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Context of '(9:02 a.m.-9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Boston Center Military Liaison Calls NEADS about Second Hijacking'

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Brehon B. Somervell.Brehon B. Somervell. [Source: Public domain]Construction begins on the Pentagon. The structure was conceived at the request of Brigadier General Brehon B. Somervell in 1941, in order to provide a temporary solution to the growing US War Department’s critical shortage of space. The groundbreaking ceremony takes place on September 11, 1941. (Fine 1972, pp. 265-266, 348-351, 431-432, 434; Harte and Pruitt 1/16/2018) Exactly 60 years later, Flight 77 will crash into the Pentagon as part of the 9/11 attacks (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force whose mission includes the protection of the continental US against air attacks, tells the Associated Press that he is deeply worried by the possibility of an airborne terrorist attack. He says: “I lie awake worrying. It is one thing to put a truck inside the twin trade towers and blow it up. It is quite another to be able to fly a weapon across our borders. That is an attack, a direct attack, an unambiguous attack from outside our country.” In 1999, a study commissioned by Arnold emphasized the continued importance of the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission and the threat of terrorism (see 1999). (Kaczor 2/1/2000; Kaczor 8/2/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 92) As one of the top commanders of NORAD, Arnold will play a pivotal role on the morning of 9/11 (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 42)

A military instruction is issued by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, outlining the procedure for dealing with hijackings within the United States. The instruction, titled “Aircraft Piracy (Hijacking) and Destruction of Derelict Airborne Objects,” states that “the administrator, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has exclusive responsibility to direct law enforcement activity related to actual or attempted aircraft piracy (hijacking) in the ‘special aircraft jurisdiction’ of the United States. When requested by the administrator, Department of Defense will provide assistance to these law enforcement efforts.” It adds that the National Military Command Center (NMCC) within the Pentagon “is the focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance. In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA. The NMCC will, with the exception of immediate responses as authorized by reference d, forward requests for DOD assistance to the secretary of defense for approval.” (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file) Some will later assume that this requirement for defense secretary approval was new with this instruction. (Sheehy 6/20/2004) But it has in fact been a requirement since 1997, when the previous instruction was issued, if not earlier. (US Department of Defense 7/31/1997 pdf file) Although the defense secretary has this responsibility, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that, on the day of 9/11, the “secretary of defense did not enter the chain of command until the morning’s key events were over.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 15 pdf file) Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld will later claim that, up to 9/11, terrorism and domestic hijackings were “a law enforcement issue.” (9/11 Commission 3/23/2004; PBS 3/25/2004; US Department of Defense 6/14/2005)

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)

Thomas Bergeson.Thomas Bergeson. [Source: Samuel Rogers / United States Air Force]Fighter jets and personnel from the 71st Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, are away in Nevada at the time of the 9/11 attacks, participating in the “Red Flag” training exercise, and only return to base about a week later. (Sizemore 9/24/2001; 1st Fighter Association 2003; Doscher 9/15/2006) Langley AFB is located 130 miles south of the Pentagon, and fighters from there are launched on 9/11 to protect Washington, DC (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Weisman 9/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27) The “host unit” at the base is the 1st Fighter Wing, which includes the 71st Fighter Squadron and two other fighter squadrons: the 27th FS and the 94th FS. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) The 71st FS includes about 25 pilots. Its members are participating in Red Flag in preparation for an expected deployment to Iraq this coming December. (Skiba 10/19/2001) Col. Thomas Bergeson, the commander of the 71st FS, will later recall, “We had most of our F-15s at Nellis” Air Force Base in Nevada, for the exercise. (Doscher 9/15/2006)
Red Flag - Red Flag is a realistic combat training exercise, held four times a year at Nellis Air Force Base, involving the air forces of the US and its allies. (GlobalSecurity (.org) 10/19/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 476) Various aircraft are involved, and more than 100 pilots are participating in the current exercise. (Boyne 11/2000; Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/22/2001) The exercise began on August 11 and ends on September 7. (Wessels 7/28/2001; Las Vegas Review-Journal 8/22/2001) But the 71st FS pilots only fly their F-15s back to Langley AFB around September 17. (Sizemore 9/24/2001)
The 71st Fighter Squadron - The mission of the 71st Fighter Squadron is “to maintain a combat-ready force able to conduct air-superiority operations anywhere in the world for the United States and its allies.” (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005) Although Langley Air Force Base, where it is stationed, is one of the two “alert sites” upon which NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call to get jets quickly launched, NEADS’s alert fighters at the base do not belong to the 71st FS or either of the other two fighter squadrons of the 1st Fighter Wing. Instead, the two alert jets are part of a small detachment from Fargo, North Dakota’s 119th Fighter Wing, which is located on the opposite side of the runway to the central facilities of Langley AFB. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer 2008, pp. 114) However, some F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB on 9/11, following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. Some of the 71st FS jets that are deployed to Nevada are the first fighters to get airborne to patrol Las Vegas and southern California in response to the attacks. (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association 3/14/2006)
Other Units Away on 9/11 - The 94th Fighter Squadron, which is also based at Langley AFB, is away on September 11 as well, for a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq (see September 2001). (BBC 12/29/1998; 1st Fighter Association 2003) Around this same time, members of the 121st Fighter Squadron of the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) also participate in Red Flag, and only return to their base three days before 9/11 (see Late August-September 8, 2001). (Vogel 4/8/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 156)

F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch.F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. [Source: Jack Braden / United States Air Force]At the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 94th Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, is away on a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Two days before 9/11, on September 9, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which is also stationed at Langley AFB, returns from Saudi Arabia, where it has been performing the same mission. (BBC 12/29/1998; Air Force Association 10/2/2002; 1st Fighter Association 2003) The 94th and 27th Fighter Squadrons are two of the three F-15 fighter squadrons that are part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the “host unit” at Langley AFB. The third of these is the 71st Fighter Squadron. Between them, the three squadrons have 54 “primary assigned” F-15C fighter jets. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) On September 11, most of the F-15s of the 71st FS are also away from base, for the Red Flag exercise in Nevada (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). (Sizemore 9/24/2001; Doscher 9/15/2006)
Langley Jets Not Part of NORAD Alert Unit - Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles south of the Pentagon, is one of two “alert sites” that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call upon to get jets quickly launched. However, the F-15s of the 1st Fighter Wing are not involved in this mission. Instead, that task belongs to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley AFB and keeps two fighter jets there ready to take off when required. (Weisman 9/16/2001; Hebert 2/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer 2008, pp. 114) Despite not being part of the NORAD alert unit, aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing are involved in the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Jets belonging to the 27th FS are airborne within two hours of the attacks, “providing protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership.” (Air Force Association 10/2/2002) And F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association 3/14/2006)
Possible Effect on 9/11 Response - Whether the deployment of the 94th Fighter Squadron to Saudi Arabia diminishes Langley AFB’s ability to respond on 9/11 is unknown. However, Air Force units are cycled through deployments like Operation Southern Watch by the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) Center, which is at Langley Air Force Base. And according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “Prior to Sept. 11, we’d been unsuccessful in getting the AEF Center to be responsible for relieving our air defense units when they went overseas.” (Camelo 6/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 12/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 99)

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

A Tu-95 Bear bomber.A Tu-95 Bear bomber. [Source: Unknown]The Russian Air Force begins a major training exercise over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans that is scheduled to last all week, ending on September 14, and which is being monitored by US fighter aircraft. The exercise is set to include the participation of strategic Tu-160 Blackjack, Tu-95 Bear, and Tu-22 bombers, along with IL-78 tanker aircraft. It will involve the strategic bombers staging a mock attack against NATO planes that are supposedly planning an assault on Russia, and is set to include practice missile attacks. The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) has sent fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor the Russian exercise (see September 9, 2001). (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) NORAD is conducting its own exercise this week called Vigilant Guardian, which, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union” (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, will later comment that when the Russians hold an exercise, “NORAD gets involved in an exercise, just to make sure that they understand we know that they’re moving around and that they’re exercising.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/11/2002) But NORAD has stated, “[I]t is highly unlikely that Russian aircraft [participating in the exercise] would purposely violate Canadian or American airspace.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001) The Russians will promptly cancel their exercise on September 11, in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001). (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011)

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

At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, one of the pilots that will take off to defend Washington in response to the terrorist attacks (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) asks to be removed from “alert” status later this morning, so he and another pilot can participate in a training mission. (Sullivan 8/19/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 116) Being on “alert” means that a pilot’s fighter jet is kept on the runway, armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. (Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003)
Pilot Requests 'Download' - The pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and requests that he be removed from alert status at 11:00 a.m. He wants to be able to join in with a scheduled training mission being conducted from Langley Air Force Base, along with another pilot from his unit, Captain Craig Borgstrom. (Borgstrom is not one of the unit’s alert pilots, but will take off along with Eckmann in response to the terrorist attacks.) According to author Lynn Spencer, such requests for removal from alert status—known as “download”—are customary, “since the detachment typically flies two training missions each week, and as long as the other NORAD alert sites on the East Coast—at Otis [Air National Guard Base] on Cape Cod and Homestead [Air Reserve Base] in Florida—are up on alert, the requests are generally approved.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 116 and 141-144)
Alert Duty Usually Uneventful - The alert unit at Langley Air Force Base is in fact part of the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley, located away from the base’s central facilities. The unit is housed in two cramped buildings, and has just four aircraft and 18 full-time members of staff. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, being on alert duty is usually fairly uneventful for the pilots involved: “Protecting American airspace from attack was not a demanding job before September 11.… A week at Langley was a time to relax, watch television, work out, spend time on the computer, catch up on business. Like firemen, the pilots sat and waited for something to happen. When it did, they were usually scrambled to escort Navy jets with transponder problems to their home bases. Or to find doctors lost over the ocean in their Beechcraft Bonanzas. Or, occasionally, to sniff out drug runners. It was a sleepy job. Dozing for dollars, they called it.” (Longman 2002, pp. 64)

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)

After Flight 11 fails to respond to an instruction from air traffic control to climb to 35,000 feet (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), the controller handling it, Pete Zalewski, tries to regain contact with the aircraft. Over the following ten minutes, he makes numerous attempts but without success. (Zalewski says he makes 12 attempts; the 9/11 Commission says nine.) He tries reaching the pilot on the emergency frequency. Zalewski later recalls that initially, “I was just thinking that it was, you know, maybe they—pilots weren’t paying attention, or there’s something wrong with the frequency.… And at first it was pretty much, you know, ‘American 11,’ you know, ‘are you paying attention? Are you listening?’ And there was still no response.” He says, “I went back to the previous sector to see if the pilot had accidentally flipped the switch back over on the—on the radio.” But as Zalewski is repeatedly unable to get any response from Flight 11, he recalls, “I even began to get more concerned.” However, Zalewski claims, it is not until he sees the plane’s transponder go off at around 8:21 that he suspects something is “seriously wrong,” and calls his supervisor for assistance (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). And it is not until about 8:25 that he realizes for sure that he is dealing with a hijacking (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is only then that Boston Center starts notifying its chain of command that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 7 and 10-11)

Lino Martins.Lino Martins. [Source: NBC]Two Boston flight controllers, Pete Zalewski and Lino Martins, discuss the fact that Flight 11 cannot be contacted. Zalewski says to Martins, “He won’t answer you. He’s nordo [no radio] roger thanks.” (CNN 9/17/2001; New York Times 10/16/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002)

Tom Roberts.Tom Roberts. [Source: NBC News]Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don’t know what. It’s either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I’m not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael’s assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.

