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Context of '(December 1997-2001): Number of Alert Air Bases Inadequate to Protect against Airborne Terrorism, NORAD Commander Says'

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The NORAD emblem.The NORAD emblem. [Source: NORAD]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending US airspace, gradually reduces the number of aircraft it has on “alert”—armed and ready for immediate takeoff—in response to the changing nature of the threats it has to defend against, so that there will be just 14 fighter jets on alert across the continental United States when the 9/11 attacks take place. [Jones, 2011, pp. 7-8 pdf file]
NORAD Has 1,200 Interceptor Aircraft in 1960 - NORAD is a bi-national organization, established by the US and Canada in 1958 to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16] It is initially responsible for intercepting any Soviet long-range bombers that might attack the Northern Hemisphere. By 1960, it has about 1,200 interceptor aircraft dedicated to this task. But during the 1960s, the Soviets become less reliant on manned bombers, and shift instead to ballistic missiles. In response to this changed threat and also budget constraints, the number of NORAD interceptor aircraft goes down to about 300 by the mid-1970s.
NORAD's Mission Changes after Cold War Ends - With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, the threats NORAD has to counter change significantly. During the early 1990s, NORAD’s mission consequently changes from one of air defense to one of maintaining “air sovereignty,” which NORAD defines as “providing surveillance and control of the territorial airspace.” The new mission includes intercepting suspicious aircraft, tracking hijacked aircraft, assisting aircraft in distress, and counterdrug operations. [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 14-15; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file; Jones, 2011, pp. 7 pdf file] As this change takes place, the number of aircraft defending American airspace is reduced. In 1987, there are 52 fighters on alert in the continental United States. [Filson, 1999, pp. 112-113] But by December 1999, there are just 14 alert fighters remaining around the continental US. [Airman, 12/1999]
Number of Alert Sites Goes Down Prior to 9/11 - The number of NORAD “alert sites”—bases where the alert aircraft are located—is also reduced in the decades prior to 9/11. During the Cold War, there are 26 of these sites. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16] By 1991, there are 19 of them, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region from 1997 to 2002. [Filson, 2003, pp. v] By 1994, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, there are 14 alert sites around the US. [General Accounting Office, 5/3/1994, pp. 1] And by 1996, only 10 alert sites remain. [Utecht, 4/7/1996, pp. 9-10]
Military Officials Call for Eliminating Alert Sites - In the 1990s, some officials at the Pentagon argue for the alert sites to be eliminated entirely. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 16-17] The Department of Defense’s 1997 Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review indicates that the number of alert sites around the continental US could be reduced to just four, but the idea is successfully blocked by NORAD (see May 19, 1997). [Filson, 2003, pp. iv-v, 34-36; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] However, three alert sites are subsequently removed from the air sovereignty mission. These are in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Burlington, Vermont; and Great Falls, Montana. [American Defender, 4/1998]
Seven Alert Sites Remain - By December 1999, therefore, there are just seven alert sites around the continental US, each with two fighters on alert. These sites are Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida; Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida; Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon; March Air Reserve Base, California; Ellington Air National Guard Base, Texas; Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Only two of these sites—Otis ANGB and Langley AFB—serve the northeastern United States, where the hijackings on September 11 will take place. [Airman, 12/1999; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

William Cohen.William Cohen. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense William Cohen issues a comprehensive assessment of America’s defense requirements, called the Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). This is a six-month analysis of the “threats, risks and opportunities for US national security,” and reviews all aspects of the US defense strategy. [US Department of Defense, 5/19/1997] Among other things, the 1997 QDR outlines the conversion of six continental air defense squadrons to general purpose, training or other missions. It calls for there being just four “alert” air defense sites around the US: at Otis, Massachusetts; Homestead, Florida; Riverside, California; and Portland, Oregon. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997; Filson, 2003, pp. 348] Major General Larry Arnold, who is commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region on 9/11, later says: “The QDR didn’t make any sense at all. [T]here was a fight just to maintain the number of alert sites that we had. We felt we could operate fairly reasonably with about ten sites and thought eight was the absolute highest risk we could take.” NORAD Commander in Chief General Howell M. Estes III has written to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a minimum of seven alert sites are needed to maintain America’s air sovereignty. In the end, three extra alert sites are added to the four suggested in the QDR. These are at Hampton, Virginia; Panama City, Florida; and Ellington, Texas. Larry Arnold later says, “I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with seven [alert sites] because there are great large distances between the alert sites.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 36] Other bases will lose their NORAD air defense functions over the next year, including those in Fresno, California; Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Great Falls, Montana. [US Department of Defense, 5/1997] Of these closed bases, the most critical loss on 9/11 will be the Atlantic City, New Jersey base, located about halfway between New York City and Washington. Boston air traffic control, apparently unaware the base has lost its air defense function will try and fail to contact the base shortly after learning about the first hijacking of the morning, Flight 11 (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Howell M. Estes III, Larry Arnold, William S. Cohen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major General Larry Arnold, who became commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in December 1997, fights to preserve the resources assigned to US air sovereignty (see May 19, 1997 and Late August 2001). To emphasize the need for air bases with fighter jets on alert, Arnold frequently gives a presentation describing “asymmetric” threats and including a slide featuring Osama bin Laden. As Arnold will later recall: “[W]e thought that the biggest threat to the US in the briefing that I always gave… was going to come from an asymmetric threat, from a terrorist or a rogue nation, or maybe associated with the drug cartels to some degree. The picture that we used to have on one of our slides there, dating all the way back to 1997 and 1998, was Osama bin Laden.” [Filson, 2002] Colonel Alan Scott, who serves under Arnold at CONR, will later describe the “El Paso example” that Arnold uses to illustrate the need for more alert sites. Scott says: “We had fairly large gaps between our seven alert sites pre-9/11. The largest was between Riverside, CA, and Houston, TX. El Paso, TX, was in the middle of those two alert sites. There was no perceived ‘military’ threat from Mexico. As the threat of terrorism arose, General Arnold began to use the example in his talks to various groups. The example was that if a terrorist called and said in one hour he would overfly El Paso, TX, and spray deadly gas, we would watch it live on CNN because we could not get aircraft to that location in time to stop the attack.” [Filson, 7/14/2002]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Alan Scott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Mike Haugen, Paul Pochmara, Alan Scott, Larry Arnold, North American Aerospace Defense Command, 1st Air Force

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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). [Associated Press, 2/1/2000; Associated Press, 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]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: David Stewart, Alan Scott, Kelley Duckett, Larry Arnold, Osama bin Laden, Martin Mayer

Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks

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; Washington Times, 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. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 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]

Entity Tags: Operation Northern Vigilance, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Tu-95 Bear bomber.A Tu-95 Bear bomber. [Source: Unknown]The Russian Air Force begins a major training exercise over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans that is scheduled to last all week, ending on September 14, and which is being monitored by US fighter aircraft. The exercise is set to include the participation of strategic Tu-160 Blackjack, Tu-95 Bear, and Tu-22 bombers, along with IL-78 tanker aircraft. It will involve the strategic bombers staging a mock attack against NATO planes that are supposedly planning an assault on Russia, and is set to include practice missile attacks. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has sent fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the Russian exercise (see September 9, 2001). [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] NORAD is conducting its own exercise this week called Vigilant Guardian, which, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union” (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, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, will later comment that when the Russians hold an exercise, “NORAD gets involved in an exercise, just to make sure that they understand we know that they’re moving around and that they’re exercising.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002] But NORAD has stated, “[I]t is highly unlikely that Russian aircraft [participating in the exercise] would purposely violate Canadian or American airspace.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001] The Russians will promptly cancel their exercise on September 11, in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]

Entity Tags: Eric A. “Rick” Findley, Russian Air Force, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Newhouse News Service, 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.” [Newhouse News Service, 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. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 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; Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Ottawa Citizen, 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. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 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. [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 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.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Bergen Record, 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).

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Dawne Deskins, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Operation Northern Vigilance, Vigilant Guardian, Robert Marr

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; Air Force Magazine, 9/2011 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Douglas E. Lute, Carolyn Shelton, Richard B. Myers, Suzanne Giesemann, Henry Hugh Shelton, Mark Jones, Marshall McCants

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jeff Ford.Jeff Ford. [Source: Thomas Doscher / US Air Force]Personnel in NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, take part in a major Cold War-style training exercise called Vigilant Guardian, a war game in which the theoretical enemy is Russia. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file; Denver Post, 8/28/2011; Colorado Springs Gazette, 9/10/2011] All of NORAD, including its subordinate units (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), participates in the exercise. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 8/23/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] More than 50 people in the NORAD Battle Management Center in Cheyenne Mountain take part. [Airman, 3/2002; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Vigilant Guardian is an annual exercise and is scheduled to last two weeks. [Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] It has been underway for several days. Those in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) have been participating in it “for at least three or four days,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011]
Vigilant Guardian Is a 'Full-Blown Nuclear War' Exercise - Vigilant Guardian is a “transition to wartime operations command post exercise,” according to an information page for its participants. [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 8/23/2001] The 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11 will describe it as a “simulated air war.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 55] Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall that it involves NORAD “simulating war.… You know, attacks coming from the outside, Soviet-style bombers coming in, cruise-missile attacks, that type of thing.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/8/2011] Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Vigilant Guardian is a “full-blown nuclear war” exercise, and includes bomber response and intercontinental ballistic missile response. [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004]
Russia Is Imagined Enemy - The theoretical enemy in the exercise is Russia. [Denver Post, 8/28/2011] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the exercise “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 458] Merchant will explain that “NORAD must use Russia in its exercises at the strategic level since no other country poses a great enough threat to NORAD’s capabilities and responsibilities.” [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004]
Personnel Updated on Exercise during Shift Change - Armstrong will later recall that today starts off “like any other day. We came in thinking it would be a normal day… we did a standard shift changeover in the morning and we were getting right into where we were at in relation to the exercise.” He will describe that in a shift change during the exercise, “We’d say, ‘Okay, here’s what happened during the night shift (or the day shift),’ and we’d give each other an update, and then we’d start planning for whatever was on the agenda for that day.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2011] According to the Denver Post, after commencing his shift, Armstrong “mapped out strategy in a chess game of ever-escalating scenarios, from strained diplomacy to the outbreak of conventional warfare that headed inexorably toward nuclear conflict” with Russia. [Denver Post, 8/28/2011]
B-1 Bomber Scheduled to Fly out over Pacific Ocean - The “planned big event for the day” in the exercise is “supposed to be a B-1 bomber that was flying out of Fairchild Air Force Base [in Washington State] and going out over the Pacific,” according to Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who is working in the CMOC. Ford will add that there are “other things going on as part of the exercise, air exercise events, and then some scripted inputs that we were reacting to there in the Air Warning Center, whether it be unknown aircraft that we scramble aircraft for to intercept—or whatever.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
Exercise Posture Allegedly Helps Response to Attacks - Vigilant Guardian will reportedly end after 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hits the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the CMOC personnel participating in it will then become involved in responding to the real-world attacks. [Airman, 3/2002; Toronto Star, 11/11/2008] Glover will claim that the CMOC’s response to the terrorist attacks benefits from the position the operations center is in for the exercise. He will say NORAD is “lucky” because “all the directorates such as operations, logistics, security, all those folks were up in the [Cheyenne] Mountain on an exercise posture.” He will add that “these are the same folks that we would bring up in case of contingencies or in time of going to war. So, in reality, I had all the guys up into the NORAD Battle Management Center that I needed to conduct the exercise as well as the contingency operations that happened on 9/11.” [Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]
NORAD Monitoring Russian Exercise - NORAD was created in 1958, during the Cold War, to protect North American airspace against nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union. [New York Times, 4/25/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 8/6/2004; Legion Magazine, 11/2004] According to the Toronto Star, “Whether it’s a simulation or a real-world event, the role of the [CMOC] is to fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] As well as the Vigilant Guardian exercise, NORAD is currently in the middle of an operation called Northern Vigilance, with its fighter jets deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor an exercise being run by the Russian Air Force (see September 9, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001] The battle staff members in Cheyenne Mountain are positioned to deal with both this operation and the exercise. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Jeff Ford, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Steven Armstrong, Vigilant Guardian, William Glover, Ken Merchant

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/15/2001; Associated Press, 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]

Entity Tags: Pete Zalewski, Glenn Michael, Robert Marr

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Betty Ong.Betty Ong. [Source: The Eagle-Tribune]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, begins relaying information about the trouble on her plane to employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 5] Ong has just called the reservations office to report the hijacking of Flight 11, and is on the line with two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]
Ong Describes Hijacking but Gives Wrong Flight Number - Ong tells Minter and Sadler: “The cockpit’s not answering, somebody’s stabbed in business class, and I think there’s Mace, that we can’t breathe.… I think we’re getting hijacked.” Sadler asks Ong what flight she is on and Ong replies, incorrectly, “Flight 12.” She says her plane just left Boston and is supposed to go to Los Angeles, and the pilots are not answering the phone in the cockpit. She says she is in the jump seat, 3R, which is at the back of the plane, behind the coach section. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6, 8] However, Amy Sweeney, another flight attendant who makes a call from Flight 11, is in the next-to-last row of passenger seats in the coach section of the plane, and she will say that Ong is sitting next to her (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Observer, 2/15/2004; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11]
Ong Says Two Flight Attendants Stabbed - Sadler asks Ong her name and she replies: “My name is Betty Ong. I’m number three [flight attendant] on Flight 11.” She says the number one flight attendant and the number five flight attendant have been stabbed. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] These two attendants are Barbara Arestegui and Karen Martin. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 6] Ong says, “Nobody knows who stabbed who and we can’t even get up to business class right now, ‘cause nobody can breathe.” She also says: “We can’t get into the cockpit. The door won’t open.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6] Sadler takes notes of the call, using his computer “scratch pad.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] He notifies Ong of this, saying, “I’m taking it down, all the information.” He tells Ong, “We’re also, you know, of course, recording this.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Ong Receiving Details of Hijacking from Colleague - During the entire conversation, Sadler will later recall, Ong seems to be talking to someone in the background and receiving information from them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44] This person is presumably Sara Low, another of the flight attendants, who was assigned to the front of the plane and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. [Associated Press, 3/5/2009; New York Daily News, 3/6/2009; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] Ong will keep repeating herself during the call, Minter will recall, such as repeatedly mentioning the stabbings on her plane. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41] Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, has been alerted to the call and will soon join it (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, American Airlines, Winston Sadler, Vanessa Minter

