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Context of '8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001: Air Traffic Controller Declares Flight 175 as Possibly Hijacked'

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Personnel at United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, are subjected to a surprise training exercise in which they are led to believe that one of their planes has crashed, and their experience with this exercise allegedly means they will be better able to respond to the 9/11 attacks. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file; Studdert 5/26/2015 pdf file; Becker 11/12/2015)
Manager Is Concerned that the Airline Is Unprepared for an Accident - Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, has been concerned that, since it hasn’t suffered a real accident in over 15 years, United Airlines is unprepared to respond properly should one occur now. “I was worried we’d become cocky,” he will later comment. “We thought it couldn’t happen to us.” Around March this year, therefore, he told the airline’s other managers, “One of these days, I’m gonna come in here and I’m gonna do a no-notice drill.” (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 3/15/2012; Johnson 4/26/2012) A “no-notice” drill is an exercise that is conducted without its participants being given any formal advance notice of when it will occur. (US Department of Justice 5/21/2000; Inglesby, Grossman, and O'Toole 2/1/2001; Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education 10/15/2011)
Pilot Is Told to Pretend His Plane Is Experiencing an Emergency - Today, Studdert holds this no-notice exercise. Only a few people know about it in advance. Studdert tells a United Airlines employee who he will refer to as his “safety guy” to contact the pilot of a flight to Australia and give them some instructions. The pilot is therefore told he needs to call in during his flight and report an emergency. He should say there is an “uncontained number three engine failure, rapid descent, decompression,” but stop talking halfway through the word “decompression” and then go silent. He should also turn off the plane’s transponder. (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 3/15/2012; Becker 11/12/2015) (A transponder is a device that sends an aircraft’s identifying information, speed, and altitude to air traffic controllers’ radar screens. (Maraniss 9/16/2001) )
Airline Personnel Think One of Their Planes Has Crashed - The simulated emergency takes places this afternoon. At around 2 o’clock, Studdert is interrupted by his secretary, Maryann Irving, who rushes into his office and tells him a Boeing 747 has lost contact while flying over the Pacific Ocean. In response, he runs to the airline’s operations center. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; Center for Values-Driven Leadership 3/15/2012) Airline employees believe the apparently troubled aircraft has crashed. Some of them are upset and some become physically ill. (Becker 11/12/2015) “There are people throwing up in the hall; there are people crying; there are people just staring out the windows,” Studdert will describe.
Personnel Think the Crisis Is Real for 30 Minutes - Since no one in the operations center is able to contact the apparently troubled aircraft, Studdert opens the airline’s crisis center. (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 3/15/2012) The crisis center, according to journalist and author Jere Longman, is “a terraced, theater-like room that resembled NASA’s Mission Control.” (Longman 2002, pp. 77) Opening it, according to Studdert, is a significant course of action. When this happens, everyone working for the airline becomes responsible either for running the airline or acting to support the management of the emergency. This means that “3,000 people are put on an immediate activation.” (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 4/23/2012) United Airlines employees believe one of their planes has crashed for about 30 minutes and then Studdert reveals that the apparent catastrophe is just an exercise scenario. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) He gets on the crisis center’s communications link, which, he will say, “has got 170 stations and people all over the country, all over the world,” and announces, “This has been a no-notice drill; there is no event; everything’s fine.”
Employees Are Furious about the Exercise - The reaction to the exercise in the days after it takes place will be particularly bitter and Studdert will face severe criticism for running it. “I had the board members calling; I had the unions demanding I be fired; I had people telling me I’m the most evil person in the world,” he will recall. (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 3/15/2012; Johnson 4/26/2012) Some employees “wanted to kill me,” he will say.
Exercise Has Similarities to the Situation Experienced on September 11 - It is unclear whether Studdert’s exercise has a beneficial or a detrimental effect on the ability of United Airlines to respond to the hijackings 12 days later, on September 11. Studdert will claim that it prepares employees to manage the events of September 11 and reveals weaknesses, such as outdated phone numbers, which are quickly corrected. (Johnson 4/26/2012; Becker 11/12/2015) “It’s amazing, after 9/11… how many people came up to me and thanked me [for running the exercise], because we were ready,” he will say. (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 3/15/2012) It is possible, however, that it will cause some United Airlines employees to initially think the reports about the terrorist attacks on September 11 are part of another exercise, although accounts are contradictory (see (8:50 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Chicago Tribune 7/16/2003) The scenario of Studdert’s exercise in fact has some similarities with the situation that operations center personnel have to deal with on September 11. On that day, communication with Flight 175—the first of the two United Airlines planes that are hijacked—will be lost (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the plane will have its transponder code changed, although the transponder will not be turned off (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20-21) Communication will subsequently be lost with Flight 93—the second United Airlines plane to be hijacked (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—and that plane’s transponder will be turned off (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39, 43)
Crisis Center Holds Quarterly Exercises - The United Airlines crisis center usually runs exercises four times a year. Most of these deal with safety issues, but security scenarios are also rehearsed, according to Ed Soliday, the airline’s vice president of safety and security. Typically, the 9/11 Commission will be told, these exercises “are scripted” and based around an act of bioterrorism or an international incident. United Airlines has also practiced hijacking scenarios, according to Soliday, although none of these dealt with the threat of an aircraft being used as a weapon. (9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 11/21/2003 pdf file)

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)

