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Context of '8:45 a.m.-8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001: NEADS Technician Locates Flight 11 on Radar Screen, Then Sees It Disappear over New York'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An F-16 heading to the combat ranges of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for the Red Flag training exercise in January 2006.An F-16 heading to the combat ranges of Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, for the Red Flag training exercise in January 2006. [Source: US Department of Defense]In late August and early September 2001, members of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) participate in the “Red Flag” training exercise in Nevada. They do not return from it until September 8. (Vogel 4/8/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 156)
Red Flag - Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise that involves the air forces of the US and its allies. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 10/19/2002) It is managed by the Air Warfare Center through the 414th Combat Training Squadron. Most of the aircraft and personnel that are deployed for Red Flag are part of the exercise’s “Blue Forces,” which use various tactics to attack targets that are defended by an enemy “Red Force,” which electronically simulates anti-aircraft artillery, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jamming equipment. A variety of aircraft are involved in the exercise. (Boyne 11/2000) Red Flag is held four times a year at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. It is usually composed of two or three two-week periods. (Arkin 2005, pp. 476) The current exercise began on August 11, and involves more than 100 pilots in total. (Wessels 7/28/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/22/2001)
Exercise May Hinder Defense of Washington on 9/11 - The timing of the Red Flag exercise may reduce the ability of the DCANG to respond to the 9/11 attacks. The 121st Fighter Squadron is stationed at Andrews Air Force Base, which is located 10 miles southeast of Washington, DC. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) Most of its pilots are involved with the unit on only a part-time basis, while flying commercial jet planes in their civilian lives. (Vogel 4/8/2002) Therefore, according to author Lynn Spencer, on 9/11 most of the 121st Fighter Squadron’s pilots will be “back at their airline jobs, having just returned three days before from two weeks of the large-scale training exercise ‘Red Flag’ at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas. [The squadron has] only seven pilots available.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 156) In addition, some of the pilots will need to have their flight data disks reprogrammed before they can launch. Pilot Heather Penney Garcia will reportedly be “busy reprogramming flight data disks, which still contain all the Nellis data from the Red Flag training exercise they just returned from” (see (Between 9:05 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 236-237) A significant number of fighter jets from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia also participate in Red Flag around this time (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). (Sizemore 9/24/2001; Doscher 9/15/2006)

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

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

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

A group of five Arabs attempts to penetrate a secure area leading to parked aircraft at Washington’s Dulles Airport. However, they are seen by two security guards, Eric Gill and Nicolas de Silva. Gill, who will later identify two of the men as 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi, notices they approach a door to the secure area in a suspicious manner and that only three of them are dressed as United Airlines ramp workers and have the correct passes. Gill, a Pakistani, prevents the two without passes from entering the secure area, and realizes that he does not recognize the other three, and that their uniforms are unusually dirty for United employees. The men tell Gill to “f_ck off” and say that they are “important people,” but Gill still refuses to let the two without passes enter, and eventually all five men retreat. Gill goes off duty at 10:00 p.m. and his supervisor will comment after 9/11, “If someone wanted access to the aircraft, say to plant weapons, it would have been easy for the group Eric saw to come back after he got off duty and simply use the ID cards they had to activate the electronic lock and slip through.” Reporters Joe and Susan Trento, who break this story, will be unable to interview another security guard, Khalid Mahmoud, who was guarding the next door, as he will be immediately taken by the INS after 9/11 and presumably deported. De Silva has a poor memory for faces and will recall the incident happening, but will not be able to identify any of the Arabs. The FBI and 9/11 Commission will apparently not place much weight on Gill’s identification of the hijackers, as Alshehhi is believed to be in Boston at this time (see Afternoon September 11, 2001). (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 2-6, 44-5) However, Alshehhi checks out of his hotel on this date and his last recorded action in Boston is before noon, so he may have flown to Dulles in the afternoon and could return by the following morning (see September 10, 2001). An INS employee will tell journalist Seymour Hersh that guns were placed on the planes on 9/11 (see After 11:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Security cameras record two of the hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and possibly Salem Alhazmi, at Dulles this same day, but it is unclear whether their presence is related to this incident. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 281 pdf file)

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

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

Many aircraft at Andrews Air Force Base, which is just a few miles outside Washington, DC, are taking part in training exercises. James Ampey, an FAA air traffic controller who is currently on duty in the control tower at the base, will later recall that there are “an unusually high number of aircraft taking off and landing at Andrews [this] morning, because previously scheduled military exercises [are] underway.” (9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file) It is unclear what specific exercises these aircraft are participating in, and the exact time period Ampey is referring to.
Militarized 747 Involved in 'Global Guardian' Exercise - According to journalist and author Dan Verton, around the time of the Pentagon attack, “civilian and military officials [are] boarding a militarized version of a Boeing 747, known as the E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC), at an airfield outside of the nation’s capital. They [are] preparing to conduct a previously scheduled Defense Department exercise” (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Verton 2003, pp. 143-144) This airfield is Andrews Air Force Base and the exercise being referred to is the US Strategic Command’s annual exercise, Global Guardian, for which three E-4Bs are launched (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001 and Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002; Kieschnick 9/7/2012 pdf file) Whether other aircraft that are taking off or landing at Andrews are participating in Global Guardian is unknown.
NORAD Exercise, 'Vigilant Guardian' - Another major exercise taking place this morning is called Vigilant Guardian. All of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is participating in it (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seely 1/25/2002; Scott 6/3/2002) However, Andrews is not one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US. (McKenna 12/1999) And the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews, is not part of the NORAD air defense force. (Scott 9/9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 76) Furthermore, members of the 113th Wing have just returned from a major training exercise in Nevada (see Late August-September 8, 2001), and so, with only a few pilots and planes available, today is a “light flying day” for their unit. (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) Presumably the 113th Wing is therefore not currently participating in Vigilant Guardian or any other major exercises.
Numerous Units at Andrews - There are, however, many units at Andrews that may be participating in exercises. Among more than 60 separate organizations located at the base are units from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard. (DC Military (.com) 6/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) These units include Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 321 (VMFA-321), which flies the F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet, and Naval Air Facility, Washington, DC, which has numerous aircraft available, including the F/A-18 Hornet. (DC Military (.com) 2/9/2001; DC Military (.com) 6/2001)
Andrews Units Respond to Attacks - DC Air National Guard fighters will later take off from Andrews to protect Washington in response to the morning’s attacks (see (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 11:11 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Scott 9/9/2002) And a member of VMFA-321 calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) at around 9:50 a.m. to offer his unit’s assistance in response to the attacks (see (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 188)