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Daniel Lewin.Daniel Lewin. [Source: Akamai Technologies]An FAA memo written on the evening of 9/11, and later leaked, will suggest that a man on Flight 11 is shot and killed by a gun before the plane crashes into the World Trade Center. The “Executive Summary,” based on information relayed by a flight attendant to the American Airlines Operation Center, states “that a passenger located in seat 10B [Satam Al Suqami] shot and killed a passenger in seat 9B [Daniel Lewin] at 9:20 a.m.” (Note that since Flight 11 crashes at 8:46, the time must be a typographical error, probably meaning 8:20). A report in Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz on September 17 will identify Lewin as a former member of the Israel Defense Force Sayeret Matkal, Israel’s most successful Special Operations unit. [United Press International, 3/6/2002] Sayeret Matkal is a deep penetration unit that has been involved in assassinations, the theft of foreign signals intelligence materials, and the theft and destruction of foreign nuclear weaponry. It is best known for the 1976 rescue of 106 passengers at Entebbe Airport in Uganda. [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] Lewin founded Akamai, a successful computer company, and his connections to Sayeret Matkal will remain hidden until the gun story becomes known. [Guardian, 9/15/2001] FAA and American Airline officials will later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin is probably stabbed to death instead. [Washington Post, 3/2/2002; United Press International, 3/6/2002] Officials assert that the leaked document was a “first draft,” and subsequently corrected, but decline to release the final draft, calling it “protected information.” However, an FAA official present when the memo is drafted will dispute the FAA’s claim, asserting that “[t]he document was reviewed for accuracy by a number of people in the room, including myself and a couple of managers of the operations center.” [WorldNetDaily, 3/7/2002] This unnamed official is probably Bogdan Dzakovic, a leader of the FAA’s “red team” conducting covert security inspections. He will later tell the 9/11 Commission: “There are serious indications that the FAA deceived the public about what happened on 9/11. On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, I was working in one of the FAA operations centers collecting information on details of what happened during the hijacking. We received information that a firearm was used on one of the hijacked aircraft.… That evening the administrator of FAA requested an executive summary covering the day’s activities, and this information about a gun was included in the summary. Days later, without any explanation or questioning of the summary’s author, the administrator publicly announced that no guns had been used in the hijacking. Several months passed when the press re-surfaced this issue. FAA’s initial response was that no so such executive summary existed. Later, when confronted with the document, FAA admitted the executive summary existed, but denied its accuracy. Sometime later I learned that another operations center also received a report that a firearm was used.… There were also reports of a possible explosive threatened on a flight.” [CBS News, 2/25/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/22/2003; Village Voice, 2/8/2005]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Bogdan Dzakovic, Satam Al Suqami, Sayeret Matkal, Daniel Lewin, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Nydia Gonzalez.Nydia Gonzalez. [Source: 9/11 Commission]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, joins a phone call between two employees at her office and Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Ong called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report the hijacking (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001), and has since then been talking to two employees there: Vanessa Minter and Winston Sadler. Sadler pushed the emergency button on his phone to alert personnel in the operations area of the reservations office, so that one of them could pick up the call from Ong. A colleague of Gonzalez’s initially picked up the call, but Gonzalez quickly takes over from them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 453; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Gonzalez, Minter, and Sadler are in different areas of the reservations office, but all three of them are able to monitor Ong’s call. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]
Supervisor Told of Stabbings on Flight 11 - The first thing Gonzalez says when she joins the call is: “This is operations. What flight number are we talking about?” Ong earlier told Minter and Sadler, incorrectly, that she was on “Flight 12,” not Flight 11 (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler therefore tells Gonzalez, “Flight 12.” Ong quickly corrects him, saying: “We’re on Flight 11 right now. This is Flight 11.… Boston to Los Angeles.” She also repeats information she previously gave to Minter and Sadler, saying, “Our number one [flight attendant] has been stabbed and our [number] five [flight attendant] has been stabbed.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6]
Supervisor Notifies Airline's Operations Center - Gonzalez is an operations specialist, and her responsibilities include monitoring any emergency situations with American Airlines flights and forwarding information to the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 17] She immediately realizes the seriousness of the situation on Flight 11 and therefore, while remaining connected to Ong’s call, phones the SOC on a separate line to notify it of the problem (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] Gonzalez will later recall that she finds Ong to be “calm, professional, and in control throughout the call.” [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004 pdf file] She will also say that during the time she is monitoring Ong’s call, she does not hear much commotion in the background. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, Nydia Gonzalez, Winston Sadler, Vanessa Minter, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Colin Scoggins.Colin Scoggins. [Source: John P. Meyer]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, arrives at work an hour late and is informed of the hijacking of Flight 11. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; WAMU, 8/3/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-33] Scoggins is an experienced air traffic controller and specializes in airspace, procedures, and military operations. He is responsible for managing operating agreements between the Boston Center and other air traffic control facilities, and between Boston Center and the military. He is also responsible for generating the military schedules that keep FAA facilities synchronized with military airspace requirements, and has therefore developed personal relationships with most of the military units in his region. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-33]
Arrives One Hour Late - In a 2006 radio interview, Scoggins will recall that he arrives at work one hour late, saying, “That morning I actually came in, took an hour early on the front of my shift, so I didn’t get in until 8:30.” [WAMU, 8/3/2006] But in a statement that will be provided to the 9/11 Commission, he says he arrives at the Boston Center slightly earlier, at “about 8:25 a.m.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001] When he enters the building, a colleague tells him about the hijacking of Flight 11. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33]
Heads to Credit Union - Rather than going immediately to help deal with the hijacking, Scoggins heads to the credit union at the center. He will recall, “I wasn’t in a rush because when hijacks do occur, sometimes too many people try to get involved, but instead they just get in the way.”
Mentions that Hijacked Plane Could Hit a Building - When he gets to the credit union, Scoggins decides he should go to the center’s traffic management unit, to make sure that fighter jets are launched in response to the hijacking. As he will later recall, he says to an employee at the credit union that “if it really came to it,” and fighter jets “had to stop the hijack from hitting a building or something, there wasn’t much [the fighters] could do.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001]
Updated on Hijacking - Scoggins then heads to the center’s operational floor, arriving there at about 8:35. [WAMU, 8/3/2006; Griffin, 2007, pp. 335] He goes to the traffic management unit and the desk of Daniel Bueno, who is the unit’s supervisor. Bueno brings Scoggins up to date on the details of the hijacking. He tells him: “It sounds real. We heard a Mideastern or Arabic voice on radio. They’ve also turned off the transponder to prevent the hijack code from appearing.” Bueno says the Boston Center controllers are still tracking the primary radar return for Flight 11, but they lack information on its altitude. According to author Lynn Spencer, it occurs to Scoggins that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) might be able to provide altitude information for Flight 11, “because the FAA radar system filters out certain altitude information that NEADS gets.” He will therefore phone NEADS as soon as he arrives at his station (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33]

Entity Tags: Daniel Bueno, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Christian Science Monitor, 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.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Boston air traffic controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 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. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Mark Hodgkins, American Airlines, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Ben Sliney, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; Ha'aretz, 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]

Entity Tags: Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney, American Airlines, James W. Sayer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), participates in a video teleconference with other senior NORAD officials and is therefore unavailable when NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries contacting him for authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31] Arnold is in the video teleconferencing room at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Teleconference Discussing 'Russian Exercise' - Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force who is in the room with Arnold, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the teleconference is “about the Russian exercise.” [9/11 Commission, 2/2/2004 pdf file] Del Toro is presumably referring to either the Russian Air Force exercise that NORAD is currently monitoring (see September 9, 2001) or the exercise, Vigilant Guardian, that NORAD is currently running, which reportedly includes a simulated war against Russia (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; Denver Post, 8/28/2011]
NORAD Officials from US and Canada on Teleconference - It is unclear exactly who else is participating in the teleconference. Arnold will tell the 9/11 Commission that as well as “our folks”—presumably referring to some of his colleagues at CONR—it includes “the NORAD staff.” The “NORAD staff” presumably includes officials from NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Arnold will tell author Leslie Filson that the teleconference includes “the CINC”—presumably meaning General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, who is at Peterson Air Force Base—and also officials from the Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) and the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR). [Filson, 2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]
Arnold Not Alerted to Hijacking - While Arnold is on the teleconference, NEADS calls CONR to alert him to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but no one at CONR interrupts the teleconference to fetch him or pass on to him the urgent message from NEADS. Arnold will only learn of the hijacking after the teleconference ends (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and he will then call NEADS back (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 31, 38]

Entity Tags: Continental US NORAD Region, Larry Arnold, Alaskan NORAD Region, Ralph Eberhart, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Robert Del Toro, Canadian NORAD Region

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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). [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Boston Globe, 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.” [Filson, 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]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Woodward.Michael Woodward. [Source: Discovery Channel]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reaches the American Airlines flight services office at Logan International Airport in Boston for the third time, and, in a phone call lasting 12 or 13 minutes, gives details of the trouble on her plane to a manager there. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Sweeney has already called the flight services office two times and provided employees there with details of the hijacking of Flight 11, but both calls were cut off after a short time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Manager Takes Over Answering Call - At 8:32 a.m., Sweeney reaches the office for the third time. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] The call is answered by James Sayer, a staff assistant. But Sayer tells Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager at Logan Airport, that the caller is Sweeney, and Woodward then takes over the call. Woodward is friends with Sweeney and has known her personally for 10 years. Furthermore, Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission, Sayer is not trained to handle emergency calls. Woodward asks Sweeney, “Amy, sweetie, what’s going on?” She replies, “Listen to me very, very carefully.” Realizing that Sweeney is going to give him important information, Woodward immediately begins taking notes.
Sweeney Provides Details of Hijacking - Woodward will tell the 9/11 Commission that, in a matter-of-fact and official manner, Sweeney then describes to him the trouble on her plane. She says she is sitting in the back of the aircraft next to Betty Ong, another flight attendant, and the two of them are trying to relay as much information as they can to people on the ground. She says her plane has been hijacked, a man in first class had his throat slashed, and two flight attendants—Karen Martin and Barbara Arestegui—have been stabbed. Sweeney says that Martin isn’t doing very well and is on oxygen, but Arestegui is less seriously injured and seems to be alright. She says the hijackers have gained entry into the cockpit, though she doesn’t say how they did this, and there is a bomb in the cockpit. She makes no comments about the condition of the pilots, but says the flight attendants are unable to contact the cockpit. Later in the conversation, she says she doesn’t think the original pilot is in control of the plane, because they are flying “all over the place.” [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11-12]
Sweeney Gives Seat Numbers of Hijackers - Sweeney apparently believes there are only three hijackers on Flight 11. She tells Woodward that the people who hijacked her plane were in seats 9D, 9G, and 10B. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 14] However, apart from seat 10B, these are different seats to those assigned to the hijackers on the tickets they purchased. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 2] Sweeney tells Woodward that the hijackers are of Middle Eastern descent. She says one of them spoke excellent English and another spoke very little English. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file]
Doctor or Nurse Requested - Woodward will say, when he is first questioned by the FBI about Sweeney’s call, that Sweeney tells him that a doctor and nurse are caring for the passenger who had his throat slashed. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6] But Ong, who is on the phone with 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), says there are no doctors on Flight 11 (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] However, in a second interview with the FBI and in his interview with the 9/11 Commission, Woodward will say only that a doctor or nurse has been paged.
Woodward Gives Contradictory Accounts of Type of Phone Used - Woodward hears no noise in the background during his conversation with Sweeney. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2; 9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] The information Sweeney provides about the hijacking has been given to her by Sara Low, a flight attendant who was assigned to the front of Flight 11 and so would have witnessed the hijacking when it happened. [Boston Herald, 12/15/2008; Associated Press, 3/5/2009] In interviews with the FBI, Woodward will say that Sweeney makes the call using an Airfone, or that he is unsure whether she uses an Airfone or a cell phone. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-6; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/13/2001, pp. 1-2] But he will tell the 9/11 Commission that she makes the call on a cell phone. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file] However, the FBI will state that Sweeney is using an Airfone. [9/11 Commission, 2004, pp. 4; New York Observer, 6/20/2004; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, 9/11/2011] There is no tape machine in the flight services office, and so her call is not recorded. [9/11 Commission, 1/25/2004 pdf file; New York Observer, 6/20/2004]
Airline Contacted about Call - At 8:40 a.m., one of Woodward’s colleagues in the flight services office calls the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, and passes on to it the information that Sweeney is providing to Woodward (see 8:40 a.m.-8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sweeney’s call ends after 12 or 13 minutes (see (8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 11, 14; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, James W. Sayer, Michael Woodward, Sara Low, Madeline (“Amy”) Sweeney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Apparently around 8:34 a.m., the FAA’s Boston Center attempts to contact an Atlantic City, New Jersey, military unit, to have it send fighters after Flight 11. However, the outcome of this call, and whether it is even answered, is unclear. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Atlantic City International Airport is the home of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, which flies F-16 fighter jets. The 177th FW was part of NORAD’s alert force for many years, and kept two F-16s constantly on alert, ready to scramble when requested. But in October 1998, as a result of Pentagon cutbacks, it lost its scramble-ready status and began converting to a general-purpose F-16 mission (see May 19, 1997). [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] The outcome of Boston Center’s attempt at contacting the Atlantic City unit is unclear. The 9/11 Commission will only state, “The center… tried to contact a former alert site in Atlantic City, unaware it had been phased out.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will also try contacting the unit minutes later, but its call will not be answered (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 34] The Bergen Record will later comment that, with the removal of the Atlantic City fighters from NORAD’s alert mission, “the Pentagon left what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast—a gap with New York City at the center.” [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Around this time, two F-16s from the 177th FW are away from base performing a training mission, and are just minutes from New York City, but the pilots are unaware of the unfolding crisis (see 8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, 177th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Joseph Cooper, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Tim Spence, Otis Air National Guard Base, Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Vanity Fair, 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.” [Newhouse News Service, 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; Newsday, 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; Vanity Fair, 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]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Dawne Deskins, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Joseph Cooper, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jeremy Powell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, makes a brief phone call to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to see if it has been able to find any further information about Flight 11. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-33] Boston Center has just alerted NEADS to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Scoggins asks the ID technician who answers his call, “Have you identified the radar target for American 11?” The ID tech says they are still searching for it. Scoggins then tells her that Flight 11 is “50 miles south of Albany,” but, according to author Lynn Spencer, this information “won’t be of much help to NEADS Surveillance,” because “[t]heir monochromic displays aren’t even capable of showing the outline of states, much less those of cities like Albany or New York.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33] (However, despite this supposed inadequate capability, NEADS is reportedly able to spot Flight 11 shortly before it crashes into the World Trade Center (see 8:45 a.m.-8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), locating its radar track “going down the Hudson Valley, straight in from the north toward New York.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56] ) As NEADS has no new information to offer him, Scoggins quickly ends the call. According to Spencer’s account, this is the first time Scoggins calls NEADS this morning, after arriving at the Boston Center minutes earlier (see (8:25 a.m.-8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33] But according to a description Scoggins gives to author David Ray Griffin in 2007, it appears that this is his second call, after an initial call at around 8:35 (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Scoggins will tell Griffin that he first called NEADS to inform it that Flight 11 was “20 [miles] south of Albany heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots,” and then he makes “another call at 50 [miles] south of Albany.” [Griffin, 2007, pp. 47]

Entity Tags: Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The emblem of the 177th Fighter Wing.The emblem of the 177th Fighter Wing. [Source: United States Air Force]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and suggests that it contact a military unit at Atlantic City, New Jersey. However, when NEADS tries phoning the unit, the call is not answered.
Scoggins Notices Otis Jets Not Yet Launched - Scoggins had called NEADS at around 8:38 a.m., regarding the hijacked Flight 11 (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). A few minutes after this, he notices that fighter jets have not yet launched from Otis Air National Guard Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and calls NEADS again. He suggests that it should try to get jets launched from Atlantic City. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-34] Atlantic City International Airport is the home of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] As author Lynn Spencer will describe, Scoggins “knows that Atlantic City is no longer an alert facility, but he also knows that they launch F-16s for training flights every morning at nine. He figures that the pilots are probably already in their planes and ready to go. They’re unarmed, but they’re a lot closer to New York City than the Otis fighters on Cape Cod, and the military serves only a monitoring purpose in hijacking anyway.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33-34] Two F-16s from the 177th Fighter Wing are in fact already airborne and performing their training mission, and are just a few minutes flying time from New York City (see 8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Scoggins will later recount: “I requested that we take from Atlantic City very early in the [morning], not launch from the ground but those already airborne in Warning Area 107 [a training area] if they were there, which I believe they were.” He will add that the 177th Fighter Wing does not “have an intercept mission; it was taken away a long time ago. [But] NEADS could have called them and asked them to cancel their [training] mission and divert.” [Griffin, 2007]
NEADS Tries Unsuccessfully to Contact Unit - The NEADS technician who takes Scoggins’s call follows his advice, and tries to call the unit at Atlantic City. He calls the only number he has for it, which is the number NEADS had previously called when it wanted to scramble 177th Fighter Wing F-16s until 1998, back when they were part of NORAD’s alert force. The number connects the technician directly to the highly secured command post. However, no one answers the phone. According to Spencer: “[T]hese days, the command post is more of a highly secured storage area, opened just once a month for drill weekends. The phone rings and rings.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 34] The FAA’s Boston Center also attempted to call the Atlantic City unit, apparently several minutes earlier (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The outcome of that call is unstated. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]

Entity Tags: Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector, 177th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 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]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Vanity Fair, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 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]

Entity Tags: Kevin Nasypany, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Larry Arnold, Robert Marr, James Fox

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At the time of the attacks on the World Trade Center, two F-16 fighter jets are performing a training mission just eight minutes flying time away from New York, but the pilots are unaware of the crisis taking place. The two jets belong to the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, which is based at Atlantic City International Airport. [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] F-16s at Atlantic City are involved in scheduled training missions every day, and their first mission is usually between 8:30 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. [Griffin, 2007, pp. 62] The two fighter jets are unarmed and performing practice bombing runs over a section of the Pine Barrens in New Jersey that is designated for military drills. The pilots are unaware of the attacks in New York. They will not be called back to base until shortly after the second WTC tower is hit, and will then have their training munitions replaced with live air-to-air missiles. At the time of the second attack, another two jets from the 177th FW are preparing to take off for routine bombing training, but they too have their mission canceled (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). No jets will take off from Atlantic City in response to the attacks until after 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. [Code One Magazine, 10/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]
NEADS and FAA Tried Contacting 177th Fighter Wing - Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, is aware that the 177th FW launches F-16s for training flights every morning around this time, and suggested to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that it contact Atlantic City to use these jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. However, when NEADS tried phoning the unit, its call was not answered (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Griffin, 2007, pp. 62; Spencer, 2008, pp. 33-34] Apparently around 8:34 a.m., the Boston Center also attempted to contact the Atlantic City unit, but the outcome of that call is unclear (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
F-16s Might Have Prevented Attacks on WTC - Author Peter Lance will later point out that, had the two Atlantic City F-16s flying over the Pine Barrens “been notified by the FAA at 8:34… they could have reached the Twin Towers by 8:42 a.m.,” four minutes before Flight 11 hit the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). “Even unarmed, and without a shootdown order, they might have been able to take defensive action to prevent the big 767 from crashing into the tower. In any case, the fighters would certainly have been on patrol and able to interdict UA 175, which didn’t hit the South Tower until 9:03 a.m.” [Lance, 2004, pp. 230-231] Yet despite the crucial role these two fighters could have played, the 9/11 Commission Report will make no mention of them. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] Pointing out the irony of having the two F-16s so near to Manhattan yet with such an unrelated mission, 177th Fighter Wing public affairs officer Lt. Luz Aponte will later remark, “Isn’t that something?” [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]

