 miles,” and adds that “Huntress”—the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)—“wants us to hold just south of Long Island, to see if we can get any more assistance.” The controller replies: “Okay, that’s fine. You are heading into the warning area.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) By the “warning area,” he is referring to a military airspace training area over the Atlantic, just south of Long Island, known as “Warning Area 105” or “Whiskey 105.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 85) The original flight strip for the two F-15s gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport, but the fighters have recently been redirected (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Fighters Told They Can Contact Navy Control Facility - The controller continues, “If you want, if you can’t contact me, you can go to Giant Killer on 338.1.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) (“Giant Killer” is the call sign for the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia—a Navy air traffic control agency that handles over-water military operations. (Wald 2/10/1997; Spencer 2008, pp. 143) ) The controller then tells Duffy that he can contact Giant Killer, because “you’re going through their airspace.” Duffy replies, “Okay, I’ll do all that, thanks.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The Otis fighters are then handed on to another controller at the Boston Center. Stephen Roebuck, who is working at the Hampton Sector radar position, now communicates with them. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004) The Hampton Sector covers the area that includes the Whiskey 105 airspace.
Pilots Unable to Give Specific Information about 'Hold' - Roebuck asks the pilots of the fighters if they know their destination. They reply no, and say they need to hold in the western area of Whiskey 105. Roebuck wants information on the position they will hold at in Whiskey 105, but the pilots say they cannot give a specific location. Instead, they tell Roebuck to keep them in a “published hold” in the area. Roebuck asks if the fighters want a “radial” or a “latitude/longitude” hold, but is told they will maintain themselves.
Controller Finds Fighters' Unspecific 'Hold' Unusual - Due to the lack of information the pilots have provided him with, Roebuck is unsure what the fighters are going to do, and does not know how to clear airspace for their potential course. Roebuck will tell the 9/11 Commission that “normally, clearing area for fighters is very specific, so this unknown generic hold [is] extremely unusual. The fighters had an altitude, but did not issue an EFC [expect further clearance].” He assumes the purpose of the generic hold is that “if the fighters needed to move rapidly, they did not want to be encumbered by an air traffic technicality.” (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003)

The minute Flight 175 hits the South Tower, fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash will recall, clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD will say he is 71 miles away from there. (Dennehy 8/21/2002) The other Otis pilot, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, recalls, “We’re 60 miles out, and I could see the smoke from the towers.” They call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) for an update, and, as Duffy will recall: “At that point, they said the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American [Airlines Flight] 11.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) In another account Duffy will relate: “It was right about then when they said the second aircraft had just hit the World Trade Center, which was quite a shock to both [Nash] and I, because we both thought there was only one aircraft out there. We were probably 70 miles or so out when the second one hit. So, we were just a matter of minutes away.” (BBC 9/1/2002) He asks NEADS for clarification of their mission, but the request is met with “considerable confusion.” (Scott 6/3/2002) Bob Varcadipane, a Newark, New Jersey, air traffic controller who sees the Flight 175 crash, will claim: “I remember the two F-15s. They were there moments after the impact. And I was just—said to myself, ‘If only they could have gotten there a couple minutes earlier.’ They just missed it.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) However, the 9/11 Commission appears to believe that the pilots never get near New York City at this time. According to the Commission’s account, lacking a clear target, the Otis fighters took off toward military controlled airspace over the ocean, off the coast of Long Island. A map released by the Commission indicates that at 9:03 they are about 100 miles away and heading southwest instead of west to New York City. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor reveal Major Kevin Nasypany telling Colonel Robert Marr, “Fighters are south of—just south of Long Island.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) The 9/11 Commission says that, at 9:10 a.m., the FAA’s Boston Center tells the Otis fighters about the second WTC tower being struck. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459)

Two officers in the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC)—a small office at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, manned by military reservists—contact the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, to ask about military assistance in response to the terrorist attacks. (US Air Force 9/11/2001; Scott 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 4/14/2004)
Military Leaders 'in a Meeting to Determine Their Response' - Apparently shortly after the south World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m., Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the Command Center, asks the ATSC for a military response to the ongoing events (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). Therefore, Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, one of the three officers on duty in the ATSC, calls the NMCC. However, according to a chronology of the ATSC’s actions on this day, Cherry is told that “senior leaders” at the NMCC are “in a meeting to determine their response” to the attacks, and will call back.
Second Officer Calls NMCC, Told Fighters Have Been Launched - Then, at around 9:08 a.m., Sliney talks to another of the officers on duty in the ATSC, Colonel John Czabaranek, and asks if fighter jets have been launched toward New York. (US Air Force 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/14/2004) Two F-15s have already taken off from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, toward the New York area (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but, according to the 9/11 Commission, “Lacking a target,” these fighters have been “vectored toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast” (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) In response to Sliney’s inquiry, Czabaranek calls the NMCC. The NMCC indicates that it is aware of the request for fighter support, and says aircraft have been scrambled from Otis Air Base. Czabaranek passes this information on to Sliney, telling him that fighters are en route.
ATSC's Secure Phones Initially Not Working - According to the chronology of the ATSC’s actions, the unit’s secure phones do not work for an incoming call from the NMCC that is apparently made shortly after 9:03 a.m. The ATSC’s keys for its secure phones are recalibrated, and the phones then “worked fine.” (US Air Force 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/14/2004)

The FAA’s Boston Center notifies the two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) that a second aircraft has been hijacked, and then tells the fighters of the second crash at the World Trade Center. The fighters are currently flying into a military training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see 9:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). They are being handled by Boston Center air traffic controller Stephen Roebuck.
Pilots Told of Second Hijacking and Crash - Roebuck asks the pilots of the fighters if they are in contact with “company,” meaning the military, and they say they are. He then informs them of the report of a second aircraft being hijacked. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004) However, one of the pilots, Major Daniel Nash, will later say he is not told the call sign of this second hijacked aircraft, “UAL 175, until after he landed.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Roebuck hears from a colleague at the Boston Center that a second plane has hit the WTC. Just before 9:08 a.m., he notifies the Otis pilots of this. Roebuck will recall that he tries to communicate this “second event” to them calmly. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Pilot Switches into 'Combat Mode' - Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the other Otis pilot along with Nash, will later recall his response to the news of the second crash, saying: “I look up and we’re about 60 or 70 miles outside Manhattan, and I can see the towers burning.… Okay, obviously everything just changed from my personal mind-set. We take off to go help somebody, and now as I look up and can see the burning I say, ‘Okay, now people are dying.’ It’s kind of hard to explain, but basically you switch into a combat mode where you say, ‘Okay, this just got real serious real fast.‘… Now people are dying and you’re thinking, ‘Okay, what do I have to do?’ And you have to put emotion aside because you don’t have time for it.” (Filson 2003, pp. 60) Both pilots will later claim that prior to learning of the second hijacking and the second crash, they had been unaware that the first hijacked plane, Flight 11, had hit the WTC. (Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file) However, recordings of communications at the Boston Center reveal that Duffy was told of that first crash at 8:55 a.m. (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Duffy and Nash are also told about the second crash by someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) around this time (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Nash 10/2/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)

The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) have been directed to “Whiskey 105,” a military airspace training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island. According to the 9/11 Commission, “To avoid New York area air traffic and uncertain about what to do, the fighters were brought down to military airspace to ‘hold as needed.’ From 9:09 to 9:13, the Otis fighters stayed in this holding pattern.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 85) Otis pilot Major Daniel Nash will later comment, “Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002)
'Pushback' from FAA Controllers - By 9:08 a.m., Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, had learned of the second World Trade Center crash and wanted to send the Otis fighters to New York City. However, according to Vanity Fair, the NEADS “weapons techs get ‘pushback’ from civilian FAA controllers, who have final authority over the fighters as long as they are in civilian airspace. The FAA controllers are afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with a passenger plane, of which there are hundreds in the area, still flying normal routes.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 25; Bronner 8/1/2006) Author Lynn Spencer will add: “[L]ocal FAA controllers are busy shutting down New York’s airspace and are less than eager to grant the fighters access to the civilian airspace. They’re afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with the hundreds of airliners that are still in the area. Many of those flights are doing unpredictable things just now, such as canceling their flight plans and changing course, and controllers are not convinced that they can provide adequate separation if fast-moving fighters are added to the mix. They just need a few more minutes, they keep saying.”
New York Center Not Answering Phone - Nasypany tries contacting the military liaison at the FAA’s New York Center, but no one is answering the phone. According to Spencer, “He wants the Otis fighters over New York, not in military airspace 100 miles off the coast, but he has little choice. Without permission from the FAA to penetrate the civil airspace over New York, NEADS must advise the Otis F-15 pilots… to continue to remain clear of the city.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 111-112)
Director Wants Jets 'Closer In' - At 9:10 a.m., the senior director on the NEADS operations floor tells the weapons director, “I want those fighters closer in.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick asks Major James Fox, the weapons team leader, “Can we give [the fighters] a mission?” Fox replies, “Right now their mission is to hold.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 111) Then, at around 9:11 a.m., either the senior weapons director at NEADS or his technician instructs the Otis fighters to “remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA requests assistance.”
Fighters Exit Holding Pattern for New York - Just before 9:13 a.m., the Otis pilots tell their controller at the FAA’s Boston Center that they need to establish a combat air patrol over New York. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar data show that at 9:13, when the Otis fighters were about 115 miles away from the city, the fighters exited their holding pattern and set a course direct for Manhattan” (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24)