Boston flight control reportedly “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” (Ellison 10/17/2001) This is immediately after Boston controllers heard a transmission from Flight 11, declaring, “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and would be consistent with a claim later made to the 9/11 Commission by Mike Canavan, the FAA’s associate administrator for civil aviation security. He says, “[M]y experience as soon as you know you had a hijacked aircraft, you notify everyone.… [W]hen you finally find out, yes, we do have a problem, then… the standard notification is it kind of gets broadcast out to all the regions.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) An early FAA report will say only that Boston controllers begin “inter-facility coordination” with New York air traffic control at this time (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) , but the New York Times reports that controllers at Washington Center also know “about the hijacking of the first plane to crash, even before it hit the World Trade Center.” (Wald 9/13/2001) However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175’s hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City’s La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. (Kelly 1/4/2004) Boston Center also begins notifying the FAA chain of command of the suspected Flight 11 hijacking at this time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Don AriasDon Arias [Source: US Air Force]Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins of NEADS twice calls Major Don Arias, the 1st Air Force and Continental United States NORAD Region public affairs officer, who is at the 1st Air Force public affairs office at Tyndall Air Force, Florida. She first calls him after NEADS is informed of the hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). She says that NEADS has “a hijacked plane—no, not the simulation—likely heading for JFK [International Airport in New York City].” (Seely 1/25/2002) The “simulation” refers to a NORAD air defense exercise, presumably Vigilant Guardian, that Arias is involved in. Deskins informs him that fighters are going to be launched after the aircraft. Arias then starts working on a public statement about the incident, but soon after sees the smoking WTC tower on CNN. He says that he thinks, “Wow, I bet that’s the hijacked plane.” (Florida State Times 11/2001; Seydel 9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 122) Minutes after the crash, Deskins calls Arias again and tells him, “We think the aircraft that just hit the World Trade Center was American Airlines Flight 11.” According to Deskins, Arias responds, “Oh, God. My brother works in the World Trade Center.” (Seely 1/25/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 13-14) Arias will quickly contact his brother (see (8:53 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls the FAA’s New York Center but is quickly cut off when the air traffic controller who answers says the center is busy dealing with a hijacking. According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins “calls New York Center to notify them that American 11 appears to be descending toward New York, most likely to land at JFK” International Airport. But the controller who takes the call snaps at him: “We’re too busy to talk. We’re working a hijack,” and then hangs up. According to Spencer, the New York Center controller is referring to Flight 175, but “Scoggins just figures that he’s talking about American 11. He has no idea that a second airliner is in crisis.” However, the timing of this call is unclear. If it is made while Flight 11 is descending toward New York, this would mean it occurs in the minutes before 8:46, when Flight 11 crashes (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). But in Spencer’s account, the call is made just after New York Center controller Dave Bottiglia notices that Flight 175’s transponder code has changed and he calls out to another controller, “I can’t get a hold of UAL 175 at all right now and I don’t know where he went to” (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 48-49) The transcript of radio communications between the New York Center and Flight 175 shows that this would mean Scoggins’s call occurs around 8:53 a.m.-8:54 a.m., about seven minutes after Flight 11 crashes. (New York Times 10/16/2001)

Victor Saracini.Victor Saracini. [Source: Family photo]Just after Flight 175 enters the airspace of the FAA’s New York Center (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001), its pilot reports to the air traffic controller now managing the flight a suspicious transmission he had heard on departing Boston’s Logan Airport. The pilot, Captain Victor Saracini, tells the controller, Dave Bottiglia: “We figured we’d wait to go to your center. Ah, we heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston, ah, with someone, ah, it sounded like someone keyed the mikes and said, ah, ‘Everyone, ah, stay in your seats.’” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21; Spencer 2008, pp. 36) Saracini is presumably referring to one of the three radio transmissions from Flight 11, where the voice of a hijacker could be heard (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, none of these had included the hijacker telling people to stay in their seats, as Saracini describes, although the second and third transmissions included the hijacker telling the passengers, “Nobody move.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Bottiglia responds: “Oh, okay. I’ll pass that along.” Referring to the fact that this was the end of the transmission he heard, Saracini adds, “It cut out,” and then asks Bottiglia, “Did you copy that?” (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37) This is the last radio transmission from Flight 175. The 9/11 Commission will conclude that the plane is hijacked within the next four minutes (see (Between 8:42 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20) According to author Lynn Spencer, since controllers are only given information on a need-to-know basis, Bottiglia was unaware there were problems with Flight 11, which has not yet entered his airspace. He touches his computer screen to connect to the hotline for his sector controller, and then reports: “UAL 175 just came on my frequency and he said he heard a suspicious transmission when they were leaving Boston. ‘Everybody stay in your seats’—that’s what he heard… just to let you know.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 36-37)

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)

Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal. It is currently flying near the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. (Ellison 10/17/2001; Adcock 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, and then comes back on as a signal that is not designated for any plane on this day. Then, within the space of a minute, it is changed to another new code. But New York Center air traffic computers do not correlate either of these new transponder codes with Flight 175. Consequently, according to an early FAA report, “the secondary radar return (transponder) indicating aircraft speed, altitude, and flight information began to coast and was no longer associated with the primary radar return.” Therefore, while controllers are able “to track the intruder easily… they couldn’t identify it.” However, Dave Bottiglia, the New York Center air traffic controller responsible for Flight 175, is currently trying to locate the already-crashed Flight 11, and therefore supposedly does not notice the transponder code changes on Flight 175 until 8:51 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Lane, Phillips, and Snyder 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21) According to a “Flight Path Study” by the National Transportation Safety Board, the change of Flight 175’s transponder code is the “first indication of deviation from normal routine.” (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file)

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)

Bill Roy.Bill Roy. [Source: Publicity photo]Apparently, managers at United Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) center, just outside Chicago, are unaware of any unfolding emergency until they see CNN reporting the burning World Trade Center (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). “Within minutes,” the air traffic control coordinator at United Airlines’ headquarters, located next to the SOC, calls an official at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center to confirm that the plane that just hit the WTC was not one of United’s aircraft. The FAA official tells him the plane had been a hijacked American Airlines 757. Soon afterwards, the air traffic control coordinator briefs Bill Roy and Mike Barber—the director and the dispatch manager at United’s SOC—on this information from the FAA. Barber then tries notifying United’s top corporate officials about it. However, he is unable to because the airline’s pager system is not working. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22)