Entity Tags: 177th Fighter Wing, Luz Aponte

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [American Forces Press Service, 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]

Entity Tags: Steve Hahn, Dan Mangino, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The National Military Joint Intelligence Center.The National Military Joint Intelligence Center. [Source: Joseph M. Juarez / Defense Intelligence Agency]Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the National Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) at the Pentagon regarding the hijacking of Flight 11, but the center is unable to provide him with any more information than he already has. [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] Stuart now calls the Air Force desk at the NMJIC about it. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file] The NMJIC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, constantly monitors worldwide developments for any looming crises that might require US involvement. [Washington Times, 9/25/1997; Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2/6/2006] It “forms the heart of timely intelligence support to national-level contingency operations,” according to James Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And during a crisis, it “serves as a clearinghouse for all requests for national-level intelligence information.” [Joint Forces Quarterly, 3/1994 pdf file] However, Stuart will later recall that the NMJIC can provide him with “no additional relevant information” on the hijacking. Stuart then calls Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. But, Stuart will say, the 1st Air Force also has “no further information” about the hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force, National Military Joint Intelligence Center, James R. Clapper Jr., 1st Air Force, Robert Del Toro, Mark E. Stuart

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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]

Entity Tags: Mark E. Stuart, Robert Marr, SIPRNET

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Vanity Fair, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 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]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Shelley Watson, Maureen Dooley, Colin Scoggins, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Stacia Rountree

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Washington Post, 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). [Vanity Fair, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 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]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] On a typical day, it has about a dozen pilots on duty. [Cape Cod Times, 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. [Boston Globe, 9/15/2001; Cape Cod Times, 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.

Entity Tags: Paul Worcester, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A soldier monitors a NORAD radar screen.A soldier monitors a NORAD radar screen. [Source: National War College]NORAD has had fighter jets deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada for the past two days. They are there for a real-world maneuver called Operation Northern Vigilance, tasked with monitoring a Russian air force exercise being conducted in the Russian Arctic all this week (see September 9, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001] At its operations center deep inside Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, NORAD is also reportedly at “full ‘battle staff’ levels for a major annual exercise that tests every facet of the organization.” The operations center is now contacted by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), based in Rome, New York. NEADS says the FAA believes there is a hijacking in progress and is asking NORAD for support; this is not part of the exercise. As the Toronto Star will later report: “In a flash, Operation Northern Vigilance is called off. Any simulated information, what’s known as an ‘inject,’ is purged from the screens.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] NORAD has the capacity to inject simulated material, including mass attacks, during exercises, “as though it was being sensed for the first time by a radar site.” [US Department of Defense, 1/15/1999] However, Northern Vigilance is a military operation, not a training exercise. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; US Congress, 3/11/2005] So presumably the “simulated information” is part of a NORAD exercise currently taking place, such as Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, many minutes into the real 9/11 attacks, there may be false radar blips appearing on the screens of NORAD personnel. Additional details, such as whose radar screens have false blips and over what duration, are unclear. However, while the Toronto Star will indicate that the simulated material is removed from NORAD radar screens shortly before 9:03 a.m., when the second attack on the World Trade Center takes place, at 10:12 a.m. an officer at the operations center will call NEADS and ask it to “terminate all exercise inputs coming into Cheyenne Mountain” (see 10:12 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] This would indicate that the NORAD operations center continues receiving simulated radar information for over an hour more, until after Flight 93 has crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and the terrorist attacks have ended. The Russians, after seeing the attacks on New York and Washington on television, will quickly communicate that they are canceling their Russian Arctic exercise. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; National Post, 10/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Vigilant Guardian, Operation Northern Vigilance, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The NORAD headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base.The NORAD headquarters building at Peterson Air Force Base. [Source: US Air Force]General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, realizes the US is under attack after he sees Flight 175 crashing into the World Trade Center on television and then considers whether he should go to NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). Eberhart was at his home in Colorado when he learned about the hijacking of Flight 11 and then went to his office at NORAD’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs (see (8:45 a.m.-9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). In his office, he sees the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). He is unaware that a second aircraft has been hijacked, but realizes immediately that a coordinated terrorist attack is taking place. Right away, he tries to contact General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but is unable to do so, because Shelton is currently airborne, being flown to Hungary for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). Eberhart then tries contacting General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and is able to reach him on Capitol Hill, where he has been meeting Senator Max Cleland (D-GA) (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Eberhart then focuses his attention on determining whether he should stay at NORAD headquarters or go to the CMOC, which is about 30 minutes’ drive away from Peterson Air Force Base. He initially decides to stay in his office. This, he will say, is because the CMOC is already well manned and also because there are “dead spots” in which he would be out of phone coverage for five to 10 minutes at a time during the drive to the operations center. However, Eberhart subsequently decides to go to the CMOC. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that he leaves his office to head there at approximately 9:30 a.m., during a lull in transmissions on a teleconference, which he is presumably listening to. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004] He will experience problems receiving phone calls while he is traveling to the CMOC (see (Between 9:35 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/16/2006; Denver Post, 7/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Henry Hugh Shelton, Ralph Eberhart, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mike Cosby.Mike Cosby. [Source: US Department of Defense]Two fighter jets at a New Jersey military unit that are about to launch for training are recalled to respond to the attacks in New York, but will not be airborne until after the Pentagon is hit. The two F-16s belong to the 177th Fighter Wing, located at Atlantic City International Airport, and are only loaded with BDUs (practice bombs) for their routine training mission. [Code One Magazine, 10/2002] Colonel James Haye, the supervisor of flying (SOF) at the 177th FW, was informed of the first aircraft hitting the World Trade Center, and then went to a nearby television to see the footage of the burning North Tower. He’d alerted Lt. Col. Randall King, one of the base’s pilots, who was in the same room as him. King, who is an experienced commercial pilot, said: “Whoever was at the controls did that on purpose. That is no accidental crash! And that was no small airplane!” After watching the television coverage for several minutes, Haye sets about putting the scheduled training mission on hold. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 58-59 and 120] As they are taxiing to the runway, the two fighters preparing to launch are told to stop and return to the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft). Personnel at the base then set about removing the training munitions and arming the planes with live missiles. Major Tom Cleary, one of the pilots, will later recall, “We launched almost immediately after the Pentagon was hit.” However, apparently his aircraft will not be properly armed. He recalls, “I was still carrying training munitions, but I had live guns.” Col. Mike Cosby, the commander of the 177th FW, indicates the jets may not launch until slightly later, saying, “We were airborne within the hour after the Pentagon attack.” Later on, four F-16s with live missiles will be launched from the unit, followed by another four, also with live missiles. According to Cosby, “We were the first non-alert unit to fly armed ordnance over the Northeast corridor anywhere the Northeast Sector of NORAD wanted us to fly, between New York City and Washington, DC.” [Code One Magazine, 10/2002] Two F-16s with the 177th FW have been airborne already this morning, practicing bombing runs near Atlantic City, and are called back to base following the attacks on the WTC to be re-fitted with live missiles and then re-launched (see 8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003]

Entity Tags: Mike Cosby, James Haye, 177th Fighter Wing, Randall King, Tom Cleary

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing.Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane on a training mission in the Washington, DC, area is instructed to return to its base in Oklahoma, even though its advanced communications and surveillance capabilities would significantly benefit the military’s air defense efforts in response to the terrorist attacks. The AWACS belongs to the 552nd Air Control Wing, located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. [US Air Force, 4/1/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/16/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 265] It has been flying a training mission somewhere near Washington (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Code One Magazine, 1/2002]
AWACS Sent Back to Oklahoma - According to author Lynn Spencer, the AWACS is directed to return to Tinker Air Force Base “in the immediate confusion after the attacks.” The exact time the plane’s crew receives this order, and the identity of the person or organization that gives the order, are unstated. NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will contact the AWACS later on, and instruct it to turn around and head to Washington, to provide radio and radar coverage over the capital (see (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 265-266]
AWACS Has Advanced Surveillance and Communication Capabilities - The AWACS, also called the E-3 Sentry, is a modified Boeing 707 that provides surveillance, command, control, and communications to military commanders. [New York Times, 9/23/1995; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/16/2006; US Air Force, 9/2015] According to a US Air Force manual, the plane’s “advanced surveillance radar provides long-range, low-level detection of aircraft targets over all types of terrain.” [US Air Force, 4/1/2000] It can track friendly and enemy aircraft over a 300-mile radius. [New York Times, 9/23/1995] Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will say that AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” [White House, 8/29/2002]
AWACS Would Help NEADS Contact Fighters - These planes are particularly important to NEADS. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file] Spencer will describe: “The NEADS radio transmitter, like all radio transmitters, operates by line of sight. This means that the radio signals, which travel in a straight line, require an unobstructed path between the transmitter and the [fighter] jets” that NEADS is trying to communicate with this morning. Due to the curvature of the earth and the distance between NEADS, in Rome, New York, and Washington, the fighters’ launched to protect the capital (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will be unable to pick up the NEADS signal on their radio receivers when they descend below 20,000 feet, after arriving over Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “What’s needed,” Spencer will write, “is an AWACS plane, which has the capability to provide both radar and radio coverage over a citywide area.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 265]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker, Lynn Spencer, 552nd Air Control Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major Dean Eckmann.
Major Dean Eckmann. [Source: US Air Force]The two pilots on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia are put on “battle stations,” and get into their fighter jets, ready to take off if required. [Longman, 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] Being at “battle stations” means the pilots are in their planes’ cockpits with the engines turned off, but ready to start them and taxi out should a scramble order follow. [Filson, 2003, pp. 55; Spencer, 2008, pp. 27] NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has ordered this in response to the news of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and over concerns that the fighters launched from Otis Air National Guard base in response to Flight 11 might run out of fuel (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 88] According to journalist and author Jere Longman, the two “alert” pilots at Langley are currently “still in the dark about the gravity of the moment.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 64-65]
Pilot Wonders If Order Connected to Events in New York - Major Dean Eckmann, one of the pilots on alert, will later recall: “The scramble horn goes off and we get the yellow light, which is our battle stations. So at that point I go running out to… my assigned alert airplane, get suited up, and I get into the cockpit ready to start.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] He asks his crew chief, “Do you think this has anything to do with New York?” The chief replies: “I can’t imagine how. The Otis guys could handle that.”
Pilot Told 'This Is Just Precautionary' - Meanwhile, Captain Craig Borgstrom, the unit’s operations manager, is briefing the other alert pilot, Major Brad Derrig, on what he knows. He tells him: “There’s some wacky stuff happening. Some airplane just hit the World Trade Center. I don’t have any more information, but I’m sure this is just precautionary.” Borgstrom then heads out to give Eckmann the same brief, but has to stop to answer a phone call from NEADS (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 118] Although the 9/11 Commission and other accounts will state that the Langley jets are placed on battle stations at 9:09, a BBC documentary will suggest this happens at 9:21, and Longman will indicate this does not occur until 9:24. [Longman, 2002, pp. 64; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; BBC, 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] The two alert jets, along with a third jet piloted by Borgstrom, will be ordered to scramble at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16]

Entity Tags: Craig Borgstrom, Langley Air Force Base, Dean Eckmann, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Brad Derrig

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The 177th Fighter Wing, a military unit based at the Atlantic City International Airport in New Jersey, raises its threat protection level to a wartime posture, and, though it is no longer part of NORAD’s alert mission, starts preparing to launch its aircraft with live missiles. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 120-122]
Commander Orders Increased Threat Condition - Lt. Col. Brian Webster, who is the acting wing commander for the 177th Fighter Wing, was at home when he learned of the attacks on the World Trade Center. After watching the second attack live on television, he rushes out to drive to the base. Webster calls the command post there on his cell phone and gives the order, “Raise the base’s threat protection level to Charlie!” Threatcon Charlie is a wartime posture, and will mean various security measures are activated in preparation for a possible attack. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 120-121]
Command Post Brought Online - For many years, up to 1998 (see May 19, 1997), the 177th FW was part of NORAD’s alert force. It kept two fully armed F-16s on constant alert, and was responsible for providing air sovereignty of the mid-Atlantic, between Long Island, New York, and the Virginia Capes. [New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, 1999 pdf file; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org), 8/21/2005] But since the unit was removed from the NORAD alert mission, its command post has been used just once a month for training. It is now coming to life, though, as personnel switch on the lights, and turn on computers and monitors. The workers increase their pace after hearing an announcement about the transition to Threatcon Charlie. A master sergeant busily calls members of staff and orders them to report to base.
Webster Wants Live Missiles on Aircraft - When Webster arrives, he instructs the operations support flight commander to replace practice missiles and munitions on the unit’s fighter jets with live ones. The missiles are not stored by the aircraft, so this will take some time. Webster also orders, “Get me authenticators.” An authenticator is a piece of paper given to pilots with a code in a series of letters on it, and which is only valid for a 24-hour period. If a pilot receives an order to fire, he must ask for an authentication code. If this doesn’t match the code on his authenticator, he cannot legally comply with the order. NORAD’s alert sites receive authenticators each month, but as it is no longer part of the alert mission, Atlantic City has none.
Weapons Chief Uncertain - According to author Lynn Spencer, Webster’s orders are unprecedented at a non-alert fighter wing of the Air National Guard. “Air National Guard jets don’t simply fly around the United States with live missiles. Guardsmen train to fight wars overseas, not to fly armed combat over the United States.” The weapons chief with the 177th FW is unenthusiastic, and asks to have a word with Webster. But Webster tells him abruptly, “Just do it![Spencer, 2008, pp. 121-122] Within two hours, the first fighters will take off from the Atlantic City unit. These had been preparing for a training mission at the time of the attacks in New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Code One Magazine, 10/2002]

Entity Tags: 177th Fighter Wing, Brian Webster

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; Government Executive, 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.” [Government Executive, 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]

Entity Tags: Darrel Smith, Bart Merkley, Charles Leidig, White House, Central Intelligence Agency, National Operations and Intelligence Watch Officer Network, Federal Aviation Administration, Patrick Gardner, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Vanity Fair, 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]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; Vanity Fair, 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.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Federal Aviation Administration, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major Brad Derrig.Major Brad Derrig. [Source: ABC]At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the pilots of three F-16s receive the order to scramble (i.e. take off immediately). A Klaxon horn sounds and the status lights in the hangars change from yellow to green, notifying them of the order. [Longman, 2002, pp. 65; Filson, 2003, pp. 63; Spencer, 2008, pp. 141] The fighter jets belong to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. The wing has a small detachment at Langley that serves as one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, responsible for defending the nation against attack. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 114] The jets are already at “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24; Spencer, 2008, pp. 117-119] The scramble order has just been issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 16]
Third Pilot Launched - The unit at Langley keeps two F-16s on “alert”—armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. [Air Force Magazine, 2/2002; Bergen Record, 12/5/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17] But NEADS has instructed it to launch as many aircraft as it can (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so the unit’s operations manager Captain Craig Borgstrom is also preparing to take off in a third jet. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 118-119] Major Dean Eckmann calls the other two pilots, saying, “Quit check,” indicating a radio check. Major Brad Derrig responds, “Two.” Borgstrom replies: “Three. I’m going with you!” This is news to Derrig. According to author Lynn Spencer, Derrig is “stunned.… [N]ot much surprises him, but this does.” Borgstrom joining them as a pilot will mean that, in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, their unit will be left without a commanding officer. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 142]
Only Two Jets Fully Armed - The two jets that are kept on alert are fully armed. As Eckmann will later recall, “We can carry M9 heat seekers, Sidewinders for the M7 Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20 mm Vulcan cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] However, Borgstrom’s jet has guns only, and though the six-barrel 20 mm gun can fire 6,000 rounds per minute, it requires close range.
Pilot Unqualified to Lead Three Jets - As the three aircraft taxi out to the runway, Eckmann is concerned that he has not yet qualified as a mission commander—a “four-ship”—and is therefore not authorized to lead more than one fighter jet. He calls the other pilots, saying, “Hey, I’m only a two-ship!” But Derrig, who is a full-time instructor pilot for the Air National Guard, urges him not to worry. He responds: “Press! I’m an instructor,” giving his approval for the flight to operate as a “three-ship” under Eckmann’s lead. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 142] The three jets will take off and be 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]