The operations manager with the unit at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission is instructed to prepare to launch three F-16s from the base, even though the unit only keeps two such jets on “alert.” (Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
NEADS Calls Langley - Captain Craig Borgstrom is the operations manager of a detachment at Langley from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two alert F-16s, he would serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), responsible for informing the pilots about their mission. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114, 116) The unit has just received the signal to put its alert jets on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 64; Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) After briefing one of the two alert pilots, Borgstrom is called by the crew chief to answer a phone call from someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) who wants to speak to him. In an urgent voice, the caller asks Borgstrom, “How many airplanes can you get airborne?” Borgstrom answers, “I have two F-16s at battle stations right now,” but the caller snaps: “That’s not what I asked! How many total aircraft can you launch?” Although Borgstrom is not on alert duty, he is an F-16 pilot. He responds: “Well, the only other pilot here is me—I can fly. I can give you three!” The caller instructs him: “Suit up and go fly! We need all of you at battle stations!” (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
Third Pilot Means No Supervisor - According to author Lynn Spencer, this order “is almost unthinkable. If [Borgstrom] goes up, there will be no supervisor of flying. During a scramble, it is the SOF’s responsibility to monitor the jets—to work with local controllers to ensure priority handling and to make sure that the pilots are receiving lawful launch orders. The SOF stays in close communication with NEADS to get any and all information about the mission to pass on to his pilots, and assesses weather, airfield status, and spare alert aircraft status in case of an abort by one of the primary fighters. If Borgy flies, there not only will be no SOF, there will be no officer left at the detachment!”
Borgstrom Notifies Others, Checks with Commander - Borgstrom heads out to inform others of the instruction. He speaks to one of the alert pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, telling him, “They want us to launch all planes and all pilots if we get scrambled!” According to Spencer, this request “doesn’t make any sense to Eckmann,” and his initial response is ”What?” But “he’s a military officer and he’ll follow orders,” and points Borgstrom to the unit’s third F-16, which is not kept on alert and is therefore unarmed. Borgstrom instructs the crew chief to arm the fighter’s gun; this will be the only ammunition he has when he takes off. After fetching his harness and helmet, he places a phone call to the commander of the 119th Fighter Wing, at the wing’s home in Fargo, North Dakota. Borgstrom is uncomfortable with the unprecedented situation he is in and feels compelled to notify his immediate higher-ups. He tells the commander: “Sir, they’re launching all three of us. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no ops supervision here at all!” The commander knows what has happened in New York from news reports, and so is aware of the situation. He tells Borgstrom: “Go! Our thoughts are with you. Godspeed.” Borgstrom then hangs up the phone and runs to his jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) The three Langley jets will receive a scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) declares “AFIO” (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for New York airspace, which gives the military authority over the FAA for that airspace, and will enable the fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) to head toward the city. (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) For the last few minutes, the two Otis fighters have been kept in a “holding pattern” in military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and NEADS has been unable to get permission from the FAA for them to enter the civilian airspace over New York. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 111-112)
Marr Wants AFIO - According to author Lynn Spencer, Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, now “decides that he is done waiting for FAA approval for his fighters to enter New York airspace.… He will play his ace card. There is one method for the military to override the FAA’s authority over the airspace, and it is called AFIO.” The declaration of AFIO will give the military “emergency authority to enter FAA-controlled airspace without permission.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) According to an FAA document, “Upon declaring ‘AFIO,’ NORAD assumes responsibility for [interceptor fighter jets] seeing and avoiding all known aircraft and ensuring safe intercept conduct.” (Federal Aviation Administration 2/19/2004, pp. 4-12-1 - 4-12-2)
Nasypany Directed to Declare AFIO - Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, speaks over a direct phone line to Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, who is on the operations floor there. He orders him to declare AFIO for New York airspace and to immediately move the Otis fighters over the city. Nasypany then calls out across the operations floor to the weapons team, “Okay, we’re declaring AFIO at this time.” The directive is relayed immediately to the two Otis pilots, who will then leave their holding pattern and head toward Manhattan (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 113)

The two F-15s launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 finally exit their “holding pattern” off the Long Island coast, and fly directly toward New York. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) According to the 9/11 Commission, the two fighters had been sent to the military-controlled airspace over the Atlantic Ocean because they lacked a target, and so have been flying in this area for the last few minutes (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). They are currently about 115 miles from the city. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20 and 24) Visibility is extremely clear and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, one of the two Otis pilots, will later recall that he can see the World Trade Center towers burning in the distance. He has just called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and asked: “What do you want me to do next? What do you need from me right this second?” (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 63)
NEADS Takes Control of Airspace - At NEADS, battle commander Colonel Robert Marr had lost patience waiting for approval from the FAA to send the Otis jets to New York, and so has just declared “AFIO” (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for New York airspace, which gives the military authority to enter that airspace without permission (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) Therefore, a couple of minutes after Duffy made his inquiry, NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick gets back to him to relay the AFIO directive. Hedrick instructs Duffy: “Proceed direct to Manhattan and set up combat air patrol. NORAD has taken over control of the airspace.” Duffy confirms, “Okay, got that.”
Fighters Request Lower Altitude Clearance - Duffy, who is currently flying at 20,000 feet, immediately requests clearance from the FAA to fly at lower altitude. He calls its New York Center and identifies himself with his military call sign, saying, “Panta 4-5 needs to go direct to New York City and I need lower [altitude]… right now.” The controller gives him a heading and clears him to descend to 18,000 feet. After the two Otis jets exit military airspace at 9:13, they descend to 18,000 feet and Duffy asks the New York Center controller again for lower altitude clearance. He is given permission to descend to 16,000 feet, and upon further requests is allowed to go down to 11,000 feet. Finally, Duffy insists, “Guys, I need all the way to the surface!” and the controller replies: “Roger. Panta 4-5 is clear all altitudes.” “They just gave us the airspace,” Duffy will later recall. (Filson 2003, pp. 63; Spencer 2008, pp. 113-114)
Conflicting Times - According to the 9/11 Commission, the two Otis fighters will arrive over Manhattan at 9:25 (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but numerous witnesses on the ground there will later recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24)

Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, begins preparing all of its available fighter jets to take off. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) The base has already launched its two F-15s that are kept on alert, in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) After the second attack on the World Trade Center at 9:03 a.m., commanders at the base convened and decided to recall all aircraft out on training, and begin loading fuel and weapons onto all available fighters (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153-154)
Officer Ordered to Prepare Fighters - Jeff Isch, the weapons supervisor for the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis, will later recall, “As soon as that second tower was hit, we all started to scramble to action.” (Dennehy 9/8/2002) However, author Lynn Spencer will indicate that the base does not begin preparing fighters to launch until about 10 to 15 minutes later. She will write that the aircraft maintenance squadron officer, whose job is to get aircraft ready for combat, has been awaiting orders since the time of the second crash. Then, “Less than 15 minutes after the second impact into the World Trade Center, the order came.” An officer from the base’s battle cab gives him the instruction, “Listen, I want you to generate as many airframes [i.e. fighter jets] as you can!” Immediately, the aircraft maintenance squadron officer starts directing all available workers to the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft) to prepare the base’s available F-15s for combat. (Spencer 2008, pp. 155)
Base Personnel Load Aircraft with Weapons - A report written by the 102nd Fighter Wing’s historian will describe: “Operations [personnel] along with maintenance [personnel] did a survey of which aircraft had bullets loaded and prioritized those aircraft to be first on status. They immediately began to pre-position wing tanks to increase range for future flights. Munitions started flowing at 9:30 and the aircraft were loaded with a mix of different types of weapons.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Isch’s crew hurries to fix fighters with live weapons. Some aircraft are fitted with newer missiles that are rarely pulled out. (Dennehy 9/8/2002) According to Boston Magazine, “Jets undergoing maintenance [are] rushed back into service, fitted out for combat instead of training.” (Tarcy 1/2002)
Fighters Recalled from Training Mission and Armed - A number of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are away for a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006) At 9:25 a.m., these fighters will be instructed to return to their base and will land back at Otis around 20 minutes later (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 155; Roughton 9/3/2011) Two of the aircraft have mechanical problems and will therefore be unable to fly again immediately. But the other fighters will be refueled and loaded with 940 rounds of 20 mm bullets. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) The first F-15s to subsequently take off from Otis Air Base will launch at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246) Fourteen of the base’s fighters are “mission capable” by the end of the day, according to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) But according to Spencer, by 6:00 p.m., 21 of the 24 F-15s that are stationed at Otis Air Base will be airborne. (Spencer 2008, pp. 281)

Norman Seip.Norman Seip. [Source: US Air Force]A National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call is established to allow government agencies in the Washington, DC, area to quickly share information regarding the ongoing events, but the call reportedly contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/13/2004; Brewin 6/1/2009) The NOIWON call is convened by the CIA sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m., according to FAA chronologies. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) According to an officer at the Pentagon, the White House Situation Room is taking the lead at the time he answers the NOIWON call. (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004)
FAA Participates in Call - At the FAA headquarters in Washington, the NOIWON call is answered by Bart Merkley, one of two officers on duty in the ACI Watch—a small, 24-hour intelligence facility located on the building’s third floor. (9/11 Commission 7/13/2004) Merkley stays on the call for its entire duration. He passes onto it information he has learned from the Tactical Net—a teleconference established by the operations center at FAA headquarters at 8:50 a.m. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/19/2004)
NMCC Participates in Call - At the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon, the initial call on the NOIWON line is answered by Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant deputy director for operations. (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) Subsequently, Brigadier General Norman Seip will take over the line and remain on it for most of the day. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, this is because the “White House Situation Room insisted on having a flag officer on an open line” with it. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file)
NOIWON Call of Little Use - The NOIWON call apparently contributes little of value to the emergency response to the terrorist attacks. Darrel Smith, who is working alongside Merkley in the ACI Watch at FAA headquarters, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember any useful or significant information coming as a result of the NOIWON call.” (9/11 Commission 7/13/2004) Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC throughout the attacks, will tell the Commission that he “recalled no situational awareness that came from the NOIWON call.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) Gardner will say he “doesn’t remember specifically what was discussed” on the call. (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) FAA records will state, “It is believed that the [Department of Defense] received information” concerning the attacks over the NOIWON call, but the FAA “holds no records of that communication.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)
Call Delays Establishing of NMCC's Conference - Furthermore, the NOIWON call delays the Pentagon’s response to the attacks. The NMCC’s usual first action in response to a crisis is to establish a “significant event conference” in order to gather and disseminate information from government agencies, and discuss what actions should be taken. However, the NOIWON call reportedly intervenes with the preparations for such a conference call. According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “The NMCC abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The significant event conference will therefore only commence at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)
No Recording of Call - The NOIWON is described as “a dedicated secure telephone system with a conferencing capability for the rapid exchange and sharing of high interest and time-sensitive information between Washington-area operations centers.” (Brewin 6/1/2009) During breaking crises it is used by the major national security watch centers around Washington, including the NMCC and the National Military Joint Intelligence Center at the Pentagon, the State Department Operations Center, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA’s operations center, the NSA’s operations center, and the White House Situation Room. (Radi 3/1997 pdf file) The 9/11 Commission will later request a transcript of the NOIWON call conducted on this day, but despite “multiple searches,” no recording of it will be found. (9/11 Commission 8/22/2003; Stephen A. Cambone 10/14/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/16/2004)