The United Airlines System Operations Control center.The United Airlines System Operations Control center. [Source: United Airlines]Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, learns that an American Airlines plane has crashed into the World Trade Center and goes to his airline’s operations center to help respond to the incident, but when he gets there he is told that one of his airline’s planes, Flight 175, is missing. Studdert is in a meeting at United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, with Jim Goodwin, the airline’s chairman and CEO; Rono Dutta, the airline’s president; and three or four other individuals. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; Chicago Tribune 7/16/2003; 9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file) The meeting, in Goodwin’s office, is about union negotiations. (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 4/23/2012) Meanwhile, personnel in the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center have seen the television coverage of the burning North Tower and been informed that the WTC was hit by an American Airlines plane (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bill Roy, the SOC director, called the adjacent headquarters building and passed on the news to Studdert’s secretary, Maryann Irving.
Managers Are Baffled at the News of the Crash - Irving now runs to Goodwin’s office and, once there, tells Studdert: “Andy, call the SOC. An American plane just went into the World Trade Center.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file) The men in the office, Studdert will later recall, say to each other: “That’s nuts. That can’t happen. There’s no way, under any circumstances, that an airline pilot is gonna hit the World Trade Center.” (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 4/23/2012) Studdert thinks the plane that hit the WTC “couldn’t have been American Airlines, because that wasn’t an ordinary flight route.” (9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file) The men in Goodwin’s office switch on a TV and see the coverage of the WTC on fire.
Manager Learns that a United Airlines Flight Is Missing - Studdert immediately goes to respond to the incident. Although the plane that reportedly hit the WTC doesn’t belong to United Airlines, according to Studdert, “there’s a fraternity… of the airlines, so we would help each other during a crisis.” He heads across the complex to the SOC—the operations center. (Center for Values-Driven Leadership 4/23/2012) The operations center is a room about the size of a football field in which around 300 people are working, tracking planes and pulling up information relating to the airline’s flights. (Longman 2002, pp. 77) When Studdert arrives there, he says aloud, “Confirm American into the World Trade Center.” (Chicago Tribune 7/16/2003; Center for Values-Driven Leadership 4/23/2012) However, someone in the operations center informs him that contact has now been lost with a United Airlines plane, Flight 175. A few minutes later, Studdert is told that a supervisor at the airline’s maintenance office in San Francisco called and said Flight 175 has been reported as hijacked (see Shortly Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; Chicago Tribune 7/16/2003; 9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 22)
Manager Tells Employees, 'This Is Not a Drill' - Studdert is concerned that personnel in the operations center might think the apparent crisis is a scenario in a training exercise. (Chicago Tribune 7/16/2003) This is because 12 days ago he held a surprise exercise in which contact was lost with a United Airlines plane flying over the Pacific Ocean and airline personnel were led to believe the aircraft had crashed (see August 30, 2001). (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Studdert 5/26/2015 pdf file; Becker 11/12/2015) It is possible that personnel in the operations center are indeed confused over whether the current crisis is simulated, as part of another exercise. According to the Chicago Tribune, Studdert senses “disbelief among his employees” and so he tells them, “This is not a drill.” (Chicago Tribune 7/16/2003) But according to USA Today, “the staff already knows” this is not another exercise. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002)
Airline Employees See Second Crash on TV - At 9:03 a.m., Studdert and his colleagues see Flight 175 crashing into the South Tower of the WTC live on television (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Studdert, however, is unsure whether this second plane to hit the WTC was a United Airlines flight, because the clarity of the image on television is too poor to tell. (9/11 Commission 11/20/2003 pdf file) Studdert will be involved in activating his airline’s crisis center in response to the attacks (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 11/21/2003 pdf file; Center for Values-Driven Leadership 4/23/2012)

According to the 9/11 Commission, Dave Bottiglia, the air traffic controller handling Flight 175, only notices now that this flight’s transponder signal has changed (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). Bottiglia asks Flight 175 to return to its proper transponder code. There is no response. Beginning at 8:52 a.m., he makes repeated attempts to contact it, but there is still no response. Bottiglia contacts another controller at 8:53 a.m., and says: “We may have a hijack. We have some problems over here right now.… I can’t get a hold of UAL 175 at all right now and I don’t know where he went to.” (New York Times 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 48) This account apparently conflicts with earlier accounts that claim NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was notified at 8:43 a.m. that Flight 175 had been hijacked (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)

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)

Adam AriasAdam Arias [Source: US Air Force]Major Don Arias, the public affairs officer for NORAD, has just learned of the first WTC crash from television and a phone call from NEADS (see (8:38 a.m.-8:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Alarmed because his younger brother works at the WTC, he calls him immediately. Adam Arias works for an investment company on the 84th floor of the South Tower. According to some accounts, Don Arias tells his brother that the aircraft that crashed into the North Tower was likely a hijacked plane that he has been informed of, and orders him to “Get out of there. Go home.” (Florida State Times 11/2001; Seely 1/25/2002; Seydel 9/2002) But according to Newsday, Don Arias tells his brother he has heard there is “another hijacked airliner and might be another attack.” (Newsday 10/30/2001) This would be consistent with an early NORAD timeline, which had the agency receiving notification of the second hijacking at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, later accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will claim NORAD only hears of it around the time the plane hits the South Tower (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Adam Arias reacts to his brother’s call with urgency, going around the floor exhorting people to leave, and physically throwing one woman out of her office. Several survivors will later credit him with saving their lives. (Seely 1/25/2002; Seydel 9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 124) Adam Arias will be killed when the South Tower collapses. (Barber 9/9/2003)

The head air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center notifies a manager at the facility that she believes Flight 175 has been hijacked. The manager tries to notify regional managers about this, but cannot reach them because they are discussing the hijacking of Flight 11 and refuse to be disturbed. However, even though the controller managing Flight 175 said, “we may have a hijack” at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission will conclude that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is not notified about the aircraft until 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The Commission’s account will conflict with previous accounts that state that NEADS was notified of the Flight 175 hijacking at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). The head of the New York Center, Mike McCormick, has already decided at 8:52 a.m. that Flight 175 has been hijacked and is on a suicide run to New York City (see (8:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 8/12/2002)

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)

Jim Goodwin.Jim Goodwin. [Source: Chicago Tribune]Rich Miles, the manager at the United Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center just outside Chicago, receives a call from a supervisor at United’s maintenance office in San Francisco, informing him that Flight 175 has been reported as hijacked. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 22) The maintenance office received a call minutes earlier from a flight attendant on United 175, who said their plane had been hijacked (see 8:52 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7-8) When the supervisor tells Miles about this, he initially responds, “No, the information we’re getting is that it was an American 757.” (The FAA has just informed United Airlines that the plane that hit the World Trade Center was a hijacked American Airlines 757 (see (Shortly After 8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) But the supervisor insists, “No, we got a call from a flight attendant on 175.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Miles notifies his boss Bill Roy, the SOC director, about this information. Roy then contacts United’s CEO Jim Goodwin and its chief operating officer Andy Studdert, who are in a meeting at the airline’s headquarters, located next to the SOC. Roy then begins the process of activating the crisis center at the United headquarters, which will take about 30 minutes to complete. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 22)

The FAA’s New York Center informs the air traffic control coordinator at United Airlines’ headquarters, outside Chicago, that Flight 175 is missing from radar. Although Flight 175’s transponder signal changed at around 8:47 (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to the 9/11 Commission the air traffic controller handling the flight only noticed the change at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22)