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

Vanessa Minter.Vanessa Minter. [Source: Capitol Broadcasting Company]Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, calls the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, to report the emergency on her plane. Ong makes the call using an Airfone. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Flight attendants know the reservations 800 number that she calls because they often call it to help passengers with reservations questions. Calls made to the number are routed to the first available phone station at one of several facilities, including the office in Cary. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001, pp. 72-74; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8)
Ong Tells Agent, 'We're Being Hijacked' - The call is answered by Vanessa Minter, a reservation agent. The first thing Ong says is, “I think we’re being hijacked.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453) Minter will later reflect: “There was something in her voice that said: ‘Okay, this isn’t funny. This isn’t a joke. This is real.’” (WRAL 9/9/2011)
Resolution Agent Joins Call - Minter asks Ong to hold for a moment. She then phones the American Airlines international resolution desk, which is on the other side of the building. Winston Sadler, the resolution agent, answers, and Minter tells him she has a woman on the phone who is calling from an American Airlines flight that is being hijacked. Minter says she cannot find the “emergency button” on her phone, and Sadler notices that she seems panicked. He offers to take over the call, and so Minter transfers it to him. The phone system allows Sadler to be connected to Minter’s line while Minter remains on it.
Alarm Sent Out to Notify Supervisor - Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Sadler pushes the emergency button on his phone, which initiates a tape recording of Ong’s call and also sends out an alarm that notifies Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office, to pick up the call. Gonzalez will join the call from Ong a short time later (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Sadler will tell the FBI that as soon as he joins Ong’s call, he is convinced it is a genuine phone call from an airplane, because he is used to hearing the background noise that occurs in calls from airplane telephones, and he can hear such noise during Ong’s call. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 453)
Only First Four Minutes of Call Recorded - Ong’s call will last over 25 minutes, ending at around 8:44 a.m. or 8:45 a.m. (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and in it Ong will relay crucial information about what is happening on her plane. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) However, only the first four minutes of the call are recorded. This is because the recently installed recording system at the reservations office has a default time limit. The recording system it replaced did not have such a time limit. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8)

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). (Sheehy 2/15/2004; Sheehy 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; Zambito 3/6/2009; Keith 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)

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. (Hersh 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. (Schofield 9/15/2001) FAA and American Airline officials will later deny the gun story and suggest that Lewin is probably stabbed to death instead. (Eggen 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.” (Sperry 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; Ridgeway 2/8/2005)

Craig Marquis.Craig Marquis. [Source: American Airlines]Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, calls the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, to notify it of the trouble on Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) Gonzalez, along with two of her colleagues, is currently on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who called the reservations office at 8:18 a.m. to report that her plane had been hijacked (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (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) Realizing the seriousness of the situation, Gonzalez calls the SOC. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) Her phone system is not set up to transfer calls, so she holds the phone on which she is monitoring Ong’s call to one ear while calling the SOC on another phone. (Spencer 2008, pp. 17)
Gonzalez Says 'Everyone's Been Stabbed' on Flight 11 - Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, answers the call. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) He says this is the “American Airlines emergency line,” and then says, “Please state your emergency.” After introducing herself, Gonzalez says, “I am monitoring a call in which Flight 11, the flight attendant is advising our reps that the pilot, everyone’s been stabbed.” She adds, “They can’t get into the cockpit is what I’m hearing,” and then tells Marquis: “I’ve got the flight attendant on the line with one of our agents.… I can go in on the line and ask the flight attendant questions.” Marquis replies, “I’m assuming they’ve declared an emergency.” He then says, “Let me get ATC [air traffic control] on here.” He tells Gonzalez to “stand by.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Marquis immediately starts an active log on the incident, reporting it as a flight emergency. This requires that he display all of the information that is available to him about Flight 11 on the monitors at his workstation. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file)
Gonzalez Gets More Information from Ong - Gonzalez asks Ong more questions while Marquis is off the line. Ong says she is the number three flight attendant on her plane and she has phoned no one other than those at the reservations office. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6) Gonzalez tells Ong: “I’ve got security on the line.… So just bear with us.” Marquis then returns to the line and asks Gonzalez if Flight 11 is descending or “landing somewhere.” (Marquis will tell the 9/11 Commission that at the beginning of the call from Gonzalez, he is “wondering where [Flight 11] was going to be taken to land.”) Gonzalez replies, “[Ong] says they’re in the air.” She adds that she is talking to “Betty,” who is the number three flight attendant. This detail enables Marquis to cross-check the information Ong has provided with the crew manifest for Flight 11, thereby confirming that Ong’s plane is indeed Flight 11.
Marquis Unaware that Flight 11 Is Hijacked - Gonzalez then asks Marquis if there is a way that Ong can communicate with the pilots on her plane, because Ong has said that “she can’t get… into the cockpit.” Marquis replies, “Well maybe [the pilots are] busy.” (Marquis will tell the 9/11 Commission that, at this point, he is wondering “why Ong doesn’t bang on the door of the cockpit” to get the pilot’s attention. He will explain that he “did not assume the plane was hijacked with the information he had from Gonzalez at that time.”)
Gonzalez Learns that Hijackers Are in the Cockpit - Marquis says he will get hold of the American Airlines dispatcher in charge of Flight 11 and ask them to contact the pilot. He tells Gonzalez to “stand by” and then calls the dispatcher (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) While Marquis does this, Gonzalez continues talking to Ong, and Ong says the hijackers are in the cockpit (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 10) When Marquis comes back on the line, Gonzalez says to him, “Betty is telling me that the guys, there’s two men [that] are in the cockpit with the pilots.” Marquis tells Gonzalez, “I have the dispatcher contacting the crew right now… so I’ll keep you informed.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)
Marquis Finds Call 'Tough' - Gonzalez calls the SOC at 8:27 a.m., according to an SOC chronology. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, she makes the call at 8:21 a.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5) Marquis will describe the call as “tough,” because he is unable to hear Ong directly. He wants the call from Ong to be transferred to him, he will say, but Gonzalez is unable to do this. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) While only the first four minutes of Ong’s call to the reservations office are recorded, all of Gonzalez’s call to the SOC is recorded. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10)