Personnel on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) confirm to their mission crew commander (MCC) that they are prepared to issue an order to fighter pilots, telling them to fire on a commercial airliner.
MCC Concerned about Possible Shootdown - Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS MCC, is concerned about what might happen next as the day’s crisis unfolds. He realizes he may need to order fighter jets under his command to shoot down an errant aircraft. He therefore starts walking up and down the operations floor, impatiently asking all his section heads and weapons technicians, “Are you prepared to follow an order to shoot down a civilian airliner?” All of them affirm that they will issue such an order if required to do so.
Nasypany Confers with Marr - Satisfied with their answers, Nasypany gets on the phone to Colonel Robert Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, and asks him, “Have we already asked the questions?” What Nasypany means is, have they asked about getting authorization to take out a threatening aircraft? According to author Lynn Spencer, “Those authorizations, [Nasypany] knows, are going to have to come from the president himself, passed down from senior NORAD command in Colorado Springs.” Marr replies that Major General Larry Arnold, who is at the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters in Florida, is seeking the necessary authorizations and is prepared to take any action required. Nasypany then briefs Marr on the armaments on board the fighters NEADS has had launched (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He adds: “My recommendation, if we have to take anybody out, large aircraft, we use AIM-9s in the face. If need be.” He means that if there is another hijacking, the most effective way to bring the plane down would be to fire a missile into its nose. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 140-141)
Pilots Do Not Receive Shootdown Authorization - At around 9:35 a.m., according to Spencer, a NEADS weapons controller will ask one of the pilots that launched in response to the first hijacking whether he would be willing to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) According to the 9/11 Commission, however, NEADS personnel will only learn that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then they will not pass this order along to the fighter pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center. Colin Scoggins, Boston Center’s military liaison, tells it: “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s on its way towards—heading towards Washington.… That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have.… I’m going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he’s somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks: “He—American 11 is a hijack?… And he’s heading into Washington?” Scoggins answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston Center has been told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the 9/11 Commission will say it hasn’t been able to find where this mistaken information came from.
Scoggins Makes Error - Vanity Fair magazine will later add, “In Boston, it is Colin Scoggins who has made the mistaken call.” Scoggins will explain why he believes he made this error: “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if [Flight 11] was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” He says he was monitoring a conference call between FAA centers (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), “when the word came across—from whom or where isn’t clear—that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington.” However, Boston Center was never tracking Flight 11 on radar after losing sight of it near Manhattan: “The plane’s course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward DC. This was all controllers were going on.” Scoggins says, “After talking to a supervisor, I made the call and said [American 11] is still in the air.” (Northeast Air Defense Sector 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
Myers Refers to Mistaken Report - In the hours following the attacks, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers will apparently refer to this erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, telling the Associated Press that “prior to the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington.” Myers will say “he assumed that hijacked plane was the one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn’t be sure.” (Fournier 9/11/2001)

Having just received an incorrect report that Flight 11—which has already hit the World Trade Center—is still airborne and heading toward Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try, unsuccessfully, to locate the aircraft on their radar screens. (Spencer 2008, pp. 137-139) At NEADS, Major James Anderson says the hijackers are “probably not squawking anything anyway,” meaning their plane’s transponder is not broadcasting a signal. He adds, “I mean, obviously these guys are in the cockpit.” Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander, replies, “These guys are smart.” Another member of staff adds, “Yeah, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) After giving the order to launch the F-16s kept on alert at Langley Air Force Base (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001), Nasypany calls out, “I need more trackers!” He needs his technicians to locate the hijacked plane on radar so that his weapons team can pass on its coordinates to the Langley fighters. But the trackers are unable to find the transponder code for Flight 11 on their radar screens. They begin calling up, one at a time, the tracks on their screens that are in the airspace between New York and Washington, and attach a tag to each after it has been identified. One technician draws a line on a map between New York and Washington, showing the area across which Flight 11 would be traveling. It includes Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Baltimore. He looks at his radar screen and sees there are hundreds of tracks in that area. (Spencer 2008, pp. 138-139) Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, who gave NEADS the incorrect report about Flight 11, will later say he’d only heard the plane was still airborne and heading for Washington on a conference call between FAA centers. According to Vanity Fair, air traffic controllers “were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan, but if it had been flying low enough, the plane could have gone undetected.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)

Major Kevin Nasypany inside NEADSMajor Kevin Nasypany inside NEADS [Source: Mark Schafer/ Vanity Fair]According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS has just been told that the hijacked Flight 11 is still in the air and heading toward Washington. Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander, says to NEADS Commander Robert Marr, “Okay, uh, American Airlines is still airborne. Eleven, the first guy, he’s heading towards Washington. Okay? I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I’m gonna take the fighters from Otis, try to chase this guy down if I can find him.” After receiving approval to do so, Nasypany issues the order. “Okay… scramble Langley,” he says. “Head them towards the Washington area.” The Langley, Virginia, base gets the scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS keeps its fighters from the Otis base over New York City. In 2004 the 9/11 Commission will state, “this response to a phantom aircraft, American 11, is not recounted in a single public timeline or statement issued by FAA or [Defense Department]. Instead, since 9/11, the scramble of the Langley fighters has been described as a response to the reported hijacking of American 77, or United 93, or some combination of the two.” Yet the “report of American 11 heading south as the cause of the Langley scramble is reflected not just in taped conversations at NEADS, but in taped conversations at FAA centers, on chat logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD, and in other records.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician, receives a call from the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Major General Larry Arnold and his staff at Tyndall AFB are trying to gather as much information as they can about the ongoing crisis, and want to know the transponder codes for the two fighter jets scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the first hijacking (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), so they can monitor their positions. The CONR officer that makes the call tells McCain to “send [the transponder codes] out on chat,” meaning on NORAD’s own chat system.
NORAD's Computer Chat System - According to author Lynn Spencer, NORAD’s chat system “is similar to the chat rooms on most Internet servers, but classified.” It has three chat rooms that can be used by anyone with proper access. One room is specifically for NEADS, and connects its ID, surveillance, and weapons technicians to its alert fighter squadrons, and is where NEADS gets status reports on fighter units and their aircraft. Another chat room is for CONR, and is where the three CONR sectors—NEADS, the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), and the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—communicate with each other and can “upchannel” information to CONR headquarters. The third room is the Air Warfare Center (AWC), where senior NORAD commanders from the three NORAD regions—CONR, Canada, and Alaska—communicate with each other. NEADS is allowed to monitor this room, but not type into it. When there is a training exercise taking place, as was the case earlier this morning (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), one or two additional chat windows will be open specifically for communicating exercise information, to help prevent it being confused with real-world information.
McCain Falling Behind - McCain’s responsibilities at NEADS include monitoring these chat rooms, keeping paper logs of everything that is going on, and taking care of “upchanneling” operational reports to higher headquarters. According to Spencer, “These chat logs help to keep everyone on the same page, but in a situation like the one unfolding they have to be updated almost instantaneously to achieve that end.” But, “The fact that CONR has had to call McCain to get information that by now he would normally have posted alerts him that he is falling behind despite his best efforts.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 139-140)

A number of fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts that are out over the Atlantic Ocean on a training mission are notified of the first crash at the World Trade Center and then return to their base. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file; Richard 2010, pp. 13-14; Roughton 9/3/2011) According to most accounts, six of the unit’s F-15 fighters are taking part in the training mission. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 155) But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight F-15s are taking part. (Richard 2010, pp. 10)
Fighters Recalled for 'Possible Use' - The fighters took off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. for their “defensive counter-air” mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Roughton 9/3/2011) Following the second attack on the WTC at 9:03 a.m., commanders at Otis Air Base convened and decided to recall all aircraft out on training (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153-154) A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tells a colleague that the fighters in Whiskey 105 are being recalled to Otis for “possible use, so we’ve got more aircraft [on] standby.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
Controller Tells Fighters to Return to Base - The fighters are recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file) Shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, Richard is called by an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center. (Lehmert 9/11/2006) Richard will later note that “for a controller to interrupt our training mission was out of the norm.” (Richard 2010, pp. 13) According to Airman, the controller tells Richard: “There’s something going on in New York. I think you guys need to get back to your base.” (Roughton 9/3/2011) But Richard will recall that the controller says, “[A]n aircraft just crashed into the World Trade Center and I think you should return to base immediately.” Richard replies, “Copy,” meaning he understands. However, he will say: “I was a bit confused. I didn’t know the extent of the pandemonium residing just outside of our sterile training airspace.” (Richard 2010, pp. 13)
Pilot Not Told Why Alert Jets Were Scrambled - Before taking off from Otis Air Base, Richard had seen the two of his unit’s fighters that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but he had been unaware of why they were being scrambled (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, Richard will recall, “When the FAA announced that the World Trade [Center] tower had been struck by an aircraft, I asked if this was why the alert pilots had been scrambled.” However, he will say, he “got no reply.” It is unclear whether the pilots on the training mission are informed of the aircraft hijackings at this time. Richard will recall, “[W]hen it came over the radio that it was a possible hijacking, it sure got our attention,” but he will not say when this radio communication occurs. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Lehmert 9/11/2006)
Supervisor Tells Pilot to Get Back to Base - Richard hurriedly dials the radio frequency to contact Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, his unit’s supervisor of flying, who controls flying operations from the ground. (Richard 2010, pp. 13) Richard asks, “Do you need us back on base?” and Treacy replies, “Get back here as soon as you can.” (Lehmert 9/11/2006)
Fighters Have Too Much Fuel to Land - The fighters were split apart over the Whiskey 105 airspace for their training mission. Rather than spending time getting them back together, Richard orders the pilots to go back to base in flights of two jets. Furthermore, another problem will delay their return: the fighters all have too much fuel to be able to land. Therefore, Richard will write, “Rather than dump the fuel overboard, which would take upwards of six to nine minutes, we got together in twos and did some basic fighter maneuvering.” These maneuvers, which are done in full afterburner, are “the most expeditious way to get to landing weight.” As the pilots request clearance to fly out of Whiskey 105 and back to Otis Air Base, their radios become crowded with communications. Richard comments, “It sounds like we are at war.”
Pilots Told to Stay at Their Aircraft after Landing - The pilots still have little idea what is going on, so Richard contacts Treacy for an update. However, Treacy has nothing concrete to tell him and only says, “After you land, stay at your jets; we’ll run the classified packs out to you.” These “classified packs” fit into the leg pocket of a pilot’s g-suit, and include the classified codes and guidance pilots fly with when on alert. Richard will write, “In light of recent events, it seemed we had been drafted for alert duty.” (Richard 2010, pp. 13-14)
Pilots Told to Prepare Fighters for Alert - The fighters arrive at Otis Air Base around 20 minutes after they are called back there, according to author Lynn Spencer. As they taxi in, the pilots receive an instruction over their radios from Treacy, who tells them, “Cock your jets for alert!” They have never received such an order before. It means that instead of parking and shutting down their aircraft, they must prepare them to be scrambled from the flight line, with all of the instruments, controls, and switches set ready for immediate takeoff orders. After doing as instructed, the pilots head into the operations building to find out what is happening. (Spencer 2008, pp. 155) Most of the squadron personnel are huddled by the television in the break room, watching the coverage of the terrorist attacks. One of the life support technicians turns to Richard and says, “It’s a goddamn Tom Clancy novel!” Richard will comment, “It was obvious now that we were at war.” (Richard 2010, pp. 14) A number of the fighters that come back from the training mission, which have no ordnance on them, will be armed and also refueled, ready to take off to protect US airspace. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) The first fighters to subsequently take off from Otis Air Base will launch at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-246)