Entity Tags: Brad Derrig, 119th Fighter Wing, Craig Borgstrom, Dean Eckmann, Langley Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Captain Craig Borgstrom.Captain Craig Borgstrom. [Source: US Air Force / Austin Knox]The three F-16 fighter jets ordered to scramble from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) take off and, radar data will show, are airborne by 9:30 a.m. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27]
Delayed during Launch - Major Dean Eckmann will recall that, after receiving the scramble order, he and the two other pilots have “a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” [BBC, 9/1/2002] According to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, the three fighters are “given highest priority over all other air traffic at Langley Air Force Base” as they are launching. [Filson, 2003, pp. 63] But, according to author Lynn Spencer, in spite of this, the jets are delayed. As Eckmann is approaching the runway, he calls the control tower for clearance to take off, but the tower controller tells him, “Hold for an air traffic delay.” Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center “have not had time to clear airliners out of the way for the northerly heading. Dozens of aircraft at various altitudes fill the jets’ route.” After having to wait two minutes, Eckmann complains: “We’re an active air scramble. We need to go now!” Finally, the tower controller tells him, “Roger, Quit flight is cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning the fighters are to fly due east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Taking Off - The three jets launch 15 seconds apart, with Eckmann in front and the two other jets following. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 143-144] Pilot Craig Borgstrom will later recall, “[W]e took off, the three of us, and basically the formation we always brief on alert, we’ll stay in a two- to three-mile trail from the guy in front.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 63] According to the BBC, the pilots get a signal over their planes’ transponders, indicating an emergency wartime situation. [BBC, 9/1/2002]
Could Reach Washington before Pentagon Attack - F-16s have a maximum speed of 1,500 mph at high altitude, or 915 mph at sea level, so the three fighters could plausibly travel the 130 miles from Langley Air Force Base to Washington in just minutes. [Chant, 1987, pp. 404; Associated Press, 6/16/2000; USA Today, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001 pdf file; US Air Force, 10/2007] Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I think if those aircraft had gotten airborne immediately, if we were operating under something other than peacetime rules, where they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC, and gone into burner, it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, the jets are redirected east over the Atlantic Ocean and will be 150 miles from the Pentagon when it is hit (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27]
Conflicting Times - Some early news reports after 9/11 will say the Langley jets take off at the later time of 9:35 a.m. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/15/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001] But according to Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, though the jets are airborne at 9:30, the report of this does not come down until 9:35, so this fact may account for the conflicting times. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: Brad Derrig, Alan Scott, Craig Borgstrom, Dean Eckmann, Langley Air Force Base, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989.A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989. [Source: Public domain]The FAA’s Cleveland Center incorrectly concludes that Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 has been hijacked, but accounts will conflict over how it comes to this conclusion. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] Delta 1989, a Boeing 767, is currently in the sector of airspace being monitored by Cleveland Center air traffic controller John Werth. [9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/11/2008] It is flying west over Pennsylvania, approaching the Ohio border, and is about 25 miles behind Flight 93. FBI agents suspected Delta 1989 might be the next plane to be hijacked and called the Cleveland Center after the second attack on the World Trade Center, with the warning to watch this flight (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002] A supervisor at the center told Werth to keep an eye on the flight because, as Werth will later recall, “he was a suspected hijacking because he had taken off from Boston at approximately the same time as” the first two hijacked aircraft, Flights 11 and 175. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Controllers Hear Suspicious Communications - When, at 9:28, Werth hears the sound of screaming (subsequently determined to have come from Flight 93) over the radio (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he is unsure which of seven or eight possible aircraft it is coming from. The radio frequency is put on the speaker so other controllers can hear it, and they subsequently make out the words, “get out of here.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28]
Controllers Think Delta 1989 Is Hijacked - According to USA Today, when Cleveland Center controllers then hear a voice with a heavy accent over the radio, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain.… We have a bomb on board” (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they mistakenly think it is coming from Delta 1989, not Flight 93. They suspect the flight has been hijacked, and start informing their chain of command. “Officials at Cleveland Center rush word to Washington: Hijackers have another flight. At the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, Delta Flight 1989 joins a growing list of suspicious jets.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 12]
Werth Decides Hijacked Aircraft Is Flight 93 - Werth then calls all of the aircraft in his sector, and Flight 93 is the only one that does not respond. He also sees Flight 93 go into a quick descent and then come back up again. Werth therefore concludes that it is Flight 93, not Delta 1989, that has been hijacked, and instructs his supervisor to “tell Washington” of this. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file] However, events in the following minutes will cause Cleveland Center controllers to remain suspicious of Delta 1989 (see (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 168; USA Today, 9/11/2008]
Book Gives Alternative Account - In a book published in 2008, author Lynn Spencer will give a different explanation for why Cleveland Center becomes suspicious of Delta 1989. According to her account, after hearing a later radio transmission where a hijacker again says “There is a bomb on board” (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Werth begins to hand off his flights to other controllers so he can devote his full attention to Flight 93. “In the distraction of the emergency, the crew of Delta 1989 misses the hand-off to the new frequency. The new sector controller for Delta 1989 calls out to the plane several times and gets no response.” As a result, “News travels fast,” and “Soon, word on the FAA’s open teleconference call is that a fifth aircraft is out of radio contact: Delta 1989… is added to the list of suspect aircraft.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167] At 9:39 a.m., even though it is not responsible for handling Delta 1989, the FAA’s Boston Center will call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly tell it that Delta 1989 is another possible hijack (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: John Werth, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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; American Forces Press Service, 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]

Entity Tags: Charles Leidig, Federal Aviation Administration, Val Harrison, Patrick Gardner, Charles Chambers, North American Aerospace Defense Command, National Military Command Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Langley Air Force Base.The air traffic control tower at Langley Air Force Base. [Source: Langley Air Force Base]The air traffic control tower at Langley Air Force Base (AFB) instructs the three F-16s taking off from the base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) to fly east for 60 miles, even though the scramble order issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) specified that they be directed north toward Washington, DC. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 96; Spencer, 2008, pp. 142-143]
Controller Directs Jets Eastward - The air traffic controllers at the Langley tower responsible for getting the three fighter jets launched are Master Sergeant Kevin Griffith and Senior Airman Raymond Halford. [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file] One of them tells the jets they are “cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning they are to fly east for 60 miles. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 143] According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “A takeoff to the east on the Langley radial for 60 miles was the standard takeoff from Langley in order to clear local traffic and get the fighters to altitude as quickly as possible.” But this document will add that the jets are “not bound to the 60 mile distance and could have turned to the north at any time they were directed to or had orders to do so.” [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file]
Pilot Assumes Controllers Have More Information - The command post at Langley AFB has already forwarded the NEADS scramble instructions directing the jets to the north—“010, flight level 290”—to the pilots. According to author Lynn Spencer, lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann “knows that the scramble calls for a northerly heading, but he assumes they are being vectored eastward in order to fly around the traffic in their way. He doesn’t second-guess the instructions; he assumes that the controllers have more information than he does.” [9/11 Commission, 1/9/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 142-143]
Scramble Order Did Not Include Distance and Location - The 9/11 Commission will later try to explain why the Langley tower directs the fighters east. According to the Commission, the scramble order from NEADS lacked complete instructions. Though it included a direction of “010” and an altitude of 29,000 feet (“290”), it “did not include a distance to the target, nor the target’s location, two key components that are normally included in a scramble order.”
Generic Flight Plan Used - Additionally: “In order to launch aircraft, the Langley AFB tower was required to file an automated flight plan specifically designating the direction and distance of intended flight. Prior to 9/11, the standard—or generic—flight plan for aircraft departing Langley AFB to the east was ‘090 for 60.‘… Langley tower personnel assumed that once fighters got airborne they would be vectored to the target of interest by either NEADS or the FAA.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 96]
Operator Could Have Entered a Unique Flight Plan - According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, Langley tower personnel follow established procedures and accomplish their duties “efficiently and effectively.” [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file] However, John Harter, an operations supervisor at the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), will tell the Commission that he disagrees with a claim made by Langley tower personnel, “that it was more efficient to enter a flight plan known to be acceptable to the system than to enter something different. That is an operator issue. An operator knowing what he/she was doing would have been able to correctly enter a unique flight plan.” [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003 pdf file]
Tower Responsible for Establishing Flight Plan - The Langley control tower is one of four facilities that are notified when NEADS issues a scramble order. (The other three are the Langley AFB command post, the 119th Fighter Wing, and the Norfolk TRACON.) The duty of Langley tower controllers is to get a flight plan established in the system so the system will accept an aircraft’s departure. The Langley tower’s control over aircraft launching from the base extends only five miles off the runway, so scrambled aircraft are passed on to the Norfolk TRACON upon takeoff (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Dean Eckmann, Kevin Griffith, John Harter, Langley Air Force Base, Raymond Halford

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Even after they take off, the three fighter pilots who are scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia are unaware of what is happening regarding the ongoing attacks. The three F-16s were airborne at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But according to the 9/11 Commission, the pilots are “never briefed about the reason” they are scrambled. “The pilots [know] their mission [is] to divert aircraft, but [do] not know that the threat [is coming] from hijacked airliners.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27 and 45] One of the pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, will later recall that it is only when they see the burning Pentagon that they start piecing things together: “[A]s you get closer, you start thinking, ‘OK, maybe there’s some type of attack going on.’ You start correlating Washington, DC, with New York. We still have no ‘intel’ brief of what’s going on.… We knew something terribly wrong was going on.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 65-66] He says he “had no idea” that the Pentagon and World Trade Center had been hit by suicide terrorists in airplanes. [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002] The Langley pilots will only learn about Flight 93 and a plane crashing in Pennsylvania when they return to their base at around 2:00 p.m. [Longman, 2002, pp. 222]

Entity Tags: Craig Borgstrom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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. [Newsweek, 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]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, 9/11 Commission, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia, takes control of the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though, according to air traffic controllers at the facility, it should not be communicating with the fighters. [9/11 Commission, 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 1/9/2004] The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, known as “Giant Killer,” is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 143; US Navy, 2/11/2016] The flight plan for the Langley F-16s puts the fighters into its airspace (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 12/3/2003 pdf file] The facility consequently takes over control of the aircraft from the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 1/9/2004]
Fighters Shouldn't Be Switched to the Facility's Frequency, Controller Will Say - However, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Clipper, an air traffic controller at the facility, the Norfolk TRACON “should not have switched the flight to Giant Killer frequency, plain and simple.” “Giant Killer should not have been talking to the fighters,” Clipper will state. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer is “not expected to be [one of the] participants in active air scrambles.” If NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) scrambles fighters, he will say, the “onus is on the fighters and NEADS to go where they want to go,” and “it is Giant Killer’s responsibility to stay out of the way.” Based on the scramble order for the Langley fighters (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clipper will say, the FAA’s Washington Center and the Norfolk TRACON “should have made sure there was a clear path for the fighters to go direct” to the control of NEADS. [9/11 Commission, 12/3/2003 pdf file]
Other Controllers Say the Facility Does Not Handle Scrambled Jets - Petty Officer Matthew Barcus, another controller at Giant Killer, will say a similar thing to what Clipper does. “Most of the time, Giant Killer does not talk to the scrambled aircraft,” he will tell the 9/11 Commission. He will say that a scrambled flight “is usually handed off to [NEADS] by Norfolk” TRACON or the FAA’s Washington Center. [9/11 Commission, 12/3/2003 pdf file] And Lieutenant Commander Mary Klug, the operations officer at the facility, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer does “not normally control scrambled aircraft.” [9/11 Commission, 12/3/2003 pdf file] However, author Lynn Spencer will apparently contradict Clipper, Barcus, and Klug, writing, “Protocol dictates that Giant Killer direct the jets until they reach Washington Center’s airspace, where the FAA controllers take over.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 149]
Pilot Has Poor Experiences of Dealing with the Facility - Major Brad Derrig, the pilot of one of the fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his experience with Giant Killer is that the facility is “not very good.” Sometimes, he will say, when Langley fighters have contacted Giant Killer, controllers at the facility “didn’t know who the air defense fighters were.” [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003]

Entity Tags: Darren Clipper, Brad Derrig, Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, Matthew Barcus, Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control, Mary Klug

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Staff Sergeant William Huckabone is the first person to notice that the three fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) are drastically off course.
Jets Heading to Training Airspace - Huckabone has spotted the radar returns for the Langley F-16s and notices that, instead of flying north toward the Baltimore area as instructed, the fighters are going east, out over the Atlantic Ocean, apparently toward a military training airspace called Whiskey 386 (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Unfortunately, NEADS cannot contact the jets directly, as they are out of its radio range. Furthermore, the supervisor of flying (SOF) for the alert unit at Langley AFB is unavailable. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 149] As the SOF, Captain Craig Borgstrom would normally be responsible for communicating with NEADS and getting information to pass on to his jets, but he has taken off himself, along with his unit’s two alert pilots (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Christian Science Monitor, 4/16/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 118]
NEADS Calls 'Giant Killer' - Huckabone alerts fellow weapons director Master Sergeant Steve Citino, who is sitting next to him, to the off-course fighters. He then gets on the phone to “Giant Killer”—the Fleet Area Control Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. [New York Times, 2/10/1997; Spencer, 2008, pp. 143, 149] Protocol requires that, because the Langley jets are in Giant Killer’s airspace, the Navy facility is responsible for directing them until they reach the airspace of the FAA’s Washington Center, where FAA controllers will take over.
Navy Controller Unconcerned - Citino and Huckabone speak to the Navy air traffic controller who is handling the three Langley fighters, but the controller appears not to grasp the urgency of the situation. Huckabone says, “Those fighters need to go north toward Baltimore, and now!” The Navy controller asks: “You’ve got [the Langley F-16s] moving east in airspace. Now you want ‘em to go to Baltimore?” Huckabone says yes, and adds, “We’re not gonna take ‘em in Whiskey 386.” He tells the Navy controller that, once the jets are heading toward Baltimore: “Have [the pilots] contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing ‘em back, just tell [the FAA’s Washington] Center they’ve got to go to Baltimore.” The Navy controller responds: “All right, man. Stand by. We’ll get back to you.” He seems to lack any sense of urgency, and Citino snaps at him: “What do you mean, ‘We’ll get back to you’? Just do it!” After hanging up the phone, Huckabone jokes, “I’m gonna choke that guy!” Looking at his radar screen, he sees that the Langley F-16s are continuing to fly out over the ocean. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 149-150]

Entity Tags: Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, William Huckabone, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Craig Borgstrom, Steve Citino

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In the middle of the 9/11 attacks, General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, drives from his NORAD headquarters office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, about a dozen miles away. The journey reportedly takes him 45 minutes and en route he loses a cell phone call with Vice President Cheney. The reason he makes this journey is unknown, though it is reported that there are superior communications capabilities available at Cheyenne Mountain. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 6/16/2006; Denver Post, 7/28/2006; Washington Post, 7/29/2006] The exact times when Eberhart departs Peterson AFB and arrives at Cheyenne Mountain are unclear. General Richard Myers says that Eberhart phones him from Peterson either just before or just after the Pentagon is hit, which suggests that Eberhart heads out some time between 9:35 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. [Armed Forces Radio And Television Service, 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Eberhart tells the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the NORAD operations center, the order to shoot down hijacked aircraft has already been passed down NORAD’s chain of command. According to the commission’s timeline, this would indicate he arrives after 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42] Yet other reports state that the massive blast doors to Cheyenne Mountain are shut at around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which suggests that Eberhart arrives earlier.