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in Cary, North Carolina, that the hijackers on her plane are in the cockpit, and nobody is able to communicate with the cockpit. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9-10) Ong is on the phone with three employees at the reservations office—Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler, and Nydia Gonzalez—and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453)
Ong Says Flight Attendants Cannot Get into Cockpit - Ong now asks some people on her plane, presumably other flight attendants, “Can anybody get up to the cockpit?” Based on what they tell her, she says to the reservations office employees: “We can’t even get into the cockpit. We don’t know who’s up there.” Presumably referring to the pilots, Sadler says, “Well if they were shrewd, they would keep the door closed.” He asks Ong, “Would they [i.e. the pilots] not maintain a sterile cockpit?” Ong replies: “I think the guys [i.e. the hijackers] are up there. They might have gone there, jammed their way up there, or something.” She adds: “Nobody can call the cockpit. We can’t even get inside.” Ong previously mentioned that some people on her plane had been stabbed. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6) Gonzalez therefore asks her, “You’re saying that the guys that are doing the stabbing, they’re in the cockpit?” Gonzalez then asks, “How many people [i.e. hijackers] are we talking about?” Ong says two men are involved. Gonzalez asks Ong if she can describe them. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Ong has not seen the hijackers herself and so she cannot provide a description of them. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71)
Passengers Unaware of Hijacking - Gonzalez asks, “How are the passengers?” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Ong says she believes the passengers in the coach section are unaware that their plane has been hijacked. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44) Gonzalez will later recall her saying that the passengers “suspect something [is] going on, but [are] not aware of the situation.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) Gonzalez checks with Ong: “So this is all happening in first class? Coach is not aware of what’s going on?” She then tells Ong to “calm down,” and reassures her, saying: “We’ve got security on the line. We’re gonna do everything we can.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)
Gonzalez Relays Information to Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 17-18) She now passes on some of the new information Ong has provided, letting Marquis know that Ong said two men are in the cockpit of Flight 11 with the pilots. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina that her plane is flying erratically. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) Ong is on the phone with three employees at the reservations office—Vanessa Minter, Winston Sadler, and Nydia Gonzalez—and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453) Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9; Spencer 2008, pp. 17-18) She promptly passes on to him Ong’s information that her plane is flying erratically. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) Also around this time, Flight 11 begins a sharp turn to the south (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) Sadler will later recall that Ong says Flight 11 is flying erratically “several times during the conversation” she has with the reservations office personnel. He will also say that during “the moments in between the erratic flying, the airplane seemed to be smooth in its flight path.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44)

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

An American Airlines employee at Logan International Airport in Boston calls the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, to report the possible hijacking of Flight 11 and is told that the airline doesn’t want the news of the hijacking to get out. The identity of the employee at Logan Airport who makes the call is unclear. A 9/11 Commission document will refer to them only as “Charles.” The SOC employee who answers the call is Ray Howland. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 31-32; 9/11 Commission 2004) The exact time of the call is also unclear. The call is apparently made shortly after 8:25 a.m., when the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport was phoned by Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11. Sweeney told Evelyn Nunez, a passenger service agent, about the trouble on her plane, but indicated, incorrectly, that she was on Flight 12, not Flight 11 (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) Now, in the call to the SOC, “Charles” says to Howland, “I got a call from flight service.” Charles then tells Howland that the flight services office employee—presumably Nunez—“said Flight 12, they said it might have been hijacked.… They got a call from a flight attendant.” Charles mentions, “I’m actually on the other line with [the flight services office] now,” and then says, “I just wanted to make sure I got the right trip number.” Howland replies: “No. It’s not 12, it’s 11.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 31-32) (The SOC has already been informed that there are problems on Flight 11, in a call from the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) ) Howland then tells Charles to keep the news about the possible hijacking to himself. “We don’t want this getting out,” he says. Howland adds: “We’re aware of the situation. We’re dealing with it right now.… So let us deal with it.” He then restates, “We don’t want anything getting out right now.” Charles agrees to keep quiet, replying: “Nothing said. Okay.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 31-32)

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground the seat numbers of two hijackers who have gained unauthorized access to the cockpit of her plane. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) Ong is on the phone with three members of staff at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, and has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8) She previously said she thought that two hijackers had forced their way into the cockpit, but could provide no description of them (see 8:22 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71)
Ong Provides Hijackers' Seat Numbers - Nydia Gonzalez, one of the reservations office employees, now asks Ong: “Do you know any information as far as the gents, the men that are in the cockpit with the pilots. Were they from first class?” Ong replies that the men were in seats 2A and 2B. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) These seats, in the first class section of the plane, were occupied by hijackers Wail Alshehri and Waleed Alshehri. Ong would not have seen these two men, as she is at the back of the plane. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 6) However, the reservations office employees gain the impression that she is getting information from someone else, such as another flight attendant. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 42-44; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71)
Gonzalez Relays Information to Airline Operations Center - Gonzalez has been passing on the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, a manager at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9; Spencer 2008, pp. 17-18) She has just told Marquis that, according to Ong, the “number five” flight attendant on Flight 11—Barbara Arestegui—has been stabbed, but “seems to be breathing,” and the “number one” flight attendant—Karen Martin—has been “stabbed pretty badly, and she’s lying down on the floor,” possibly unconscious. The other flight attendants are at the back of the plane with Ong, Gonzalez said. Gonzalez also told Marquis that the passengers in the coach section “might not be aware of what’s going on right now,” meaning they are unaware that their plane has been hijacked.
Ong Says Pilots Made No Announcements - Gonzalez now relays to Marquis the hijackers’ seat numbers that Ong provided, and adds that the two hijackers “are in the cockpit with the pilots.” She then returns to her conversation with Ong. She asks if the pilots have “made any announcements on the PA system.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Ong says there have been no announcements. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) Gonzalez then asks if Flight 11 is “still flying erratically” (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). Ong says that “right now it’s more or less stabilized.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) Later during her call with the reservations office, Ong will provide the seat number of a third hijacker on her plane (see 8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)