According to former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, around this time the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers speaks to him via video link (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). During their conversation, Myers mentions, “We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 5) However, no other references have been found to this exercise, “Vigilant Warrior.” Considering that exercise terms are “normally an unclassified nickname,” (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 4/23/1998 pdf file) this is perhaps a little odd. Could Richard Clarke have mistakenly been referring to the Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which is taking place on 9/11? According to a later news report though, NORAD confirms that “it was running two mock drills on Sept. 11 at various radar sites and Command Centers in the United States and Canada,” one of these being Vigilant Guardian. (Kelly 12/5/2003) If this is correct then there must be another NORAD exercise on 9/11. If not “Vigilant Warrior,” a possibility is that the exercise referred to by Richard Clarke is in fact “Amalgam Warrior,” which is a NORAD-sponsored, large-scale, live-fly air defense and air intercept field training exercise. Amalgam Warrior usually involves two or more NORAD regions and is held twice yearly, in the spring for the West Coast and in the autumn for the East Coast. (US Congress n.d.; McKenna 1/1996; Arkin 2005, pp. 254; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Is it possible that in 2001 the East Coast Amalgam Warrior is being held earlier than usual (like Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001)) and is taking place on 9/11? In support of this possibility is a 1997 Defense Department report that describes the Stratcom exercise Global Guardian, saying it “links with other exercise activities sponsored by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Unified Commands.” The exercises it links with are Crown Vigilance (an Air Combat Command exercise), Apollo Guardian (a US Space Command exercise), and—significantly—the NORAD exercises Vigilant Guardian and Amalgam Warrior. (US Department of Defense 5/1997; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Since in 2001, Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) is occurring the same time as Global Guardian, might Amalgam Warrior be as well? In his book Code Names, William Arkin says that Amalgam Warrior is “sometimes combined with Global Guardian.” (Arkin 2005, pp. 254) Amalgam Warrior tests such activities as tracking, surveillance, air interception, employing rules of engagement, attack assessment, electronic warfare, and counter-cruise-missile operations. A previous Amalgam Warrior in 1996 involved such situations as tracking unknown aircraft that had incorrectly filed their flight plans or wandered off course, in-flight emergencies, terrorist aircraft attacks, and large-scale bomber strike missions. Amalgam Warrior 98-1 was NORAD’s largest ever exercise and involved six B-1B bombers being deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to act as an enemy threat by infiltrating the aerial borders of North America. (McKenna 1/1996; Arkin 2005, pp. 254; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Another Amalgam Warrior in fall 2000 similarly involved four B-1 bombers acting as enemy forces trying to invade Alaska, with NORAD going from tracking the unknown aircraft to sending up “alert” F-15s in response. (Price 10/27/2000; Associated Press 10/29/2000) If either one (or both) of these exercises ending with the name “Warrior” is taking place on 9/11, this could be very significant, because the word “Warrior” indicates that the exercise is a Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved, Commander in Chief, NORAD-sponsored field training exercise. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989) Real planes would be pretending to be threats to the US and real fighters would be deployed to defend against them.

The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon.The National Miilitary Command Center, inside the Pentagon. [Source: US Department of Defense]The National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon finally commences and runs a “significant event conference” in response to the ongoing crisis, 26 minutes after the second plane hit the World Trade Center and officers in the NMCC realized the US was under terrorist attack. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37; Garamone 9/7/2006)
NMCC Directors Decided to Establish Conference - After those in the NMCC saw Flight 175 hitting the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations (DDO) in the center throughout the attacks, and Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant DDO, talked about the need to convene a significant event conference so there could be a discussion of what actions were to be taken in response. The DDO and the assistant DDO are the two officers responsible for deciding what type of conference the NMCC should convene, and when it should do so. Because there is no specific procedure for dealing with terrorist attacks, Leidig and Gardner decided a significant event conference would most suit their needs, because it would have the flexibility of allowing more people to be added in as required. They also discussed who would need to be on this conference. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) But Major Charles Chambers, who is currently on duty in the NMCC, will give a slightly different account. According to Chambers, Staff Sergeant Val Harrison had a phone in her hand and said NORAD was asking for a significant event conference. Leidig had agreed, and so Harrison started establishing the conference.
Conference Begins with Recap of Situation - According to Chambers, “The computer does a mass dialing to connect to those command centers that are always included” in an NMCC conference call, but Harrison also had to manually call the civilian agencies that were going to be included in the conference, such as the FAA, the FBI, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). (US Department of Defense 9/2001) The conference then begins at 9:29 a.m. with a brief recap: Two aircraft have hit the WTC, there is a confirmed hijacking of Flight 11, and fighter jets have been scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA is asked to provide an update, but its line is silent as the agency has not yet been added to the call (see (9:29 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). A minute later, Leidig states that it has just been confirmed that Flight 11 is still airborne and is heading toward Washington, DC. (This incorrect information apparently arose minutes earlier during a conference call between FAA centers (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) NMCC conference calls are moderated by the DDO. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Leidig will tell the 9/11 Commission that they are conducted over “a special phone circuit, and it’s classified to be able to pass information, relay information between very senior leadership all the way over to the White House.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
NMCC Struggled to Convene Conference - Some officers currently on duty in the NMCC will later complain about circumstances that delayed the establishing of the significant event conference. Chambers will recall that the conference took “much longer than expected to bring up.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Gardner will tell the 9/11 Commission that the NMCC had been “struggling to build the conference,” which “didn’t get off as quickly as hoped.” (9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) He will describe his “frustration that it wasn’t brought up more quickly.” (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Other Conference and Connection Problems Delayed Call - Preparations for the conference were disrupted as a result of the CIA convening a National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network (NOIWON) conference call between government agencies in the Washington area, reportedly at sometime between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m. (see (Between 9:16 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, the NMCC had “abandoned its attempt to convene a [significant event conference] so its watch officers could participate in the NOIWON conference.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file) Another factor that slowed attempts to convene the significant event conference was a problem with connecting some agencies to it. According to Chambers, “A couple of the civil agencies couldn’t be reached and others kept dropping off moments after connecting.” He will recall, “We finally decided to proceed without those agencies that were having phone problems.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Leidig had announced that the NMCC would have to start without those agencies and add them to the conference later on. (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Call Ends after Five Minutes - The significant event conference ends after only a few minutes, following a recommendation by NORAD that it be reconvened as an “air threat conference.” It is brought to an end at around 9:34 a.m., and will resume as an air threat conference at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37)

According to the 9/11 Commission, by 9:30 a.m. American Airlines confirms that Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center. This is almost 45 minutes after the attack occurred. Earlier, at around 9:16, an American air traffic control specialist had only told the FAA that the airline “thought” the first plane to hit the WTC had been Flight 11 (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 15-16) However, Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will later claim that American Airlines refused to confirm that its plane had hit the WTC for several hours afterwards. He will claim this lack of confirmation was a factor in his mistakenly reporting that Flight 11 was still airborne at 9:21 (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). He says, “When we phoned United [after the second tower was hit], they confirmed that United 175 was down, and I think they confirmed that within two or three minutes. With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet American Airlines had the advantage over United that two of its flight attendants on Flight 11 had been in extensive contact by phone, up until a couple of minutes before their plane crashed. Amy Sweeney had been talking to Michael Woodward, a manager at the American Airlines flight services office at Boston’s Logan Airport (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). And Betty Ong had been in contact with the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, with details of this call being continuously relayed to its System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-14)

At the FAA’s Cleveland Center, an air traffic controller hears a transmission, presumably made by Flight 93 hijacker-pilot Ziad Jarrah, stating: “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain, please sit down, keep remaining sitting. We have a bomb on board. So, sit.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39) As the 9/11 Commission later notes, “Like [Mohamed] Atta on Flight 11, Jarrah apparently did not know how to operate the communication radios; thus his attempts to communicate with the passengers were broadcast on the [air traffic control] channel.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 98) While this communication is assumed to have come from Flight 93, an early FAA report states that it came “from an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) According to Newsweek, just prior to the communication, Cleveland Center controllers heard the sound of screaming from the flight. (Breslau 9/22/2001) The 9/11 Commission states that, around the time of the transmission, the plane’s cockpit voice recording indicates “that a woman, most likely a flight attendant, was being held captive in the cockpit. She struggled with one of the hijackers who killed or otherwise silenced her.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 12; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39) Though the Cleveland air traffic controller understands the hijacker’s communication, he responds to it: “Calling Cleveland Center, you’re unreadable. Say again, slowly.” He also notifies his supervisor who passes the information up the chain of command, and the FAA’s Command Center is subsequently informed, “United 93 may have a bomb on board.” At 9:34 the Command Center will relay this information to FAA headquarters (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS contacts Washington flight control to ask about Flight 11. A manager there happens to mention, “We’re looking—we also lost American 77.” The commission claims, “This was the first notice to the military that American 77 was missing, and it had come by chance.… No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance with American 77.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Yet, 38 minutes earlier, flight controllers determined Flight 77 was off course, out of radio contact, and had no transponder signal (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). They’d warned American Airlines headquarters within minutes. By some accounts, this is the first time NORAD is told about Flight 77, but other accounts have them warned around 9:25 a.m.

In answer to a question from a weapons controller at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), one of the pilots that took off in response to Flight 11 confirms that he would be willing to shoot down a hijacked aircraft. (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, has already checked that his section heads and weapons technicians are prepared to order the shooting down of a civilian aircraft (see (9:19 a.m.) September 11, 2001). At 9:32, after NEADS received a report of a hijacked plane approaching Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), Major James Anderson asked Nasypany what would happen if they located that aircraft, saying, “Are we gonna shoot him down if they got passengers on board?” (Bronner 8/1/2006)
Duffy Says He Would Shoot down a Plane - Nasypany wants to be sure that his pilots are willing to follow a shootdown order, should one be issued. He therefore directs his weapons controller who is dealing with the fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) to check this. The weapons controller radios Otis pilot Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy and tells him, “If we get another hijack track, you’re going to be ordered to shoot it down.” He then asks, “Do you have a problem with that?” Somewhat startled by the question, Duffy replies, “No—no problem with that.” He reportedly thinks to himself, “If I have a problem with that order, I am in the wrong seat.” According to author Lynn Spencer, Duffy is “doing what he’s been trained to do.… [I]f he gets a legal, lawful order to take out an airliner, then that’s what he’s going to do. He knows every other fighter pilot would do the same.” Duffy and the other Otis pilot that launched with him, Major Daniel Nash, are “confident no plane will get past them: they’ll do what it takes, and follow any order, to protect New York.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) Duffy will later tell the Boston Globe: “[P]eople have said, ‘Would you have done it [i.e. shot down a hostile airliner]?’ Absolutely, that’s my job.” (Viser 9/11/2005)
No Shootdown Order Issued - However, according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS personnel will only learn that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42) And, according to most accounts, the two Otis pilots never receive an order from the military to shoot down an airliner (see (After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Viser 9/11/2005) Duffy and Nash will also be contacted by a civilian air traffic controller regarding the possibility of shooting down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (BBC 9/1/2002)

A KC-135 Stratotanker.A KC-135 Stratotanker. [Source: Boeing]The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) are finally able to refuel, after they request to rendezvous with a tanker plane that was scheduled to refuel Otis fighters out on training missions this morning. (Scott 6/3/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 153)
Fighters Low on Fuel - By around 9:35 a.m., according to author Lynn Spencer, the two Otis fighters are running increasingly low on fuel and need to find a fuel tanker right away. For about the last 25 minutes, technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) have been searching for a tanker (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 112 and 152-153) A member of staff at NEADS in fact talked over the radio with a KC-135 tanker from Bangor, Maine, at around 9:05 a.m., and the plane’s crew agreed to provide support to the Otis fighters launched in response to Flight 11 (see 9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) However, the pilots of these fighters have apparently not heard back from NEADS about whether it has been able to find a tanker for them. Now one of the pilots, Major Daniel Nash, has come up with a solution. Prior to being put on alert duty, he had been acting as the scheduling officer at Otis Air Base, and he therefore knows that a training mission a number of Otis fighters were scheduled to fly today called for refueling (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Consequently he knows about the KC-135 tanker plane from Bangor that NEADS communicated with earlier on, which had been scheduled to support those fighters during their training. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 152-153)
Tanker Heading toward Training Airspace - The tanker plane, which has the call sign “Maine 85,” is one of the eight KC-135s that are attached to the 101st Air Refueling Wing, based at Bangor International Airport. Its pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Adam Jenkins and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Marshall. (Cohen 9/13/2001; Ricker 9/9/2011) It had been scheduled to rendezvous with the Otis fighters on their training mission about 20 minutes from now in “Whiskey 105,” the military training airspace just south of Long Island, where Nash and his fellow Otis pilot Timothy Duffy had earlier been flying in a “holding pattern” (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). The KC-135 should be on its way there now. Nash calls Duffy and tells him, “[W]e have a tanker scheduled for the training missions this morning off the coast in 105.” Duffy calls NEADS and requests that the KC-135 orbit at 20,000 feet above New York’s JFK International Airport. NEADS then coordinates with the 101st Air Refueling Wing to borrow the tanker. (Scott 6/3/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 153)
Tanker Directed toward New York - The KC-135 is instructed to fly toward Manhattan. Jenkins will later recall, “We were told to start heading west to the city.” The voice over his radio tells him, “We’ll give you details along the way.” (Ricker 9/9/2011) Soon, the KC-135 is flying an orbit over JFK Airport and the two Otis fighters then take turns refueling. (Grant 2004, pp. 21; Grant and Thompson 10/6/2006, pp. 4 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 153) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the two Otis fighters arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but accounts of most witnesses on the ground indicate they do not arrive there until after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24)

The National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon commences an “air threat conference” at 9:37 a.m. in response to the terrorist attacks, which will last for more than eight hours and have numerous high-level government and military officials participating at various times.
NORAD Reports Two More Hijackings - Captain Charles Leidig opens the call at 9:39 a.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37-38) As the acting deputy director for operations (DDO) in the NMCC during the attacks, Leidig is responsible for moderating the air threat conference and generating a military response to the crisis. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) He begins the call saying: “An air attack against North America may be in progress. NORAD, what’s the situation?” NORAD says it has conflicting reports, and its latest information is of “a possible hijacked aircraft taking off out of JFK [International Airport in New York], en route to Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) NORAD says the FAA has also passed it information about a second additional hijacking. Major Charles Chambers, who is currently on duty in the NMCC, will later recall, “This was probably a communications mix-up, but we all thought for a while that there were a total of five hijackings.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001)
NMCC Reports Pentagon Attack - The NMCC reports that there has been a crash into the mall side of the Pentagon and requests that the secretary of defense be added to the conference. (However, despite being in the Pentagon when it is hit, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will not enter the NMCC and join the air threat conference until around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) The air threat conference is broadcast over a loudspeaker inside the NMCC. (Ragavan and Mazzetti 8/31/2003) According to Chambers, “Questions were flying left and right on the conference, and trying to keep things straight was very difficult.” (US Department of Defense 9/2001)
NORAD Recommended Air Threat Conference - Leidig and Commander Pat Gardner, the assistant DDO, had earlier on decided to convene an all-purpose “significant event conference” in response to the attacks on the World Trade Center. That call commenced at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD had recommended that it be reconvened as an air threat conference. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) According to Chambers, an air threat conference is used when aircraft are considered to be hostile and involves many more people than are in a significant event conference, including the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the secretary of defense, and officials from the White House. (US Department of Defense 9/2001) However, Leidig thought a significant event conference was the correct kind of call for the situation. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that an air threat conference “had Cold War implications and brought a different group of people to a conference.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) Gardner will say that threat conferences are intended for dealing with external threats. (9/11 Commission 5/12/2004)
Deputy Director Ordered Upgrading of Conference - All the same, Leidig gave the order to transition to an air threat conference. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) He will tell the 9/11 Commission that, in retrospect, the reason he thinks he did so “was because he perceived an air threat at that time.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) Therefore, the significant event conference was brought to an end at around 9:34 a.m., and resumes as an air threat conference three minutes later. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) Staff Sergeant Val Harrison could have established the air threat conference either by leaving all of those participating in the significant event conference on the line and then adding new participants one at a time, or by simply hanging up on everyone in the significant event conference and then having the computer do a mass dialing. Harrison recommended the second option. Leidig had agreed, and directed her to disconnect the conference call and start over.
Problem with Connecting Some Agencies - As happened with the significant event conference, there are problems connecting several agencies to the air threat conference. (US Department of Defense 9/2001) Despite repeated attempts, operators struggle to get the FAA connected (see (9:29 a.m.-12:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001), and it will take until 10:17 a.m. for an FAA representative to finally join the call (see 10:17 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) Other agencies had not understood what Leidig meant about convening the new conference, and so did not hang up their phones when the NMCC disconnected the previous conference call. As a result, all the NMCC got from them was a busy signal over the line. Chambers will recall, “As with the [significant event conference], it took longer than expected to convene the [air threat conference].” (US Department of Defense 9/2001)
Top Officials Participate - Throughout the more than eight hours the air threat conference is running for, numerous key officials will participate in it at various times, including President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, military personnel from the Presidential Emergency Operations Center below the White House, and the president’s military aide on Air Force One. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) Brigadier General Montague Winfield, the original DDO, who had Leidig take his place so he could attend a pre-scheduled meeting (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), will later recall, “All of the governmental agencies… that were involved in any activity that was going on in the United States… were in that conference.” (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Winfield Runs Conference after Returning to Post - Winfield will take over the running of the air threat conference from Leidig after returning to his post at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) But although NMCC conference calls are moderated by the DDO, Rumsfeld will use the DDO’s phone to participate in the air threat conference, meaning that Winfield is unable to moderate the conference when the defense secretary is participating. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file)

Timothy Brown.Timothy Brown. [Source: Valorous Media, Inc.]Firefighter Timothy Brown, a supervisor at New York City’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), tries calling the White House and other agencies in Washington, DC, about getting fighter jets to protect New York, but is unable to reach them. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file; Brown 10/7/2015) Brown headed to the Fire Department’s command post in the lobby of the North Tower after the first hijacked plane crashed into the World Trade Center, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). After arriving there, he discussed the need to have fighters over New York with senior officials. (Brown 1/15/2002; Brown 1/31/2003)
Firefighter Heard about an Additional Suspicious Aircraft - After the second hijacked plane crashed into the WTC, at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), personnel in the OEM’s Emergency Operations Center contacted the FAA and requested “air security” over New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Jenkins and Edwards-Winslow 9/2003, pp. 16 pdf file) Brown went to the lobby of the South Tower to help open a command post. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file; Brown 10/7/2015) While there, he will later recall, he heard over his radio that another suspicious aircraft was heading toward New York and that “we should be prepared to get hit again” (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Firefighter Asks to Be Connected to the White House - At some point, he decides to try and call Washington, to make sure that New York will be getting air cover. (Brown 1/31/2003) He goes to the phones in the southeast corner of the South Tower’s lobby and tries to find one that works. Eventually he finds one that has a dial tone. (Brown 1/15/2002; Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) He dials zero and then talks to the operator. (Brown 10/7/2015) He tells her New York is under terrorist attack and he needs to talk to the White House to make sure the city has air cover.
Operator Cannot Reach Agencies in Washington - The operator tries hard to reach the White House. “She tried many different ways to get me through, many different offices in the White House,” Brown will recall. However, she is unable to get through, since the phones in Washington are overwhelmed. “Apparently [operators] had been getting a volume of phone calls similar to mine, of people trying to get through to federal agencies, trying to get help,” Brown will comment. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) Brown then learns from the operator about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). After failing to reach the White House, he says to her, “Well then get me the Pentagon” and she replies that the Pentagon has been attacked. “That’s the first time we knew it, knew that it was also under attack,” he will recall. (Brown 10/7/2015) He also asks the operator to try and connect him to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which has its headquarters in Washington, but she is unable to reach it.
Firefighter Talks to the State Emergency Management Office - Finally, she is able to connect him to the New York State Emergency Management Office (SEMO) in Albany. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) He asks the person there for assistance and is told the office already knows about the problem and is in the process of getting help from the military. (Brown 1/31/2003) They say fighters will be coming to protect New York as fast as they possibly can. (Brown 10/7/2015) Brown feels “pretty comfortable” with this response, he will say. (Brown 1/31/2003) After the call ends, he returns to the command post. (Brown 6/30/2002 pdf file) Fighters arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) However, numerous witnesses on the ground there will recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The Flight 93 hijackers (probably inadvertently) transmit over the radio: “Hi, this is the captain. We’d like you all to remain seated. There is a bomb on board. And we are going to turn back to the airport. And they had our demands, so please remain quiet.” (Johnson 11/23/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 209; MSNBC 9/3/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The controller responds, “United 93, understand you have a bomb on board. Go ahead,” but there is no response. There was a very similar “bomb on board” warning from the same flight at 9:32 a.m. (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission indicates that these are separate incidents. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Cleveland flight control apparently continues to wait for FAA superiors to notify NORAD. Earlier in the morning, Boston flight control directly contacted NORAD (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and local air force bases when they determined Flight 11 was hijacked.

