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Context of '11:28 a.m.-12:23 p.m. September 11, 2001: SWAT Teams and FBI Finally Allow Passengers off Delta 1989'

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Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 177] NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file] NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28] It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-179] But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12] Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28] According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. [New York Times, 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 32] Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28] But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; New York Times, 10/18/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Arizona Daily Star, 9/24/2007; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 28]

Entity Tags: Maureen Dooley, Stacia Rountree, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Delta Air Lines operations control center in Atlanta, Georgia.The Delta Air Lines operations control center in Atlanta, Georgia. [Source: Public domain]Delta Air Lines instructs one of its aircraft, Flight 1989, to land at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, but the FAA’s Cleveland Center, which is handling the aircraft, is not notified of this. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/15/2002]
Pilots Instructed to Land - The pilots of Delta 1989 receive an ACARS text message from their airline’s dispatch office in Atlanta, Georgia, instructing them to “Land immediately in Cleveland.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] According to USA Today, “Since early reports that a bomb, then hijackers, might be aboard” Delta 1989, Delta Air Lines’ headquarters in Atlanta has been tracking the flight, and receiving reports on it every five minutes. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] The plane’s pilot, Captain Paul Werner, quickly types a response to the message, “ok.” But, a couple of minutes later, he receives another ACARS message from the airline. It says: “Confirm landing in Cleveland. Use correct phraseology.” Werner and First Officer David Dunlap are puzzled. According to author Lynn Spencer: “There’s such a thing as correct phraseology on the radio, but there is no such thing when typing back and forth with dispatch on ACARS. Those messages are usually casual.” Werner carefully types a response: “Roger. Affirmative. Delta 1989 is diverting to Cleveland.” He calls the Cleveland Center at 9:44 a.m. and requests a diversion to Cleveland Airport. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-168; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Cleveland Center Not Informed - About 15 minutes earlier, Cleveland Center heard the sounds from Flight 93 as it was being hijacked, but initially thought these came from Delta 1989, and mistakenly believed the Delta flight was being taken over (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] But the Delta pilots’ normal responses to radio transmissions soon led air traffic controller John Werth, who is handling Delta 1989, to conclude that this aircraft was fine. [USA Today, 9/11/2008] However, controllers at the Cleveland Center are unaware that Delta Air Lines has instructed Flight 1989 to land, and so Werner’s request for a change of course will make them suspicious of it again (see (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002]

Entity Tags: David Dunlap, Delta Airlines, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Paul Werner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Having earlier concluded that it was not hijacked, air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Cleveland Center again become suspicious of Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, after its pilot requests a change of course and then fails to respond to a message.
Pilot Requests Diversion - Cleveland Center controllers initially thought the sounds from Flight 93 as it was being hijacked had come from Delta 1989, but soon decided they had come from Flight 93 (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] However, without notifying the Cleveland Center, Delta Air Lines has just instructed Delta 1989 to land at Cleveland Hopkins Airport (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After the plane’s pilot, Captain Paul Werner, calls the Cleveland Center at 9:44 a.m., requesting an immediate diversion, controllers there become suspicious. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-168; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Supervisor Reports Concerns over Teleconference - USA Today will later describe: “The Delta flight wants to land in Cleveland? And the captain’s request comes before he can know that the FAA wants every flight down. On this day, the fact that the pilot requests to be rerouted before he is ordered to land seems suspicious. Why the urgency? Controllers don’t know that Delta officials, also concerned about the flight, have ordered Werner to land in Cleveland.” After Delta 1989 makes an abrupt 30-degree turn back toward Cleveland Airport, a supervisor at the Cleveland Center announces the apparently suspicious development on an FAA teleconference.
Coded Message Confirms No Hijacking - As Delta 1989 begins its descent toward Cleveland, a Cleveland Center controller radios Werner with a coded message to check whether his plane has been hijacked. The controller says, “Delta 1989, I hear you’re ‘late’ today.” (The controller is using the code word for a hijack, which has been replaced with the word ‘late’ in subsequent accounts of this incident, for security reasons. Pilots can use this code word to alert controllers to their situation if they are unable to do so openly because hijackers are in the cockpit.) Werner reassures the controller that all is okay, saying: “Negative. Delta 1989 is not a ‘late.’”
Lack of Response Causes More Suspicion - Then, as the plane descends, it receives another message from the Cleveland Center. But Werner, who is busy, fails to respond to it. This arouses further suspicion. According to USA Today: “On the ground, controllers in Cleveland Center grow alarmed. Why didn’t he respond? Have both jets—the United [Flight 93] and the Delta flights—been hijacked?” [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 168-169]