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, learns from an FAA teleconference that there is a second hijacked plane over the US. He has previously called the FAA’s New York Center and was told, “We’re working a hijack,” but mistakenly thought the controller was referring to Flight 11 (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins now hears on the FAA headquarters’ hijack teleconference of the second hijacked airliner, Flight 175. (Spencer 2008, pp. 48-49 and 82) Spencer’s account is consistent with a May 2003 statement by the FAA, according to which the FAA established its teleconference “[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) But the 9/11 Commission will claim that the FAA headquarters’ hijacking teleconference is only established at “about 9:20” (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36) According to Spencer, Scoggins assumes that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is also on the FAA teleconference and is receiving the same information that he is about the second hijacking. However, the “FAA headquarters’ teleconference is between air traffic control facilities, the [FAA] Command Center, the Defense Department, and several other agencies; NORAD is not looped in.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 82) Although the FAA will claim that the “Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters [teleconference] and established contact with NORAD on a separate line,” the Air Force liaison will subsequently claim she only joins the teleconference after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; US Department of Transportation 8/31/2006 pdf file) Even though Scoggins assumes NEADS is already aware of the information, he will subsequently call it with the news of the second hijacking (see (9:02 a.m.-9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 82)

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)

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, has just received a phone call informing it of the hijacking of Flight 175 (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and several personnel have witnessed the plane crashing into the second World Trade Center tower live on CNN. There is considerable confusion on the operations floor over whether the plane seen on TV is the hijacking they have just been informed of. Tape recordings capture NEADS personnel in the background trying to make sense of things: “Is this explosion part of that that we’re lookin’ at now on TV?“… “And there’s a possible second hijack also—a United Airlines“… “Two planes?” Someone comments, “I think this is a damn input, to be honest.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Another person replies, “Then this is a damned messed-up input!” (Spencer 2008, pp. 84) “Input” refers to a simulations input, as part of a training exercise. (Bronner 8/1/2006) NORAD has the capacity to inject simulated material, including mass attacks, during exercises, “as though it was being sensed for the first time by a radar site.” (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999) At least one military exercise this morning is reported to include simulated information injected onto radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Simmie 12/9/2001) At the current time, despite the earlier crash of Flight 11, NORAD has yet to cancel a major exercise it is in the middle of (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 59)

The FAA sets up a hijacking teleconference with several agencies, including the Defense Department. This is almost one hour after the FAA’s Boston flight control began notifying the chain of command (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001) and notified other flight control centers about the first hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). According to the Acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, this teleconference (called the “hijack net”) is “the fundamental primary source of information between the FAA, [Defense Department], FBI, Secret Service, and… other agencies.” Yet even after the delay in setting it up, FAA and Defense Department participants later claim it plays no role in coordinating the response to the hijackings. The 9/11 Commission says, “The NMCC [National Military Command Center inside the Pentagon] officer who participated told us that the call was monitored only periodically because the information was sporadic, it was of little value, and there were other important tasks. The FAA manager of the teleconference also remembered that the military participated only briefly before the Pentagon was hit.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36) According to a statement provided by the FAA to the 9/11 Commission in 2003, this teleconference began significantly earlier—“[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)

United Airlines headquarters.United Airlines headquarters. [Source: United Airlines]Just before 9:22, United Airlines headquarters, located outside Chicago, begins the “lockout” procedure to restrict access to passenger and crew information about Flight 175. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26) This procedure is standard for airlines in safety and security incidents. As the 9/11 Commission will later describe, “It acknowledges an emergency on the flight and isolates information so that the case can be managed by top leadership at the airlines in a way that protects information from being altered or released, and also protects the identities of the passengers and crew.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12-13) This procedure begins almost 40 minutes after Flight 175 was hijacked (see (Between 8:42 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and about 35 minutes after the plane’s transponder signal changed (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

Ed Ballinger, the United Airlines flight dispatcher monitoring Flight 93, sends a warning message to this flight, telling the pilots to beware of any cockpit intrusion. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11) At 9:21, United Airlines instructed its dispatchers to warn their flights to secure their cockpit doors (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), but Ballinger had already taken the initiative two minutes earlier to begin warning the 16 flights he is monitoring (see 9:19 a.m. September 11, 2001). His text message reads: “Beware any cockpit intrusion… Two aircraft in NY hit [World] Trade Center builds.” Because this message is sent out to Ballinger’s 16 aircraft in groups, it is not until 9:23 a.m. that it is transmitted to Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 37) The warning is received in the plane’s cockpit one minute later. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11) Then, at 9:26, Flight 93 pilot Jason Dahl responds with the text message, “Ed confirm latest mssg plz [message please]—Jason.” Apart from a routine radio contact with the FAA’s Cleveland Center a minute later (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), this is the last normal communication made from Flight 93’s cockpit before the hijacking occurs. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 38) Ballinger will later complain: “One of the things that upset me was that they knew 45 minutes before that American Airlines [Flight 11] had a problem. I put the story together myself [from news accounts]. Perhaps if I had the information sooner, I might have gotten the message to [Flight] 93 to bar the door.” (Davis 4/14/2004)

The FAA’s Cleveland Center.The FAA’s Cleveland Center. [Source: FAA]Having entered the center’s airspace, Flight 93 establishes radio contact with the FAA’s Cleveland Center, a regional air traffic control center that guides long-range, high altitude flights. The pilot reports simply that his flight is experiencing intermittent light choppy air, and does not indicate there being any problems on board, saying, “Good morning Cleveland, United 93 with you at three-five-oh [35,000 feet], intermittent light chop.” The controller, John Werth, is busy with other flights, so does not initially respond. A minute later, Flight 93 radios again, “United 93 checking in three-five-oh.” Werth replies, “United 93, three-five-zero, roger.” (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; Longman 2002, pp. 69; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 37; Hirschkorn 9/10/2006) Two minutes later, Flight 93 will make its final radio communication before the hijacker takeover occurs (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Flight 93 makes its last normal communication with air traffic control before being hijacked, acknowledging a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) Flight 93 checked in with the Cleveland Center a couple of minutes earlier (see 9:24 a.m.-9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). At 9:27, the Cleveland controller, John Werth, alerts it to another aircraft 12 miles away and to its right, at 37,000 feet: “United 93, that traffic for you is one o’clock, 12 miles east, bound three-seven-zero.” Seconds later, Flight 93 responds, “Negative contact, we’re looking, United 93.” Less than a minute after this, the hijackers appear to enter Flight 93’s cockpit (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; Longman 2002, pp. 69; Hirschkorn 9/10/2006)

