!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '(8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Boston Center Calls Atlantic City Military Unit to Request Fighters; Outcome of Call Unclear'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Boston Center Calls Atlantic City Military Unit to Request Fighters; Outcome of Call Unclear. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

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

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

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

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

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

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike