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(After 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Otis Fighters Intercept Military Cargo Plane Returning from England

Westover Air Reserve Base.Westover Air Reserve Base. [Source: Andrew Biscoe / US Air Force]Two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts intercept a C-130 military cargo plane returning to the US from England, which has failed to check in with air traffic controllers and whose pilot is apparently unaware of the crisis taking place in the United States. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Westover Patriot, 10/2001 pdf file; Richard, 2010, pp. 19-20] The two F-15s, which belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. They recently took off from Otis Air Base (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered the base to launch all of its available fighters (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245; Richard, 2010, pp. 18]
Suspect Aircraft Has Not Checked in with FAA - NEADS now gives Richard the details of his first target, an aircraft that failed to check in with the FAA’s Boston Center as expected and is therefore under suspicion. Richard locks his radar to the target and passes on the details to Martyn, telling him the suspect aircraft is 38 miles northeast of them and at an altitude of 17,000 feet. The two fighters fly toward the aircraft at supersonic speed. They intercept it just east of Boston’s Logan International Airport, Richard will later recall. [Richard, 2010, pp. 19-20] But according to a report written by the 102nd Fighter Wing’s historian, they intercept it 150 miles out over the Atlantic Ocean. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] And according to the Westover Patriot, a military newspaper, they intercept it about 75 miles north of Springfield, Massachusetts. [Westover Patriot, 10/2001 pdf file]
Pilot Unaware of Attacks in the US - As Richard and Martyn close in on the aircraft, they see that it is a C-130 military transport plane. They take up positions just off its wings. The plane’s pilot is apparently unaware of the terrorist attacks in the US. Richard will describe, “The pilot sitting in the left seat of the C-130,” who is “enjoying his boxed lunch,” is “unaware that the world below was on fire.”
Fighters Signal to C-130 that It Has Been Intercepted - The pilot looks to the left and suddenly notices Richard’s fighter off his wing. Richard and Martyn then rock their wings, signifying to the pilot that his plane has been intercepted, and he acknowledges the signal by rocking his wings back. The pilot then contacts Richard and Martyn on the universal emergency radio frequency known as “guard,” which can be heard by all aircraft, regardless of what other frequency they are on. In a panicked voice he says, “F-15s intercepting the C-130 over Boston, state intentions.” Martyn tells him, “Contact [the FAA’s] Boston Center immediately.” Then, Richard will recall, “[W]e were off.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 20]
C-130 Returning from England - The C-130 is from Texas and is returning to the US from England. It will subsequently land at Westover Air Reserve Base, Massachusetts. Its commander will comment, “I’d never had an escort like that before in my career.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Westover Patriot, 10/2001 pdf file] Richard will reflect, “It was amazing to me that in the beginning moments of the most important mission of my life, our formation was scrambled to intercept a United States military C-130.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 20-21] Richard and Martyn will subsequently be sent over New York to intercept and identify aircraft there (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Airman, 9/3/2011]

Entity Tags: Robert Martyn, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Martin Richard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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