Entity Tags: Paul Werner, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael White.Michael White. [Source: Publicity photo]Cleveland Hopkins Airport and numerous buildings in the city of Cleveland are evacuated, following the decision to land Delta Air Lines Flight 1989—which is wrongly thought to be hijacked and with a bomb on board—at the Cleveland airport. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 191-192]
Airport Concerned about Delta 1989 - Delta Air Lines was concerned about Flight 1989, and instructed it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167; USA Today, 9/11/2008] FAA and military personnel have mistakenly suspected that this aircraft has been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and their concerns have reached personnel at Cleveland Airport. Fred Szabo, the airport commissioner, will later recall: “There was an indication that this might be a terrorist plane. We didn’t know if there were bombs on board, or if it was a hijacked plane.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-168]
Airport Evacuated as Plane Approaches - As Delta 1989 heads in to land, air traffic controllers instruct it to follow a long path that initially takes it far past the airport. According to author Lynn Spencer, the “controllers are giving themselves time to evacuate the airport since [Delta 1989] has been confirmed hijacked and since they believe it contains a bomb intended to detonate when the aircraft crashes into the terminal.” Even FAA personnel at the airport evacuate their building and make their way to a huge NASA hangar next door. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 191-192] After Delta 1989 lands, police block off all entrances to the airport terminal, and bomb-sniffing dogs are brought to baggage pickup areas. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]
City Buildings Evacuated - Furthermore, for the first time in his administration, Cleveland Mayor Michael White orders the evacuation of all federal and city buildings. [WCPN, 9/20/2001] Schools are closed and a parking ban is issued downtown. [WCPN, 9/12/2001] White also asks owners of large commercial high-rises to evacuate. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] These evacuation efforts presumably benefit from the fact that Cleveland is one of six major Ohio cities that has, for a number of years, been part of a federal program to help defend against domestic terrorism. [WCPN, 9/20/2001]
NASA Facility Evacuated - Even the 3,500 employees at the NASA Glenn Research Center, which is located adjacent to the Cleveland airport, are ordered to evacuate their facility. Directors there had in fact met and decided to evacuate the center after seeing the television coverage of the second attack on the World Trade Center. It takes about an hour and a half to get everyone out of the building. [Cleveland Free Times, 9/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Fred Szabo, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Michael R. White

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the 180th Fighter Wing.F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft at the 180th Fighter Wing. [Source: Jodi Joice / US Air Force]Two F-16 fighter jets take off from a military unit in Toledo, Ohio, in response to the morning’s attacks, but accounts will conflict over what their mission is and who the pilots are. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Filson, 2003, pp. 71; WTOL, 9/11/2006] The 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard is based at Toledo Express Airport. Although the unit is not one of NORAD’s seven alert facilities around the US, it has recently received a call from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), requesting that it launch two of its fighters (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Airman, 12/1999; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; WTOL, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-179] The 180th Maintenance Squadron, which is responsible for maintaining the unit’s aircraft and equipment, was also contacted, and has loaded the F-16s’ guns with 500 rounds of 20-caliber ammunition. [180th Fighter Wing, 9/19/2001; WTOL, 9/11/2006]
Jets Head East - The two F-16s, which were being set up for training missions, now take off and head east. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] According to author Lynn Spencer, they are piloted by Scott Reed and Ed Rinke. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 179] However, a local television station will report that the pilots are Scott Reed and Keith Newell. [WTOL, 9/11/2006]
Mission Unclear - It is unclear what role the two jets play in defending the nation. Toledo Air National Guard officials will later refuse to talk about this morning’s events, even in the general terms permitted by the military. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] According to Spencer, NEADS wanted the 180th FW jets to respond to Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is incorrectly thought to have been hijacked and will land in Cleveland at around 10:18 (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will similarly say the Toledo jets are ordered to intercept Delta 1989. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; Spencer, 2008, pp. 177-178] But Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will say the 180th FW was contacted “because we thought [Flight] 93 or Delta Flight 1989 might be headed toward Chicago.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 71] NEADS battle commander Colonel Robert Marr will say the two F-16s “never had a track close enough that they were directed to engage. [But] if a valid direction had come from the appropriate level to engage a target, or shoot down a target at some time, they could have done that.”
Response Is 'Very Quick' - Marr will describe the 180th FW’s response to NEADS’s request for assistance as “very, very, very quick.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] However, the fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, has already crashed by the time the two jets take off (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 30]