Jason Dahl.Jason Dahl. [Source: Publicity photo]According to the 9/11 Commission, less than a minute after Flight 93 acknowledged a routine radio transmission from the FAA’s Cleveland Center (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001), John Werth—the controller handling the flight—and pilots of other aircraft in the vicinity of Flight 93 hear “a radio transmission of unintelligible sounds of possible screaming or a struggle from an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Hirschkorn 9/10/2006) Someone, presumably Flight 93’s pilot Jason Dahl, is overheard by controllers as he shouts, “Mayday!” (Wald 7/22/2004) Seconds later, the controller responds, “Somebody call Cleveland?” Then there are more sounds of screaming and someone yelling, “Get out of here, get out of here.” (Mandel 9/16/2001; Breslau 9/22/2001; Vulliamy 12/2/2001; MSNBC 7/30/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Then the voices of the hijackers can be heard talking in Arabic. The words are later translated to show they are talking to each other, saying, “Everything is fine.” (Breslau, Clift, and Thomas 12/3/2001) Later, passenger phone calls will describe two dead or injured bodies just outside the cockpit; presumably these are the two pilots. (Wald 7/22/2004)

John Werth.John Werth. [Source: CBS]Shortly after hearing strange noises from the cockpit of Flight 93, Cleveland air traffic controllers notice the plane has descended about 700 feet. John Werth, the controller who is handling the plane, tells the supervisor nearest to him, “I think we have another one [i.e., another hijacking].” He will repeatedly radio the cockpit over the next four minutes, asking the pilot to confirm the hijacking, but receive no response. At 9:30 a.m., Werth begins asking other nearby flights on his frequency if they’ve heard screaming; several say that they have. (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Hirschkorn 9/10/2006) The Cleveland Center immediately notifies United Airlines’ headquarters of the loss of communication with Flight 93 (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the FAA chain of command is apparently not also immediately informed. And the Cleveland Center will not contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 93 until 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28 and 30)

The FAA’s Cleveland Center notifies United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, that Flight 93 is not responding to attempted radio contacts. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 39) Cleveland Center made its last normal communication with Flight 93 at 9:27 (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) After the hijacking began at around 9:28, the controller handling Flight 93, John Werth, tried unsuccessfully to re-establish contact with it. (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; Hirschkorn 9/10/2006) The lack of response from Flight 93, combined with the plane’s turning to the east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), will lead United to believe, by 9:36 a.m., that it has been hijacked. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 456)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are following Flight 93 while it is still flying west and before it reverses course, according to the accounts of some NEADS and NORAD officials, but their claims will be disputed by the 9/11 Commission. (Filson 2003, pp. 68, 71; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 100-101)
NEADS Watches Flight 93 Heading West - Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NEADS, will later recall that around this time, “his focus” is on Flight 93, which, he will say, is “circling over Chicago.” (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file) Marr will tell author Leslie Filson that the flight is being monitored by NEADS personnel while it is still flying west. He will describe: “We don’t have fighters that way and we think [Flight 93 is] headed toward Detroit or Chicago. I’m thinking Chicago is the target.” Marr will say NEADS contacts an Air National Guard base in the area, “so they [can] head off 93 at the pass” (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 68)
NORAD Watching Flight 93 When It Changes Course - Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer who is in the NEADS battle cab with Marr, will give a similar account. He will say that when the Flight 93 “incident began to unfold,” it was his “professional judgment that the plane was going to strike the Sears Tower in Chicago, and he passed that judgment to Colonel Marr.” (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) And Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will say that NORAD personnel are already following Flight 93 at 9:36 a.m., when it reverses course and heads back east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will tell Filson, “[W]e watched the 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward [Washington,] DC.” (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; Filson 2003, pp. 71; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 41) Marr will similarly say “that he distinctly remembers watching [Flight 93] come west and turn over Cleveland.” (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file)
9/11 Commission Says No One at NORAD Watches Flight 93 - However, the 9/11 Commission will dispute these accounts. It will state: “The record demonstrates… that no one at any level in NORAD… ever ‘watched the 93 track’ start to turn south towards Washington, DC. In fact, the military never saw Flight 93 at all.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 101) NEADS will first be alerted to Flight 93 significantly later, at 10:07 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Officer May Have Confused Flight 93 with Delta 1989 - The 9/11 Commission will suggest to Marr that he was mistaking Flight 93 for Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, an aircraft that is incorrectly reported as having been hijacked around this time (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Marr will respond that he may have confused Flight 93 with Delta 1989, but say that “he believes the last point at which he saw Flight 93 was when it was over Ohio, before it turned off its transponder,” which happens at 9:41 a.m. (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-30) Senior officials, including Marr and Arnold, will claim that the US military continues following Flight 93 after it reverses course and is heading toward Washington (see (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 71, 73) Stuart will say that after Flight 93 changes course, he “and other NEADS people knew it was headed to DC.” (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file)

At the United Airlines crisis center, at its headquarters outside Chicago, staff members watch Flight 93’s radar track until the plane crashes. United Airlines’ senior management has started to gather in the theater-like crisis center, a room that resembles NASA’s Mission Control. Although the airline still has hundreds of flights in the air, officials have highlighted only Flight 93’s path on the large Aircraft Situation Display screen. Even after the plane’s transponder has been switched off (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the flight can still be tracked, but officials can no longer determine its altitude. They watch as the plane’s speed fluctuates wildly while it heads toward Washington. Hank Krakowski, United Airlines’ director of flight operations, will later recall: “We knew what was going on. We could see the airplane headed toward the capital. We were wondering whether the military was going to intervene or not.” Those in the crisis center see Flight 93’s radar track stop moving at the time it crashes. A dispatcher determines the latitude and longitude of its last position and reports that it was south of Johnstown in Pennsylvania, about 120 miles from Washington. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; Longman 2002, pp. 77-78 and 214; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002)