Johnstown-Cambria County Airport.Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. [Source: JMSA Today]At some time shortly before 10 a.m.—as early as 9:40 a.m. according to one report—air traffic manager Dennis Fritz, in the control tower at Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, 70 miles east of Pittsburgh, receives a call from Cleveland Air Traffic Control reporting a large, suspicious aircraft about 20 miles south of them, descending below six thousand feet. Despite the clear day, Fritz and his colleagues can see no plane approaching through binoculars. Soon afterwards, in response to another call from Cleveland, Fritz orders trainees and custodial staff to evacuate the tower, yet he is still unable to see any plane approaching. Less than a minute later, though, Cleveland calls a third time, saying to disregard the evacuation: The plane has turned south and they have lost radar contact with it. (Silver et al. 9/12/2001; Knight Ridder 9/13/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 197) Wells Morrison is the agent in charge of the FBI’s Mon Valley Resident Agency, a satellite of its Pittsburgh field office. He too receives a phone call informing him of this flight, though he doesn’t say whom it is from. He contacts the Johnstown FBI office and instructs its agents to head to the Johnstown Airport. (Kashurba 2002, pp. 109-110) Flight 93 crashes around 10:03 a.m. or soon thereafter (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001), going down in a field just 14 miles south of Johnstown. (Eggen 9/13/2001)

Alice Hoglan, the mother of Mark Bingham, a passenger on Flight 93, informs the FBI that her son has just phoned her from the plane, and then calls Bingham’s cell phone and leaves two voicemail messages. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/17/2001; Barrett 2002, pp. 157-158) Alice Hoglan is currently staying at the home of her brother, Vaughn Hoglan, and his wife in Saratoga, California. (Longman 2002, pp. 129; Ganahl 9/10/2003) Bingham has just called her and told her his flight was taken over by three men who said they had a bomb, but the call got broken off after less than three minutes (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/13/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 41, 99)
Bingham's Mother Realizes Flight 93 Will Likely Crash - No one in the Hoglan household was aware of the terrorist attacks in New York and at the Pentagon. But after the call from Bingham ends, Vaughn Hoglan switches on the television to see if there is any news about Flight 93 and the family sees, for the first time, the recorded footage of Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (BBC 12/2001; Barrett 2002, pp. 157) Alice Hoglan then realizes the hijacking of Flight 93 is part of a “grand and ugly scheme,” and that her son’s plane will likely crash, too. (Yun 1/28/2005; Sulek 9/10/2011)
Bingham's Mother Tells the FBI about the Hijacking - Being a flight attendant with United Airlines, she calls her airline to ask about her son’s plane. (Sanchez 8/25/2011) However, she will later recall, all she gets is a recorded message, which states, “United Flight 93 left Newark at 8:01 a.m. and will arrive San Francisco, Gate 82, at 11:19 a.m.” (BBC 12/2001) She also calls 9-1-1 to report what has happened. She is put through to the San Francisco division of the FBI and speaks to an agent there. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/17/2001) The agent asks her a series of questions about the hijackers on Flight 93, but she is unable to answer them.
Bingham's Mother Leaves Messages for Her Son - Alice Hoglan then tries calling her son twice on his cell phone, intending to let him know the full scale of the attack that his plane’s hijacking is part of. On both occasions, she has to leave messages on his voicemail. She makes the first call at 9:54 a.m. (Because she is flustered, she miscalculates the East Coast time by an hour during the call and also mistakenly says Flight 93 might be used as a “target” rather than as a “weapon.”) She says: “Mark, this is your mom. It’s 10:54 a.m. [Eastern Time]. The news is that it’s been hijacked by terrorists. They are planning to probably use the plane as a target to hit some site on the ground. So, if you possibly can, try to overpower these guys if you can, ‘cause they will probably use the plane as a target. I would say go ahead and do everything you can to overpower them, because they’re hellbent. Try to call me back if you can. You know the number here. Okay, I love you sweetie. Bye.” A minute or so later she calls Bingham’s cell phone again and leaves a second, similar message. Among other things, she urges her son to “group some people and perhaps do the best you can to get control of [the plane].” (Barrett 2002, pp. 157-158; Sulek 9/10/2011; McMillan 2014, pp. 122) Bingham will never receive these messages. (ABC News 3/30/2002) His plane will crash in a field in Pennsylvania at 10:03 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. 14, 30)

An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing.An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 148th Fighter Wing. [Source: Brett R. Ewald / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries to get fighter jets from a military unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, but the unit is unable to respond. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS has been contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center and incorrectly told that Delta 1989 is a possible hijacking (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). The aircraft is just south of Toledo, Ohio, and Colonel Robert Marr and Major Kevin Nasypany order the troops at NEADS to call Air National Guard bases in that area to see if any of them can launch fighters. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NEADS Calls Duluth - The staff attempts to get a unit in Duluth to send jets toward the Delta flight. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Presumably the unit they call is the 148th Fighter Wing of the Minnesota Air National Guard, which is located at the Duluth International Airport and flies the F-16 Fighting Falcon. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) Unlike Otis Air National Guard Base and Langley Air Force Base, the 148th FW at Duluth is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. However, its mission does include “air superiority and air defense functions.” (McKenna 12/1999; US Air Force 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)
Duluth Has 'Nobody Available' - The Duluth unit is unable to respond to NEADS’s request for help. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) The reason for this is unclear. At 9:46 a.m., a member of staff on the NEADS operations floor will report that “Duluth has night flying, so there’s nobody available.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Donaldson and Johnson 6/2008, pp. 47 pdf file) Marr will subsequently instruct NEADS personnel to contact every Air National Guard unit in the Northeast US with instructions to get their fighters airborne (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). NEADS will also order Air National Guard jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept Delta 1989 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Spencer 2008, pp. 178-180)

According to the accounts of numerous witnesses on the ground near the World Trade Center, military fighter jets are first noticed flying over Manhattan either shortly before or soon after the second collapse, at 10:28 a.m. Some witnesses recall fighters arriving just before this collapse:
bullet Emergency medical technicians Dulce McCorvey and Michael D’Angelo hear fighters flying over Manhattan at unspecified times after the first tower’s collapse. (McCorvey 10/3/2001; D'Angelo 10/24/2001)
bullet Fire Lieutenant Sean O’Malley and firefighters Pete Giudetti and Dan Potter notice jet fighters flying overhead soon before the second collapse. (Guidetti 10/12/2001; O'Malley 12/6/2001; Smith 2002, pp. 49-50)
Other witnesses say the fighters arrive soon after this collapse:
bullet Deputy Fire Chief Robert Browne, police officer Peter Moog, and emergency medical technicians Richard Zarrillo and Jason Katz notice fighters overhead immediately after, or fairly soon after, the second tower’s collapse. (Browne 10/24/2001; Zarrillo 10/25/2001; Katz 12/20/2001; Fink and Mathias 2002, pp. 79-80)
bullet Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik, and Office of Emergency Management Director Richard Sheirer are heading north together after leaving their temporary command post on Barclay Street (see (9:50 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In some accounts, all three of them recollect hearing the first military jets overhead soon after the second tower’s collapse. (Kerik 2001, pp. 339-340; Giuliani 2002, pp. 14; 9/11 Commission 5/18/2004 pdf file) However, according to another account, Giuliani hears the first jet slightly earlier, at around 10:20 a.m. And, in his private testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Kerik claims to have heard a fighter jet coming when he was heading to the temporary command post on Barclay Street, i.e. shortly before 9:50 a.m. (Barrett and Collins 2006, pp. 348-349)
A few witnesses claim the fighters arrive earlier on, before the first collapse at 9:59 a.m.:
bullet Emergency medical technician Frank Puma and Port Authority Freedom of Information Administrator Cathy Pavelec say they see fighter jets overhead at unspecified times before the first collapse. (Puma 12/12/2001; Fink and Mathias 2002, pp. 68)
The fighter(s) are presumably the F-15s launched from Otis Air Force Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will claim that these arrived over Manhattan at 9:25 a.m. (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), which is significantly earlier than most of the witnesses on the ground recall.

The plane that has been flying General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, over the Atlantic Ocean has to spend two hours in a “holding pattern” near Greenland and then more time in a holding pattern over Canada before it is cleared to fly back into the United States. (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) Shelton was flying toward Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001), but, after he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center, ordered that his plane turn around and return to the US (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, air traffic controllers have denied the request to do so because US airspace has been shut down (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002, pp. G-1 pdf file; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-432)
Plane Has to Fly in a Holding Pattern near Greenland - Therefore, although Shelton’s plane, nicknamed “Speckled Trout,” does turn around, it doesn’t initially fly back to the United States. For a couple of hours, since its crew doesn’t have clearance to return to the US and it doesn’t have a destination, the plane goes into a “holding pattern” near Greenland. Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator, comes up with a list of alternative landing sites, which include Thule Air Base in Greenland and Naval Air Station Keflavik in Iceland. Although the crew decides to head back to the US, Pedersen will later recall, it is still difficult to get a security clearance, even for such a high-profile passenger as Shelton.
Plane Goes into Another Holding Pattern over Canada - Speckled Trout eventually reaches Canada, but the plane is still refused entry into US airspace and so it goes into a holding pattern again. “In the beginning we had a few problems convincing [the air traffic controller] to allow us back into the country, [even though] we were ordered at a significantly high level to come back,” Pedersen will recall. “You can’t say over the radio who you are carrying because they don’t have secure communications at the FAA.… We had to tell them over an open line that we had a DV Code 2, which is a ranking that a lot of DVs [distinguished visitors] fall under.” Eventually, the crew receives permission to fly into the US, although the time when this occurs is unstated. “It took a little bit of time, and I’m sure there were a lot of phone calls made, before they let us back in,” Pedersen will say. (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) Shelton, however, will contradict this account and claim his plane is cleared to enter US airspace significantly earlier. He will recall that those on the plane are told they have permission to enter US airspace 10 minutes after he talks on the phone with General Richard Myers, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (see (Shortly After 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which would mean they receive clearance possibly as early as around 10:15 a.m. (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 432-433)
Myers Takes Shelton's Place as Chairman While Shelton Is outside the US - After flying over New York, Speckled Trout will land at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; UNC-TV 1/27/2013) While the plane is being denied permission to enter US airspace, Myers remains as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Shelton’s place. This is “how the law reads whenever the chairman is out of the country,” Shelton will write. “Until I crossed back into United States airspace, all the decisions would be Dick’s to make, in conjunction with Secretary [of Defense Donald] Rumsfeld and the president.” (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 432)

General Ralph Eberhart.General Ralph Eberhart. [Source: NORAD]As the 9/11 Commission will later describe, the commander of NORAD, General Ralph Eberhart, now directs “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations, fully armed.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) Being at “battle stations” means the pilots have to suit up into their flight gear and get into their planes, ready to start the engines and taxi out if a scramble order follows. (Spencer 2008, pp. 27) Senior NORAD officials will subsequently give the order to launch available fighter jets across the nation (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178, 180)
Clarke Requested Combat Air Patrols - A few minutes earlier, according to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, learned of an aircraft hitting the Pentagon and instructed his deputy: “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want combat air patrol over every major city in this country” (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Whether Clarke’s actions influenced Eberhart to issue his order is unknown. (Clarke 2004, pp. 7-8)
Fighter Units Possibly Offered Help Much Earlier - The Toledo Blade will state that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) only begins calling bases across the US to request help “[b]y 10:01 a.m.” (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001) But an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine will indicate that NORAD and NEADS began receiving calls from various fighter units, asking, “What can we do to help?” right after the second World Trade Center tower was hit at 9:03, when it had become obvious the US was under attack (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 6/3/2002) It is therefore unclear why the instruction to put available fighters on battle stations—or to scramble them—was not issued significantly earlier.