American Airlines has problems contacting the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, about the problems with its aircraft, according to four managers working at the airline’s System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, on this day. Craig Marquis, Craig Parfitt, Joe Bertapelle, and Mike Mulcahy will later tell the 9/11 Commission that American Airlines has “a hard time on 9/11 in getting in touch with Herndon.” They will say that “[p]recious minutes were lost in building the communications bridge” between the SOC and the Command Center. The cause of these communication problems is unknown. (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) The SOC has known that there are problems on Flight 11 since 8:21 a.m., when Marquis received a call from a supervisor at the airline’s Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call that had been received from one of the plane’s flight attendants about the emergency taking place (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Presumably the SOC starts trying to contact the FAA Command Center soon after receiving this call. It is known that the SOC will make contact with the Command Center at 9:16 a.m., if not earlier (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9, 15) Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, is at least able to reach the FAA’s Boston Center regarding Flight 11 at 8:29 a.m. (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 5, 453) The four American Airlines managers will also tell the 9/11 Commission, “In the event that the [American Airlines] SOC was aware that it was the first to know about an incident [with an aircraft], the protocol would have been for the SOC manager on duty [i.e. Marquis] to have immediately autodialed to the Herndon manager on duty [i.e. Ben Sliney] with the information.” However, the FAA “knew what was going on because of the intercepted communications from the cockpit.” (9/11 Commission 11/19/2003 pdf file) (FAA air traffic controllers have been aware of problems with Flight 11 since around 8:14 a.m., when they lost communication with the plane (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and they subsequently hear communications made by the hijackers on the plane, beginning at 8:24 a.m. (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 18-19) )

Pete Zalewski.Pete Zalewski. [Source: NBC]Because the talkback button on Flight 11 has been activated, Boston Center air traffic controllers can hear a hijacker on board say to the passengers: “We have some planes. Just stay quiet and you’ll be OK. We are returning to the airport.” (Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19) Air traffic controller Pete Zalewski recognizes this as a foreign, Middle Eastern-sounding voice, but does not make out the specific words “we have some planes.” He responds, “Who’s trying to call me?” Seconds later, in the next transmission, the hijacker continues: “Nobody move. Everything will be OK. If you try to make any moves you’ll endanger yourself and the airplane. Just stay quiet.” (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, later claims, “We didn’t know where the transmission came from, what was said and who said it.” David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, adds: “The broadcast wasn’t attributed to a flight. Nobody gave a flight number.” (Murray 9/11/2002) Similarly, an early FAA report will state that both these transmissions came from “an unknown origin.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) Zalewski asks for an assistant to help listen to the transmissions coming from the plane, and puts its frequency on speakers so others at Boston Center can hear. Because Zalewski didn’t understand the initial hijacker communication from Flight 11, the manager of Boston Center instructs the center’s quality assurance specialist to “pull the tape” of the transmission, listen to it carefully, and then report back. They do this, and by about 9:03 a.m. a Boston manager will report having deciphered what was said in the first hijacker transmission (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; MSNBC 9/9/2006) Fellow Boston controller Don Jeffroy also hears the tape of the hijacker transmissions, though he doesn’t state at what time. He says: “I heard exactly what Pete [Zalewski] heard. And we had to actually listen to it a couple of times just to make sure that we were hearing what we heard.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002) At some point, Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, gets word of the “We have some planes” message, and later says the phrase haunts him all morning. American Airlines Executive Vice President for Operations Gerard Arpey is also informed of the “strange transmissions from Flight 11” at some point prior to when it crashes at 8:46 a.m. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) Boston Center will receive a third transmission from Flight 11 about ten minutes later (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Boston flight control begins notifying the chain of command that a suspected hijacking of Flight 11 is in progress. Those notified include the center’s own facility manager, the FAA’s New England Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Burlington, Massachusetts, and the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) According to the 9/11 Commission, this is consistent with FAA protocol: “From interviews of controllers at various FAA centers, we learned that an air traffic controller’s first response to an aircraft incident is to notify a supervisor, who then notifies the traffic management unit and the operations manager in charge. The FAA center next notifies the appropriate regional operations center (ROC), which in turn contacts FAA headquarters.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) But according to Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Command Center, “the protocol was in place that the center that reported the hijacking would notify the military.… I go back to 1964, where I began my air traffic career, and they have always followed the same protocol.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Yet Boston Center supposedly will not contact NORAD about Flight 11 until about 12 minutes later (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Already about ten minutes have passed since controllers first noticed a loss of contact with Flight 11 (see (8:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Boston reportedly also contacts several other air traffic control centers about the suspected hijacking at this time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001).

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

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here). [Source: CNN]The FAA’s Boston Center calls the FAA Command Center and says it believes Flight 11 has been hijacked and is heading toward the New York Center’s airspace. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland air traffic control centers, so Boston can help the other centers understand what is happening, in case Flight 11 should enter their airspace. Minutes later, in line with the standard hijacking protocol, the Command Center will pass on word of the suspected hijacking to the FAA’s Washington headquarters (see 8:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11; Spencer 2008, pp. 21)
National Operations Manager Learns of Hijacking - A supervisor at the Command Center promptly passes on the news of the possible hijacking to Ben Sliney, who is on his first day as the national operations manager there. The supervisor says the plane in question is “American Flight 11—a 767 out of Boston for Los Angeles.” According to author Lynn Spencer, “Sliney flashes back to the routine for dealing with hijackings from the days when they were more common.” The procedure is to “[k]eep other aircraft away from the errant plane. Give the pilots what they need. The plane will land somewhere, passengers will be traded for fuel, and difficult negotiations with authorities will begin. The incident should resolve itself peacefully, although the ones in the Middle East, he recalls, often had a more violent outcome.” Apparently not expecting anything worse to happen, Sliney continues to the conference room for the daily 8:30 staff meeting there (see 8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Command Center a 'Communications Powerhouse' - The FAA Command Center is located in Herndon, Virginia, 25 miles from Washington, DC. According to Spencer, it “is a communications powerhouse, modeled after NASA’s Mission Control. The operations floor is 50 feet wide and 120 feet long, packed with tiered rows of computer stations, and at the front, seven enormous display screens show flight trajectories and weather patterns.” The center has nearly 50 specialists working around the clock, planning and monitoring the flow of air traffic over the United States. These specialists work with airlines and air traffic control facilities to fix congestion problems and deal with weather systems. (Spencer 2008, pp. 1 and 19-20)

Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls the FAA’s Boston Center to ask about the status of Flight 11 and is told that the plane has deviated from its flight path, air traffic controllers have lost communication with it and have lost its transponder signal, and they have heard a possible threat being made in the background over the radio. This call is American Airlines’ first contact with FAA controllers regarding Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 3/25/2004, pp. 15; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file)
Manager Told Halleck to Call FAA - At 8:21 a.m., Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, received a call from a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call the office had received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reporting the emergency on her plane (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Marquis had replied that he would get in touch with air traffic control about this. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 9) He asked Halleck to contact the FAA’s Boston Center and find out what is happening with Flight 11. Immediately after receiving this request, Halleck calls the traffic management unit (TMU) at the Boston Center. (9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file)
Boston Center Tells Halleck Details of Crisis - When the call is answered, Halleck introduces himself and then says, “[W]e’re trying to find out the status to what you know about our Flight 11.” The Boston Center controller replies that Flight 11’s last reported altitude was below 29,000 feet. He reports that the flight has altered course, saying, “He was heading west, but right now he’s pointed southwest of Albany.” Furthermore, he says, “we lost frequency with him,” meaning communication has been lost with the plane, and adds that the plane’s transponder has been turned off.
Controller Heard a 'Threat in the Background' on Flight 11 - The controller at the TMU also tells Halleck that the Boston Center controller dealing with Flight 11 “heard on the frequency a threat in the background, but that’s unconfirmed and we’re trying to pull the tape [recording of the radio communication] at this time.” Halleck asks for clarification that the controller handling Flight 11 “heard a background noise in the cockpit,” and is told: “Like a threat. Yes, sir.” The controller at the TMU adds that he has been told that it is believed the pilot’s microphone on Flight 11 was keyed, and so the controller handling the flight “heard in the background, like, yeah, ‘Return to an airport… or I’ll kill you,’ or something to that effect.” He also says the plane is not squawking any emergency transponder codes. Halleck says he is tracking Flight 11 on the aircraft situation display, and the controller replies that the Boston Center is currently tracking the plane with primary radar only. The controller ends by telling Halleck, “That is all we have.” (American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 56-57; American Airlines 9/11/2001, pp. 58; 9/11 Commission 1/8/2004 pdf file)
Halleck Does Not Pass On Information from Flight Attendant - With this call, Halleck is the first person at American Airlines to speak to FAA air traffic control personnel about Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission 4/26/2004 pdf file) During the call, he does not tell the Boston Center controller about the ongoing conversation between American Airlines and Ong, or what Marquis has learned from this conversation. (United States District Court for the Southern District of New York 1/16/2009 pdf file) Halleck will promptly pass on the information from the Boston Center to Marquis, and this will lead American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 12)