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

The air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base.The air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base. [Source: CapeCodFD.com]Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls the air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base to alert it to the problems with Flight 11 and request military assistance. (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22) Otis Air Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is one of NORAD’s seven alert sites in the continental United States, which keeps two armed fighter jets ready for immediate takeoff. (Filson 2003, pp. 50; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)
Supervisor Calls Otis, Violating Protocol - Bueno calls the control tower at Otis even though, according to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows it’s not standard operating procedure to call the military directly—that’s supposed to be done by FAA headquarters.” But he has “checked the FAA regulation manual, and in the back under section FAAO 7610.4J, Appendix 16, it states that fighters can be launched directly at FAA request, so he is going to make that happen. He may not be FAA headquarters, but he is FAA!” (Spencer 2008, pp. 22)
Bueno Requests Fighters, Told to Call NEADS - Bueno tells the controller at the Otis tower that Flight 11 has lost its identification signal and appears to be headed toward Manhattan; it looks like a possible hijacking, and fighter jets are needed, fast. (Filson 2003, pp. 47) But the controller tells Bueno that he must follow the protocol, which is to contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). The controller says: “You’ve got to go through the proper channels. They’re the only ones with the authority to initiate a scramble order.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 22) Bueno asks the controller for the telephone number for NEADS. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Following this call, the tower controller will contact the Otis Air Base operations desk, to let it know that it might be receiving a call from NEADS (see (Between 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27)
Otis Pilots Critical of Bueno - The two alert pilots at Otis Air Base will later criticize Bueno for calling the base directly. One of them, Major Daniel Nash, will complain: “It sounds like the FAA didn’t have their [act] together at all when they were calling the [Otis] tower.… To me, it sounded like there was someone who didn’t know what they were doing.” (Viser 9/11/2005) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the other alert pilot, will comment: “It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.… We were the ones who were contacted right away and knew about it before the air defense sector.” (Filson 2003, pp. 50)
Time of Call Unclear - Bueno also calls the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), which is located on Otis Air Base, at 8:34 a.m. and requests that fighters be launched from Otis (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) Whether he makes that call before or after he calls the Otis tower is unstated. 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 that is correct, it would indicate that Bueno calls the Otis tower after he calls the Cape TRACON.

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

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. (Lichtblau 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. (Dwinell 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; Sheehy 6/20/2004; Keith 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; Sheehy 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)

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground that a passenger on her plane has been stabbed and may be dead. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) Ong is on the phone with three members of staff at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453)
Ong Names Passenger Who May Have Been 'Fatally Wounded' - One of them, Nydia Gonzalez, asks Ong if the first class section of her plane was full when the flight was hijacked. She then asks, “Do we know how the passengers up there [in first class] are doing, if any of the passengers got hurt?” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19) When she first reached the reservations office, Ong mentioned that somebody had been “stabbed in business class,” but gave no further details about the stabbing (see 8:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 3-6; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8) Now, Gonzalez will later recall, Ong says she has been “informed by other flight attendants that a passenger by the name of Daniel Lewin may have been fatally wounded” (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71) This is “the first indication” that authorities on the ground receive “of a fatality on board” Flight 11, according to the 9/11 Commission. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12) Gonzalez asks, “One of our passengers is?” She then checks with Ong, “So just, you know of just one [passenger] that got stabbed?” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19)
Gonzalez Passes on News of Fatality to Airline Operations Center - Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Texas, on another phone line (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 17-18) She immediately passes on the new information. Gonzalez tells Marquis: “They think they might have a fatality on the flight. One of our passengers, possibly on [seat] 9B, Levin or Lewin, might have been fatally stabbed.” She says, “I was just asking about how [the] first class passengers were doing, and [Ong] mentioned that there might be one that they think might be fatally stabbed.” Gonzalez then returns to her conversation with Ong (see 8:35 a.m.-8:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)

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

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

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

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

Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins.Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins. [Source: Newhouse News/ Peter Chen/ Landov]Members of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) have difficulty locating Flight 11 and other aircraft on their radar screens.
bullet Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins of NEADS will say that when the FAA first calls and reports the first hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), “He [FAA] gave me the latitude and longitude of that track… [but] there was nothing there.” (Brown 9/8/2002)
bullet Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, later recalls: “I was giving NEADS accurate location information on at least five instances where AA 11 was, yet they could never identify him.… I originally gave them an F/R/D, which is a fix/radial/distance from a known location; they could not identify the target. They requested latitude/longitudes, which I gave them; they still could not identify the AA 11.… I gave them 20 [miles] south of Albany heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots, then another call at 50 south of Albany.” (Griffin 2007, pp. 47)
bullet Master Sergeant Kevin Foster and Staff Sergeant Mark Rose, also working at NEADS this morning, later complain about their inability to locate the hijacked planes. After being informed of the first hijacking, reportedly: “As they had practiced countless times before, the NEADS team quickly began searching their [radar] screens for the plane. Because they had been informed its transponder was off, they knew to look for a tiny dash instead of the usual dot. But radar systems also use such lines to indicate weather patterns, so NEADS personnel began urgently clicking their computer cursors on each stray line to see if information indicating an aircraft would appear.” Yet, after receiving further calls indicating more hijackings, “the inability to find the hijacked planes on the radar, despite their best efforts, was difficult.” According to Foster, “We were trying to find the tracks, and not being able to was very frustrating.” (Cooper 8/5/2004)
bullet NEADS Staff Sergeant Larry Thornton will recall: “Once we were called by the FAA, we could find split-second hits on what we thought we were looking for. But the area was so congested and it was incredibly difficult to find. We were looking for little dash marks in a pile of clutter and a pile of aircraft on a two-dimensional scope.” Each fluorescent green pulsating dot on their radar scopes represents an airplane, and there are thousands currently airborne, especially over the busy northeast US. (Filson 2003, pp. 56)

One of the ID technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) calls the FAA’s Boston Center, and learns that there have been “threats in the cockpit” of Flight 11. The communications team at NEADS is currently trying to quickly find out all they can about the hijacked plane, such as its flight number, tail number, and where it is. ID tech Shelley Watson calls the management desk at the Boston Center, which had alerted NEADS to the hijacking minutes earlier (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), wanting to make sure she has all the information that is available on Flight 11. Her call is answered by Boston Center’s military liaison, Colin Scoggins. Scoggins tells Watson: “He’s being hijacked. The pilot’s having a hard time talking to the… I mean, we don’t know. We don’t know where he’s goin’. He’s heading towards Kennedy [International Airport in New York City]. He’s… 35 miles north of Kennedy now at 367 knots. We have no idea where he’s goin’ or what his intentions are.” Scoggins says, “I guess there’s been some threats in the cockpit,” and adds, “We’ll call you right back as soon as we know more info.” Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley is standing over Watson, relaying any pertinent information she hears to Major Kevin Nasypany. She calls to him, “Okay, he said threat to the cockpit!” (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 34)