In the battle cab at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Colonel Robert Marr instructs his troops to contact every Air National Guard unit in the Northeast US and tell them to get their fighter jets airborne. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180) NEADS has already launched the four fighters in the Northeast US that are kept on alert, ready to take off at a moment’s notice: Two F-15s were scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and two F-16s were scrambled from Langley Air Force Base at 9:24 (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17, 20, 27)
NEADS Calls Air National Guard Units - Marr now realizes these four jets are not enough, and tells his troops: “The nation is under attack. Get ‘em in the air!” Officers in the NEADS battle cab and on its operations floor begin calling Air National Guard units, one after another. The NEADS officers are surprised to find that wing commanders have been anticipating their call for help, and have already started arming fighter jets. According to author Lynn Spencer: “Although wing commanders do not necessarily have the authority to arm their planes with live missiles, nor Marr the authority to call them into action, these are not ordinary times. Marr can’t help but think that the incredible response is due to the fact that the Guard units are Title 32, or state-owned. They report to the governors of their respective states, and the wing commanders have every confidence that their governors will support them.” (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 180)
Time of Order Unclear - Exactly when Marr instructs his officers to contact the Air National Guard units is unclear. It appears to be at around 9:50 a.m., or some time shortly after. At the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters in Florida, CONR commander Major General Larry Arnold began contacting all three CONR sectors (which includes NEADS) at around 9:45 a.m., after learning the Pentagon had been hit and realizing the attacks were no longer isolated to New York. His instruction to the sectors was, “Generate, generate, generate!” meaning, “Get as many fighters as you can into the sky now!” (Spencer 2008, pp. 177-178) General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, directed “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations, fully armed,” at 9:49 a.m. (see 9:49 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) But “battle stations” means only that pilots get into their aircraft with the engines turned off, so they are ready to launch if a scramble order follows. (Filson 2003, pp. 55; Spencer 2008, pp. 27) The Toledo Blade will report, “By 10:01 a.m., [NEADS] began calling several bases across the country for help.” (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001) According to the Newhouse News Service, though, Marr apparently gave his order significantly earlier. It will report that, when the South Tower was hit at 9:03, NEADS personnel “looked to Col. Robert Marr, who rallied the operation: Get to the phones. Call every Air National Guard unit in the land. Prepare to put jets in the air. The nation is under attack” (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seely 1/25/2002) Air National Guard jets will reportedly take off from Toledo Express Airport in Ohio at 10:17 a.m., in response to NEADS’s call for help, and, according to Spencer, NEADS instructs Otis Air Base to launch all its available aircraft at around 10:20 a.m. (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sallah and Mahr 12/9/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 244-245)

A radio transmitter carried by aircraft that is designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the vicinity of the city of Ann Arbor in southeast Michigan, although the distress signal is presumably a false alarm. Details of the distress signal will be described when an unidentified individual calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center at around 10:19 a.m. and tells an air traffic controller there, “I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically begin transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue efforts in locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; Federal Aviation Administration 7/12/2001; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) The caller will not say who reported the ELT signal to him. But he will say the signal “started at 13:53” Zulu time, which is 9:53 a.m. Eastern time. Presumably realizing the signal was therefore activated over 25 minutes earlier, the caller will add, “Wait a minute, that don’t make any sense.” But the Cleveland Center controller will tell him: “Yeah, it does. It might have been late to be…” The caller will then say, “Okay, well I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor,” before the call ends. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Further details of the ELT signal and what might have caused it are unknown. Flight 93 will crash in rural Pennsylvania about 10 minutes after the signal over Ann Arbor is activated (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) However, apparently no ELT signal will go off when it crashes (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) According to Major Allan Knox, who works at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, most ELT signals are false alarms. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file)

Elizabeth Wainio.
Elizabeth Wainio. [Source: Family photo]Honor Elizabeth Wainio, a 27-year-old passenger on board Flight 93, calls her stepmother Esther Heymann, who is in Cantonsville, Maryland. (Barker, Kiernan, and Mills 9/30/2001; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, the call starts “shortly past nine-fifty.” Official accounts say it starts at 9:54, or seconds before. (Longman 2002, pp. 167; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Wainio begins, “We’re being hijacked. I’m calling to say good-bye.” She says a “really nice person” next to her has handed her the phone and told her to call her family. News reports suggest this person is Lauren Grandcolas, who had been assigned a seat by Wainio in row 11 of the plane. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 167-168; MSNBC 9/3/2002; Pauley 9/11/2006) But according to a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, Wainio and Grandcolas are now separated and sitting in different areas of the plane. Wainio is now in row 33 along with fellow passenger Marion Britton and an unnamed flight attendant. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) According to some reports, Wainio is using a cell phone. Newsweek states that she actually tells her stepmother she is using a cell phone loaned to her by another passenger. (Breslau 9/22/2001; Barker, Kiernan, and Mills 9/30/2001) But the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims she uses an Airfone. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10/28/2001) According to Longman, there are “long silences” throughout the call. (MSNBC 7/30/2002) Heymann cannot hear anyone in the background: “She could not hear any conversation or crying or yelling or whimpering. Nothing.” (Longman 2002, pp. 172) Longman describes that Heymann gets the feeling her stepdaughter is “resigned to what was going to happen to her. And that she actually seemed to be leaving her body, going to a better place. She had had two grandmothers who were deceased, and at one point she told her [step]mother, ‘They’re waiting for me.’” (MSNBC 7/30/2002) Wainio also talks about her family, and says she is worried about how her brother and sister will handle this terrible news. (Longman 2002, pp. 168) Accounts conflict over how long her call lasts and when it ends (see (Between 9:58 a.m. and 10:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. [Source: John S. Swanson / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) contacts Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan to arrange for two of its F-16 fighter jets that are out on a training mission to intercept a suspicious aircraft. Accounts will conflict over whether this aircraft is Flight 93 or Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is wrongly thought to have been hijacked. (Associated Press 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178) Delta 1989 was flying about 25 miles behind Flight 93 when air traffic controllers mistakenly suspected it might be hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and since then it has been instructed to land at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Levin 9/11/2008) Flight 93 is currently flying east across Pennsylvania. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) NEADS has already tried getting fighter jets from a unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta 1989, but the unit was unable to respond (see (Shortly After 9:41 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file)
NEADS Calls Selfridge Base - A NEADS weapons technician now calls the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. He knows the unit has two F-16s in the air on a training mission. Although these jets are unarmed and only have a limited amount of fuel remaining, the commander at the Selfridge base agrees to turn them over to NEADS. (Spencer 2008, pp. 178) The commander says: “[H]ere’s what we can do. At a minimum, we can keep our guys airborne. I mean, they don’t have—they don’t have any guns or missiles or anything on board.” The NEADS technician replies, “It’s a presence, though.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)
Fighters May Have to Crash into Hijacked Plane - Military commanders realize that, without weapons, the Selfridge fighter pilots might have to slam their jets into a hijacked plane to stop it in its tracks. Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will later reflect, “As a military man, there are times that you have to make sacrifices that you have to make.” (Raddatz 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002) However, the Selfridge jets never have to intercept either of the two suspect aircraft, and instead are able to head back to base. (Filson 2003, pp. 70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file)
Selfridge Called due to Concerns about Delta 1989? - According to author Lynn Spencer, the NEADS weapons technician’s call to the Selfridge unit is made in response to a report NEADS received about the possible hijacking of Delta 1989 (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178) Vanity Fair magazine and the 9/11 Commission will also say NEADS calls the Selfridge unit in response to this report about Delta 1989. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NORAD Commander Gives Different Account - However, Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will suggest the Selfridge unit is called due to concerns about both Delta 1989 and Flight 93. He will say: “We were concerned about Flight 93 and this Delta aircraft [Flight 1989] and were trying to find aircraft in the vicinity to help out. We didn’t know where it was going to go. We were concerned about Detroit… and the fighters up there were out of gas with no armament.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71)
NEADS Commander Claims Fighters Sent toward Flight 93 - Robert Marr will give another different account. He will claim that NEADS contacts the Selfridge base solely because of its concerns over Flight 93. He tells author Leslie Filson that before Flight 93 reversed course and headed back east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), NEADS thought it was “headed toward Detroit or Chicago. I’m thinking Chicago is the target and know that Selfridge Air National Guard Base has F-16s in the air.” NEADS contacts “them so they could head off 93 at the pass.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68) Marr will tell the 9/11 Commission that the Selfridge F-16s are going to be “too far from Cleveland to do any good,” and so he believes NEADS directs them to intercept Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) (Presumably, he means the jets cannot be responding to Delta 1989, which has been told to land in Cleveland (Levin 9/11/2008) )
9/11 Commission Disputes Arnold's and Marr's Accounts - The 9/11 Commission will reject Arnold’s and Marr’s accounts. It will state, “The record demonstrates, however, that… the military never saw Flight 93 at all” before it crashes, and conclude, “The Selfridge base was contacted by NEADS not regarding Flight 93, but in response to another commercial aircraft in the area that was reported hijacked (Delta Flight 1989, which ultimately was resolved as not hijacked).” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 101) Lt. Col. Doug Champagne, the pilot of one of the Selfridge F-16s, will recall that “he and his colleague never received orders to intercept [Flight 93] in any way.” (Casey 9/6/2006) Reports based on interviews with the two Selfridge pilots will make no mention of the jets being directed to intercept Delta 1989 either (see (9:56 a.m.-10:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)