The air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base.The air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base. [Source: CapeCodFD.com]Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls the air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base to alert it to the problems with Flight 11 and request military assistance. (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22) Otis Air Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is one of NORAD’s seven alert sites in the continental United States, which keeps two armed fighter jets ready for immediate takeoff. (Filson 2003, pp. 50; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)
Supervisor Calls Otis, Violating Protocol - Bueno calls the control tower at Otis even though, according to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows it’s not standard operating procedure to call the military directly—that’s supposed to be done by FAA headquarters.” But he has “checked the FAA regulation manual, and in the back under section FAAO 7610.4J, Appendix 16, it states that fighters can be launched directly at FAA request, so he is going to make that happen. He may not be FAA headquarters, but he is FAA!” (Spencer 2008, pp. 22)
Bueno Requests Fighters, Told to Call NEADS - Bueno tells the controller at the Otis tower that Flight 11 has lost its identification signal and appears to be headed toward Manhattan; it looks like a possible hijacking, and fighter jets are needed, fast. (Filson 2003, pp. 47) But the controller tells Bueno that he must follow the protocol, which is to contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). The controller says: “You’ve got to go through the proper channels. They’re the only ones with the authority to initiate a scramble order.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 22) Bueno asks the controller for the telephone number for NEADS. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Following this call, the tower controller will contact the Otis Air Base operations desk, to let it know that it might be receiving a call from NEADS (see (Between 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27)
Otis Pilots Critical of Bueno - The two alert pilots at Otis Air Base will later criticize Bueno for calling the base directly. One of them, Major Daniel Nash, will complain: “It sounds like the FAA didn’t have their [act] together at all when they were calling the [Otis] tower.… To me, it sounded like there was someone who didn’t know what they were doing.” (Viser 9/11/2005) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the other alert pilot, will comment: “It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.… We were the ones who were contacted right away and knew about it before the air defense sector.” (Filson 2003, pp. 50)
Time of Call Unclear - Bueno also calls the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), which is located on Otis Air Base, at 8:34 a.m. and requests that fighters be launched from Otis (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) Whether he makes that call before or after he calls the Otis tower is unstated. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when the FAA’s Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) If that is correct, it would indicate that Bueno calls the Otis tower after he calls the Cape TRACON.

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

FAA headquarters in Washington, DC.FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. [Source: FAA]Four minutes after it is informed of the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, passes on word of the hijacking to the operations center at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC. The headquarters is apparently already aware of the hijacking, as the duty officer who speaks with the Command Center responds that security personnel at the headquarters have just been discussing it on a conference call with the FAA’s New England regional office. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11) According to the 9/11 Commission, “FAA headquarters is ultimately responsible for the management of the national airspace system,” and the operations center there “receives notifications of incidents, including accidents and hijackings.” FAA headquarters has a hijack coordinator, who is “the director of the FAA Office of Civil Aviation Security or his or her designate.” Procedures require that, if a hijacking is confirmed, the hijack coordinator on duty is “to contact the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) and to ask for a military escort aircraft to follow the flight, report anything unusual, and aid search and rescue in the event of an emergency.” Yet, the Commission will state, although “FAA headquarters began to follow the hijack protocol,” it does “not contact the NMCC to request a fighter escort.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16-19) Mike Canavan, who would normally be the FAA’s hijack coordinator, is away in Puerto Rico this morning, and it is unclear who—if anyone—is standing in for him in this critical role (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)

Flight controllers hear a hijacker on Flight 11 say to the passengers: “Nobody move, please, we are going back to the airport. Don’t try to make any stupid moves.” (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Johnson 11/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) This is the third hijacker transmission from Flight 11 heard by Boston Center. Following the previous two transmissions, controller Pete Zalewski had put the plane’s frequency on speakers so that others at the center could hear (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is therefore the first time some of them hear the hijacker’s voice. One controller says out loud, “That is really scary.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002)

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

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

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

NORAD fails to notify the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that aircraft have been hijacked before the NMCC initiates a significant event conference in response to the terrorist attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the first hijacking, of Flight 11, at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and it is alerted to the second hijacking, of Flight 175, at 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 23) And yet, according to an after-action report produced by the NMCC, NORAD does not contact the NMCC to alert it to these incidents before the significant event conference commences, at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004)
NORAD Does Not Provide Information to Deputy Director - Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC, will later say that he “does not remember getting a lot of information from NORAD” before the significant event conference begins. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) NMCC personnel apparently learn that an aircraft has been hijacked when an officer in the center calls the FAA at 9:00 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)
NORAD First Mentions a Hijacking at 9:33 a.m. - NORAD will apparently talk to the NMCC about a hijacking for the first time at around 9:33 a.m., when its representative on the significant event conference states that they “concur that [a] hijacked aircraft is still airborne [and] heading towards Washington, DC.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) (They will presumably be referring to the incorrect information that Flight 11 is still in the air after it has crashed into the World Trade Center (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26) )
NORAD Does Not Request a Conference - Additionally, according to the NMCC’s after-action report, NORAD “does not request any conference at [National Command Authority] level” prior to the commencement of the significant event conference. (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004) The significant event conference is actually initiated by Leidig. The NMCC has an important role to play in an emergency like the current crisis. Its job under these circumstances “is to gather the relevant parties and establish the chain of command between the National Command Authority—the president and the secretary of defense—and those who need to carry out their orders,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) It is also “the focal point within [the] Department of Defense for providing assistance” when there is a hijacking in US airspace, according to a recent military instruction (see June 1, 2001). (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file)

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)

According to the 9/11 Commission, Flight 175 is hijacked some time between 8:42—when its flight crew make their last communication with the ground—and 8:46. The Commission describes that the hijackers “used knives (as reported by two passengers and a flight attendant), Mace (reported by one passenger), and the threat of a bomb (reported by the same passenger). They stabbed members of the flight crew (reported by a flight attendant and one passenger). Both pilots had been killed (reported by one flight attendant).” These witness accounts come from phone calls made from the rear of the plane, from passengers who’d been assigned seats in the front or middle of the cabin. According to the Commission, this is “a sign that passengers and perhaps crew [are] moved to the back of the aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 20) An employee at the FAA’s Boston Center later says the hijacking occurs when Flight 175 is above Albany, NY, about 140 miles north of New York City. (McKeon 9/12/2001; Associated Press 9/13/2001) The first “operational evidence” that something is wrong is at 8:47, when Flight 175’s transponder code changes twice within a minute (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7)

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)

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

Officers in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon begin notifying senior Pentagon officials about the plane crashing into the World Trade Center after learning of this from television, but they are apparently unaware of the hijacking of Flight 11. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35) The NMCC’s three main missions are monitoring worldwide events for the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), maintaining a strategic watch component, and maintaining a crisis response component. The NMCC has live feeds from numerous television stations, and the operations team on duty there learned from CNN that an aircraft had hit the WTC (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
NMCC Directors Notify Senior Pentagon Officials of Crash - In response, members of the operations team monitor media reports and begin making notifications up the chain of command. (9/11 Commission 7/21/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) Captain Charles Leidig, who is currently standing in temporarily as deputy director for operations in the NMCC (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), will later recall, “Initially… the National Military Command Center was primarily a means to notify senior leadership that, in fact, an event had occurred.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Leidig and Commander Patrick Gardner, the assistant deputy director for operations, start notifying those on the internal JCS notification list, including the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, about the crash. They also notify the office of the secretary of defense. Based on incorrect information being reported on television, Leidig tells the senior Pentagon officials that a small airplane has crashed into one of the towers of the WTC. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)
NMCC Unaware of Flight 11 Hijacking - According to military instructions, “the NMCC is the focal point within [the] Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to aircraft hijackings in US airspace, and, “In the event of a hijacking, the NMCC will be notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA” (see June 1, 2001). (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file) However, while details of the hijacking of Flight 11 have been circulating within the FAA, the 9/11 Commission will say it “found no evidence that the hijacking was reported to any other agency in Washington before 8:46.” The NMCC apparently learns of the hijacking for the first time when one of its officers calls the FAA at 9:00 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). Leidig will recall that, before the second plane hits the WTC at 9:03 a.m., he and Gardner think it is “something unusual… that a light plane had crashed into the WTC and that there was a report of a hijacking.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35, 462)

According to a statement by two high-level FAA officials, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges [i.e., telephone conference calls] that included FAA field facilities, the FAA command center, FAA headquarters, [Defense Department], the Secret Service, and other government agencies.” The FAA shares “real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges in turn shared information about actions they were taken.” The statement says, “The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Another account says the phone bridges are “quickly established” by the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC). This is a small office at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, which is staffed by three military officers at the time of the attacks (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It serves as the center’s liaison with the military. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the phone bridges link “key players, such as NORAD’s command center, area defense sectors, key FAA personnel, airline operations, and the NMCC.” (Scott 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) According to an FAA transcript of employee conversations on 9/11, one of the phone bridges, between the FAA Command Center, the operations center at FAA headquarters, and air traffic control centers in Boston and New York, begins before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003, pp. 3-10 pdf file) If these accounts are correct, it means someone at NORAD should learn about Flight 77 when it deviates from its course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the FAA teleconference is established about 30 minutes later (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Air Force liaison to the FAA will claim she only joins it after the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

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

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

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)

Flight 77 from Washington begins to go off course over southern Ohio, turning to the southwest. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

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)

Flight 77’s transponder is turned off, meaning that the aircraft’s speed, altitude, and flight information are no longer visible on radar displays at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) The Indianapolis Center air traffic controller in charge of Flight 77 watched the plane go off course and head southwest before its data disappeared from his radar screen. He looks for primary radar signals along the aircraft’s projected flight path as well as in the airspace where it had started to turn, but cannot find it. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) He tries contacting the plane repeatedly, saying “American 77, Indy,” and: “American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?” But there is no response. (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; New York Times 10/16/2001)
NEADS Not Contacted - US News and World Report will later comment, “[E]xperts say that an airliner making a 180-degree turn followed by a transponder turnoff should have been a red flag to controllers.” It will quote Robert Cauble, a 20-year veteran of Navy air traffic control, who says: “The fact that the transponder went off, they should have picked up on that immediately. Everyone should have been on alert about what was going on.” (Schultz 10/8/2001) Yet the Indianapolis Center supposedly does not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS will only learn that Flight 77 is missing at 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26-27)
Controller Thinks Plane Suffered Mechanical Failure - While several air traffic control centers were reportedly informed of the Flight 11 hijacking as early as 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to the 9/11 Commission, the controller handling Flight 77 does not realize other aircraft have been hijacked, and he is unaware of the situation in New York. He mistakenly assumes Flight 77 has experienced an electrical or mechanical failure. (Ellison 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) After he informs other Indianapolis Center personnel of the developing situation, they will clear all other aircraft from the plane’s westerly route so their safety will not be affected if Flight 77 is still flying along its original path but unable to be heard. (Freni 2003, pp. 29; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30)
Airline and Possibly Pentagon Learn of Flight 77 Problems - While NEADS is not alerted about the errant aircraft, a controller at the Indianapolis Center will contact American Airlines at 8:58 to inform it that contact has been lost with Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) And an article in the New York Times will indicate that the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly becomes aware of the problems with Flight 77 (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Wald 9/15/2001)

