!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001: Otis Fighters Airborne, Allegedly Ordered toward New York'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001: Otis Fighters Airborne, Allegedly Ordered toward New York. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

The last routine communication takes place between air traffic control and the pilots of Flight 11 at 8:13 and 29 seconds. Boston Center air traffic controller Pete Zalewski is handling the flight, and instructs it to turn 20 degrees to the right. Pilot John Ogonowski immediately acknowledges the instruction, but seconds later he fails to respond to a command to climb to 35,000 feet. Zalewski repeatedly tries to reach the pilot over the next ten minutes, even using the emergency frequency, but gets no response (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission concludes that Flight 11 is hijacked at 8:14, or shortly afterwards (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4]

Entity Tags: Pete Zalewski, John Ogonowski

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

According to Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, the center initially thought Flight 11 “was a catastrophic electrical failure and… was diverting to New York” (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 10/19/2002] However, at about 8:24 a.m., controllers heard two radio transmissions from it, with the voice of a hijacker declaring, “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). Pete Zalewski, who is handling Flight 11, says that after the second of these: “I immediately knew something was very wrong. And I knew it was a hijack.” He alerts his supervisor. Lino Martins, another Boston air traffic controller, says, “the supervisor came over, and that’s when we realized something was serious.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/13/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, two senior FAA officials—Bill Peacock and David Canoles—later say that the hijacker transmissions were not attributed to a flight, so controllers didn’t know their origin. [Washington Times, 9/11/2002] An early FAA report will similarly refer to them as having come “from an unknown origin.” But right away, the center begins notifying the chain of command that a suspected hijacking is taking place (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] However, some reports claim that controllers decided Flight 11 was probably hijacked earlier than this, by about 8:20 a.m. (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Pete Zalewski, Lino Martins

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, instructs Major James Fox, the leader of the weapons team, to launch fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Nasypany has just received this order—to launch the jets—from Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 15 and 88] Marr issued it after seeking permission to do so from Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region (CONR) (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Marr will later claim, “My intent was to scramble Otis to military airspace while we found out what was going on.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56] Nasypany gives Fox a coordinate for just north of New York City, and tells him, “Head ‘em in that direction.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] The jets will be scrambled from Otis a minute later (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but there will be conflicting accounts of what their initial destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Interestingly, the 9/11 Commission will later state that, “Because of a technical issue, there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis scramble.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash.The hole caused by the Flight 11 crash. [Source: Reuters]Flight 11 slams into the WTC North Tower (Building 1). Hijackers Mohamed Atta Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, and Satam Al Suqami presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. Seismic records pinpoint the crash at 26 seconds after 8:46 a.m. [CNN, 9/12/2001; New York Times, 9/12/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; New York Times, 5/26/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; Newsday, 9/10/2002] The NIST report states the crash time to be 8:46:30. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 19] The 9/11 Commission Report states the crash time to be 8:46:40. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7] Investigators believe the plane still has about 10,000 gallons of fuel (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 5/26/2002] The plane strikes the 93rd through 99th floors in the 110-story building. No one above the crash line survives; approximately 1,360 people die. Below the crash line, approximately 72 die and more than 4,000 survive. Both towers are slightly less than half full at the time of the attack, with between 5,000 to 7,000 people in each tower. This number is lower than expected. Many office workers have not yet shown up to work, and tourists to the observation deck opening at 9:30 A.M. have yet to arrive. [USA Today, 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20-22] The impact severs some columns on the north side of the North Tower. Each tower is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which weighs 283,600 lb and is traveling at an estimated speed of around 430 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 35 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another two. The damage to the South Tower’s perimeter will be similar (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 20, 22] The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so this damage reduces its ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.5 percent. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 6] The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may have damaged the core even after crashing through the exterior wall. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): “Moving at 500 mph, an engine broke any exterior column it hit. If the engine missed the floor slab, the majority of the engine core remained intact and had enough residual momentum to sever a core column upon direct impact.” [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 107] According to NIST’s base case computer model, three of the core columns are severed and another ten suffer some damage. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 189 pdf file] If this is accurate, it means that the impact damage to the core reduces the Tower’s strength by another approximately 7.5 percent, meaning that the building loses about 15 percent of its strength in total. This damage will be cited after 9/11 by NIST and others researchers as an event contributing to the building’s collapse (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged. The original fireproofing on the fire floors was mostly Blazeshield DC/F, but some of the fireproofing on the flooring has recently been upgraded to Blazeshield II, which is about 20 percent denser and 20 percent more adhesive. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file] Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but NIST will estimate the damage to it using a computer model. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 43 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 60,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about one and a half floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 23] According to NIST, more fireproofing is stripped from the South Tower (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, World Trade Center, Wail Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Technicians on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) receive what is apparently their first notification that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, in a phone call from the FAA’s Boston Center. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] NEADS ID technicians are currently trying to locate Flight 11, when they are called by Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center. ID tech Stacia Rountree answers the call. In response to Scoggins’s information, Rountree says to her colleagues, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” She asks Scoggins, “Was it American 11?” He tells her this is not confirmed. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 50] Another of the ID techs, Shelley Watson, starts murmuring in response to the news: “Oh my God. Oh God. Oh my God.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] A computer maintenance technician then runs onto the operations floor and announces that CNN is broadcasting that a 737 has hit the WTC. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 51]
NEADS Calls New York Center - Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, the leader of the ID techs, tells Watson: “Update New York! See if they lost altitude on that plane altogether.” Watson immediately calls the FAA’s New York Center and asks, “Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?” When the person who answers her call says no, Watson explains, “Being hit by an aircraft.” The person at New York Center says, “You’re kidding,” but Watson adds, “It’s on the world news.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] One of the NEADS technicians is finally able to display the live CNN coverage on one of the 15-foot screens at the front of the room. People stare in silence at the footage of the burning North Tower. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 51]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459]
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