Entity Tags: Ralph Eberhart

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FAA’€™s Cleveland Center.FAA’€™s Cleveland Center. [Source: ABC News]According to the 9/11 Commission, at about this time Cleveland flight control specifically asks the FAA Command Center whether someone has requested the military to launch fighters toward Flight 93. Cleveland offers to contact a nearby military base. The Command Center replies that FAA personnel well above them in the chain of command have to make that decision and are working on the issue. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Cleveland overheard a hijacker say there was a “bomb on board” at 9:32 a.m. and passed the message to FAA higher ups (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to John Werth, the Cleveland controller handling Flight 93, “Within three or four minutes, probably, of when [the hijacking] happened, I asked if the military was advised yet. Had anybody called the military? They said, ‘don’t worry. That’s been taken care of,’ which I think to them, meant they had called the command center in Washington.” [CBS News, 9/10/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, John Werth, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At some time after the second attack in New York, Richard Myers, the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, receives a call from NORAD Commander Ralph Eberhart. According to his own account, Myers is on Capitol Hill, where he has been meeting with Senator Max Cleland (D-GA). Apparently soon after he leaves this meeting, his military aide, Army Captain Chris Donahue, hands him a cell phone on which Eberhart is calling. Myers will later comment, “In this emergency, I had to forgo the luxury of a secure encrypted red switch phone and use Donahue’s cell.” Myers will recall that Eberhart “said, you know, we’ve got several hijack codes, meaning that the transponders in the aircraft are talking to the ground, and they’re saying we’re under, we’re being hijacked, several hijack codes in the system, and we’re responding with, with fighter aircraft.” [American Forces Press Service, 10/23/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Myers, 2009, pp. 8-9] (However, none of the pilots of the four hijacked flights this morning keyed the emergency four-digit code that would indicate a hijacking into their plane’s transponder (see (8:13 a.m.-9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/11/2001] It is therefore unclear what “hijack codes” Eberhart is referring to.) Eberhart also tells Myers, “The decision I’m going to make is, we’re going to land everybody, and we’ll sort it out when we get them on the ground.” [Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006] He is presumably referring to a plan called SCATANA, which clears the skies and gives the military control over US airspace. However, Eberhart does not implement this until around 11:00 a.m. (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] It is unclear exactly when this call takes place, but it appears to be just before the time the Pentagon is hit, or just before Myers is informed of the Pentagon attack. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Council on Foreign Relations, 6/29/2006; American Forces Press Service, 9/8/2006] In his 2009 memoirs, Myers will place it after he is informed of the second attack on the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but not give a specific time. [Myers, 2009, pp. 8-9] Cleland will confirm that Myers meets with him on this morning, and is with him up to the time of the Pentagon attack, or shortly before. [US Congress, 9/13/2001; CNN, 11/20/2001; Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 6/16/2003] However, according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Myers is back at the Pentagon speaking over a video conference around 10 minutes before the Pentagon is struck (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 5]

Entity Tags: Max Cleland, Ralph Eberhart, Richard B. Myers, Chris Donahue

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to one account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is given the go-ahead to authorize Air Force jets to shoot down threatening aircraft around this time. In late 2003, Clarke will recall to ABC News that, minutes earlier, he’d picked up the phone in the White House Situation Room and called Vice President Dick Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House. He’d told him: “We have fighters aloft now. We need authority to shoot down hostile aircraft.” [ABC News, 11/29/2003] This call appears to be one Clarke also describes in his 2004 book Against all Enemies, though in that account he will describe having made his request to Army Major Mike Fenzel, who is also in the PEOC, rather than directly to Cheney. According to that account, the call occurred shortly before Clarke learns of the Pentagon attack, so roughly around 9:36 (see (Between 9:30 a.m. and 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 6-7] Clarke describes to ABC News, “I thought that would take forever to get that [shootdown] authority.” But, “The vice president got on the phone to the president, got back to me, I would say within two minutes, and said, ‘Do it.’” [ABC News, 11/29/2003] If correct, this would mean the president authorizes military fighters to shoot down threatening aircraft at around 9:37-9:38. However, around this time, the president and vice president are reportedly having difficulty communicating with each other, while Bush heads from the Booker Elementary School to the Sarasota airport (see (9:34 a.m.-9:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 6/18/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] Furthermore, this account contradicts several others. In his 2004 book, Clarke will describe being told to inform the Pentagon it has shootdown authorization slightly later, some time between 9:45 and 9:56 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 8] According to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives the shootdown authorization in a phone call with Cheney shortly after 9:56 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] The 9/11 Commission will say he gives it in a call at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [Boston Globe, 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.

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) issues coordinates to the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), sending them to Washington. However, the fighters head off in the wrong direction, reportedly because NEADS has accidentally given them incorrect coordinates. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 180-181]
Communications Problems - The Langley AFB jets have already mistakenly been sent east over the ocean (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). At 9:36 a.m., the NEADS mission crew commander ordered that they be directed toward the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27] However, weapons director Master Sergeant Steve Citino has been having difficulty communicating with the jets. According to author Lynn Spencer, “NEADS radio coverage east of Washington is poor, and the noise level on the [NEADS] operations floor has only been exacerbating the problem.”
NEADS Issues Wrong Coordinates - Citino now forwards coordinates to the Langley jets, telling them to establish a combat air patrol over Washington. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 180] Apparently, it is Tech. Sgt. Ronald Belluscio, a senior weapons director technician, who contacts the jets at this time, although he will claim he orders them specifically toward the Pentagon. He will say: “I jumped on a frequency, per the senior director, and was told to ask the Langley birds to vector over the Pentagon. I didn’t know it had been hit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 65] However, Citino has apparently given out the wrong coordinates. According to Spencer, “He inadvertently transposed two of the coordinates, and the F-16s turned onto a flight path that would take them 60 miles southwest of Washington.”
Aircraft Instrument Malfunctioning - What is more, as soon as the Langley jets turn onto their new heading, lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann has a problem with his aircraft. The bearing pointer on its horizontal situation indicator (HSI)—the instrument that shows a plane’s position relative to its intended destination—freezes. Eckmann therefore has to get the heading from one of the other Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom. Shortly after sending the three jets in the wrong direction, Citino will contact them again with the correct coordinates (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 180-181]

Entity Tags: Craig Borgstrom, Ronald Belluscio, Dean Eckmann, Steve Citino

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, provides updates to FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, about the problems with Flight 93. At 9:41 a.m., John White, a manager at the Command Center, is talking to Doug Davis, the special assistant for technical operations in air traffic services at FAA headquarters. White says that Flight 93 has reversed course from its intended flight path (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), its transponder signal has been lost (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and it is now descending and heading east. From 9:42 a.m., one of the Command Center managers (exactly who is unstated) gives the headquarters several updates on Flight 93’s progress and location. At 9:46 a.m., White tells Jeff Griffith, the FAA’s deputy director of air traffic, that Flight 93 is “29 minutes out of Washington, DC, and tracking toward us.” Two minutes later, in another conversation with Griffith, White confirms that Flight 93 has reversed course and is heading toward Washington. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 43-44]

Entity Tags: Doug Davis, Federal Aviation Administration, Jeff Griffith, John White

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An F-16 launched from Langley Air Force Base is directed toward two unidentified aircraft and then asked to inspect and report on the damage to the Pentagon. Major Dean Eckmann, one of the three F-16 pilots who took off from Langley at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), is reportedly flying in the Washington area. He will later recall, “I set up a combat air patrol with air traffic controllers,” and then, at around 9:45, “they come back to me and say there are a couple [of] unknowns heading north on the Potomac River toward the White House.” He is flying above 20,000 feet but heads straight down and reaches his target in “no time,” he says. The unknowns turn out to be a military helicopter and a law enforcement helicopter apparently heading towards the Pentagon to assist there. Eckmann flies over the Capitol and Mall area, he recalls, “to clear the area and make sure nothing else was coming in.”
Instructions to Inspect the Pentagon - Then Captain Craig Borgstrom, one of the other two Langley pilots, calls him and says that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) wants to know the extent of the damage at the Pentagon. Eckmann flies over it and reports that the two outer rings have been damaged. NEADS wants to know if he can tell what has happened. He guesses it was “a big fuel tanker truck because of the amount of smoke and flames coming up and nobody indicated anything about an airplane. And there was no airplane wreckage off to the side.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 66] But he will give a different account to the 9/11 Commission, telling it: “I reverted to the Russian threat.… I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the bastards snuck one by us.… [N]o one told us anything.” According to the Commission, the Langley pilots have not been briefed about why they were scrambled. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 45 and 465] Eckmann will in fact say, “[W]e didn’t actually find out it was an airliner [that hit the Pentagon] until the next day.” [Associated Press, 8/19/2002]
Conflicting Times - Eckmann’s F-16 is presumably the first fighter to arrive over the Pentagon following the attack there. When precisely this occurs is unclear (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, according to numerous witnesses on the ground, the first fighter does not fly over the Pentagon until significantly later than Eckmann describes, at around 10:40 a.m. (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 130-131] And according to some accounts, this is not Eckmann’s plane, but an F-16 from Andrews Air Force Base, piloted by Major Billy Hutchison. [Filson, 2003, pp. 81-82; Spencer, 2008, pp. 235-236]

Entity Tags: Dean Eckmann, Craig Borgstrom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The three pilots launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia start receiving confusing communications over their radios. Apparently, shortly after one of them first sees the Pentagon on fire (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the pilots’ radio frequencies become cluttered with orders and chatter. One of them will later describe: “It was like getting 10 hours of conversation in about 10 minutes. No one knew what was going on.” [New York Times, 11/15/2001] Journalist and author Jere Longman will refer to the pilots receiving a “jumble of radio communications.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 76] According to one of the pilots, Craig Borgstrom, he and the two others are on different frequencies but share a common intra-flight channel, and are “hearing a lot of chatter but nothing about airliners crashing into buildings.” He will later recall: “There was some confusion for us, this was very abnormal. We were all three on different frequencies… and were getting orders from a lot of different people.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 66]

Entity Tags: Craig Borgstrom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Doug Davis.Doug Davis. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]John White, a manager at the FAA’s Command Center, suggests to Doug Davis, the special assistant for technical operations in air traffic services at FAA headquarters, that fighter jets should be launched in response to Flight 93. However, FAA headquarters is apparently unable to act on this suggestion. [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] In the last few minutes, the Command Center has warned headquarters that Flight 93 is “29 minutes out of Washington” and approaching the city (see 9:41 a.m.-9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 44]
Command Center Asks about Launching Fighters - Davis now tells White, “They’re pulling Jeff [Griffith, the FAA’s deputy director of air traffic] away to go talk about United 93.” White asks, “Uh, do we want to think, uh, about scrambling aircraft?” Davis replies, “Oh, God, I don’t know.” White says, “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s gonna have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.” However, Davis only responds, “Uh, ya know everybody just left the room.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] This conversation takes place 13 minutes after the FAA’s Cleveland Center asked the Command Center whether anyone had asked the military to launch fighter jets to intercept Flight 93 (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 40]
Person Who Could Request Fighters Is Unavailable - Apparently there is only one person at FAA headquarters who is authorized to request military assistance, and Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, is told that no one can find him. Sliney will later recount: “I said something like, ‘That’s incredible. There’s only one person. There must be someone designated or someone who will assume the responsibility of issuing an order, you know.’ We were becoming frustrated in our attempts to get some information. What was the military response?” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006] This lack of response to Flight 93 contrasts with the FAA’s earlier reaction to Flight 11, when Boston Center air traffic controllers contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) themselves (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and even called military bases directly (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, John White, Doug Davis, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [Toledo Blade, 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). [Newhouse News Service, 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). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-245]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Air National Guard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center.Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center. [Source: FAA]The three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that have been directed toward Washington request and are given permission to fly at high altitude over the city. After the Langley AFB pilots are given the correct coordinates they are to head to (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), at 9:51 lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann looks on his radar screen and sees that the area where he has been directed to set up a combat air patrol is filled with air traffic. He therefore contacts the FAA’s Washington Center and tells the controller, “I need 3,000 feet of altitude in a 20-mile ring around DC.” When the controller asks the reason, Eckmann replies, “Higher headquarters’ request!” The controller gives him an altitude range of 25,000 to 27,000 feet. Eckmann radios the other two Langley pilots and gives them their altitude assignments: he’ll fly at 25,000 feet, Major Brad Derrig will be at 26,000 feet, and Captain Craig Borgstrom at 27,000 feet. According to author Lynn Spencer, the jets then head toward Washington at 700 miles per hour, just under the speed of sound. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 180-182] However, Spencer’s account of this incident conflicts with the 1st Air Force’s book about the 9/11 attacks. According to that account, several minutes before Eckmann reportedly asks for altitude clearance—at around 9:45 a.m.—he had been directed to drop to lower altitude to check out two unidentified aircraft, and was then told to inspect the Pentagon (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 66]

Entity Tags: Dean Eckmann, Craig Borgstrom, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, Brad Derrig

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

President Bush talks on the phone to Vice President Dick Cheney. Cheney recommends that Bush authorize the military to shoot down any plane that might be under the control of hijackers. “I said, ‘You bet,’” Bush later recalls. “We had a little discussion, but not much.” [USA Today, 9/16/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 1/27/2002; CBS News, 9/2/2003] Bush recalls that this isn’t a difficult decision for him to make, “once I realized there was a protocol… because again, I now realized we’re under attack. This is a war.” According to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, this call between Bush and Cheney takes place shortly after 9:56, when Air Force One took off from the Sarasota airport. [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Consistent with this, Bush and Cheney will tell the 9/11 Commission that Bush gives the shootdown authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But the 9/11 Commission will say the authorization is given in a later call, at 10:18 (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40-41] Bush later indicates that he doesn’t make any major decisions about how to respond to the attacks until after boarding Air Force One, which fits with these accounts of him approving shootdown authorization after take off. [White House, 12/4/2001; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file] But according to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, the authorization is given earlier, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 11/29/2003; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

McChord Air Force Base.McChord Air Force Base. [Source: Michel Teiten]Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls NORAD’s Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), which is at McChord Air Force Base in Washington State, to request assistance. He says: “I’d like to… steal some aircraft out of Fargo from you guys.… Bring up the weapons too, if possible,” to which WADS replies: “Yep, ok. We will do that.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] The three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) are in fact from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which, though based at Fargo, ND, has had a detachment of two F-16s on alert at Langley since late 2000. However, these are under the command of NEADS, not WADS. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/22/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; McChord Air Museum, 2007] It is therefore not clear what specific fighters are now being referred to when Nasypany speaks of the “aircraft out of Fargo,” nor is it clear if and when these planes are launched. Colonel John Cromwell, the commander of WADS, will later recall that he calls every fighter wing commander west of the Mississippi, and by midday (3:00 p.m. ET) has more than 100 fighter jets on alert. [News Tribune (Tacoma, WA), 6/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Western Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The pilots that took off from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) hear a warning over radio that errant aircraft will be shot down, and receive an instruction from the Secret Service to protect the White House. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 222-223]
Pilots Learn of FAA Order - The three Langley fighter jets have now reached the Baltimore-Washington area. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 222] The pilots hear over their radios that the FAA has ordered all civilian aircraft to land. [New York Times, 10/16/2001] (The FAA issued this instruction at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29] )
Borgstrom Hears Shootdown Warning - The three pilots are all on different radio frequencies, but are able to communicate between themselves on their auxiliary frequency. According to author Lynn Spencer, one of them, Captain Craig Borgstrom, hears a message over the emergency radio frequency that is in response to the FAA’s recent order: “Attention all aircraft! Attention all aircraft! You are ordered to land at the nearest suitable airport. All aircraft must land immediately. Violators will be shot down.” The source of this message is unstated. [Filson, 2003, pp. 66; Spencer, 2008, pp. 222-223] (Author Leslie Filson will describe the Langley pilots hearing what is apparently a separate but similar message later on, some time after 10:42 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-11:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 82] )
Instructed to Protect the White House - Around the time Borgstrom hears this, Major Dean Eckmann, the lead Langley pilot, is on the radio with the FAA’s Washington Center. A Secret Service agent has arrived there and wants to talk to him. [Filson, 2003, pp. 68; Spencer, 2008, pp. 222-223] Eckmann then receives a garbled message over his radio, which is difficult to make out. [New York Times, 11/15/2001] The message is, “Protect the house.” Eckmann will later recall, “I took it to mean protect the White House.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 68] He notifies the two other pilots—Borgstrom and Major Brad Derrig—of this message. He tells them, “I think I just talked to the Secret Service, but I’m not sure.” [New York Times, 11/15/2001]
Possible Shootdown Order? - According to Spencer, this message means that “Unknown to NEADS” (NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector), Eckmann has been “given shootdown authority directly from the Secret Service, bypassing the military chain of command.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 223] But Borgstrom and Derrig will later say they “never received explicit orders to fire on incoming planes perceived to be hostile.” [New York Times, 11/15/2001] Borgstrom radios NEADS weapons director Steve Citino and asks for specific instructions about what to do (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 223] According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS will only learn that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then it does not pass this order along to the fighter pilots under its command (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43]

Entity Tags: Brad Derrig, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, Craig Borgstrom, Dean Eckmann, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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). [Air Force Magazine, 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]