Dianne Snyder.Dianne Snyder. [Source: Family photo]Amy Sweeney, a flight attendant on Flight 11, tells an American Airlines manager at Logan International Airport in Boston that the passengers in the coach section of her plane believe there is simply a routine medical emergency at the front of their plane. (ABC News 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 6) Sweeney, who is sitting at the back of the coach section of Flight 11, phoned the American Airlines flight services office at Logan Airport at 8:32 a.m. Since then, she has been describing the trouble on her plane to Michael Woodward, an American Airlines flight services manager (see (8:32 a.m.-8:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sheehy 2/15/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) Sweeney now tells Woodward that the passengers in the coach section are calm, and under the impression that there is a routine medical emergency in the first class section of the plane. Presumably this means they are unaware that their plane has been hijacked. Sweeney says three flight attendants—Jeffrey Collman, Sara Low, and Dianne Snyder—are attending to duties, such as getting medical supplies, while she and Betty Ong are reporting events over the phone. (ABC News 7/18/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/25/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) (Ong is another flight attendant, who is sitting next to Sweeney and is talking on the phone with 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). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8, 11) )

Dave Bottiglia.Dave Bottiglia. [Source: ABC News]After Flight 11 appears on his radar screen, Dave Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, is informed that this aircraft is suspected of having been hijacked. Flight 175 entered Bottiglia’s airspace not long before this (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20) Its pilot has just told Bottiglia about the “suspicious transmission” (presumably from Flight 11) he heard while departing Boston airport (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file) Seconds later, Flight 11 also enters the area Bottiglia is monitoring and its target appears on his radar screen. The controller sitting next to Bottiglia gets up and points to the radar blip. He says: “You see this target here? This is American 11. Boston Center thinks it’s a hijack.” Bottiglia will later recall that his initial thought about Flight 11, based on this information, is that the hijackers “were probably going to Cuba.” As its transponder has been turned off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he has no altitude information for Flight 11, but can tell from the radar scope that it appears to be descending. According to author Lynn Spencer: “Even without a transponder, controller radars calculate ground speed for all radar targets, and when a plane is descending, the ground speed decreases. The flight had been ‘grounding’ 600 knots, and now it has decreased to 320.” Bottiglia follows Flight 11’s target on his radar screen until it disappears over New York City. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 37) Because he is focused on Flight 11, Bottiglia will not notice when Flight 175’s transponder code changes at 8:47 (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21) The New York Center was first notified of Flight 11’s hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), though this information was not passed on to Bottiglia. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37)

After 9/11, NORAD and other sources will claim that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is notified at this time that Flight 175 has been hijacked. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Kugler 8/19/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002) However, the FAA’s New York Center, which is handling Flight 175, first alerts its military liaison about the hijacking at around 9:01 (see 9:01 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). In addition, according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is not informed until two minutes later (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) According to the Commission, the first “operational evidence” that there is something wrong on Flight 175 is not until 8:47, when its transponder code changes (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it is not until 8:53 that the air traffic controller handling it concludes that Flight 175 may be hijacked (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 21-22)

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control center in Fort Worth, Texas, is told that the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina has lost contact with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, and he then says he wants the reservations office employees to keep quiet about the hijacking. (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 14) Marquis is on the phone with Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the reservations office who, for over 20 minutes, has been relaying to him information she was receiving in a simultaneous phone call with Ong (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9) Ong, however, has stopped responding to communications (see (8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Gonzalez promptly informs Marquis of this. She tells him, “I think we might have lost her.” Marquis says, “Okay,” and then tells Gonzalez, “If in fact she calls back, you call me back.” Gonzalez agrees to do this.
Marquis Tells Gonzalez to Keep Quiet about Hijacking - Marquis then tells Gonzalez that he wants her and her colleagues to keep quiet about the hijacking of Flight 11. He says, “I don’t want this spread all over.” Gonzalez has already instructed the other reservations office employees who were on the phone with Ong to keep quiet about the hijacking (see 8:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), and agrees to Marquis’s request. She answers: “Right. I’ve already made that indication to our people here.” Marquis says, “Try to make sure that it’s followed through on, okay?” Gonzalez replies, “Okay.” Just before the call between Marquis and Gonzalez ends, Marquis tells Gonzalez, “I’ll be back in touch with you.” Gonzalez then says, “I’m gonna stay on the line with my agent just in case we get the line [with Ong] back, and I’ll call you back.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22)

Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), believes he has located Flight 11 on the radar screen and then watches it disappear over New York, but he does not realize it has crashed. McCain is on the phone with Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center. (Spencer 2008, pp. 40-41) NEADS personnel have been unable to locate Flight 11 on their radar screens (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Cooper 8/5/2004)
McCain Locates Fast-Moving Aircraft - Now McCain believes he has found Flight 11, flying about 20 miles north of Manhattan. According to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows that planes tend to fly very specific routes, like highways in the sky, and this particular target seems not to be on any of those regular routes. It’s also very fast moving.” McCain tells Scoggins, “I’ve got a search target that seems to be on an odd heading here,” and then describes its location. Scoggins notices the target, but this is not Flight 11. Scoggins then realizes that Flight 11 is right behind the target McCain has identified, and yells to him: “There’s a target four miles behind it, that’s the one! That’s American 11!” McCain responds, “I’ve got it!” The aircraft is 16 miles north of New York’s JFK International Airport, and heading down the Hudson River valley. NEADS has no altitude for it, but the aircraft is clearly traveling very fast. After hanging up the phone, McCain calls out its coordinates to everyone on the NEADS operations floor. (Spencer 2008, pp. 40) McCain will later recall: “It’s very unusual to find a search target, which is a plane with its transponder turned off, in that area. This plane was headed toward New York going faster than the average Cessna and was no doubt a jet aircraft. We had many clues. The plane was fast and heading in an unusual direction with no beacon. We had raw data only. Everything just kind of fit.” (Filson 2003, pp. 56-57) (The identity of the other fast-moving aircraft McCain had noticed, four miles ahead of Flight 11, is unstated.)
Flight 11 Disappears from Radar - Less than a minute after McCain locates the track for Flight 11, it disappears. (Spencer 2008, pp. 41) McCain will recall, “We watched that track until it faded over New York City and right after that someone came out of the break room and said the World Trade Center had been hit.” (Filson 2003, pp. 57) However, McCain supposedly does not realize that the plane he had spotted has crashed into the WTC. According to Spencer: “[H]e knows only that the blip he has struggled so mightily to locate has now vanished. He figures that the plane has descended below his radar coverage area to land at JFK. The fact that the plane was flying much too fast for landing does not hit him; the concept that the plane might have been intentionally crashed is simply too far outside his realm of experience.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 41)