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

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

Ryan Gonsalves.Ryan Gonsalves. [Source: Institute for the Study of War]An officer in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon learns, during a phone call to the FAA, of the hijacking of Flight 11, but the FAA tells him it does not need any help dealing with this, as everything seems to be under control. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)
NMCC Officer Calls FAA for Information - After those in the NMCC learned from television that an aircraft had crashed into the World Trade Center (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Lieutenant Colonel Ryan Gonsalves, the senior operations officer there, began gathering up as much information as he could on the crisis. One of the phone calls he makes is to the FAA operations center at the agency’s Washington, DC, headquarters. The employee at the operations center who answers the call tells Gonsalves that the FAA has had a report of a hijacking on a plane that departed Boston. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004)
FAA Says It Does Not Need Help - The FAA employee apparently does not connect the plane crashing into the WTC with the hijacked Flight 11, which they claim is still airborne and heading for New York’s JFK International Airport. The entry in the senior operations officer’s log about the call will state: “9:00 NMCC called FAA, briefed of explosion at WTC possibly from aircraft crash. Also, hijacking of American Flight 11 from Boston to LA, now en route to Kennedy.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 462) Furthermore, when Gonsalves asks if the FAA needs any assistance dealing with the hijacking, the operations center employee replies, “No,” and says the pilot “had called in and said everything was under control, and he was going to land at New York shortly.” (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004) The possibility of scrambling fighter jets is not discussed during the phone call. Even though military instructions state that the NMCC is to be “notified by the most expeditious means by the FAA” in response to aircraft hijackings in US airspace (see June 1, 2001), this call, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, appears to be the first time the FAA informs the NMCC of the hijacking of Flight 11. (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)

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)

Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing.Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane on a training mission in the Washington, DC, area is instructed to return to its base in Oklahoma, even though its advanced communications and surveillance capabilities would significantly benefit the military’s air defense efforts in response to the terrorist attacks. The AWACS belongs to the 552nd Air Control Wing, located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. (US Air Force 4/1/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/16/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 265) It has been flying a training mission somewhere near Washington (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
AWACS Sent Back to Oklahoma - According to author Lynn Spencer, the AWACS is directed to return to Tinker Air Force Base “in the immediate confusion after the attacks.” The exact time the plane’s crew receives this order, and the identity of the person or organization that gives the order, are unstated. NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will contact the AWACS later on, and instruct it to turn around and head to Washington, to provide radio and radar coverage over the capital (see (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 265-266)
AWACS Has Advanced Surveillance and Communication Capabilities - The AWACS, also called the E-3 Sentry, is a modified Boeing 707 that provides surveillance, command, control, and communications to military commanders. (Schmitt 9/23/1995; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/16/2006; US Air Force 9/22/2015) According to a US Air Force manual, the plane’s “advanced surveillance radar provides long-range, low-level detection of aircraft targets over all types of terrain.” (US Air Force 4/1/2000) It can track friendly and enemy aircraft over a 300-mile radius. (Schmitt 9/23/1995) Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will say that AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” (White House 8/29/2002)
AWACS Would Help NEADS Contact Fighters - These planes are particularly important to NEADS. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) Spencer will describe: “The NEADS radio transmitter, like all radio transmitters, operates by line of sight. This means that the radio signals, which travel in a straight line, require an unobstructed path between the transmitter and the [fighter] jets” that NEADS is trying to communicate with this morning. Due to the curvature of the earth and the distance between NEADS, in Rome, New York, and Washington, the fighters’ launched to protect the capital (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will be unable to pick up the NEADS signal on their radio receivers when they descend below 20,000 feet, after arriving over Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “What’s needed,” Spencer will write, “is an AWACS plane, which has the capability to provide both radar and radio coverage over a citywide area.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 265)

Gary Walters.Gary Walters. [Source: C-SPAN]Gary Walters, the chief White House usher, and a few of his colleagues take the time to clear up the White House grounds ready for when President Bush returns, and even continue with the task after the White House is evacuated. Earlier this morning, many White House staffers were busy preparing for the annual Congressional picnic, which was scheduled to take place this evening (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). About 170 to 180 picnic tables have been set up on the South Lawn for the event. After he learns that a second plane has crashed into the World Trade Center (see 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Walters decides to start moving the picnic tables off the lawn so Bush’s helicopter will be able to land on the grounds when the president returns to the White House. (National Journal 8/31/2002; Walters 4/4/2006; Peter Schnall 7/12/2016)
Usher Arranges to Clear the Lawn - He coordinates with the National Park Service, which is in charge of the White House grounds, to determine who will be clearing away the picnic tables. (Brower 2015, pp. 257) He then sets about moving the tables. “I got the staff together and started sending them out to the south grounds—anybody I could think of—because I knew that we had to try to move as quickly as possible,” he will later recall. (National Journal 8/31/2002) However, at about 9:45 a.m., the White House is evacuated after the Secret Service learns of a possible threat against it (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; CNN 9/12/2001)
Staffers Continue Clearing the Grounds, despite the Danger - Around this time, Walters sees the smoke coming from the Pentagon, which was attacked at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and realizes the White House could be hit next. And yet he decides that he needs to stay where he is in order to clear up the grounds. “As far as I was concerned, my responsibility was there at the White House,” he will comment. (Brower 2015, pp. 258) “I knew we had to get those tables out,” he will state, adding, “I even felt more urgency, since obviously this was a coordinated attack now.” (National Journal 8/31/2002) While the Secret Service is ordering people to run for their lives, Walters grabs a few of his colleagues and tells them they need to stay and help clear away the picnic tables. “I got the word that everybody was evacuating, but we had something that we needed to do,” he will comment. (Brower 2015, pp. 258) After hearing that another suspicious plane is approaching, however, Walters and his colleagues go to the southeast knoll, a rise in the White House lawn, and just stand there, watching the sky and waiting.
Lawn Is Cleared by Early Afternoon - By around 11:00 a.m., they are becoming impatient. Walters therefore says, “Guys, let’s go move some picnic tables.” The men then start carrying the picnic tables off the lawn. A police officer joins them and eventually about a dozen people are helping them to move the tables. By around 1:00 p.m. all of the tables have been removed from the lawn. At about 3:45 p.m., Walters is called by someone from the military, who asks him to clear the South Lawn so the president’s helicopter will be able to land there. Walters laughs and says this has already been done. (National Journal 8/31/2002) The president’s helicopter, with Bush on board, will land on the South Lawn at around 6:55 p.m. (see (6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 9/12/2001; Rove 2010, pp. 263)
Usher Will Later Justify His Actions - Walters will, in 2016, explain why he made the effort to clear up the White House grounds, despite the danger to himself and his colleagues. “One of the things that I turned to in my own mind on 9/11 was the role that the White House plays in disasters, wars,” he will say, adding, “People have a tendency to turn to the White House.” He will continue: “And I knew that the president wasn’t gonna be satisfied talking from a bunker somewhere or away from the White House. And that’s why we put the effort that we did into cleaning up the south grounds, so that [his] helicopter could land there. That was what the American people were used to seeing—the presidential helicopter coming in—and the president was going to address the nation from the Oval Office.” (Peter Schnall 7/12/2016)

Major Dean Eckmann.
Major Dean Eckmann. [Source: US Air Force]The two pilots on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia are put on “battle stations,” and get into their fighter jets, ready to take off if required. (Longman 2002, pp. 64; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) Being at “battle stations” means the pilots are in their planes’ cockpits with the engines turned off, but ready to start them and taxi out should a scramble order follow. (Filson 2003, pp. 55; Spencer 2008, pp. 27) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has ordered this in response to the news of the second plane hitting the World Trade Center and over concerns that the fighters launched from Otis Air National Guard base in response to Flight 11 might run out of fuel (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 88) According to journalist and author Jere Longman, the two “alert” pilots at Langley are currently “still in the dark about the gravity of the moment.” (Longman 2002, pp. 64-65)
Pilot Wonders If Order Connected to Events in New York - Major Dean Eckmann, one of the pilots on alert, will later recall: “The scramble horn goes off and we get the yellow light, which is our battle stations. So at that point I go running out to… my assigned alert airplane, get suited up, and I get into the cockpit ready to start.” (BBC 9/1/2002) He asks his crew chief, “Do you think this has anything to do with New York?” The chief replies: “I can’t imagine how. The Otis guys could handle that.”
Pilot Told 'This Is Just Precautionary' - Meanwhile, Captain Craig Borgstrom, the unit’s operations manager, is briefing the other alert pilot, Major Brad Derrig, on what he knows. He tells him: “There’s some wacky stuff happening. Some airplane just hit the World Trade Center. I don’t have any more information, but I’m sure this is just precautionary.” Borgstrom then heads out to give Eckmann the same brief, but has to stop to answer a phone call from NEADS (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 118) Although the 9/11 Commission and other accounts will state that the Langley jets are placed on battle stations at 9:09, a BBC documentary will suggest this happens at 9:21, and Longman will indicate this does not occur until 9:24. (Longman 2002, pp. 64; Scott 6/3/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) The two alert jets, along with a third jet piloted by Borgstrom, will be ordered to scramble at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