Sabra Kaulia.Sabra Kaulia. [Source: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association]The US Air Force liaison to the FAA joins a teleconference that has been established by the FAA shortly after the time of the Pentagon attack, according to her own later recollections, although an FAA statement will claim she joined it significantly earlier. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 3/26/2004; US Department of Transportation 8/31/2006 pdf file)
Watches Television, Does Not Join Teleconference - The Air Force liaison, Colonel Sheryl Atkins, will recall that she arrived at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, around five to 10 minutes after the first attack in New York (see (Between 8:51 a.m. and 8:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and went to her fourth-floor office there. She will describe: “Everybody was there around the TV. We watched the events unfold. At first, we were kind of hanging back and saying, you know, ‘there’s something awful going on with the air traffic system.‘… But at a certain point, not too long after that, it became obvious that, you know, something really strange is going on.”
Heads to Situation Room - Shortly after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit, Atkins hears CNN reporting a bomb may have gone off at the Pentagon. She will recall that she then heads up to the 10th floor of the headquarters building along with Sabra Kaulia, the program director for air traffic airspace management, and goes to the air traffic situation room, where David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, is participating in a teleconference. (9/11 Commission 3/26/2004; US Department of Transportation 8/31/2006 pdf file) According to a 2003 statement provided by the FAA, the FAA established this teleconference with several other agencies “[w]ithin minutes” of the first attack in New York (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Atkins will say she is then “in and out” of the air traffic situation room throughout the morning. She does not speak with any of the military representatives at the White House, but does work directly with Steve Nolte, the airspace manager at NORAD, and also communicates with Lieutenant Colonel Michael-Anne Cherry, who is at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, to exchange information. (9/11 Commission 3/26/2004)
FAA Claims Atkins Joined Teleconference Earlier - In a 2003 statement it provides to the 9/11 Commission the FAA will say Atkins joined the teleconference significantly earlier than she claims. According to the statement, the “US Air Force liaison to the FAA [i.e. Atkins] immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge” that was set up minutes after the first attack in New York, “and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
Other Liaisons Arrive Later On - As well as Atkins, who represents the Air Force, liaisons representing the other three military services within the Department of Defense (the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps) work at FAA headquarters. However, Atkins is the only military liaison currently there. The Navy and Marine Corps liaisons will arrive at FAA headquarters at around 10:30 a.m. and join Atkins on the building’s 10th floor, from where they help establish and maintain critical communications channels between the Defense Department and the FAA. The Army liaison will not arrive at FAA headquarters until the following day. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 3/26/2004)

The transponder signal from Flight 93 ceases. (CNN 9/17/2001; MSNBC 9/3/2002; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, the plane can be—and is—tracked using primary radar by Cleveland flight controllers and at United headquarters. Altitude can no longer be determined, except by visual sightings from other aircraft. The plane’s speed begins to vary wildly, fluctuating between 600 and 400 mph before eventually settling around 400 mph. (Longman 2002, pp. 77, 214; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Bill Keaton.Bill Keaton. [Source: Kevin Niedermier]Cleveland Center air traffic controller Bill Keaton is responsible for guiding high-altitude flights in the airspace where Flight 93 turned off its transponder (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). After its transponder goes off, he follows Flight 93 on his radar scope as it travels across his sector, headed toward Washington, DC, and is instructed not to let any other aircraft come within 20 miles of it. Because its transponder is off, Keaton cannot tell the plane’s altitude. He sees it disappear from his scope at the time it crashes. (Levin 8/11/2002; Renner 9/6/2006)

The air traffic control tower at Pittsburgh International Airport is evacuated, because of concerns that Flight 93, which is heading in the direction of the airport, could crash into it. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Ackerman 9/23/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002, pp. 11-13; Stauffer 11/3/2006)
Cleveland Center Notifies Pittsburgh Tower - At 9:44 a.m., an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Cleveland Center calls the Pittsburgh Airport control tower and notifies it of the loss of radio contact with Flight 93, and the loss of a secondary radar return from that aircraft (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Cleveland Center controller also says Flight 93 has made an unanticipated turn (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and its flight path will take it close to Pittsburgh Airport, if not directly over it. (Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002, pp. 11-12) The controller at the Pittsburgh tower who answers the call, apparently Paul Delfine, begins tracking Flight 93’s primary target on radar, and calls over his operations supervisor, Mal Fuller. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Stauffer 11/3/2006)
Supervisor Orders Evacuation - Delfine points to a plane—which Fuller only later learns is Flight 93—on a radar scope. He tells Fuller it was hijacked over Cleveland, and controllers don’t know where it is heading. Fuller will later recall: “In two sweeps of the radar, I could tell it was going very fast. It was headed directly for the control tower.” Fuller is aware of the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and, at 9:49, gives the order, “Evacuate the facility.” (Ackerman 9/23/2001; Stauffer 11/3/2006) By 9:51, the facility has been evacuated. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) However, one controller refuses to leave his post and remains in the tower. (Spencer 2008, pp. 193-194)
Employees Do Not See Flight 93 Overhead - Some of the evacuated employees are so upset that they immediately head home. Others mill around in a parking lot. Fuller will later guess that Flight 93 passed directly overhead as he was heading outside, but he assumes it was too high for anyone to see it. He will recall: “We watched and watched and watched. We never saw anything.” (Stauffer 11/3/2006)
Controllers Return to Facility - Minutes after evacuating, at 9:56 a small number of tower controllers will volunteer to return to their facility. Once back inside, they find that Flight 93’s track is no longer visible on their radar screens. At 10:05 a.m., tower personnel will contact the FAA’s Herndon Command Center to explain why they evacuated. They say they did so because there had been an aircraft, thought to be Flight 93, which appeared to be on a collision course with the tower, and this aircraft allegedly had a bomb on board. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Federal Aviation Administration 3/21/2002, pp. 12-13) Around the time the Pittsburgh Airport control tower evacuates, while Flight 93 is heading east, NEADS battle commander Colonel Robert Marr hears that the FAA’s Cleveland Center is being evacuated (see (10:17 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 73)

Rich Miles, the manager of United Airlines’ System Operations Control center outside Chicago, tries to initiate the “lockout” procedure for Flight 93, which would acknowledge an emergency on the flight and safeguard information about it, but he is unable to do so. At some time between 9:45 a.m. and 9:50 a.m., the United Airlines maintenance facility in San Francisco contacted Miles about a call it had just received from an attendant on Flight 93, reporting that her plane had been hijacked (see 9:35 a.m. September 11, 2001). In response, Miles attempts to initiate a lockout of Flight 93. Lockout is a standard procedure for airlines in safety and security incidents, which isolates information about a flight so the case can be managed by the airline’s top leadership, and protects the identities of the passengers and crew. But Miles is unable activate this procedure. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is because United Airlines has already conducted a lockout of Flight 175 (see (9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and its computer system is not presently set up to deal simultaneously with two such procedures. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12-13 and 43)