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

Curt Applegate sitting next to his air traffic control terminal.Curt Applegate sitting next to his air traffic control terminal. [Source: NBC News]After being focused on Flight 11, Dave Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, first notices problems with Flight 175. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21) Both Flight 11 and Flight 175 have been in the airspace that Bottiglia is responsible for monitoring (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:42 a.m.-8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bottiglia has just watched Flight 11’s radar blip disappear, which means the plane has dipped below his radar’s coverage area, so is below 2,000 feet. But he does not yet realize it has crashed. He says aloud, “Well, we know he’s not high altitude anymore.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 37) Around this time, Flight 175’s transponder changes twice in the space of a minute (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Conflicting Accounts - According to MSNBC, “within seconds” of losing Flight 11’s blip, “Bottiglia has another unexpected problem.” While looking for Flight 11, he realizes that Flight 175 is also missing, and “instinctively… knows the two [planes] are somehow related.” He asks another controller to take over all of his other planes. (MSNBC 9/11/2002) But according to the 9/11 Commission’s account, Bottiglia is still trying to locate Flight 11 after it crashes, and so it is not until 8:51 a.m. that he notices the problem with Flight 175 (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21)
'An Intruder over Allentown' - Around the time Flight 175 changes its transponder code, air traffic controller Curt Applegate, who is sitting at the radar bank next to Bottiglia’s, sees a blip that might be the missing Flight 11. He shouts out: “Look. There’s an intruder over Allentown.” According to the Washington Post, “In air traffic jargon, an ‘intruder’ is a plane with an operating transponder that has entered restricted airspace without permission.” In fact, it is the missing Flight 175. (Lane, Phillips, and Snyder 9/17/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002) However, these accounts make no mention of NORAD being notified about the problems with Flight 175 at this time. But according to a NORAD timeline released shortly after 9/11, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted about Flight 175 by the FAA several minutes earlier, at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)

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

The 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. (Blazar 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.” (Clapper 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)

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)

The air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center who is responsible for monitoring Flight 175 sees the now-hijacked plane on his radar screen making a sharp turn (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and is astonished as it rapidly climbs 3,000 feet. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) Around this time, the controller, Dave Bottiglia, first notices that Flight 175’s transponder code has changed (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21) As he will later recall: “As I’m watching, United 175 makes a hard left-hand turn and starts climbing. Not only did he make a sharp turn, but he also climbed 3,000 feet in a matter of approximately one minute, which is a very fast rate of climb.” Bottiglia will add, “This is something that we have never seen before.” He immediately turns to the manager at the New York Center and says, “I believe I just lost United 175.” (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, the center does not alert NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to Flight 175 until 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23)

Mike McCormick.Mike McCormick. [Source: Associated Press]Mike McCormick, the head of the FAA’s New York Center, sees the coverage of the first World Trade Center attack on CNN. He assumes that Flight 175, which he is tracking on his radar screen, is also headed into the WTC. He will recall: “Probably one of the most difficult moments of my life was the 11 minutes from the point I watched that aircraft, when we first lost communications until the point that aircraft hit the World Trade Center. For those 11 minutes, I knew, we knew, what was going to happen, and that was difficult.” (CNN 8/12/2002) Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, the New York Center will not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 175 until around the time it crashes, at 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23)

After taking off in their F-15s, the two pilots scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 are not properly informed about the unfolding events. One of these pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, later describes, “When you get the scramble order… you are usually not sure what is going on.” However, after they were informed there had been a hijacking (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), the two “knew it was the real thing,” according to Major Daniel Nash, the other pilot. (Brown 9/8/2002) But as they are “headed right down Long Island,” Duffy recalls, “[w]e had no idea what was going on.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) When the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03, they are unaware that a second plane has been in trouble, and their request for clarification of their mission from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is met with “considerable confusion” (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 6/3/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 60-63) (According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS itself only receives its first notification about a second possible hijacking at 9:03 (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 24) ) Furthermore, it is not until after 10:30 a.m. that the two pilots will learn that Washington has also been attacked, when a controller informs them of this in passing, but does not elaborate. (Dennehy 8/21/2002) Nash will later complain: “Anybody watching CNN that morning had a much better idea of what was going on than we did. We were not told anything.” (Michael Bronner 2006) Duffy later reflects: “People lose track of how much chaos there was. We were in a situation that was just a mess, you know, and we were trying to get our arms around it a little bit.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006)

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

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

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

About a half-dozen air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center in Ronkonkoma, NY, watch Flight 175 on the radar screen in its final minutes, as it approaches Manhattan. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; Bronner 8/1/2006) Flight 175 is marked on the screen with the letter “I” for “intruder.” Initially, those at the center think it might be heading for Newark Airport, maybe for an emergency landing there. But controller Jim Bohleber says, “No, he’s too fast and low, he’ll never make Newark.” (Adcock 9/10/2002) The controllers start speculating what Flight 175 is aiming for, with one of them guessing the Statue of Liberty. (Bronner 8/1/2006) They are astonished at the extraordinary rate at which it is descending (see (8:58 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). A controller counts down its altitude, “Eight, six, four” thousand feet, and then says, “My god, he’s in the ground in the next step.” But someone else at the center says, “No, that’s the Trade Center right there.” (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) But, according to the 9/11 Commission, the New York Center does not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 175 until 9:03 a.m., the same time as it crashes into the South Tower (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23) Workers at the crisis center at United Airlines’ headquarters outside Chicago, also closely watch Flight 175 head into New York City on radar. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002)

Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center who are watching Flight 175 on the radar screen (see (8:57 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) see the aircraft descending at an astonishing rate of up to 10,000 feet per minute. (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) From 8:58 a.m., Flight 175 is constantly descending toward New York. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) One of the New York Center controllers, Jim Bohleber, is looking at his radar scope and calls out the plane’s rate of descent every 12 seconds, each time the screen updates, saying: “It’s six thousand feet a minute. Now it’s eight. Now ten.” (Adcock 9/10/2002; Bronner 8/1/2006) Dave Bottiglia, the controller responsible for monitoring Flight 175, will later comment that 10,000 feet per minute is “absolutely unheard of for a commercial jet. It is unbelievable for the passengers in the back to withstand that type of force as they’re descending. [The hijackers are] actually nosing the airplane down and doing what I would call a ‘power dive.’” (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) While Flight 175 is in this rapid descent, it heads directly into the paths of several other aircraft, and narrowly avoids a mid-air collision with flight Midex 7 (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 73-76)

Admiral Richard Mies.
Admiral Richard Mies. [Source: Public domain]Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, Nebraska, appears to be the headquarters of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) exercise Global Guardian that is “in full swing” when the 9/11 attacks begin (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). At least the director of the exercise, Admiral Richard Mies, commander in chief of Stratcom, is at Offutt this morning. Because of Global Guardian, bombers, missile crews, and submarines around America are all being directed from Stratcom’s command center, a steel and concrete reinforced bunker below Offutt. (Arkin 11/12/1997; Ruff 2/21/2002; Dejka 2/27/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; Buttry 9/10/2002) This bunker is staffed with top personnel and they are at a heightened security mode because of the exercise. (Ruff 2/21/2002; Bjorkman 7/2002 pdf file)
'Doomsday' Planes Airborne for Exercise - Because of Global Guardian, three special military command aircraft with sophisticated communications equipment, based at Offutt, are up in the air this morning (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001, Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These E-4B National Airborne Operations Center planes—nicknamed “Doomsday” planes during the Cold War—are intended to control nuclear forces from the air in times of crisis. They are capable of acting as alternative command posts for top government officials from where they can direct US forces, execute war orders, and coordinate the actions of civil authorities in times of national emergency. The federal advisory committee, whose chairman is retired Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, is aboard one of these Doomsday planes, being brought to Offutt to observe the exercise (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Global Guardian will reportedly be put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the battle staff at Offutt will switch to “real-world mode” once the attacks are apparent. However, even after Global Guardian is called off, the three E-4Bs will remain airborne. Also this morning, a small group of business leaders are at Offutt because of a charity fundraiser event due to take place later in the day, hosted by the multi-billionaire Warren Buffett (see (8:45 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dejka 2/27/2002; Bjorkman 7/2002 pdf file; BBC 9/1/2002; Dejka 9/8/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file)

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

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

Moments before Flight 175 crashes into the World Trade Center, Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to notify it that there is a second hijacked aircraft over the US. Scoggins learned of the second hijacking on the FAA headquarters’ hijack teleconference (see (Shortly Before 9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and senses that he should call NEADS with this latest information. According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins “imagines that he must be one of dozens of FAA facilities flooding [NEADS] with phone calls. What he doesn’t know is that his is in fact the only one giving them information about the flights this morning, other than the coverage on CNN.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 82) However, the 9/11 Commission will say that NEADS also learns of the second hijacking around this time from the FAA’s New York Center, stating, “The first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft, United 175, came in a phone call from New York Center to NEADS at 9:03” (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23) Just after Scoggins reports the second hijacking to NEADS, those on the NEADS operations floor see the live television coverage of Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on a screen at the front of the room. (Spencer 2008, pp. 82) Apparently, Scoggins’s phone call continues for several minutes: According to the 9/11 Commission, “Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:07 a.m., the NEADS identification technicians were on the phone with FAA Boston Center seeking further information on Flight 175 when Boston Center confirmed a second crash at the World Trade Center.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 24)

The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the FAA’s New York Center tells NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that Flight 175 has been hijacked at this time. The Commission will refer to this as “the first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft.” The notification is apparently received from the military liaison at the New York Center (see 9:01 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)
NEADS Technician Announces 'Second Possible Hijack' - Tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor will reveal ID tech Stacia Rountree answering the call from the New York Center, and saying out loud, “They have a second possible hijack!” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will claim he first learns that an aircraft other than Flight 11 has been hijacked when he sees Flight 175 crash into the World Trade Center on television. (Scott 6/3/2002) Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins will claim that when she sees Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on television, “we didn’t even know there was a second hijack.” (Filson 2003, pp. 59)
Conflicting Accounts - However, these accounts contradict NORAD’s claim that it makes shortly after 9/11 that NEADS was first notified about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) Additionally, as Flight 175 crashes into the WTC, Canadian Captain Mike Jellinek, who is working at NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado operations center, is on the phone with NEADS. He sees the crash live on television and asks NEADS, “Was that the hijacked aircraft you were dealing with?” The reply is yes. (However, it is unclear whether Jellinek is referring to Flight 175 or to the smoke coming from the crash of Flight 11.) (Simmie 12/9/2001) If the 9/11 Commission’s account is correct, several questions remain unanswered. Flight 175 lost radio contact at 8:42 a.m. (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001) and changed transponder signals at 8:47 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001); an air traffic controller declared it possibly hijacked sometime between 8:46 a.m. and 8:53 a.m. (see (Shortly After 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001); and an air traffic control manager called it hijacked at 8:55 a.m.(see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Commission will not explain why the New York Center waits 10 to 16 minutes before warning NEADS that Flight 175 is possibly hijacked. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