The operations manager with the unit at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, that is involved in NORAD’s air defense mission is instructed to prepare to launch three F-16s from the base, even though the unit only keeps two such jets on “alert.” (Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
NEADS Calls Langley - Captain Craig Borgstrom is the operations manager of a detachment at Langley from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. In the event of an order to scramble the unit’s two alert F-16s, he would serve as the supervisor of flying (SOF), responsible for informing the pilots about their mission. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114, 116) The unit has just received the signal to put its alert jets on “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 64; Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24) After briefing one of the two alert pilots, Borgstrom is called by the crew chief to answer a phone call from someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) who wants to speak to him. In an urgent voice, the caller asks Borgstrom, “How many airplanes can you get airborne?” Borgstrom answers, “I have two F-16s at battle stations right now,” but the caller snaps: “That’s not what I asked! How many total aircraft can you launch?” Although Borgstrom is not on alert duty, he is an F-16 pilot. He responds: “Well, the only other pilot here is me—I can fly. I can give you three!” The caller instructs him: “Suit up and go fly! We need all of you at battle stations!” (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Tyson 4/16/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 118)
Third Pilot Means No Supervisor - According to author Lynn Spencer, this order “is almost unthinkable. If [Borgstrom] goes up, there will be no supervisor of flying. During a scramble, it is the SOF’s responsibility to monitor the jets—to work with local controllers to ensure priority handling and to make sure that the pilots are receiving lawful launch orders. The SOF stays in close communication with NEADS to get any and all information about the mission to pass on to his pilots, and assesses weather, airfield status, and spare alert aircraft status in case of an abort by one of the primary fighters. If Borgy flies, there not only will be no SOF, there will be no officer left at the detachment!”
Borgstrom Notifies Others, Checks with Commander - Borgstrom heads out to inform others of the instruction. He speaks to one of the alert pilots, Major Dean Eckmann, telling him, “They want us to launch all planes and all pilots if we get scrambled!” According to Spencer, this request “doesn’t make any sense to Eckmann,” and his initial response is ”What?” But “he’s a military officer and he’ll follow orders,” and points Borgstrom to the unit’s third F-16, which is not kept on alert and is therefore unarmed. Borgstrom instructs the crew chief to arm the fighter’s gun; this will be the only ammunition he has when he takes off. After fetching his harness and helmet, he places a phone call to the commander of the 119th Fighter Wing, at the wing’s home in Fargo, North Dakota. Borgstrom is uncomfortable with the unprecedented situation he is in and feels compelled to notify his immediate higher-ups. He tells the commander: “Sir, they’re launching all three of us. I don’t know what’s going on, but there’s no ops supervision here at all!” The commander knows what has happened in New York from news reports, and so is aware of the situation. He tells Borgstrom: “Go! Our thoughts are with you. Godspeed.” Borgstrom then hangs up the phone and runs to his jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) The three Langley jets will receive a scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

Tape recordings of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York indicate that both NEADS and NORAD are experiencing significant problems communicating with other agencies:
bullet At 9:12 a.m., a member of staff at NEADS tells another military agency over the phone: “We’re trying to reach the military coordinator. We’re having a difficult time.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At 9:22 a.m., a women at NEADS calls what is apparently an American Airlines office in New York, to ask about a report NEADS has received that Flight 11 is still airborne and headed towards Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). After being given a phone number she needs to call for more information, the woman at NEADS replies: “[D]o me a favor and have them call us? We cannot call out for some reason.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At around 10:31 a.m., someone from the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the host unit at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, calls NEADS. During the conversation, they mention, “I tried to get a hold of NORAD… and their lines are all busy.” NEADS replies, “Yeah, I can believe it,” and adds, “Right now the circuits are so busy.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet Around 11:50 a.m., someone with the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing is on the phone to NEADS. They mention, “We’re having a tough time getting hold of you guys.” NEADS responds, “We’re having problems with our phone lines as well.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At 11:57 a.m., a member of staff at NEADS complains: “They turned off all the goddamned lines to the outside.… No, local. So you can’t make outside phone calls.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), instructs a colleague of his to send a tanker plane from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey into military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. Ten minutes ago, NEADS contacted McGuire Air Force Base and asked if it had any tankers available to support the fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. An officer at McGuire said the base had two KC-10 tankers airborne and these planes were carrying plenty of fuel (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Staffer Is Told to Send a Tanker into Training Airspace - A member of staff at NEADS now discusses what to do with these tankers with Nasypany. “We’ve got McGuire offering two more tankers if we need them,” he says. Nasypany says in response, “Okay” and then instructs, “Get me that KC-10, stick him in 107.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) “107” is “Whiskey 107,” an area over the Atlantic Ocean, about 70 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is frequently used for military training. (CNN 2/7/1997; Wald 2/7/1997; Global Security (.org) 5/7/2011) The staffer asks Nasypany if he wants to send one or both of the tankers into Whiskey 107. Nasypany replies, “One” and adds: “Two KC-10s should do it fine. Put him in 107.”
Both Tankers Are Apparently Sent over the Ocean - Nasypany then tells another person about the tankers and what he intends to do with them. “I got two offers up from McGuire for KC-10s,” he says, adding, “I’m taking one KC-10, putting him in Whiskey 107, gonna hold him there for the Langley guys.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) The “Langley guys” are the F-16 fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that have been put on “battle stations” (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will be scrambled at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24, 27) Despite what Nasypany has said, both—not just one—of the KC-10s from McGuire Air Force Base will apparently be directed into Whiskey 107. At 9:25 a.m., Nasypany will tell a colleague he has “two KC-10s” out of McGuire and he is “sticking them in Whiskey 107.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

American Airlines’ headquarters.American Airlines’ headquarters. [Source: American Airlines]After American Airlines confirms that two aircraft have hit the World Trade Center, one of its managers calls for the activation of the airline’s crash teams, which are trained to deal with accidents and the families of crash victims. The airline also begins increasing security at its headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas, and other major stations. (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31; Spencer 2008, pp. 108) American Airlines has not yet confirmed that its Flight 11 was the first plane to hit the WTC (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but its officials have initially concluded, mistakenly, that the second aircraft to hit the WTC might have been its Flight 77 (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16 and 30)

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

The FAA’s New England regional office calls the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, and asks it to tell Cleveland Center to contact Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 and advise it to use extra cockpit security. The reason the New England regional office makes this request is unclear. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10) As the 9/11 Commission will describe, apparently in response to the request, “[A]t 9:19 the FAA… Command Center in Herndon ordered controllers to send a cockpit warning to Delta 1989 because, like American 11 and United 175, it was a transcontinental flight departing Boston’s Logan Airport.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 455) Minutes earlier, the FAA’s Boston Center asked the Command Center to contact the nation’s FAA centers and instruct them to tell all airborne aircraft to increase their cockpit security (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Command Center’s instruction to air traffic controllers about Delta 1989 is apparently an exception, as the 9/11 Commission will say it found “no evidence to suggest that the Command Center acted on this request.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 25-26) Delta 1989 will subsequently be 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). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Bronner 8/1/2006)

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)

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

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

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

Major Brad Derrig.Major Brad Derrig. [Source: ABC]At Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the pilots of three F-16s receive the order to scramble (i.e. take off immediately). A Klaxon horn sounds and the status lights in the hangars change from yellow to green, notifying them of the order. (Longman 2002, pp. 65; Filson 2003, pp. 63; Spencer 2008, pp. 141) The fighter jets belong to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing. The wing has a small detachment at Langley that serves as one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, responsible for defending the nation against attack. (Spencer 2008, pp. 114) The jets are already at “battle stations,” with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines off (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 55; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24; Spencer 2008, pp. 117-119) The scramble order has just been issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)
Third Pilot Launched - The unit at Langley keeps two F-16s on “alert”—armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes if called upon. (Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17) But NEADS has instructed it to launch as many aircraft as it can (see (Between 9:10 a.m. and 9:23 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so the unit’s operations manager Captain Craig Borgstrom is also preparing to take off in a third jet. (Spencer 2008, pp. 118-119) Major Dean Eckmann calls the other two pilots, saying, “Quit check,” indicating a radio check. Major Brad Derrig responds, “Two.” Borgstrom replies: “Three. I’m going with you!” This is news to Derrig. According to author Lynn Spencer, Derrig is “stunned.… [N]ot much surprises him, but this does.” Borgstrom joining them as a pilot will mean that, in the middle of this unprecedented crisis, their unit will be left without a commanding officer. (Spencer 2008, pp. 142)
Only Two Jets Fully Armed - The two jets that are kept on alert are fully armed. As Eckmann will later recall, “We can carry M9 heat seekers, Sidewinders for the M7 Sparrow, plus we have an internal 20 mm Vulcan cannon, and we were pretty much armed with all that.” (BBC 9/1/2002) However, Borgstrom’s jet has guns only, and though the six-barrel 20 mm gun can fire 6,000 rounds per minute, it requires close range.
Pilot Unqualified to Lead Three Jets - As the three aircraft taxi out to the runway, Eckmann is concerned that he has not yet qualified as a mission commander—a “four-ship”—and is therefore not authorized to lead more than one fighter jet. He calls the other pilots, saying, “Hey, I’m only a two-ship!” But Derrig, who is a full-time instructor pilot for the Air National Guard, urges him not to worry. He responds: “Press! I’m an instructor,” giving his approval for the flight to operate as a “three-ship” under Eckmann’s lead. (Spencer 2008, pp. 142) The three jets will take off and be airborne by 9:30 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 16)

Captain Craig Borgstrom.Captain Craig Borgstrom. [Source: US Air Force / Austin Knox]The three F-16 fighter jets ordered to scramble from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) take off and, radar data will show, are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Delayed during Launch - Major Dean Eckmann will recall that, after receiving the scramble order, he and the two other pilots have “a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” (BBC 9/1/2002) According to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, the three fighters are “given highest priority over all other air traffic at Langley Air Force Base” as they are launching. (Filson 2003, pp. 63) But, according to author Lynn Spencer, in spite of this, the jets are delayed. As Eckmann is approaching the runway, he calls the control tower for clearance to take off, but the tower controller tells him, “Hold for an air traffic delay.” Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center “have not had time to clear airliners out of the way for the northerly heading. Dozens of aircraft at various altitudes fill the jets’ route.” After having to wait two minutes, Eckmann complains: “We’re an active air scramble. We need to go now!” Finally, the tower controller tells him, “Roger, Quit flight is cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning the fighters are to fly due east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Taking Off - The three jets launch 15 seconds apart, with Eckmann in front and the two other jets following. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143-144) Pilot Craig Borgstrom will later recall, “[W]e took off, the three of us, and basically the formation we always brief on alert, we’ll stay in a two- to three-mile trail from the guy in front.” (Filson 2003, pp. 63) According to the BBC, the pilots get a signal over their planes’ transponders, indicating an emergency wartime situation. (BBC 9/1/2002)
Could Reach Washington before Pentagon Attack - F-16s have a maximum speed of 1,500 mph at high altitude, or 915 mph at sea level, so the three fighters could plausibly travel the 130 miles from Langley Air Force Base to Washington in just minutes. (Chant 1987, pp. 404; Associated Press 6/16/2000; Weisman 9/16/2001; Graham 9/16/2001 pdf file; US Air Force 10/2007) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I think if those aircraft had gotten airborne immediately, if we were operating under something other than peacetime rules, where they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC, and gone into burner, it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, the jets are redirected east over the Atlantic Ocean and will be 150 miles from the Pentagon when it is hit (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Conflicting Times - Some early news reports after 9/11 will say the Langley jets take off at the later time of 9:35 a.m. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; Graham 9/15/2001; CNN 9/17/2001) But according to Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, though the jets are airborne at 9:30, the report of this does not come down until 9:35, so this fact may account for the conflicting times. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)