Entity Tags: Ed Rinke, Keith Newell, 180th Fighter Wing, Robert Marr, Scott Reed, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer]Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, a Boeing 767 out of Boston that is wrongly suspected of being hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio, and is directed to a remote area of the airport. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006]
Plane Flies Long Path toward Airport - Delta Air Lines had been concerned about Flight 1989, and ordered it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167; USA Today, 9/11/2008] As it was heading in to land, air traffic controllers instructed Delta 1989 to follow a trajectory that initially took it far past Cleveland Airport. Unknown to the plane’s pilots, the controllers incorrectly believe the flight has been hijacked and contains a bomb, and they were therefore making time to evacuate the airport before the plane landed (see (9:50 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 191]
Plane Directed to Remote Area - Once Delta 1989 is on the ground, the Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) informs the FAA’s Cleveland Center that Delta 1989 is “on the ground at 1418,” where “1418” means 10:18 a.m. Cleveland Center asks, “Very safely too, I hope?” The TRACON responds that the plane is being taken to the bomb area to check. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] Delta 1989 is directed to “taxi left onto taxiway Bravo and wait there.” This taxiway leads to a remote part of the airport that is far away from the terminal. The pilot does as instructed. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 229]
Passengers Not Allowed Off - The pilots radio the airport’s air traffic control tower and say: “Just to make sure we don’t have any misunderstandings here, our flaps are up, we are landing only as a precaution at the company’s request. You understand that?” They ask if they are going to get to their gate soon, but the controller responds that city authorities are in charge and he believes people will be coming to search the aircraft. The controller advises that city authorities have said to keep the plane’s passengers on the aircraft for now. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] The passengers and crew will have to remain on board for perhaps a couple of hours, until FBI agents allow them off (see 11:28 a.m.-12:23 p.m. September 11, 2001). [WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 270-271]
Conflicting Reports of Landing Time - Subsequent accounts will give conflicting times for when Delta 1989 lands at Cleveland Airport. According to a detailed timeline provided by the airport’s control tower, the aircraft is “on the ground” at 10:18 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] Several accounts will give similar landing times of between 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002] But a NORAD official will tell the 9/11 Commission that Delta 1989 landed at 9:47 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Other accounts will say it lands at between 10:33 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, David Dunlap, Paul Werner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Passengers and crew members on board Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which was wrongly suspected to have been hijacked, are finally allowed to get off their plane and are taken to be interviewed by the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; WKYC, 9/11/2006] Delta 1989 made an emergency landing at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio after FAA and military personnel mistakenly thought it was hijacked and might have a bomb on board (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-169] The plane was directed to a remote part of the airport, far away from the terminal, and the pilots were told not to allow passengers off.
No Evidence of Hijacking or Bomb - At 11:28 a.m., Cleveland Airport’s air traffic manager calls city officials and says he has no apparent reason to believe Delta 1989 has been hijacked, and he does not have any specific bomb threats. He says he has just received clearance from the FAA headquarters, which told him the airport had no reason to hold the aircraft unless city officials have other information from the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 229]
SWAT Team and FBI Approach Plane - Delta 1989’s pilots, Captain Paul Werner and First Officer David Dunlap, are finally informed that the Cleveland Police SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team and a team of FBI agents are coming out to their aircraft. While the FBI agents approach the plane, the SWAT team takes up a position about 50 yards behind it. Lt. Bernie Barabas, the leader of the SWAT team, will later recall, “If there had been some sort of problem and this turned into a situation where this was a live hijacking, or if they started killing Americans, we were going to act.”
SWAT Team Sees Pilot with Bloodied Face - Suspicion is aroused when Werner accidentally knocks his head and cuts it while returning to his seat, after going to the cabin to speak to the plane’s passengers. The members of the SWAT team outside are perplexed when they see him leaning out of the window to give the “all clear” signal, with blood running down his face. They then board the plane. [WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 270]
Passengers Taken off Plane - By 11:34 a.m., according to an FAA chronology, the FBI has commenced a controlled debarkation of Delta 1989. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] The FBI agents slowly and carefully remove the passengers in small groups. [WKYC, 9/11/2006] According to some accounts, there are 78 people on the plane. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] But other accounts say there are about 200 on it. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Newsnet 5, 9/11/2001; WCPN, 9/12/2001] The FBI then instructs everyone that has got off to gather their belongings and line them up on the tarmac. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 270] Every piece of luggage and carry-on baggage will be opened and examined by security agents. [WKYC, 9/11/2006] Bomb-sniffing dogs board the aircraft, which is then searched, but no explosives will be found.
Passengers Taken Away and Interviewed - The SWAT team gathers the plane’s crew and passengers onto nearby buses. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 271] According to a timeline provided by the Cleveland Airport air traffic control tower, at 12:23 p.m. the passengers are taken to the Federal Facilities Building, located on the opposite side of the airfield to the terminal, where they are debriefed by the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] But the Associated Press will report that they are taken to a nearby NASA facility, presumably the Glenn Research Center, which is located next to the Cleveland airport. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal's Technology Daily, 11/27/2002] After being interviewed separately by FBI agents, the passengers will be put up at a local Holiday Inn. [Portland Press Herald, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Police Department, Bernie Barabas, Paul Werner, David Dunlap, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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