Entity Tags: Rob Pedersen, Henry Hugh Shelton, Richard B. Myers

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The NORAD representative on the Pentagon’s air threat conference call reports that General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, has declared “concern” for the crisis that is taking place. At around 9:39 a.m., the NORAD representative said over the conference call that “[n]o assessment for the overall air situation” had been given by NORAD at that point (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But now he says an assessment has been issued. He reports over the conference call: “At this time, CINC [commander in chief] NORAD”—meaning Eberhart—“has declared an assessment of concern for the air events does hold. I say again, an assessment of concern does hold for the air events.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file] Eberhart will tell the 9/11 Commission that at NORAD, he alone would be responsible for making an assessment of concern. He will say that at around 9:40 a.m. to 9:45 a.m., he received a lot of pressure from personnel at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center to say that “yes,” he did assess concern. If he makes an assessment of concern, Eberhart will comment, it triggers a “Defcon surge.” What he means by a “Defcon surge” is unclear. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004] (The military’s defense readiness condition (Defcon) will in fact be raised to Defcon 3, on the orders of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, at 10:52 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131] ) Eberhart will also say that an assessment of concern is “tied basically to a foreign attack” and making it triggers a number of consequences that, among other things, would impact Russia. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004]

Entity Tags: Ralph Eberhart, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania.Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania. [Source: CNN]Exactly when Flight 93 crashes is unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. It will claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff’s radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” It does note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army and drafted by scientists Won-Young Kim and Gerald Baum to determine when the plane crashed will conclude that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. [Kim and Baum, 2002 pdf file; San Francisco Chronicle, 12/9/2002] The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News will publish an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” This notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. [Philadelphia Daily News, 9/16/2002] The New York Observer will note that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don’t have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’” [New York Observer, 2/15/2004]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Federal Aviation Administration, Won-Young Kim, Mary Schiavo, Gerald R. Baum

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In response to the terrorist attacks in the United States, the Russian military cancels a major training exercise it has been holding, turning back its bomber aircraft and calling off planned missile testing. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] The Russian Air Force began the exercise—which was being conducted over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans—on September 10 (see September 10, 2001), and had planned for it to continue until September 14. NORAD has deployed fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the exercise (see September 9, 2001).
Russians Cancel Exercise to Avoid Confusion - The Russians now call off their exercise, “to avoid misunderstandings, since US defenses were now on high alert in case of further possible terrorist attacks,” according to BBC correspondent Bridget Kendall. [BBC, 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/9/2001; Washington Times, 9/11/2001] “The Russians knew NORAD would have its hands full,” the Toronto Star will report. Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will say the Russians stop their exercise “because they understood the magnitude of what had happened to us in the United States. They didn’t want any questions; they didn’t want us worrying about what they would be doing or entering our Air Defense Identification Zone.”
Russia Tells US about Canceling Exercise - The Russians notify the US of their actions. Captain Michael Jellinek, the director of plans, requirements, and readiness at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center in Colorado, will later recall: “They sent the message to the State Department clearly and unambiguously: ‘Don’t worry about our movements, we’re going to stay down for a while.’”
Russia's Actions Are 'Very Helpful' to US - It is unclear when exactly the Russians call off their exercise. According to the Toronto Star, they “immediately” cancel it “on seeing the attacks in New York and Washington.” Glover will say the Russians notify the US that they are stopping their exercise “after the United Flight 93 went into Shanksville” (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Jellinek will call the Russians’ actions in canceling their exercise “[v]ery, very useful. Very helpful.” Glover will comment, “[T]hat was amazing to me, personally, the fact that they stopped their exercise and… that they told us that they were going to stop the exercise.” [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011] Russian President Vladimir Putin will contact the White House and inform National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that the Russians are voluntarily canceling their exercise (see Between 10:32 a.m. and 11:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Michael H. Jellinek, Russian Air Force, North American Aerospace Defense Command, US Department of State, William Glover

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The air traffic control tower at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, broadcasts regular warnings over radio that any aircraft entering the restricted airspace around the capital will be shot down, even though, according to the 9/11 Commission, the president does not authorize the shooting down of threatening aircraft until 10:18 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41] The Andrews control tower begins broadcasting warning messages over the Air Traffic Information System (ATIS) at 10:05 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 pdf file] The ATIS is an automatic information system over which “[p]re-recorded airfield advisory information is automatically transmitted at timed intervals over the airways on a specific frequency.” [US Air Force, 10/1/1999 pdf file]
Planes Told They Could Be 'Shot Down' - A 9/11 Commission document summarizing key transmissions from the Andrews tower will show that warning messages are broadcast about once or twice every 10 minutes. The messages, which are all quite similar, include: “No fly notice. Remain clear of Andrews Class B airspace or you will be shot down,” and, “Any aircraft monitoring Andrews Approach Control frequency: remain clear of Andrews Class B airspace or you will be shot down.” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] (Class B airspace is restricted airspace in which no one is supposed to fly without a working transponder and permission from an air traffic controller. The airspace around much of Washington is designated Class B airspace. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/29/2001] )
Fighter Pilots Hear Warning - At least one of the warning messages is heard by District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) fighter pilots who launch from Andrews Air Force Base at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and by pilots launched from Langley Air Force Base by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) earlier on (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). DCANG pilots Marc Sasseville and Heather Penney Garcia are flying at low altitude over Washington, while the three Langley pilots are above them at around 20,000 feet. Although they are on different radio frequencies, both sets of pilots hear a message over a shared channel: “Attention all aircraft monitoring Andrews tower frequency. Andrews and Class Bravo airspace is closed. No general aviation aircraft are permitted to enter Class Bravo airspace. Any infractions will be shot down.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 82]
Officers Hear Warning - The warning messages are also heard by DCANG officers at Andrews. After hearing that violators of the Washington airspace will be shot down, Brigadier General David Wherley thinks to himself, “I guess that will be us doing the shooting.” [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] Apparently referring to the warnings from the Andrews tower, Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson will later recall: “We kind of winced at that, because there are plenty of hard reasons to not shoot somebody down. We were really in an ID posture—and trying to really be careful.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002]
Shootdown Not Authorized until 10:18 - Although the first of the warnings is broadcast at 10:05 a.m., President Bush only gives authorization for hostile aircraft to be shot down at 10:18 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, in a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). Furthermore, NEADS only learns that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission document of Andrews tower transmissions will show that the warnings are broadcast until at least 11:05 a.m., although presumably they continue after that. [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41-42]

Entity Tags: District of Columbia Air National Guard, Heather Penney Garcia, Marc Sasseville, Phil Thompson, David Wherley, Andrews Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Tape recordings of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) indicate that some military personnel are uncertain whether a training exercise that was being conducted on this day has been canceled. NEADS has been participating in a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] This was reportedly called off “shortly after” the second WTC tower was hit at 9:03 (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Airman, 3/2002] But at 10:06, someone calls NEADS and asks, “Is the exercise knocked off?” to which they are told, “Yes.” Two minutes later, a member of the NEADS staff is heard saying, “If this is an exercise input, this is a good one.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] It is around this time that NEADS is first alerted to Flight 93 (although this plane has already crashed) (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001) and also hears a report of an unidentified aircraft over the White House (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). So presumably it is one of these incidents that is considered a possible “exercise input,” meaning a simulated scenario. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NEADS personnel who are on duty the morning of 9/11.NEADS personnel who are on duty the morning of 9/11. [Source: Vanity Fair] (click image to enlarge)One of the pilots that took off from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to relay information he has received about an aircraft over the White House, and is promptly instructed to intercept this aircraft. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Borgstrom Wants Instructions - The three F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base are now flying in the Baltimore-Washington area. They have just heard a warning over the radio that errant aircraft will be shot down, and received an instruction from the Secret Service to protect the White House (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FAA’s Washington Center also notified them of a suspicious aircraft flying at high speed toward the White House. In response, pilot Craig Borgstrom radios NEADS and asks weapons director Steve Citino for instructions on what to do. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 222-223] Borgstrom says: “Baltimore [the Washington Center] is saying something about an aircraft over the White House. Any words?” Citino replies: “Negative. Stand by,” and then relays Borgstrom’s message to Major James Fox, the leader of the NEADS weapons team. Fox then notifies Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, of the aircraft over the White House.
Ordered to Intercept - Instinctively, Nasypany responds, “Intercept!” and he then elaborates, “Intercept and divert that aircraft away from there.” Citino passes this instruction to the Langley fighters, telling them their mission is to “intercept aircraft over White House. Use FAA for guidance.” Fox then adds: “Divert the aircraft away from the White House. Intercept and divert it.” Borgstrom confirms the order, saying, “Divert the aircraft.”
Unidentified Aircraft a False Alarm - As the F-16s head for the White House, the NEADS controllers are unable to find the building on their dated equipment, and also have trouble communicating with the Langley pilots. NEADS personnel speculate that the unidentified object is probably just a helicopter or smoke from the burning Pentagon. Minutes later, the suspect aircraft will be realized to probably be one of the Langley fighters, mistakenly reported by a Washington Center air traffic controller who was unaware of the military’s scrambles. Citino will comment: “That was cool. We intercepted our own guys.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, Steve Citino, Craig Borgstrom, James Fox

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two senior NORAD officials, Colonel Robert Marr and Major General Larry Arnold, have to address the possibility of issuing shootdown authorization to fighter jets under their command, after a report is received about an aircraft over the White House. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 224-225]
Aircraft over White House - Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, is in the NEADS battle cab. On the NEADS operations floor, mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany has just learned of a report of an aircraft flying over the White House (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001), and now talks to Marr over the phone. Nasypany asks: “Okay, did you hear that? Aircraft over the White House. What’s the word? Intercept and what else?” Marr has a phone to each ear and does not hear what Nasypany says. Nasypany therefore repeats, “Aircraft… over… the White House!” pausing on each word for emphasis. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 224]
Commanders Discuss Shootdown Order - The news of an aircraft over the White House forces Marr and Arnold, with whom he has been communicating, to address the issue of authorizing the shooting down of aircraft. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 225] Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region (CONR), is at the CONR air operations center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. [Code One Magazine, 1/2002] According to author Lynn Spencer, he has not yet received any instructions from his higher-ups regarding shootdown authorization. “He talked to Major General Rick Findley,” who is at NORAD’s operations center in Colorado, “and asked him to get shootdown authority from the vice president, but he’s still heard nothing back.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 225]
Arnold Possibly Authorizes Shootdown - Arnold will later tell author Leslie Filson that he has “the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 75] But according to Vanity Fair, he only passes the current request for rules of engagement further up his chain of command. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] However, Spencer will claim otherwise, stating, “In light of the imminent attack on the White House,” Arnold “decides he will exercise the authority he has to protect the nation in an emergency.” He tells Marr: “We will intercept and attempt to divert. If we can’t, then we’ll shoot it down.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 225]
Alleged Shootdown Authorization Not Passed On - Minutes later, though, Nasypany will tell his staff that the pilots that took off from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) have “negative clearance to shoot” aircraft over Washington (see 10:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 31] And according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS only learns that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then it does not pass this order along to the fighter pilots under its command (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, Robert Marr

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tells members of his staff that the fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) have “negative clearance to shoot” aircraft over Washington. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 226-227]
Marr Does Not Pass on Authorization - NEADS battle commander Colonel Robert Marr has just been talking on the phone with Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region, and the two men have discussed whether fighters should be authorized to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, Arnold told Marr that if a suspicious aircraft cannot be diverted, “then we’ll shoot it down.” However, this is not the instruction that Marr then passes on to Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 225-227] Marr will later tell the 9/11 Commission that at this time, he “may have had the authority” to order a plane shot down, “but he never gave [Nasypany] clearance to fire.” Marr “does not believe at this point there was a clearance to ‘kill.’” [9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 pdf file]
Order Issued: 'Negative Clearance to Fire' - Nasypany relays the instructions Marr gives him to those on the operations floor, saying: “Negative. Negative clearance to shoot.” He then adds: “ID. Type. Tail.” This means the orders are for fighter jets to identify aircraft by their type and tail number, and nothing more. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 46-47; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] About a minute later, Nasypany’s instructions will be passed to the Langley pilots (see 10:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A weapons director at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) informs the fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that they do not have permission to shoot down aircraft over Washington, though he is delayed in giving this instruction due to communications problems. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 45; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 227]
Citino Cannot Reach Borgstrom - Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, has just told his staff that the Langley fighters have “negative clearance to shoot,” and the orders from higher headquarters are that the jets are to identify aircraft by their type and tail number, and nothing more (see 10:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). Now Master Sergeant Steve Citino, a NEADS weapons director, tries relaying these instructions to Captain Craig Borgstrom, one of the three Langley pilots. However, he cannot get through to him over the radio. According to author Lynn Spencer, this is because the “reception is weak over the Washington area, and NEADS loses the ability to communicate whenever [Borgstrom] flies below a certain altitude.” Citino complains to Major James Fox, the leader of the weapons team: “I can’t talk to ‘em. They’re too low.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 227]
Citino Issues Instructions - Finally, about a minute after receiving the instructions from Nasypany, Citino reaches Borgstrom. He tells him, “Reiterating, mission is ID by type… divert if necessary.” Borgstrom acknowledges this instruction, telling Citino, “Quit 2-6 copies.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003] When two of the Langley pilots later discuss this day’s events at a news conference, they will say they “never received explicit orders to fire on incoming planes perceived to be hostile.” [New York Times, 11/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Steve Citino, James Fox, Craig Borgstrom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A lieutenant colonel at the White House repeatedly relays to the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that Vice President Dick Cheney has confirmed that fighter jets are cleared to engage an inbound aircraft if they can verify that the aircraft is hijacked. The lieutenant colonel notifies the NMCC of the authorization over the air threat conference call (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Cheney, who is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, said at sometime between 10:10 and 10:15 that fighters could engage an aircraft that was reportedly approaching Washington (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, it is only when Cheney calls President Bush at 10:18 a.m. that Bush confirms the shootdown order (see 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001). The shootdown order will be received by NORAD, and then, at 10:31 a.m., sent out to its three air defense sectors in the continental US (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41-42; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240]

Entity Tags: National Military Command Center, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A message is put out on NORAD’s computer chat system, notifying its three air defense sectors in the US that peacetime rules of engagement (ROE) still apply, which means fighter jets are not permitted to shoot down hostile aircraft. As a 9/11 Commission memorandum will later describe, on the chat log it is reiterated at this time “that the defensive posture [is] still peacetime ROE.” The person or organization that issues this message is unstated. NORAD’s computer chat system allows those with the proper access to communicate with each other, similarly to the way members of the public do in Internet chat rooms. The NORAD system includes three main chat rooms. The message about the current rules of engagement goes out in the chat room for the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR). This is where CONR’s three sectors—including the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), which has been coordinating the military’s response to the hijackings—communicate with each other. [9/11 Commission, 1/22/2004 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 139] It is not until 10:31 a.m. that Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will issue an instruction over the chat system, stating that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG), talks to a Secret Service agent at the White House regarding some questions he has about the rules of engagement for his fighter jets. [9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003] Wherley, who is at the headquarters of the DCANG’s 121st Fighter Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, has been talking over the phone with Becky Ediger, a senior Secret Service agent at the White House, and told his fighters can use “whatever force is necessary” to prevent an aircraft crashing into a building in the capital (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 445-446; Spencer, 2008, pp. 218]
Wherley Concerned about Rules of Engagement - As Wherley will later tell the 9/11 Commission, he still has “some questions about rules of engagement” that his jets are supposed to follow. He “finally” speaks with a Secret Service agent who answers his concerns. (From the account Wherley gives to the 9/11 Commission, it is unclear if this agent is Ediger, or someone else.) The agent confirms that DCANG fighters are free to engage aircraft if they cannot successfully be diverted. This seems clear enough to Wherley, and, like the previous instructions he received, he interprets it as flying “weapons free,” meaning the decision whether his jets shoot down a threatening aircraft rests with the lead pilot.
Agent Possibly Standing next to Cheney - Wherley will tell the 9/11 Commission that the agent he talks to at this time is “standing next to the vice president.” [9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44] If correct, this would mean they are in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, where Vice President Dick Cheney was evacuated to earlier on (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 9/14/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40]

Entity Tags: David Wherley, District of Columbia Air National Guard, Becky Ediger, US Secret Service

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

In a phone call with Vice President Dick Cheney, President Bush authorizes the military to shoot down hostile aircraft. Minutes earlier, in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, a military aide had asked Cheney for the authority to engage what appeared to be an inbound aircraft, and Cheney had promptly given it (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). During a subsequent quiet moment, deputy White House chief of staff Josh Bolten, who is also in the PEOC, suggested to Cheney that he contact the president to confirm the engage order. Therefore at 10:18 a.m., according to White House logs, Cheney calls Bush, who is on board Air Force One, and speaks with him for two minutes. White House press secretary Ari Fleischer notes that at 10:20 a.m., Bush informs him that he has authorized the shootdown of aircraft, if necessary. According to the 9/11 Commission, “Fleischer’s 10:20 note is the first mention of shootdown authority.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 41 and 465] Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is also on Air Force One, gives a similar account, later telling NBC News that “at about 10:20,” Bush goes from his office into the private cabin in front of it, “and took a phone call, and came back in and said that he had talked to the vice president and to the secretary of defense and gave the authorization that [the] military could shoot down any planes not under control of their crews that were gearing critical targets.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] But other accounts indicate the president gives the shootdown authorization earlier than this. Bush and Cheney will claim that Bush gives the authorization during a call estimated to occur between about 10:00 and 10:15 (see (Between 10:00 a.m. and 10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40] Similarly, according to journalists Bob Woodward and Bill Sammon, Bush gives it in a call with Cheney soon after 9:56, when Air Force One takes off (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 102; Woodward, 2002, pp. 17-18; Washington Post, 1/27/2002] Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke says it is given even earlier. He states that, at some point between about 9:38 and 9:56, he is instructed to tell the Pentagon it has authorization from the president to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 11/29/2003; Clarke, 2004, pp. 8]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Karl C. Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ari Fleischer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, missing for at least 30 minutes, finally enters the NMCC, where the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks is being coordinated. [CNN, 9/4/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld later claims that he only started to gain a situational awareness of what was happening after arriving at the NMCC. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Rumsfeld was in his office only 200 feet away from the NMCC until the Pentagon crash at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). His activities during this period are unclear. He went outside to the Flight 77 crash site and then stayed somewhere else in the Pentagon until his arrival at the NMCC. Brigadier General Montague Winfield later says, “For 30 minutes we couldn’t find him. And just as we began to worry, he walked into the door of the [NMCC].” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] Winfield himself apparently only shows up at the NMCC around 10:30 a.m. as well.