FAA Administrator Jane Garvey.
FAA Administrator Jane Garvey. [Source: FAA]Time magazine later reports that Jane Garvey, head of the FAA, “almost certainly after getting an okay from the White House, initiate[s] a national ground stop, which forbids takeoffs and requires planes in the air to get down as soon as is reasonable. The order, which has never been implemented since flying was invented in 1903, applie[s] to virtually every single kind of machine that can takeoff—civilian, military, or law enforcement.” Military and law enforcement flights are allowed to resume at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001) A limited number of military flights—the FAA will not reveal details—are allowed to fly during this ban. (Donnelly 9/14/2001) Garvey later calls it “a national ground stop… that prevented any aircraft from taking off.” (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001) Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta later says he was the one to give the order: “As soon as I was aware of the nature and scale of the attack, I called from the White House to order the air traffic system to land all aircraft, immediately and without exception.” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation 9/20/2001) According to Mineta, “At approximately 9:45… I gave the FAA the final order for all civil aircraft to land at the nearest airport as soon as possible.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) At the time, 4,452 planes are flying in the continental US. A later account states that Ben Sliney, the FAA’s National Operations Manager, makes the decision without consulting his superiors, like Jane Garvey, first. It would be remarkable if Sliney was the one to make the decision, because 9/11 is Sliney’s first day on the job as National Operations Manager, “the chess master of the air traffic system.” (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002) When he accepted the job a couple of months earlier, he had asked, “What is the limit of my authority?” The man who had promoted him replied, “Unlimited.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) Yet another account, by Linda Schuessler, manager of tactical operations at the FAA Command Center where Sliney was located, says, “… it was done collaboratively… All these decisions were corporate decisions. It wasn’t one person who said, ‘Yes, this has got to get done.’” (Bond 12/17/2001) About 500 planes land in the next 20 minutes, and then much more urgent orders to land are issued at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Donnelly 9/14/2001; US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; Scott 6/3/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002)

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)

A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989.A Delta Air Lines Boeing 767, the same kind of aircraft as Delta 1989. [Source: Public domain]The FAA’s Cleveland Center incorrectly concludes that Delta Air Lines Flight 1989 has been hijacked, but accounts will conflict over how it comes to this conclusion. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 167) Delta 1989, a Boeing 767, is currently in the sector of airspace being monitored by Cleveland Center air traffic controller John Werth. (9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Levin 9/11/2008) It is flying west over Pennsylvania, approaching the Ohio border, and is about 25 miles behind Flight 93. FBI agents suspected Delta 1989 might be the next plane to be hijacked and called the Cleveland Center after the second attack on the World Trade Center, with the warning to watch this flight (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) A supervisor at the center told Werth to keep an eye on the flight because, as Werth will later recall, “he was a suspected hijacking because he had taken off from Boston at approximately the same time as” the first two hijacked aircraft, Flights 11 and 175. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; Levin 9/11/2008)
Controllers Hear Suspicious Communications - When, at 9:28, Werth hears the sound of screaming (subsequently determined to have come from Flight 93) over the radio (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he is unsure which of seven or eight possible aircraft it is coming from. The radio frequency is put on the speaker so other controllers can hear it, and they subsequently make out the words, “get out of here.” (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 11, 28)
Controllers Think Delta 1989 Is Hijacked - According to USA Today, when Cleveland Center controllers then hear a voice with a heavy accent over the radio, saying “Ladies and gentlemen: Here the captain.… We have a bomb on board” (see (9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001), they mistakenly think it is coming from Delta 1989, not Flight 93. They suspect the flight has been hijacked, and start informing their chain of command. “Officials at Cleveland Center rush word to Washington: Hijackers have another flight. At the Federal Aviation Administration’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, Delta Flight 1989 joins a growing list of suspicious jets.” (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 12)
Werth Decides Hijacked Aircraft Is Flight 93 - Werth then calls all of the aircraft in his sector, and Flight 93 is the only one that does not respond. He also sees Flight 93 go into a quick descent and then come back up again. Werth therefore concludes that it is Flight 93, not Delta 1989, that has been hijacked, and instructs his supervisor to “tell Washington” of this. (9/11 Commission 10/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file) However, events in the following minutes will cause Cleveland Center controllers to remain suspicious of Delta 1989 (see (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/2/2003 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 168; Levin 9/11/2008)
Book Gives Alternative Account - In a book published in 2008, author Lynn Spencer will give a different explanation for why Cleveland Center becomes suspicious of Delta 1989. According to her account, after hearing a later radio transmission where a hijacker again says “There is a bomb on board” (see (9:39 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Werth begins to hand off his flights to other controllers so he can devote his full attention to Flight 93. “In the distraction of the emergency, the crew of Delta 1989 misses the hand-off to the new frequency. The new sector controller for Delta 1989 calls out to the plane several times and gets no response.” As a result, “News travels fast,” and “Soon, word on the FAA’s open teleconference call is that a fifth aircraft is out of radio contact: Delta 1989… is added to the list of suspect aircraft.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 167) At 9:39 a.m., even though it is not responsible for handling Delta 1989, the FAA’s Boston Center will call NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly tell it that Delta 1989 is another possible hijack (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

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

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

Even after they take off, the three fighter pilots who are scrambled from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia are unaware of what is happening regarding the ongoing attacks. The three F-16s were airborne at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But according to the 9/11 Commission, the pilots are “never briefed about the reason” they are scrambled. “The pilots [know] their mission [is] to divert aircraft, but [do] not know that the threat [is coming] from hijacked airliners.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27 and 45) One of the pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, will later recall that it is only when they see the burning Pentagon that they start piecing things together: “[A]s you get closer, you start thinking, ‘OK, maybe there’s some type of attack going on.’ You start correlating Washington, DC, with New York. We still have no ‘intel’ brief of what’s going on.… We knew something terribly wrong was going on.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65-66) He says he “had no idea” that the Pentagon and World Trade Center had been hit by suicide terrorists in airplanes. (Tyson 4/16/2002) The Langley pilots will only learn about Flight 93 and a plane crashing in Pennsylvania when they return to their base at around 2:00 p.m. (Longman 2002, pp. 222)

A group from FAA headquarters, who are apparently oblivious to the morning’s crisis, request and are given a tour of the air traffic control tower at Washington’s Reagan National Airport, until they are forced to leave there just before the time of the Pentagon attack. (Spencer 2008, pp. 157-158) Reagan Airport is located less than a mile from the Pentagon. (Adair and Garza 10/3/2001)
Tour Group Wants to See Tower - At 9:32, the tower supervisor, Chris Stephenson, receives a phone call from one of the airport’s maintenance workers. The maintenance worker says he has a group there from the FAA’s Washington headquarters that is visiting the airport to go over some maintenance issues, but they are also curious to see what goes on in the control tower. It appears the FAA personnel are unaware of the attacks in New York, and Stephenson is asked if it is okay to bring them up. Though he is busy dealing with the chaos resulting from the ground stop recently ordered by the FAA’s Command Center (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Stephenson reluctantly agrees. The group arrives moments later, but Stephenson tries to ignore them. According to author Lynn Spencer, Stephenson is as yet unaware that an errant aircraft has been spotted heading toward Washington (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 157) But according to USA Today, the Secret Service warned him about this aircraft at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Levin 8/11/2002)
Group Ordered to Leave - Shortly after the group arrives, Stephenson is called by a controller at the TRACON and notified of the unidentified aircraft (presumably Flight 77), which is five miles west of the tower (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he looks out the window, he sees it, now less than a mile away and approaching fast. Stephenson yells at the tour group: “Out! Get out!” The FAA group heads off down the stairs, but the last in the line looks out the window at the descending aircraft and asks, “What’s that guy doing?” ”Get out!” Stephenson repeats, and pushes the man into the stairwell. Soon afterwards, the Pentagon is hit (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 158)

The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia, takes control of the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though, according to air traffic controllers at the facility, it should not be communicating with the fighters. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004) The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, known as “Giant Killer,” is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143; US Navy 2/11/2016) The flight plan for the Langley F-16s puts the fighters into its airspace (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) The facility consequently takes over control of the aircraft from the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004)
Fighters Shouldn't Be Switched to the Facility's Frequency, Controller Will Say - However, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Clipper, an air traffic controller at the facility, the Norfolk TRACON “should not have switched the flight to Giant Killer frequency, plain and simple.” “Giant Killer should not have been talking to the fighters,” Clipper will state. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer is “not expected to be [one of the] participants in active air scrambles.” If NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) scrambles fighters, he will say, the “onus is on the fighters and NEADS to go where they want to go,” and “it is Giant Killer’s responsibility to stay out of the way.” Based on the scramble order for the Langley fighters (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clipper will say, the FAA’s Washington Center and the Norfolk TRACON “should have made sure there was a clear path for the fighters to go direct” to the control of NEADS. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file)
Other Controllers Say the Facility Does Not Handle Scrambled Jets - Petty Officer Matthew Barcus, another controller at Giant Killer, will say a similar thing to what Clipper does. “Most of the time, Giant Killer does not talk to the scrambled aircraft,” he will tell the 9/11 Commission. He will say that a scrambled flight “is usually handed off to [NEADS] by Norfolk” TRACON or the FAA’s Washington Center. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) And Lieutenant Commander Mary Klug, the operations officer at the facility, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer does “not normally control scrambled aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) However, author Lynn Spencer will apparently contradict Clipper, Barcus, and Klug, writing, “Protocol dictates that Giant Killer direct the jets until they reach Washington Center’s airspace, where the FAA controllers take over.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 149)
Pilot Has Poor Experiences of Dealing with the Facility - Major Brad Derrig, the pilot of one of the fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his experience with Giant Killer is that the facility is “not very good.” Sometimes, he will say, when Langley fighters have contacted Giant Killer, controllers at the facility “didn’t know who the air defense fighters were.” (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003)

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

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

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to report a low-flying airliner he has spotted six miles southeast of the White House. He can offer no details regarding its identity. The plane is reportedly Flight 77, but as it has its transponder turned off, no one realizes this at the time. The news of the plane “sets off a frenzy.” Major Kevin Nasypany orders Major James Fox, head of the NEADS weapons team, “Get your fighters there as soon as possible!” Staff Sergeant William Huckabone says, “Ma’am, we are going AFIO [emergency military control of the fighters] right now with Quit 2-5 [the Langley Air Force Base fighters]” (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), and adds, “They are going direct Washington.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) The Langley fighters will arrive over Washington some time around 10 a.m. (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

