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(8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Operations Center Director Agrees to Scrambling of Fighters in Response to Hijacking

Michael Jellinek.Michael Jellinek. [Source: Tom Kimmell]The NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, receives a call notifying it that the FAA has requested military assistance with a hijacking, and senior officers there agree with the decision that has been made to launch fighter jets in response to the hijacking, and say they will call the Pentagon to get the necessary clearance for this. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 39] Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, has just talked over the phone with Colonel Robert Marr at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and Marr suggested to him that fighters be scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11. Arnold told Marr to go ahead with the scramble and said he would sort out getting authorization for it (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold therefore now calls the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). The call is answered by Captain Michael Jellinek, the command director on duty there. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 38-39] Arnold says the FAA has requested assistance for an ongoing hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 pdf file]
NORAD Director Approves Decision to Launch Fighters - Jellinek passes on the details of the request to Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, who has just finished the night shift and is returning to the CMOC battle cab from breakfast. Jellinek will later recall: “I pick up the other phone because I know [Findley is] there. One button and I’m talking to him. It’s faster to do that than walk around the window, say the same thing.” [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001; Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] Findley “concurs with Arnold’s assessment and decision to scramble the fighters,” according to author Lynn Spencer, and quickly approves the fighters’ launch. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 39] He “immediately gives the thumbs up” through the window, according to Jellinek. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/27/2001] Arnold will say he is told (presumably by Jellinek): “Yeah, we’ll work this with the National Military Command Center [at the Pentagon]. Go ahead and scramble the aircraft.” [Filson, 2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 56] According to Findley: “At that point, all we thought was we’ve got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested [by the FAA]. We certainly didn’t know it was going to play out as it did.” [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002]
NORAD Personnel Request Permission for Scramble - Findley will say that after the CMOC receives the call from Arnold, he “knew what to do, and so did everybody else on the battle staff.” He tells the members of the battle staff to “open up our checklist” and “follow our NORAD instruction,” which includes having “to ask in either Ottawa or Washington, ‘Is it okay if we use NORAD fighters to escort a potential hijacked aircraft?’” [CNN, 9/11/2006] Findley and the others in the CMOC will subsequently see the coverage on CNN, reporting that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but do not initially realize the plane involved was the hijacked aircraft they have been called about (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Calgary Herald, 10/1/2001; Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002; Defense Video and Imagery Distribution System, 9/8/2011]

Entity Tags: Larry Arnold, Michael H. Jellinek, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Eric A. “Rick” Findley

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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