Flight 93’s transponder, which was switched off after Flight 93 was hijacked, is turned back on just before the plane crashes, thereby revealing the plane’s altitude to air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002) A transponder is a device that sends a plane’s identifying information, speed, and altitude to controllers’ radar screens. (Maraniss 9/16/2001) Flight 93’s transponder was switched off at around 9:40 a.m. (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), although Cleveland Center controllers have still been able to follow Flight 93 on “primary radar,” which shows less information about a flight (see (9:41 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 1/8/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Sangiacomo 7/3/2011)
Plane Shown to Be Flying at 8,200 Feet - Flight 93’s transponder is reactivated at 10:02 a.m. and 50 seconds, and then stays on for “approximately 20 seconds,” according to “information from the flight data” provided to the FBI later today by Rick Kettell, the manager of the Cleveland Center. After the transponder is turned back on, Flight 93’s radar track is observed by Cleveland Center controllers Linda Justice and Stacey Taylor. The information from the transponder shows them that Flight 93 is at an altitude of 8,200 feet. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file)
Plane Soon Disappears from Radar Screens - Flight 93 will crash into the ground at 10:03 a.m. and 11 seconds, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, less than 30 seconds after the transponder is reactivated (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) Cleveland Center controllers will see the plane completely disappear from their radar screens around that time. (MSNBC 9/11/2002) A Cleveland Center controller will then report, apparently over an FAA teleconference, that Flight 93’s transponder “came on briefly and then it went back off with the primary, and now we’ve lost him completely.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) “I had two radar hits on [Flight 93],” Taylor will recall, adding that she then “lost the primary target on [Flight 93] and we suspected it had gone down.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/16/2001 pdf file) The reason Flight 93’s transponder is switched back on just before the plane crashes is unclear. Taylor will comment, a year after 9/11: “That’s something we’ve always wanted to know. Why did the transponder come back on?” She will say Cleveland Center controllers wondered this because they believed that “the hijackers had shut it off so that they couldn’t be tracked.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002)