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, National Military Command Center, Montague Winfield

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) issues a message to its three air defense sectors—including the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)—stating that Vice President Dick Cheney has authorized it to shoot down suspicious aircraft.
Order Sent over Computer Chat System - About 15 minutes earlier, a military officer at the White House relayed to the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) that Cheney had confirmed that fighter jets were cleared to engage an inbound aircraft if they could verify that the aircraft was hijacked (see 10:14 a.m.-10:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the 9/11 Commission, “It is not clear how [this] shootdown order was communicated within NORAD.” However, Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, now instructs his staff to broadcast a message over a NORAD computer chat system, passing on Cheney’s authorization. The message states, “10:31 Vice president has cleared to us to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC [General Arnold].” The message is received at CONR’s three air defense sectors: the Western, Southeast, and Northeast. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240]
Arnold Could Issue Shootdown Order Himself - Arnold, who is at the CONR air operations center at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida, will later comment, “I have the authority in case of an emergency to declare a target hostile and shoot it down under an emergency condition… but it was comforting to know we legally had the authority from the president of the United States.” [Filson, 2002; Code One Magazine, 1/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 75-76] The 10:31 chat message is the first notification personnel on the NEADS operations floor receive of the shootdown order. These personnel are reportedly confused over the order and do not pass it on to fighter pilots under their command (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47]

Entity Tags: Continental US NORAD Region, Southeast Air Defense Sector, Western Air Defense Sector, Larry Arnold, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Personnel on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are confused over the nature and effect of an order they have received, which states that the military can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to its directions, and they do not pass this order on to fighter pilots under their command. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 47; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240-241; Farmer, 2009, pp. 228-229] NEADS has just received a message over the NORAD computer chat system from Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), stating that Vice President Dick Cheney has authorized NORAD to shoot down suspicious aircraft (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42]
Weapons Director Alerted to Order - Major Steve Ovens sees the chat message and alerts Major James Fox, the leader of the NEADS weapons team, to it. Ovens says: “We need to read this. Region commander has declared that we can shoot down tracks that do not respond to our direction. Okay?” Fox replies, “Okay,” but Ovens is unconvinced that he has understood Arnold’s message, so he says again, “The region commander has declared that we can shoot down aircraft that do not respond to our directions, okay?” Fox replies, “Copy that.”
NEADS Director Opposes Order - Ovens continues, “So if you’re trying to divert somebody and he won’t divert…” but Fox says, “DO [the director of operations] is saying no.” According to author Lynn Spencer, Fox means that Colonel Lanny McNeely, the NEADS director of operations, is indicating “no.” McNeely has “understood that the battle staff wanted to keep shootdown authority in the [NEADS] battle cab. The commanders were not prepared to pass such authorizations to airborne fighters.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 240-241] However, a 9/11 Commission memorandum will state that McNeely is away from NEADS on this day, in Texas, and no one is currently sitting in the director of operations position. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 pdf file] According to John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, Fox is instead referring to Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, saying “no,” not McNeely. [Farmer, 2009, pp. 229]
Fox Agrees to Pass on Order to Commander - Ovens responds: “No? It came over the chat.… You got a conflict on that direction?” Fox replies, “Right now, no, but…” Showing Fox the chat message, Ovens says: “Okay. You read that from the vice president, right? Vice president has cleared…” Fox reads the message out loud, saying, “Vice president has cleared us to intercept traffic and shoot them down if they do not respond, per CONR CC.” Finally, he says, “Okay, I will pass it to MCC,” meaning Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 241]
NEADS Does Not Pass on Order to Pilots - NEADS personnel will later express to the 9/11 Commission their “considerable confusion over the nature and effect” of this shootdown order, and explain why they fail to pass it on to the fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Langley Air Force Base (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) that are under their command. Nasypany and Fox indicate to the Commission that “they did not pass the order to the fighters circling Washington and New York because they were unsure how the pilots would, or should, proceed with this guidance.” Consequently, “while leaders in Washington believed that the fighters above them had been instructed to ‘take out’ hostile aircraft, the only orders actually conveyed to the pilots were to ‘ID type and tail.’” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43; Farmer, 2009, pp. 229]

Entity Tags: Lanny McNeely, James Fox, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, Robert Marr, Steve Ovens

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA’s Cleveland Center has to authorize two Ohio Air National Guard fighter jets to shoot down threatening aircraft, because NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is unable to communicate directly with those jets and give them the authorization itself. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 241-242] The two F-16s, which belong to the 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard, took off from Toledo Express Airport at 10:17 a.m. (see 10:17 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; WTOL, 9/11/2006]
NEADS Unable to Contact Fighters - NEADS has just received a message, informing it that Vice President Dick Cheney has authorized NORAD to shoot down suspicious aircraft (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42] A weapons officer wants to pass this important information to the two 180th FW fighter pilots. However, since the jets took off, NEADS has been unable to bring them up on their UHF frequency, and so the weapons officer has had to communicate with them indirectly, via the FAA’s Cleveland Center. He now phones the Cleveland Center and asks it to pass on the new rules of engagement to the 180th FW pilots.
Controller Passes on Shootdown Authorization - A Cleveland Center air traffic controller then radios one of those pilots, Scott Reed, and asks him, “Sting 1-1 [Reed’s call sign], Cleveland Center, do you know what your ROE is?” Reed is surprised to hear a civilian controller use the military acronym for “rules of engagement.” He responds, “Sting 1-1, no.” The controller asks, “Would you like to know?” and then tells Reed, “Sting 1-1, if you have a non-military aircraft moving toward a population center, you are clear to engage.” Reed says, “Cleveland Center, Sting 1-1, please confirm ROE.” The controller responds, “Sting 1-1, if the airplane you are vectored against does not comply with your instructions, you are cleared to engage.” According to author Lynn Spencer, Reed “is shocked; he’s just been given clearance—from a civilian controller—to shoot down a commercial airliner.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 241-242] The two 180th FW jets never receive any subsequent orders to engage specific aircraft. According to NEADS battle commander, Colonel Robert Marr, the pilots “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.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] Though it notifies the 180th FW jets, NEADS fails to pass on the shootdown authorization to the fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base and Langley Air Force Base that are under its command (see 10:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43; Farmer, 2009, pp. 229]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Northeast Air Defense Sector, 180th Fighter Wing, Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Scott Reed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Secret Service agent at the White House calls the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, and asks it to launch fighter jets immediately. According to author Lynn Spencer, a report has been received at the White House from the FAA “that there are three planes unaccounted for,” and the Secret Service has therefore determined “it needs fighters up now.” It calls the DCANG to request these jets. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 236] Apparently around the same time, the DCANG receives a call from someone else at the White House—presumably another Secret Service agent—declaring the Washington area “a free-fire zone.” Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, one of the DCANG pilots, will later comment, “That meant we were given authority to use force, if the situation required it, in defense of the nation’s capital, its property, and people.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] Between 10:38 a.m. and 11:11 a.m., five DCANG fighter jets will take off from Andrews to defend Washington (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] The Secret Service contacted the DCANG several times earlier on, requesting that it launch fighters (see (Shortly After 9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (Shortly After 9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 78; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465] Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard, has been on the phone with Secret Service agents at the White House, who have told him his jets should “turn away any airplane that attempts to fly within 20 miles of the Washington area,” and the pilots can use “whatever force is necessary” to prevent another aircraft hitting a building (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:16 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Spencer, 2008, pp. 218]

Entity Tags: Marc Sasseville, District of Columbia Air National Guard, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Billy Hutchison.Billy Hutchison. [Source: Family photo]The first fighter jet to launch from Andrews Air Force Base, 10 miles southeast of Washington, takes off in response to the attacks. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/21/2006] The F-16 belongs to the 121st Fighter Squadron, which is part of the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, and is piloted by Major Billy Hutchison. It is one of three F-16s that were flying on a training mission in North Carolina, over 200 miles from Andrews (see 8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), and which have finally been recalled to the base (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; American Forces Press Service, 5/12/2005] Although the three jets met with a refueling plane, they did not fill their tanks up completely. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 216-217] Hutchison’s aircraft is the only one of them with enough fuel remaining to take off again immediately, though he only has 2,800 pounds, which is equivalent to one-eighth of a tank in a car. His jet has no missiles, and only training ammunition.
Pilot Takes Off, Instructed to Protect Washington - Immediately after landing at Andrews at 10:36 a.m., Hutchison takes off again at the instruction of Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. He is instructed “to intercept an aircraft coming toward DC and prevent it from reaching DC,” he will later recall. [Washington Post, 4/8/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 79-81; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] According to author Lynn Spencer, Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson, the supervisor of flying (SOF) at Andrews, tells Hutchison to “use whatever force is necessary to prevent [the aircraft] from getting to DC.” Thompson adds: “You are weapons free. Do you understand?” “Weapons free” means the decision to shoot at a target now rests solely with Hutchison. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 219] However, according to the 9/11 Commission, the “weapons free” instruction goes out to other pilots that launch from Andrews at 10:42 and after, but apparently not to Hutchison. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44] Thompson will tell Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine simply that he instructs Hutchison “to ‘do exactly what [air traffic control] asks you to do.’ Primarily, he was to go ID [identify] that unknown [aircraft] that everybody was so excited about” (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] Hutchison takes off “without afterburner to conserve fuel, go across the White House over the Georgetown area and continue northwest up the Potomac,” he will recall (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 81]
Conflicting Timelines - Conflicting times will later be given for when Hutchison takes off from Andrews. The pilots with the 121st Fighter Squadron will admit that their own recollection of the morning’s timeline “is fuzzy.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] According to 113th Wing operations desk records, Hutchison takes off at 10:33 a.m. [Filson, 2003, pp. 81, 89] Based on an interview with David Wherley, the 9/11 Commission states he is airborne at 10:38 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44, 465] Recordings of air traffic controller transmissions confirm this time. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] But in her 2008 book Touching History, Lynn Spencer will claim Hutchison took off significantly earlier, some time after 9:50 but before Flight 93 crashed (which was just after 10:00 a.m.). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 216-220] (However, she will later amend her claim, saying instead, “Radio data indicates that Hutchison’s flight did not depart from Andrews… until just after 10:35.” [Lynn Spencer, 2008] ) Two more fighters will take off from Andrews at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and another two take off at 11:11 a.m. (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). Due to his plane’s limited fuel, Hutchison will only be airborne for about 10 minutes, and he lands back at Andrews at 10:47 a.m. (see 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/28/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446]
One Jet Landed Already - The first of the three F-16s to return from the training mission over North Carolina landed at Andrews at 10:14 a.m., but did not take off again to defend Washington (see 10:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). The other F-16, piloted by Lou Campbell, landed with Hutchison’s jet at 10:36 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004] The 113th Wing is not part of NORAD’s air sovereignty force and, according to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, does not have an alert mission. [Filson, 2003, pp. 76] According to Phil Thompson, “We’ve never been an air defense unit,” but “We practice scrambles, we know how to do intercepts and other things.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Andrews Air Force Base, Billy Hutchison, Lou Campbell, 121st Fighter Squadron, David Wherley, District of Columbia Air National Guard, Phil Thompson

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Vice President Dick Cheney tries to bring Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld up to date over the National Military Command Center’s (NMCC) conference call (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), as Rumsfeld arrived at the NMCC just minutes earlier (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Cheney explains that he has given authorization for hijacked planes to be shot down and that this has been passed on to the fighter pilots. Rumsfeld asks, “So we’ve got a couple of aircraft up there that have those instructions at the present time?” Cheney replies: “That is correct. And it’s my understanding they’ve already taken a couple of aircraft out.” Then Rumsfeld says: “We can’t confirm that. We’re told that one aircraft is down but we do not have a pilot report that they did it.” Cheney is incorrect about his authorization having reached the pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mike Walter.Mike Walter. [Source: CNN]According to a number of witnesses on the ground, a US Air Force F-16 flies low over the Pentagon at this time; apparently becoming the first fighter to arrive over the scene of the third attack. [American Forces Press Service, 10/11/2001; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 130-131] Firefighters and other emergency responders at the Pentagon recently evacuated away from the crash site, due to reports of another supposedly hijacked aircraft flying toward Washington (see (10:15 a.m.-10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A30 pdf file]
bullet Steve Carter, the assistant building manager, is in the Pentagon’s center courtyard, expecting this plane to hit the building. He then sees an F-16 zoom “low and fast over the courtyard.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 130]
bullet On Washington Boulevard, where many fire and rescue personnel relocated during the evacuation, cheers go up when the F-16 flies over. Firefighter Mike Smith shouts out: “Thank God that guy’s there! Where has he been?” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 130-131]
bullet Lieutenant Commander Dale Rielage will recall that an “arriving combat air patrol F-16 thundered overhead” after the alleged second hijacked plane was said to be approaching the Pentagon. [Fire Engineering, 11/1/2002]
bullet John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, says that, following the evacuation, “It wasn’t until an F-15 fighter jet crossed in the sky that we realized the danger had passed.” [Murphy, 2002, pp. 246-247]
bullet USA Today reporter Mike Walter, who has been at the Pentagon since the attack there, recalls that, after the evacuation, an “F-16 came screaming by the Pentagon, and people cheered.” [People, 9/24/2001]
bullet Staff Sergeant Edwin Rotger Jr. will also describe seeing fighters arriving over the Pentagon at this time. However, he says there are two of them, not one. [Office of Medical History, 9/2004, pp. 49]
bullet According to the New York Times, “witnesses, including a reporter for the New York Times who was headed toward the building, did not see any [fighter jets over the Pentagon] until closer to 11 [o’clock].” [New York Times, 9/16/2001]
According to some accounts, the fighter that flies over the Pentagon at this time is Major Billy Hutchison’s F-16 from Andrews Air Force Base (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 235] Hutchison will recall, “I circled at a couple of hundred feet at the most just to, one, investigate, and two, give the people on the ground some semblance of security of an American fighter coming by” (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 81-82] However, some accounts contradict this. Major Dean Eckmann, from Langley Air Force Base, suggests his F-16 is the first to fly over the Pentagon, and this was at some time shortly after 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will say: “I heard stories that people went back in [the Pentagon] after seeing me fly over to help others out.… Now they knew they were safe.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 66] Other accounts similarly suggest that the first fighter jet (or jets) arrived over the Pentagon significantly earlier than is described by the witnesses on the ground, between 9:49 and 10:00 a.m. (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [CNN, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 34]

Entity Tags: Edwin Rotger Jr., Dale Rielage, Dean Eckmann, John Jester, Mike Walter, Steve Carter, Billy Hutchison, Mike Smith