Douglas Champagne.Douglas Champagne. [Source: David Kujawa / US Air Force]Although NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has contacted Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan, reportedly to arrange that two of its F-16s be diverted from a training mission to intercept either Flight 93 or Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 (accounts conflict over which aircraft is concerned), the pilots of those jets apparently never receive an order to intercept a plane, and so return directly to their base. (Filson 2003, pp. 68, 71; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178) However, some accounts will claim the pilots are indeed ordered to intercept the suspect aircraft. (Raddatz 8/30/2002; Associated Press 8/30/2002; Baker 3/27/2005; Spencer 2008, pp. 188)
Jets Returning from Training Mission - The F-16s, piloted by Lieutenant Colonel Tom Froling and Major Douglas Champagne of the 127th Wing, had taken off from Selfridge Air National Guard Base at around 8:50 a.m. for a routine training mission at Grayling Range in central northern Michigan. The two pilots were oblivious to the attacks taking place in New York and Washington. (Filson 2003, pp. 68; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/26/2005; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file) When they started heading back to Selfridge after completing their training mission, they began hearing “unusual radio traffic” as air traffic controllers began diverting flights from their original destinations. (Casey 9/6/2006)
Pilots Learn of Plane Hitting Pentagon - Froling will later recall: “Something strange was occurring and I couldn’t put my finger on what was happening. I could hear [the FAA’s] Cleveland Center talking to the airlines and I started putting things together and knew something was up.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70) Champagne hears an air traffic controller stating that a plane has crashed at the Pentagon. He then hears the Cleveland Center announcing a “demon watch,” which means pilots have to contact their operations center for more information.
Commander Asks if Pilots Have Used up Their Ammunition - When Champagne calls the Selfridge base, his operations group commander, General Michael Peplinski, wants to know if he and Froling have used up their ammunition during the training mission. Champagne will recall: “[Peplinski] asked if we had expended all our munitions and specifically asked if we had strafed. We replied that all ordnance was gone. I assumed we had strafed without clearance and had injured someone down range. We had no idea what was happening on the Eastern seaboard.” (Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)
Pilots Directed to Return to Base - According to author Lynn Spencer, because a commander with the 127th Wing agreed to turn the two F-16s over to NEADS (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Champagne and Froling are instructed to call NEADS. When they do so, they are ordered to intercept Delta 1989. (Spencer 2008, pp. 178, 180, 188) But according to other accounts, they are “ordered south in case United Airlines 93 was targeting Chicago.” (ABC News 9/11/2002; Baker 3/27/2005) However, according to two reports based on interviews with Champagne, Peplinski only instructs the two pilots to return to their base and land on its auxiliary runway.
Pilots Apparently Not Ordered to Intercept Aircraft - Accounts based on interviews with the pilots will make no mention of the jets being directed to intercept Delta 1989 or Flight 93. According to Champagne, the air traffic controller’s announcement that an aircraft hit the Pentagon “was the only indication we received that other aircraft and buildings were involved.” Champagne will say that “he and his colleague never received orders to intercept [Flight 93] in any way.” The two pilots “had no ammunition… and only an hour’s worth of fuel remaining. And as they approached Selfridge amid the puzzling radio transmissions, they still were oblivious to what was transpiring.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)
Jets Land at Base - The two F-16s land back at Selfridge Air National Guard Base at 10:29 a.m. (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file) As Champagne pulls in his aircraft, his friend Captain Sean Campbell approaches and mouths the words to him: “It’s bad. It’s really, really bad.” (Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)

Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing.Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing. [Source: Gonda Moncada / Texas Military Forces]Four armed F-16 fighter jets belonging to the Texas Air National Guard are directed toward Air Force One in order to escort the president’s plane. (BBC 9/1/2002; Kohn 9/11/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40)
SEADS Sends Fighters toward Air Force One - Air Force One has taken off from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the White House has requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Martin 7/4/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) orders jets that belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard toward the president’s plane. (Hehs 4/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will later recall: “We were not told where Air Force One was going. We were told just to follow the president.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
Ellington Field an 'Alert' Site - The 147th Fighter Wing is based at Ellington Field, a joint civil and military use airport about 15 miles south of Houston. (Rendon 12/9/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) Ellington Field is one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, which all have a pair of armed fighters ready to take off immediately if called upon. (McKenna 12/1999; Hebert 2/2002)
Pilots Not Told What Their Target Is - Two of the F-16s sent toward Air Force One are on the ground at Ellington Field and have been placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots sitting in the cockpits, when the scramble order is received. (Hehs 4/2002) The other two have been flying a training mission (see After 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001), and are pulled off it to escort Air Force One. (Arnold 12/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) Among the four pilots are Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts. Their new mission is so secret that their commander does not tell them where they are going. When they ask what their target is, the commander says, “You’ll know when you see it.” Brotherton will later recall, “I didn’t have any idea what we were going up [for] until that point.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Jets First to Reach Air Force One - At least two of the 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will be seen from Air Force One at around 11:30 a.m., although an official will tell reporters on board that fighters are escorting the plane about 15 minutes before that time (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are the first fighters to reach Air Force One after it left Sarasota, according to most accounts. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) However, a few accounts will indicate the first jets to reach it belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard located at Jacksonville International Airport (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) The 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will accompany Air Force One all the way to Washington, DC. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88; Cousins 7/9/2005)

Since around 9:54, Flight 93 passenger Elizabeth Wainio has been speaking by phone with her stepmother Esther Heymann (see (9:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44) Wainio ends her call saying, “They’re getting ready to break into the cockpit. I have to go. I love you. Good-bye.” She then hangs up. (Longman 2002, pp. 172) The 9/11 Commission concludes that the passengers’ revolt against the hijackers that Wainio is referring to begins at 9:57 a.m. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 45) Yet according to journalist and author Jere Longman, Wainio’s call lasts 11 minutes, and ends at “just past ten” o’clock, which is several minutes after the revolt starts. (Longman 2002, pp. 171-172) In fact, if Wainio’s call began around 9:54, as is officially claimed, and lasts 11 minutes, it would end around 10:05. This is after official accounts claim Flight 93 crashed, but before the crash time of 10:06 later provided by an analysis of seismic records (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, according to the 9/11 Commission and a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussaoui trial, Wainio’s call only lasts four-and-a-half minutes. This would mean it ends just shortly after the passenger revolt begins. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44 and 46; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)

An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center.
An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center. [Source: Air National Guard]An air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center radios the pilots launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and tells them they may have to take out a hijacked aircraft. One of the two Otis pilots, Major Daniel Nash, will later recall, “The New York controller did come over the radio and say if we have another hijacked aircraft we’re going to have to shoot it down.” (BBC 9/1/2002) However, he will add that this is just “an off-the-cuff statement.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002) It is unclear at what time this communication occurs, though a BBC documentary will place it at about the time the South Tower collapses, which would be around 9:59 a.m. (BBC 9/1/2002) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has already radioed one of the Otis pilots to check that he is prepared to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) But according to most accounts, the two pilots never receive an order from the military to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43; Viser 9/11/2005)

Just after President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down threatening aircraft, he speaks with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about this, according to some accounts. According to the Washington Post, Bush gave the shootdown authorization after taking off on Air Force One (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He then talks “to Rumsfeld to clarify the procedures military pilots should follow in trying to force an unresponsive plane to the ground before opening fire on it. First, pilots would seek to make radio contact with the other plane and tell the pilot to land at a specific location. If that failed, the pilots were to use visual signals. These included having the fighters fly in front of the other plane. If the plane continued heading toward what was seen as a significant target with apparently hostile intent, the US pilot would have the authority to shoot it down.” (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Journalist and author Bill Sammon will give a similar account, saying that, having spoken with Vice President Dick Cheney soon after Air Force One took off, Bush “then explained the shootdown order to Donald Rumsfeld, who was at the still-burning Pentagon.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 102) The 9/11 Commission will concur that the “president apparently spoke to Secretary Rumsfeld for the first time… shortly after 10:00.” However, contradicting earlier accounts, it will say, “No one can recall the content of this conversation, but it was a brief call in which the subject of shootdown authority was not discussed” (see (10:00 a.m.-10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to the Commission, furthermore, the phone call between Bush and Cheney where the president gives the shootdown authorization is not until 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 41 and 43) Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is on Air Force One with the president, will also say this critical call occurs “at about 10:20,” and add that, after it, Bush reports that he has just talked to Rumsfeld as well as Cheney. (Rove 9/11/2002) Rumsfeld will indicate he first learns that shootdown authorization has been given from Cheney rather than Bush, telling the 9/11 Commission that the vice president “informed me of the president’s authorization to shoot down hostile aircraft” over the air threat conference call. (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004) The conversation he is referring to does not occur until 10:39 a.m. (see 10:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43)

General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks over the phone with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is at the Pentagon, and is given information about the Pentagon attack and the military’s response to the terrorist attacks. Shelton took off at 7:15 a.m. to fly to Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learned of the attacks in New York while his plane was over the Atlantic Ocean, and has just been told of a “big explosion at the Pentagon” (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Report Is of a Hand Grenade Going Off at Pentagon - Shelton heads to the communications console just behind the plane’s cockpit. From there, he talks over a secure, encrypted phone line with Myers, who is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. Myers updates Shelton on what is known about the explosion at the Pentagon. He says the first report is that a hand grenade went off in the Pentagon parking lot.
Myers Updates Shelton on Military Response to Attacks - Myers then gives Shelton a complete status report. He says: “We’ve transitioned the SIEC [significant event conference] into an air threat conference call, which is in progress as we speak (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). FAA has requested that NORAD take over control of US airspace. Fighters have scrambled to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and we’re sending AWACS up to provide further monitoring (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). We’ve escalated to Threatcon Delta and are about to launch the NAOC [National Airborne Operations Center plane]. Bases around the world are locked tight, [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz has been relocated to Site R (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), plus, [Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley has requested we implement full ‘Continuity of Government measures’ (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and we are proceeding along those lines.”
Myers Says Plane Hit the Pentagon - Myers is then interrupted by some commotion in the background. When he returns to the line, he tells Shelton, “Okay, we just got the word: the prior report was incorrect; it was not a hand grenade that exploded, it was another commercial airline that struck the Pentagon.” He then continues with his status report, saying, “[P]er the president, we’ve gone weapons free in the event of a hijacked aircraft or one that threatens the White House.” (Giesemann 2008, pp. 20, 22-24; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-433)
Shelton Wants to Return to Washington - Myers will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the NMCC—presumably referring to the time of this phone call—he “recommended General Shelton return to Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file) But Shelton will recall that he tells Myers, “I need you to call Ed Eberhart [General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD] at NORAD and let him know that we’re coming back [to Washington] on Speckled Trout [the nickname of the plane he is on], and tell him that I would consider it a personal favor if he would see to it that the chairman and his crew are not shot down on their way back to Andrews.” Myers confirms, “Will do.” According to Shelton, his plane is called back 10 minutes later “with confirmation that we had been officially cleared to fly through the shutdown airspace.” (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 433) But according to Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator on Shelton’s plane, it is several hours before the plane is cleared to enter the US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) The plane will therefore only land at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Shelton will only arrive at the NMCC an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers 2009, pp. 159) The exact time of the call between Shelton and Myers is unclear, though it would be at some time after about 10:00 a.m., when Myers arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38)

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