The military liaison at the FAA’s Cleveland Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and alerts it to the hijacked Flight 93. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is the first notification NEADS receives about Flight 93, but it comes too late, since the plane has already crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 46)
'Bomb on Board' Flight 93 - At 10:05 a.m., the military liaison at the Cleveland Center, who is unaware that Flight 93 has just crashed, calls NEADS to inform it that Flight 93 is heading toward Washington, DC. Even though communicating with NEADS is not one of his responsibilities, he wants to make sure it is in the loop. (Spencer 2008, pp. 224) At NEADS, the call is answered by Tech Sergeant Shelley Watson. Shortly into the call, at 10:07, the military liaison tells her: “We got a United 93 out here. Are you aware of that?” He continues, “That has a bomb on board.” Watson asks: “A bomb on board? And this is confirmed? You have a mode three [beacon code], sir?” The military liaison replies, “No, we lost his transponder” (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The news about Flight 93 is shouted out to Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander. Nasypany responds: “Gimme the call sign. Gimme the whole nine yards.… Let’s get some info, real quick. They got a bomb?”
Liaison Wants Fighters Sent toward Flight 93 - The military liaison continues, asking Watson if NEADS scrambled fighter jets in response to Delta 1989, an aircraft that was mistakenly reported as having been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Watson replies: “We did. Out of Selfridge and Toledo” (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), and says these jets are airborne. When the military liaison asks if the fighters can be directed to where Flight 93 is, Watson asks him if the Cleveland Center has latitude and longitude coordinates for this aircraft. The military liaison replies that he has not got this information available right now. All he knows is that Flight 93 has “got a confirmed bomb on board… and right now, his last known position was in the Westmoreland area.… Which is… in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, area.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NEADS Searches on Radar - The news of a bomb on board Flight 93 spreads quickly at NEADS, and personnel there search for the aircraft’s primary return on their radar screens. But because the plane has already crashed, they will be unable to locate it. NEADS will only learn that Flight 93 has crashed at 10:15 a.m., during a call with the FAA’s Washington Center (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30-31)
FAA Failed to Notify Military Earlier - The Cleveland Center’s notification to NEADS about Flight 93 comes 39 minutes after the plane was hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and 33 minutes after FAA headquarters was alerted to the hijacking (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28) At the time NEADS is alerted to Flight 93, NORAD is similarly uninformed about this aircraft, according to the 9/11 Commission. The Commission will state, “At 10:07, its representative on the air threat conference call stated that NORAD had ‘no indication of a hijack heading to DC at this time.’” According to the Commission, the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon learned about the Flight 93 hijacking slightly earlier on, at 10:03 a.m. (see 10:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, the NMCC was notified by the White House, not the FAA. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42) A former senior FAA executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, will later try to explain why it takes the FAA so long to alert NEADS to Flight 93. He will say, “Our whole procedures prior to 9/11 were that you turned everything [regarding a hijacking] over to the FBI.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) Yet military instructions contradict this, stating, “In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA.” (US Department of Defense 7/31/1997 pdf file; US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file)
NORAD Commanders Claim Earlier Awareness of Flight 93 - Two senior NORAD officials will contradict the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion, and claim they were aware of Flight 93 well before it crashed (see Shortly Before 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:36 a.m.-10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 68, 71-73) Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will tell the Commission that, while the flight was still airborne, “his focus was on UAL 93, which was circling over Chicago,” and he “distinctly remembers watching the flight UAL 93 come west, and turn over Cleveland.” (9/11 Commission 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, will recall, “[W]e watched the [Flight] 93 track as it meandered around the Ohio-Pennsylvania area and started to turn south toward DC.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) produces a chronology of the events of September 11, which it uses when it briefs the White House today, but the document fails to mention when NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to two of the hijacked planes. The FAA’s chronology, titled “Summary of Air Traffic Hijack Events,” incorporates “information contained in the NEADS logs, which had been forwarded, and on transcripts obtained from the FAA’s Cleveland Center, among others,” according to John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission.
Document Includes Notification Times for First Two Hijacked Flights - The chronology refers “accurately to the times shown in NEADS logs for the initial notifications from FAA about the hijacking of American 11 and the possible hijacking of United 175,” according to the 9/11 Commission. It gives 8:40 a.m. as the time at which the FAA alerted NEADS to Flight 11, the first plane to be hijacked (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and 9:05 a.m. as the time when the FAA alerted NEADS to Flight 175, the second plane to be hijacked (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, it makes no mention of when the FAA alerted NEADS to Flight 77 and Flight 93, the third and fourth planes to be hijacked. The FAA’s omission of these two notification times is “suspicious,” according to the 9/11 Commission, “because these are the two flights where FAA’s notification to NEADS was significantly delayed.”
Document Omits Notification Times for Flights 77 and 93 - The chronology, as Farmer will later point out, “makes no mention… of the notification to NEADS at 9:33 that American 77 was ‘lost’ (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001) or of the notification to NEADS at 9:34 of an unidentified large plane six miles southwest of the White House (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), both of which are in the NEADS logs that the FAA reviewed” when it was putting together the timeline. It also fails to mention the call made by the FAA’s Cleveland Center to NEADS in which, at 10:07 a.m., the caller alerted NEADS to Flight 93 and said there was a “bomb on board” the plane (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001), even though this information was also “duly noted in the NEADS logs” that the FAA has reviewed.
Chronology Omits Other Key Information - The chronology, Farmer will write, reflects “a time at which the FAA was notified that the Otis [Air National Guard Base] fighters were scrambled” in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it gives “no account of the scramble of the fighters from Langley Air Force Base” (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). It also fails to mention the report that NEADS received after Flight 11 crashed, in which it was incorrectly told the plane was still airborne and heading toward Washington, DC (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Despite lacking information about the times when the FAA alerted NEADS to Flights 77 and 93, the FAA’s chronology is one of the documents used to brief the White House about the 9/11 attacks today (see September 17, 2001).
Investigators Were Told to Determine Exact Notification Times - The chronology is the product of investigations that began promptly in response to the 9/11 attacks. According to senior FAA officials, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey and Deputy Administrator Monte Belger “instructed a group of FAA employees (an ‘after-action group’) to reconstruct the events of 9/11.” This group, according to the 9/11 Commission, “began its work immediately after 9/11 and reviewed tape recordings, transcripts, handwritten notes, logs, and other documents in an effort to create an FAA chronology of events.” The group, according to one witness, “was specifically asked to determine exactly when the FAA notified the military that each of the four planes had been hijacked,” and “[s]everal people worked on determining correct times for FAA notifications to the military.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/29/2004; Farmer 2009, pp. 245-247) NORAD will release a timeline of the events of September 11 and its response to the attacks a day after the FAA chronology is published (see September 18, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/29/2004)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) releases a chronology of the events of September 11 and its response to the terrorist attacks that day, but the accuracy of this account will later be challenged by the 9/11 Commission. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34; 9/11 Commission 7/29/2004)
NORAD Learned of First Hijackings Too Late to Defend the WTC - The chronology provides the times at which NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the hijackings and when fighter jets were scrambled in response to the hijackings. It states that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notified NEADS about Flight 11, the first hijacked aircraft, at 8:40 a.m. In response, the order was given to scramble two F-15 fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), the same time that Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the fighters were airborne at 8:52 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). The FAA notified NEADS about Flight 175, the second hijacked aircraft, at 8:43 a.m., according to the chronology. When Flight 175 crashed into the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), the chronology states, the Otis fighters were 71 miles away from New York.
Fighters Were Scrambled in Response to Flight 77 Hijacking - NEADS was alerted to Flight 77, the third hijacked aircraft, at 9:24 a.m., according to the chronology. In response, the order was given to scramble two F-16 fighters from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and these were airborne at 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But the F-16s were 105 miles from the Pentagon when it was hit at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). Regarding the fourth hijacked aircraft, Flight 93, the chronology gives “N/A” as the time the FAA alerted NEADS, but it also states that the FAA and NEADS discussed the flight on “a line of open communication.” At 10:03 a.m., when Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the chronology states, the F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base in response to the hijacking of Flight 77 were “in place to protect DC.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)
9/11 Commission Disputes NORAD's Account - The 9/11 Commission Report, released in 2004, will highlight what it says are inaccuracies in NORAD’s timeline of the events of September 11. It will state that NORAD’s claim that NEADS was alerted to Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m. was incorrect. The notice NEADS received at that time, according to the report, was the incorrect claim that Flight 11 “had not hit the World Trade Center and was heading for Washington, DC” (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). “NEADS never received notice that American 77 was hijacked,” the report will state. “It was notified at 9:34 that American 77 was lost (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Then, minutes later, NEADS was told that an unknown plane was six miles southwest of the White House” (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). The report will state that NORAD’s claim that the Langley fighters were scrambled in response to the notification about Flight 77 is also incorrect. Instead, it will state, the fighters were scrambled in response to the incorrect report that Flight 11 was still airborne and heading south. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34)
9/11 Commission Disputes NORAD's Account regarding Flights 175 and 93 - Furthermore, whereas NORAD’s chronology claims that NEADS discussed Flight 93 with the FAA on “a line of open communication,” the 9/11 Commission Report will state that NEADS “first received a call about United 93 from the military liaison at [the FAA’s] Cleveland Center at 10:07,” by which time the plane “had already crashed” (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 30) And while NORAD states that the FAA notified NEADS about Flight 175 at 8:43 a.m., according to the report, the first notification came “in a phone call from [the FAA’s] New York Center to NEADS at 9:03” (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23)
Military Has Been Slow to Provide Details of Its Response on September 11 - US military officials, according to the Washington Post, “have been slow to respond to press inquiries for a timeline that would establish the exact times that civil aviation authorities became aware of the hijackings, when US military commanders were notified, and when US fighter jets took to the air.” (Graham 9/15/2001) On September 13, Air Force General Richard Myers was questioned about the military’s response to the 9/11 attacks before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but his answers were vague and confused (see September 13, 2001). (US Congress 9/13/2001; Farmer 2009, pp. 241-242) A day later, Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, provided reporters with details of the military’s response to the hijackings in an “impromptu hallway interview” at the Pentagon (see September 14, 2001). (Whittle 9/14/2001)


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