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Heather Penney Garcia.Heather Penney Garcia. [Source: Johnathon Orrell]Two F-16 fighter jets belonging to the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) take off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, but they have no missiles and only training bullets for their guns. The pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville and Lieutenant Heather Penney Garcia. [Filson, 2003, pp. 82; 9/11 Commission, 2004; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446]
Possibly Given Shootdown Authorization - Before they headed to their jets, Sasseville and Penney Garcia were given a short briefing by Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. Wherley will later recall telling Sasseville that he has “weapons free flight-lead control,” meaning he is responsible for deciding whether to fire on hostile aircraft (see (Between 9:40 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 82; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] But Sasseville will say he does not recall receiving any such rules of engagement until after he has taken off. [9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 pdf file]
Jets Only Have Training Ammunition - The two pilots run out to their jets and climb into the cockpits. But their F-16s are armed only with “hot” guns and 511 rounds of non-explosive training practice (TP) ammunition. According to Sasseville: “They had two airplanes ready to go, and were putting missiles on numbers three and four. Maintenance wanted us to take the ones with missiles, but we didn’t have time to wait on those.”
Rookie Pilot 'Never Scrambled Before' - Penney Garcia, who is a rookie pilot, will later say: “I’d never scrambled before, I’d never done this. I was screaming to the maintainers to pull the chocks, and the guys were pulling the pins to arm the guns. We were going without INS [inertial navigation system].” Sasseville and Penney Garcia are airborne about six minutes after reaching their jets. They are unaware that fighters launched from Langley Air Force Base are also flying over Washington, at around 20,000 feet (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 82]
Told to Look for Hijacked Plane - Over their radios, Sasseville and Penney Garcia receive instructions from their squadron to look for a hijacked aircraft approaching from the northwest and heading toward Georgetown (see (10:30 a.m.-10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But, Sasseville will later recall, “We didn’t know what we were looking for—how high he was coming, or low, or where he was going.” [Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] He will say, “I don’t have the whole picture, but have word from Washington National Approach that something is coming.”
Pilot 'Making Things Up on the Fly' - The two jets will fly over Washington at low altitudes, around 5,000 or 6,000 feet. Sasseville will later say, “I didn’t want to get too low for a good radar angle, and not too high, so we could get somewhere fast.” He will admit that he is “making things up on the fly,” as he has no precedent to draw upon. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 82] Another DCANG pilot, Billy Hutchison, launched from Andrews four minutes before Sasseville and Penney Garcia take off, but he is airborne for less than 10 minutes (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). The next DCANG jets to take off, which will be armed with missiles, launch at 11:11 a.m. (see 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446]

Entity Tags: Heather Penney Garcia, David Wherley, District of Columbia Air National Guard, Andrews Air Force Base, 121st Fighter Squadron, Marc Sasseville

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The US military’s defense readiness condition is raised from Defcon 5, the lowest possible level, to Defcon 3, an intermediate level that requires a heightened alert status for US armed forces worldwide, and which is the highest the defense readiness condition has been for 28 years. [Historical Office, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 338]
Rumsfeld Recommends Raising Defcon - The decision to go to Defcon 3 is reportedly made by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] Rumsfeld will later recall that after he arrives at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he talks with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and “[w]e discussed and I recommended raising the defense condition level from five to three.” [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004]
Teleconference Participants Told to 'Hold Off' on Defcon 3 - Rumsfeld directs that the US military go to Defcon 3. At 10:43 a.m., it is announced on the air threat conference call that the secretary of defense “has directed that we go to Defcon 3 and be prepared to go to [Defcon] 2.” However, a minute later, Rumsfeld talks to Vice President Dick Cheney on the conference call, and Cheney says he will have to run the decision to go to Defcon 3 by the president, “and let him make the call.” Therefore, at 10:45 a.m., those on the conference call are told to “hold off on Defcon 3.”
Order to Raise Defcon Reinstated - But Rumsfeld believes raising the defense readiness condition is urgent. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554] There is therefore a “historical discussion about how the move to Defcon 3 went during previous crises, Cuba specifically [i.e. the Cuban missile crisis in 1962],” Captain Charles Leidig, who is also in the NMCC, will later recall. With their reference being “a book on the shelf,” according to Leidig, Myers is shown that he has “approval authority to go to Defcon 3.” [9/11 Commission, 4/29/2004 pdf file] After consulting Defense Department directives, Rumsfeld concludes that he has the authority to issue the order to raise the defense readiness condition. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554] Therefore, at 10:46 a.m., those on the air threat conference call are told: “Override last instructions. The vice chairman [i.e. Myers] is directing we go to Defcon 3.” A few minutes later, an announcement is made on the conference call, “Emergency action message released at 14:52 [Zulu time, i.e. 10:52 a.m. Eastern time], re: Defcon 3.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
Raising Defcon Is a 'Huge Move' - Rumsfeld will later agree with an interviewer that raising the defense readiness condition is “a very serious step for the nation.” [US Department of Defense, 8/12/2002] It was last raised to Defcon 3 during the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, when Rumsfeld had been the United States ambassador to NATO. Regarding the decision to raise it, Myers tells Rumsfeld, “It’s a huge move, but it’s appropriate.” [US Department of Defense, 1/9/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2004 pdf file; Rumsfeld, 2011, pp. 338]
President Later Told of Decision - The decision to go to Defcon 3 will soon be communicated within NORAD (see 11:03 a.m.-11:12 a.m. September11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] Rumsfeld will brief President Bush on the decision (see (11:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 554; Bush, 2010, pp. 133] Apparently around the time the defense readiness condition is raised, Rumsfeld and/or Myers also decide to raise the force protection condition of US military installations (see (Between 10:10 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; Myers, 2009, pp. 153]
Defcon 3 Intended for Cold War - Some individuals will later be critical of the decision to raise the defense readiness condition at this time. John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will write that Defcon 3 is in fact “a Cold War-era designation, devised to respond to a nuclear threat.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 235] According to Farmer and other 9/11 Commission staffers, it is “suited more to a Cold War conflict than to al-Qaeda’s attack.” [Rutgers Law Review, 9/7/2011 pdf file] General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, will similarly say that Defcon 3 is “not intended for [events like] the attacks of 9/11 and thus could have complicated the response to the attacks.” He will say he does not think that raising the condition would have “done anything for us” within the continental United States. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]
Defcons Are Phased Increases in Combat Readiness - The defense readiness condition is a “uniform system of progressive alert postures for use between the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of unified and specified commands, and for use by the [armed] services,” according to the Department of Defense. [US Department of Defense, 11/8/2011 pdf file] Defcons are phased increases in combat readiness and are graduated to match situations of varying military severity. They are numbered, from Defcon 5, which means “normal peacetime readiness,” down to Defcon 1, which means “maximum force readiness.” The current level, Defcon 3, represents an “increase in force readiness above normal readiness.” [Federation of American Scientists, 4/29/1998] The defense readiness condition will remain at Defcon 3 until three days later, when it will be reduced one notch, to Defcon 4 (see September 14, 2001). [Washington Post, 1/30/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, John Farmer, Charles Leidig, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Ralph Eberhart, Richard B. Myers, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The first fighter jet that launched from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, in response to the morning’s attacks lands at its base less than 10 minutes after taking off. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] The F-16, which is piloted by Major Billy Hutchison, was ordered to take off immediately after arriving back at Andrews from a training mission in North Carolina (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Hutchison has made two loops up the Potomac River, and flown over the burning Pentagon (see 10:39 a.m.-10:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 235] His aircraft had only 2,800 pounds of fuel—equivalent to one-eighth of a tank in a car—remaining when he took off, and he’d subsequently noticed his fuel gauge pegged at the lowest level it can indicate, 400 pounds. He announced to the air traffic controller he was communicating with, “I’ve got to go.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 79; Spencer, 2008, pp. 248] Hutchison will later recall that his plane is “on vapors” when he lands. [9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004] By now, two more F-16s have taken off from Andrews (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 82; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] Hutchison’s jet is refueled and loaded with weapons, and he will then take off again to defend Washington. [9/11 Commission, 2/27/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 249]

Entity Tags: Billy Hutchison, Andrews Air Force Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado.The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. [Source: NORAD]The message goes out within NORAD that the military’s defense readiness condition has been raised to Defcon 3. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the defense readiness condition be raised from Defcon 5—the lowest level—to Defcon 3 at around 10:45 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131] At 10:52 a.m., an emergency action message about the increased defense readiness condition was issued. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
NORAD Personnel Learn of Defcon Change - Word of the change is then communicated within NORAD. At 11:03 a.m., NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is ordered to Defcon 3. Four minutes later, at 11:07 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Steve Usher, the director of combat operations at the headquarters of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in Florida, announces that Defcon 3 has been ordered. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003] And a military log will state that “NORAD has directed Defcon change” at 11:12 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 2004] Staff Sergeant Brent Lanier, an emergency action controller in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado, is tasked with sending out a message about the change to the defense readiness condition. He will later recall: “I’d sent out false Defcon messages during exercises, but I never thought I’d have to send out an actual Defcon change message—but I did. It was frightening.” [Airman, 3/2002]
NORAD Officers Discuss Defcon Change - Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he hears of the change to the defense readiness condition either from Major General Rick Findley, the director of operations at the CMOC, or from one of NORAD’s computer chat logs. [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file] Usher will tell the 9/11 Commission that the instruction to raise the defense readiness condition comes either from the CONR Regional Air Operations Center or from Arnold. He will add that there is an emergency action message confirming the transition. [9/11 Commission, 2/4/2004 pdf file] Arnold will recall that, at some unspecified time, he calls General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, about the change to the defense readiness condition, with the intention of informing Eberhart “of what was ongoing.” [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 pdf file]
Change in Defcon Affects Who Can Declare a Target Hostile - Steve Hedrick, an air weapons officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “any change in Defcon is authenticated immediately” with the fighter jets under NORAD control. He will also say that “the main change when a Defcon level changes is in who has the authority to declare a target hostile.” Hedrick will note that the order from Vice President Dick Cheney, that NORAD fighters were “cleared… to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond” (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), is “distinct and different from the transition in Defcon levels.” [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42]

Entity Tags: Continental US NORAD Region, Steve Usher, Steve Hedrick, Eric A. “Rick” Findley, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Larry Arnold, Ralph Eberhart, Brent Lanier, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Weapons load crew members from the District of Columbia Air National Guard arming an F-16 on September 11.Weapons load crew members from the District of Columbia Air National Guard arming an F-16 on September 11. [Source: Corensa Brooks / District of Columbia Air National Guard] (click image to enlarge)Two District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) fighter jets take off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, to defend the capital, the first DCANG planes to launch armed with missiles as well as bullets. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 pdf file] The two F-16s are piloted by Captain Brandon Rasmussen and Major Daniel Caine. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] Although Caine was his unit’s supervisor of flying (SOF) this morning, he decided earlier on that he was going to get airborne, and so Lieutenant Colonel Phil Thompson has taken his place as SOF (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 76; Spencer, 2008, pp. 184]
Commander Supposedly Gave Shootdown Authority - As Caine and Rasmussen were passing the SOF area on the way to their fighters, they were quickly briefed by Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the DC Air National Guard. Wherley had by then received instructions from the Secret Service for his fighter jets to follow (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 10:16 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, he told the two pilots: “You need to establish a CAP [combat air patrol] over Washington. Intercept any incoming aircraft 60 miles out and use whatever force necessary to keep it from targeting buildings downtown.” Wherley said, “You will be weapons free,” which means the decision whether to fire on a hostile aircraft rests with the lead pilot, and added, “Just be careful.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 44; Spencer, 2008, pp. 238] However, Rasmussen will contradict this account, saying that once he is airborne, “we still haven’t been told, ‘You are clear to engage anybody.’ They just said, ‘Get airborne as quick as you can.’” But while the two pilots were getting suited up ready to fly, Caine, who will be the flight lead, had reassured Rasmussen that he would take responsibility for firing on any hostile planes. He’d said: “Whatever you do, don’t be the first one to shoot.… Let me be the first one to shoot, if it comes to that, and then do what I do.” [Rasmussen, 9/18/2003]
Fighters Loaded with Missiles - Three DCANG jets took off from Andrews earlier on, but none of them were armed with missiles (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] Missiles were loaded onto Caine and Rasmussen’s F-16s while they were sitting in the cockpits. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] Rasmussen will later recall that “we were probably 20 to 30 minutes behind” the previous two jets to launch, “because they were loading heat-seeking missiles on the aircraft.… Once they armed us up, we just rolled right down the runway and blasted off.” The jets take off with hot guns and two AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles each. According to Rasmussen, this is the first time he has flown with live missiles. He will say, “I had never flown with real missiles and had never so much as seen them on the jet.”
Communicate with FAA Controllers - After taking off, Caine and Rasmussen communicate with the FAA’s Washington Center, “primarily to control us and give us an idea of the air picture,” according to Rasmussen. The Washington Center normally controls all of the air traffic in the area. However, its controllers are not trained as weapons controllers. Rasmussen will say: “[W]e’re used to working with AWACS [Airborne Warning and Control System] weapons controllers or GCI [ground control intercept].” GCI is “a ground-based radar facility with weapons controllers who will give you the tactical air picture; control and coordinate who is targeting what aircraft; and run the air war that way.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 84; Rasmussen, 9/18/2003]
Airborne for 3-4 Hours - DCANG pilot Marc Sasseville, who took off at 10:42 a.m., was initially the CAP commander, but Caine takes over this responsibility from him once he is in the air. [9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 pdf file; Vogel, 2007, pp. 446] Caine and Rasmussen will remain airborne for three or four hours, which is at least twice as long as the usual maximum duration for an air-to-ground sortie, of about an hour and a half. [Rasmussen, 9/18/2003]

Entity Tags: 121st Fighter Squadron, Daniel Caine, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center, District of Columbia Air National Guard, David Wherley, Brandon Rasmussen

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Logo of the 192nd Fighter Wing.Logo of the 192nd Fighter Wing. [Source: Air National Guard]More fighter jets arrive over Washington, DC. These include F-16s from Richmond, Virginia, and Atlantic City, New Jersey. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002] The Atlantic City jets belong to the 177th Fighter Wing (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the Richmond jets belong to the 192nd Fighter Wing. [GlobalSecurity (.org.), 10/21/2001; Code One Magazine, 10/2002] Fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), are already flying over the capital. Captain Brandon Rasmussen, who took off from Andrews at 11:11 a.m., actually flies out to intercept the fighters from Richmond, apparently not realizing who they are. He will later recall: “I ended up running an intercept out of a two-ship out of Richmond, two-ship F-16 out of Richmond that just came flying north. In essence, we would find whatever we could on the radar, ask [the FAA’s] Washington Center if they knew who it was, and if they didn’t, we would run an intercept on them to visual identify who they were.” [Rasmussen, 9/18/2003] According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, with jets from different units arriving over Washington, “The air picture was confused, at best, and radio frequencies were alive with chatter.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002]

Entity Tags: 177th Fighter Wing, Brandon Rasmussen, 192nd Fighter Wing, Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld speaks with President Bush, and they discuss the rules of engagement for fighter pilots and Rumsfeld’s decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554] Rumsfeld is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon and Bush is on board Air Force One, flying toward Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004] After Rumsfeld entered the NMCC at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he had been concerned with ensuring that fighter pilots defending US airspace have a clear understanding of their rules of engagement, so they know “what they could and could not do” (see (10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 43-44] He also directed that the nation’s armed forces go to Defcon 3, an increased state of military readiness (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131]
President Approves Decision to Raise Defcon - Rumsfeld now speaks with Bush and, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, tells him that the Department of Defense is “working on refining the rules of engagement, so pilots would have a better understanding of the circumstances under which an aircraft could be shot down.” Also at this time, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Rumsfeld briefs Bush on his decision to raise the defense readiness condition to Defcon 3. When Rumsfeld ordered that the condition be raised, Vice President Dick Cheney told him to run the issue by the president; Rumsfeld replied that he would “call him shortly.” [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 465, 554] Bush gives Rumsfeld his approval for having raised the defense readiness condition. [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; Bush, 2010, pp. 133]
Defense Readiness Condition Possibly Discussed at Later Time - Although the 9/11 Commission Report will say Rumsfeld and Bush’s discussion of the defense readiness condition occurs at 11:15 a.m., in his 2010 book Decision Points, Bush will write that he approves Rumsfeld’s decision when he speaks to Rumsfeld from the office of Lieutenant General Thomas Keck at Barksdale Air Force Base. [Bush, 2010, pp. 133] If correct, this would mean the relevant phone call takes place sometime after 12:11 p.m., when Bush goes to Keck’s office (see (12:11 p.m.-1:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Sammon, 2002, pp. 112-113; American History, 10/2006 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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