The Pentagon explodes. 
The Pentagon explodes. [Source: Donley/ Sipa]Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) (CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Vogel 11/21/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; CBS 9/11/2002) Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. (Vogel 2007, pp. 431 and 449) Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” (US Department of Defense 9/15/2001) “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. (Schrader 9/16/2001) Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 450)

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 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 3/26/2004)

Stacia Rountree.Stacia Rountree. [Source: Vanity Fair]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and incorrectly notifies it that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is a possible hijacking. (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006) Boston Center previously called NEADS at 9:27 and said that Delta 1989 was missing (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
NEADS Technicians Respond - At NEADS, Stacia Rountree, the ID technician who takes Scoggins’s call, announces to her colleagues: “Delta ‘89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.… South of Cleveland.” The plane’s transponder is still on, and she adds, “We have a code on him now.” Rountree’s team leader, Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, instructs: “Pick it up! Find it!” The NEADS technicians quickly locate Delta 1989 on their radar screens, just south of Toledo, Ohio, and start alerting other FAA centers to it. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 177) NEADS mission crew commander Major Kevin Nasypany will be notified by his staff of the suspected hijacking at about 9:41 or 9:42 a.m. (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file) NEADS never loses track of Delta 1989. It will follow it on radar as it reverses course over Toledo, heads east, and then lands in Cleveland (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28) It will order Air National Guard fighter jets from Selfridge and Toledo to intercept the flight (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178-179) But it will soon learn that Delta 1989 is not in fact hijacked. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)
Cleveland Center, Not Boston, Handling Delta 1989 - Although Boston Center notifies NEADS of the suspected hijacking, Delta 1989 is in fact being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10-12) Cleveland Center air traffic controllers suspected that Delta 1989 had been hijacked at around 9:30 a.m. (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but apparently only informed the FAA’s Command Center, and not NEADS, of this. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002) To explain why Boston Center alerts NEADS to the flight, the 9/11 Commission will later comment that, “Remembering the ‘we have some planes’ remark” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), the Boston Center simply “guessed that Delta 1989 might also be hijacked.”
Similar to First Two Hijacked Planes - Like Flights 11 and 175, the two aircraft that have crashed into the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001), Delta 1989 took off from Boston’s Logan Airport. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) According to the New York Times, it left there at about the same time as Flights 11 and 175 did, meaning around 8:00 to 8:15 a.m. (Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 32) Like those two aircraft, it is a Boeing 767. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28) But, unlike those flights, its transponder has not been turned off, and so it is still transmitting a beacon code. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) It is unclear what Delta 1989’s intended destination is. According to some accounts, like Flights 11 and 175 were, it is bound for Los Angeles. (Singer 9/11/2001; Wald and van Natta 10/18/2001; Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Velez 9/24/2007; Spencer 2008, pp. 167) Other accounts will say that its destination is Las Vegas. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006) Personnel at NEADS are apparently informed that Las Vegas is the intended destination. Around this time, one member of staff there tells her colleagues that the flight is “supposed to go to Vegas.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
One of Numerous Incorrect Reports - The 9/11 Commission will comment: “During the course of the morning, there were multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). The report of American 11 heading south was the first (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001); Delta 1989 was the second.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

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)

A weapons director at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) notices that the three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) are going in the wrong direction, and so he contacts them to get them on the correct course.
Citino Thinks FAA Has Redirected Fighters - The weapons director, Master Sergeant Steve Citino, recently forwarded coordinates to the jets, sending them to Washington, DC. However, according to author Lynn Spencer, he inadvertently gave them incorrect coordinates (see 9:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). Now, shortly afterwards, Citino notices that the jets are going in the wrong direction. However, he does not realize his mistake with the coordinates, and instead assumes that the FAA’s Washington Center has redirected the jets so as to avoid air traffic. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-181) He makes this assumption even though NEADS recently declared AFIO (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for Washington airspace, thereby giving the military authority over the FAA for that airspace (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 113, 150)
Fighters Given Correct Destination - Citino radios one of the three Langley AFB pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, and gives him the correct course heading. Citino adds: “Just to reiterate. You are under AFIO control! Take all direction from Huntress!” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NEADS.) Borgstrom acknowledges the order, but mentions that the new heading conflicts with the coordinates he has just been given. He says, “We’re showing a CAP [combat air patrol] point of 250 [heading], 20 miles.” Citino snaps back at him: “Negative! That’s incorrect! The CAP is 312, 20 miles!” Borgstrom then relays the correct coordinates to his lead pilot, Major Dean Eckmann, and the three Langley jets set off toward their new destination. (Spencer 2008, pp. 181)

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

John Keane.John Keane. [Source: US Army]The Army’s Crisis Action Team (CAT) at the Pentagon is “formally stood up” and its members respond to the terrorist attacks. (Rossow 2003, pp. 66; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 135; Cohn 9/8/2011) Lieutenant Colonel Kevin Stramara activated the CAT after the second hijacked aircraft crashed into the World Trade Center, at 9:03 a.m., on the orders of Major General Peter Chiarelli, the Army’s director of operations, readiness, and mobilization (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 96-97) Chiarelli’s intention was, he said, “to respond to the contingency in New York if requested by state and local officials.” (Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 134) The CAT is now “formally stood up,” according to author Robert Rossow, although exactly what this means is unstated.
Senior Officials Come to Operations Center - When the CAT is activated, its members assemble in the Army Operations Center (AOC) in the basement of the Pentagon. (Rossow 2003, pp. 64, 66) Numerous senior officials now start arriving in the AOC. These include General John Keane, vice chief of staff of the Army; Brigadier General Clyde Vaughn, deputy director of operations, readiness, and mobilization; Major General Philip Kensinger, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans; and Thomas White, the secretary of the Army. More senior officers come to the AOC than would usually be the case in a crisis, according to Chiarelli, “because a large portion of the Army section of the building had been destroyed” in the attack on the Pentagon. “People had been forced out of their space,” he will later say, and “were looking for some place to go.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Vaughn 2/12/2002; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 135; Lofgren 2011, pp. 98-101; Baier 9/12/2011)
Operations Center Personnel Unaware that a Plane Hit the Pentagon - Chiarelli arrived at the AOC shortly before the Pentagon was hit (see (Shortly Before 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and, he will recall, heard a “muffled noise” when the attack occurred, at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 98-99) Colonel Henry Huntley, who also arrived at the AOC around the time of the Pentagon attack, will recall, “Alarms started going off and there was an announcement that an explosion had gone off in the building.” (Ellich 7/8/2008) However, those in the AOC are apparently initially unaware that a plane has hit their building. Vaughn, who witnessed the attack from the road outside the Pentagon, calls Major George Sterling, the AOC commandant, and says to him, “You know that you’ve been hit by an airplane?” Sterling responds, “Is that what happened?” Vaughn will comment that “many people… didn’t find out for some time” that the Pentagon had been hit by an airplane. (Vaughn 2/12/2002; Rossow 2003, pp. 15-16; Lofgren 2011, pp. 3-4)
Support Agency Commander Unaware that the US Is under Attack - Colonel Bruce Bachus, commander of the Command and Control Support Agency, who is responsible for keeping the AOC operating, arrived at the Pentagon around the time the attack there occurred and yet he is unaware of the crisis taking place in the US when he gets to the AOC. In the AOC, Dick Mansfield, deputy director of the Command and Control Support Agency, says to him: “We’ve been hit! The CAT has been stood up!” But Bachus appears to be puzzled. Mansfield therefore asks him, “Sir, do you know what’s going on?” Bachus says no and that he had not been listening to the radio—like he usually does—while he drove to work. He says he heard a loud sound while he was in the Pentagon’s A-E Drive, and saw people shouting and running down the corridors, but he’d had no idea what was going on. Mansfield therefore has to quickly brief him on the catastrophic events of the past hour. (Rossow 2003, pp. 9, 68)
Crisis Team Assesses How Many Army Staffers Are Missing - The “first big task” for the CAT, according to Vaughn, is “to get a count on how many people were missing on the Army staff.” Chiarelli instructs Vaughn to focus on this assignment. Vaughn then announces on the CAT floor that he wants each section “to start that process of figuring out who was missing and who was not.” “For a long time, our number one priority was locating and identifying and taking care of… our soldiers and civilians,” Vaughn will say. (Vaughn 2/12/2002) Lieutenant Colonel Richard Kotch, who is working in the AOC this morning, will recall that those in the operations center also “assured continuity of operations after the impact [i.e. the attack on the Pentagon].” (Cohn 9/8/2011)
Intelligence Officers Give Inaccurate Reports of Hijackings - Meanwhile, after he arrives at the AOC, Chiarelli receives reports from his intelligence officers informing him, inaccurately, about additional hijacked aircraft. He is told there are “a minimum of four aircraft that were hijacked and a possibility, at one time, [of] as high as seven.” (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 99)
Operations Center Has Sophisticated Equipment - The CAT, according to Soldiers magazine, “consists of a dedicated ‘hot’ desk with classified and unclassified computers, and secure telephones for 24 separate Army staff sections.” (Schwab and Jewell 9/2004) The AOC, where its members assemble, is equipped with state-of-the-art communications equipment and has television sets for monitoring news coverage. (Vogel 8/25/1995) A glassed-in balcony overlooks the main floor and four giant screens are on the wall above the computer workstations. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002; Lofgren 2011, pp. 99-100)
Watch Team Regularly Communicates with Government Agencies - AOC personnel usually work around the clock to keep senior Army leaders aware of issues and events around the world. A watch team monitors the world constantly and is ready to sound the alarm if a crisis erupts somewhere. The watch team also “directs hundreds of communications daily to the FBI, the State Department, the White House command center, local law enforcement agencies, and others,” according to Soldiers magazine. The AOC is equipped with an “emergency action console,” which is a switchboard with a sophisticated communications system that allows watch team members to contact, at the touch of a button, the White House, the secretary of defense’s office, and Army commands around the world. (Vogel 8/25/1995; Schwab and Jewell 9/2004) The CAT will become “a focal point for all Pentagon activities” in response to the terrorist attacks, according to Kotch. (Cohn 9/8/2011) It will continue working around the clock in the aftermath of the attacks. (Chiarelli 2/5/2002)