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

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

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

At her home in San Ramon, California, Deena Burnett has seen the television coverage of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Her husband, Tom Burnett, is due home from a business trip to New York later in the day. (Longman 2002, pp. 106) However, he has switched from his original flight to the earlier Flight 93, and has not called ahead to notify her of this. (van Derbeken 9/17/2001) Deena is expecting Tom to head home some time later this morning, but, concerned in case he finished his business early and took an earlier flight, she tries calling his cell phone. He does not answer. She later recalls, “This was not cause for immediate concern, because if he was on a flight already, use of cell phones was forbidden.” (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 60-61) Minutes later, though, he makes the first in a series of calls to her from Flight 93, apparently using his cell phone (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001 pdf file)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to the 9/11 Commission, the two fighters launched from Otis Air Force Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) arrive over Manhattan at this time, after exiting their holding pattern off the Long Island coast at 9:13 a.m. They then establish a combat air patrol (CAP) over New York. The commission bases this conclusion on its analysis of FAA radar data and interviews with the two Otis pilots. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24 and 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 92) However, numerous eyewitnesses on the ground will report first noticing fighters over New York significantly later, more than an hour after the 9/11 Commission claims according to some accounts (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Tom Burnett.
Tom Burnett. [Source: Family photo]Tom Burnett, a passenger on Flight 93, calls his wife Deena Burnett at their home in San Ramon, California. (Longman 2002, pp. 106-107) She looks at the caller ID and recognizes the number as being that of his cell phone. She asks him if he is OK, and he replies: “No, I’m not. I’m on an airplane that’s been hijacked.” He says, “They just knifed a guy,” and adds that this person was a passenger. (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 61) (According to journalist and author Jere Longman, this would likely have been Mark Rothenberg in seat 5B; Burnett was assigned seat 4B. Rothenberg is the only first class passenger who does not make a call from the flight. (Longman 2002, pp. 107) ) Deena asks, “Are you in the air?” She later recalls, “I didn’t understand how he could be calling me on his cell phone from the air.” According to Deena Burnett, Tom continues: “Yes, yes, just listen. Our airplane has been hijacked. It’s United Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco. We are in the air. The hijackers have already knifed a guy. One of them has a gun. They’re telling us there’s a bomb on board. Please call the authorities.” (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 61) (However, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijackers did not possess a gun, as Tom Burnett apparently claims here (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 13) ) At the end of the call, which lasts just seconds, Tom says he will call back and then hangs up. (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 62) Deena does not have time to tell him about the planes crashing into the World Trade Center. (Gordon 9/11/2002) But she writes down everything he tells her. (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 62) She notes the call having occurred at 9:27 a.m. (Longman 2002, pp. 107) Yet, the 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the hijacker takeover of Flight 93 does not occur until a minute later, at 9:28 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 38) Deena later wonders if her husband made this call before the hijackers took control of the cockpit, as he’d spoken quietly and quickly, as if he were being watched. He has an ear bud and a mouthpiece attached to a cord that hangs over his shoulder, which may have enabled him to use his phone surreptitiously. (Longman 2002, pp. 107) According to Deena Burnett’s account, this is the first of four calls Tom makes to her from Flight 93, all or most of which he makes using his cell phone. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001 pdf file; Associated Press 9/13/2001; Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 75) However, a summary of passenger phone calls presented at the 2006 Zacarias Moussoui trial will state that Burnett makes only three calls from the plane; uses an Airfone, not his cell phone; and makes his frst call at 9:30, not 9:27 (see 9:30 a.m.-9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 9-10 pdf file) This is the first of over 30 phone calls made by passengers from Flight 93. (MSNBC 7/30/2002)

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. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 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; Levin 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). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 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; Levin 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.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 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). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 168; Levin 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; Bronner 8/1/2006)

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

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

After receiving a call from her husband Tom Burnett, who is on the hijacked Flight 93 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), Deena Burnett calls 911 to report the hijacking. She used to be a flight attendant, so knows what to say in an emergency. Her 911 call is recorded and she will later be provided with a tape of it. According to journalist and author Jere Longman, who is played this tape, Deena reports: “My husband just called me from United Flight 93. The plane has been hijacked. They just knifed a passenger and there are guns on the airplane.” (Longman 2002, pp. 107-108 and 278) However, in her 2006 book, Deena Burnett will give a slightly different account according to which she makes no mention of guns on the plane, instead telling the dispatcher: “My husband is on an airplane that has been hijacked. He just called me from the airplane on his cellular telephone. He told me they have a bomb on board.” (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 62-63) (Note that the 9/11 Commission later concludes that the Flight 93 hijackers do not possess guns (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 13) ) Deena then tells the dispatcher the flight number and route. Her call is transferred to a man at the police department, who then switches her to the FBI. She repeats her story to a special agent, who initially misunderstands her, thinking she is saying her husband was on one of the planes that hit the World Trade Center. Once she has clarified that he is on another plane, the agent gives her a list of questions to ask her husband if she speaks with him again, such as how many hijackers are there and what weapons do they have? At that moment, her call waiting beeps, as Tom Burnett is calling a second time (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Gordon 9/11/2002; Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 63) Deena will be unable to ask Tom the questions the agent has asked her to during his subsequent calls from Flight 93, because, she later recalls, “I didn’t want to take up any precious time talking any more than was necessary,” and “I had wanted to hear Tom’s voice.” Instead, she writes down everything he says and everything that is going on. (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 68) According to Longman, Deena will call the FBI back minutes later, following her husband’s second call (see (Between 9:36 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 110) But according to Deena Burnett’s 2006 book, she will not speak to the FBI agent again until around 10:00 a.m., after her husband’s final call to her from Flight 93 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Burnett and Giombetti 2006, pp. 68-69)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The FAA’s Cleveland Center notifies the FAA’s Great Lakes Regional Operations Center about the screams and statements it heard from an unknown origin, but that are believed to have come from Flight 93. These transmissions were heard between 9:28 and 9:39 (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) The FAA’s Herndon Command Center and Washington headquarters were alerted to Flight 93 several minutes earlier (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39)

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)

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

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

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

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)

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

A radio transmitter carried by aircraft that is designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the vicinity of the city of Ann Arbor in southeast Michigan, although the distress signal is presumably a false alarm. Details of the distress signal will be described when an unidentified individual calls the FAA’s Cleveland Center at around 10:19 a.m. and tells an air traffic controller there, “I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003) An “ELT” is an emergency locator transmitter, a device carried on most general aviation aircraft in the US that is designed to automatically begin transmitting a distress signal if a plane should crash, so as to help search and rescue efforts in locating the downed aircraft. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/23/1990; Federal Aviation Administration 7/12/2001; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 1/22/2009) The caller will not say who reported the ELT signal to him. But he will say the signal “started at 13:53” Zulu time, which is 9:53 a.m. Eastern time. Presumably realizing the signal was therefore activated over 25 minutes earlier, the caller will add, “Wait a minute, that don’t make any sense.” But the Cleveland Center controller will tell him: “Yeah, it does. It might have been late to be…” The caller will then say, “Okay, well I’ve got an ELT reported over Ann Arbor,” before the call ends. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) Further details of the ELT signal and what might have caused it are unknown. Flight 93 will crash in rural Pennsylvania about 10 minutes after the signal over Ann Arbor is activated (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) However, apparently no ELT signal will go off when it crashes (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) According to Major Allan Knox, who works at the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, most ELT signals are false alarms. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file)

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

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