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

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Major General Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, provides reporters with details of the 9/11 attacks and the US military’s response to the hijackings. Speaking at the Pentagon, Weaver gives reporters a detailed account of what happened on September 11. He says Air National Guard planes responded to the hijackings on orders from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), which was alerted to the hijackings by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Fighters Took Off Too Late to Catch Flight 175 - Weaver says that at 8:53 a.m., seven minutes after Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), two F-15 fighter jets took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in pursuit of Flight 175, the second plane to be hijacked (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, Weaver says, the FAA had only told NEADS that “there was an airplane that had a problem,” and at that time it was unclear if Flight 175 had been hijacked. He says that although the fighters flew at over 500 miles per hour, they were unable to catch up with Flight 175 before it hit the South Tower of the WTC at 9:03 a.m. (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).
More Fighters Were Launched Just before Pentagon Was Hit - Weaver says Flight 77, the third aircraft to be hijacked, flew west for 45 minutes and then turned east, and its transponder was turned off. He does not claim that the military received notice that it had been hijacked, but says NEADS scrambled F-16 fighters that were on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia at 9:35 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Two minutes later, at 9:37 a.m., the Pentagon was hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). The F-16s, he says, subsequently remained on patrol over the Pentagon.
No Fighters Took Off to Intercept Flight 93 - Weaver says no fighters were scrambled to chase after Flight 93, the fourth hijacked plane, which crashed in a field in Pennsylvania (see (10:03 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “There was no notification for us to launch airplanes,” he tells the reporters. “We weren’t even close.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001; Farmer, 2009, pp. 244] (However, also on this day, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz contradicts Weaver’s claim. He tells PBS’s NewsHour, “[W]e were already tracking in on that plane that crashed in Pennsylvania,” and adds, “[T]he Air Force was in a position to do so [i.e. shoot Flight 93 down] if we had had to.” [NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 9/14/2001; Farmer, 2009, pp. 245] ) Weaver says that even if fighters had caught up with the hijacked planes, they may have been unable to stop them reaching their targets. “You’re not going to get an American pilot shooting down an American airliner,” he says. “We don’t have permission to do that.” According to Weaver, only the president can issue an order to shoot down an American airliner. [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001]
Weaver's Account Is the 'Most Accurate' Prior to the 9/11 Commission's Investigation - The account he gives to reporters today, according to John Farmer, the senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, will be “the last public statement uttered by General Weaver on the subject and proved to be the most accurate account of events issued until the 9/11 Commission’s investigation.” [Farmer, 2009, pp. 245] Apparently after Weaver issues his statement to the reporters, an Air Force spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, adds that no regular Air Force planes were scrambled during the 9/11 attacks, “because continental air defense is the mission of the Air National Guard.” He says regular Air Force fighters “have air superiority as their mission,” which means they train “to deploy somewhere where we are engaged in hostile action and secure the skies.” These fighters, according to the spokesman, “ordinarily are not ready to fly on short notice and their pilots are not on standby to defend the United States.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001]
Pentagon Has Been Slow to Answer Questions about Response to Hijackings - The Washington Post will comment, “Questions about the time it took US military planes to respond to the threat of several hijacked aircraft speeding toward the nation’s financial and military centers have dogged the Pentagon since the attacks.” It will add, “Top Pentagon officials 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.” [Washington Post, 9/15/2001] The previous day, Air Force General Richard Myers was questioned about the military’s response to the 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] NORAD will release its own timeline of the events of September 11 and its response to the hijackings on September 18 (see September 18, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/29/2004]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Air Force, Paul Wolfowitz, Paul Weaver

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [Washington Post, 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). [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

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

 
Donate

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

Volunteer

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

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