The White House mess.The White House mess. [Source: Unknown]People at the White House are ordered to go to the “mess,” the senior staff dining room. David Kuo, a special assistant to the president, and John Bridgeland, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, will later recall being ordered to go downstairs to the mess by armed Secret Service agents. Meanwhile, Anita McBride, the acting director of White House personnel, is instructed by members of the Secret Service to “go through West Wing offices and tell everyone to ‘get out’ and stay put” in the mess. (Kuo 2006, pp. 185; McBride 9/9/2011; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3) Mary Matalin, a counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney, will recall, “Everyone still remaining in the West Wing was shepherded to the White House mess, where we were to await further instructions.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)
Mess Is a 'Tiny, Unsecure' Facility - The White House mess is an exclusive dining facility run by the US Navy, located in the basement of the West Wing, just under the Oval Office. (Ingle 12/1/2001; Geraghty 10/8/2013) Bridgeland will recall thinking “how odd it was” for White House staffers to all be evacuated to this “tiny, unsecure” facility. (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) People in the mess are watching television or just waiting. (Estes 8/29/2002) Kuo will describe: “All the tables had been tossed onto their sides to make room for as many people as possible. Fifty people stood there, shocked, quiet, confused.” (Kuo 2006, pp. 185)
People Ordered to the Mess after the Pentagon Attack - The exact time at which staffers are ordered to go to the mess is unclear. Matalin will recall being told to go there “moments” after she sees Cheney being evacuated from his office, which would be some time shortly after 9:36 a.m. (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (National Review 9/8/2011; Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 137-138) Bridgeland and Kuo will recall being ordered to go there shortly after they learn the Pentagon has been hit, which would be some time after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon attack occurred (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Kuo 2006, pp. 184-185; Bridgeland 2012, pp. 3)
People in the Mess Ordered to Leave the Building - People will only spend a short time in the mess before they are told to get out of the building. The Secret Service will reportedly order them to evacuate the White House at 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 2001 pdf file; Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002) Bridgeland will describe: “[A]n alarmed police officer came into the White House mess and instructed us to leave. Another officer outside was receiving the latest communications by wire (apparently alerted that United Airlines Flight 93 was headed toward the White House or US Capitol building) and commanded us, ‘Take off your shoes and run as fast as you can.’” (Bridgeland 2012, pp. 4) Matalin will recall that the order she hears, which is delivered “in a weirdly calm manner,” is: “Run for your lives. A plane is going to hit the White House.” (Carville and Matalin 2014, pp. 138)

An F-16 launched from Langley Air Force Base is directed toward two unidentified aircraft and then asked to inspect and report on the damage to the Pentagon. Major Dean Eckmann, one of the three F-16 pilots who took off from Langley at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), is reportedly flying in the Washington area. He will later recall, “I set up a combat air patrol with air traffic controllers,” and then, at around 9:45, “they come back to me and say there are a couple [of] unknowns heading north on the Potomac River toward the White House.” He is flying above 20,000 feet but heads straight down and reaches his target in “no time,” he says. The unknowns turn out to be a military helicopter and a law enforcement helicopter apparently heading towards the Pentagon to assist there. Eckmann flies over the Capitol and Mall area, he recalls, “to clear the area and make sure nothing else was coming in.”
Instructions to Inspect the Pentagon - Then Captain Craig Borgstrom, one of the other two Langley pilots, calls him and says that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) wants to know the extent of the damage at the Pentagon. Eckmann flies over it and reports that the two outer rings have been damaged. NEADS wants to know if he can tell what has happened. He guesses it was “a big fuel tanker truck because of the amount of smoke and flames coming up and nobody indicated anything about an airplane. And there was no airplane wreckage off to the side.” (Filson 2003, pp. 66) But he will give a different account to the 9/11 Commission, telling it: “I reverted to the Russian threat.… I’m thinking cruise missile threat from the sea. You know you look down and see the Pentagon burning and I thought the bastards snuck one by us.… [N]o one told us anything.” According to the Commission, the Langley pilots have not been briefed about why they were scrambled. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 45 and 465) Eckmann will in fact say, “[W]e didn’t actually find out it was an airliner [that hit the Pentagon] until the next day.” (Sullivan 8/19/2002)
Conflicting Times - Eckmann’s F-16 is presumably the first fighter to arrive over the Pentagon following the attack there. When precisely this occurs is unclear (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, according to numerous witnesses on the ground, the first fighter does not fly over the Pentagon until significantly later than Eckmann describes, at around 10:40 a.m. (see (10:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Creed and Newman 2008, pp. 130-131) And according to some accounts, this is not Eckmann’s plane, but an F-16 from Andrews Air Force Base, piloted by Major Billy Hutchison. (Filson 2003, pp. 81-82; Spencer 2008, pp. 235-236)

Engine Company 16.Engine Company 16. [Source: District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department]The District of Columbia Fire Department (DCFD) sends engines to the White House after the Secret Service incorrectly reports that a plane has crashed into the presidential residence and the building is on fire. As well as reporting the supposed plane crash and fire, the Secret Service says the White House, or at least part of it (the specific details are unclear), has collapsed. In response to the report, the fire communications center dispatches a “box alarm” from Engine Company 16, the station that serves the White House. (Witt 9/21/2001; Ward 4/2002 pdf file; Smith 10/31/2002) A box alarm consists of four engines, two trucks, a rescue company, and a battalion chief. (Ward 4/2002 pdf file) Since the alleged incident is at the White House—the home of the US president—the response is increased by sending an additional battalion chief and the deputy fire chief, Rogers Massey, to deal with it. And because a building collapse has been reported, the DCFD’s cave-in task force, which comprises Rescue 3, Battalion Chief 3, Engine 15, and the hazmat (hazardous materials) task force, is also sent. However, when the crews arrive at the White House, they are promptly told to leave. A uniformed Secret Service officer waves them away and says: “Get the f_ck outta here! There’s a plane coming in!” Lieutenant Jeff Wright, one of the firefighters involved in the response, will later recall the turn of events, saying: “It was mass confusion. We go down to the White House and no one knows what’s going on. We could see smoke coming from Virginia [where the Pentagon is located].” The report of the incident at the White House is investigated and determined to be unfounded. However, after he receives intelligence reports from the FBI, Special Operations Battalion Chief Michael Sellitto decides he will keep his units near the White House in case attacks should subsequently occur there or at the Capitol building. (Witt 9/21/2001; Ward 4/2002 pdf file; Smith 10/31/2002) The DCFD will also respond to the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). It will dispatch a box alarm to the Department of Defense’s headquarters at around 9:48 a.m. (DCFD (.com) 9/12/2001; Witt 9/21/2001; Goldberg et al. 2007, pp. 72)

Doug Davis.Doug Davis. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]John White, a manager at the FAA’s Command Center, suggests to Doug Davis, the special assistant for technical operations in air traffic services at FAA headquarters, that fighter jets should be launched in response to Flight 93. However, FAA headquarters is apparently unable to act on this suggestion. (Federal Aviation Administration 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) In the last few minutes, the Command Center has warned headquarters that Flight 93 is “29 minutes out of Washington” and approaching the city (see 9:41 a.m.-9:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 44)
Command Center Asks about Launching Fighters - Davis now tells White, “They’re pulling Jeff [Griffith, the FAA’s deputy director of air traffic] away to go talk about United 93.” White asks, “Uh, do we want to think, uh, about scrambling aircraft?” Davis replies, “Oh, God, I don’t know.” White says, “Uh, that’s a decision somebody’s gonna have to make probably in the next 10 minutes.” However, Davis only responds, “Uh, ya know everybody just left the room.” (Federal Aviation Administration 10/21/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) This conversation takes place 13 minutes after the FAA’s Cleveland Center asked the Command Center whether anyone had asked the military to launch fighter jets to intercept Flight 93 (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 40)
Person Who Could Request Fighters Is Unavailable - Apparently there is only one person at FAA headquarters who is authorized to request military assistance, and Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, is told that no one can find him. Sliney will later recount: “I said something like, ‘That’s incredible. There’s only one person. There must be someone designated or someone who will assume the responsibility of issuing an order, you know.’ We were becoming frustrated in our attempts to get some information. What was the military response?” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/10/2006) This lack of response to Flight 93 contrasts with the FAA’s earlier reaction to Flight 11, when Boston Center air traffic controllers contacted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) themselves (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and even called military bases directly (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20)

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

Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center.Controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center. [Source: FAA]The three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) that have been directed toward Washington request and are given permission to fly at high altitude over the city. After the Langley AFB pilots are given the correct coordinates they are to head to (see (Between 9:41 a.m. and 9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), at 9:51 lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann looks on his radar screen and sees that the area where he has been directed to set up a combat air patrol is filled with air traffic. He therefore contacts the FAA’s Washington Center and tells the controller, “I need 3,000 feet of altitude in a 20-mile ring around DC.” When the controller asks the reason, Eckmann replies, “Higher headquarters’ request!” The controller gives him an altitude range of 25,000 to 27,000 feet. Eckmann radios the other two Langley pilots and gives them their altitude assignments: he’ll fly at 25,000 feet, Major Brad Derrig will be at 26,000 feet, and Captain Craig Borgstrom at 27,000 feet. According to author Lynn Spencer, the jets then head toward Washington at 700 miles per hour, just under the speed of sound. (Spencer 2008, pp. 180-182) However, Spencer’s account of this incident conflicts with the 1st Air Force’s book about the 9/11 attacks. According to that account, several minutes before Eckmann reportedly asks for altitude clearance—at around 9:45 a.m.—he had been directed to drop to lower altitude to check out two unidentified aircraft, and was then told to inspect the Pentagon (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 66)

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

While President Bush is still in Sarasota, an AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System plane) is flying a training mission off the coast of Florida. Referring to the AWACS plane, NORAD Commander Larry Arnold later says: “I had set up an arrangement with their wing commander at Tinker [Air Force Base, Oklahoma] some months earlier for us to divert their AWACS off a normal training mission to go into an exercise scenario simulating an attack on the United States. The AWACS crew initially thought we were going into one of those simulations.” Another AWACS is also flying a training mission, near Washington, DC, the morning of 9/11. (Code One Magazine 1/2002) When its pilot, Anthony Kuczynski, hears of the first WTC crash, he mistakenly believes he is involved in a planned military simulation. He says, “We sometimes do scenarios where we’re protecting the United States from bombers coming in from unknown areas.” (Forster 4/12/2002)

F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base.F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. [Source: John S. Swanson / US Air Force]NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) contacts Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Michigan to arrange for two of its F-16 fighter jets that are out on a training mission to intercept a suspicious aircraft. Accounts will conflict over whether this aircraft is Flight 93 or Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is wrongly thought to have been hijacked. (Associated Press 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 178) Delta 1989 was flying about 25 miles behind Flight 93 when air traffic controllers mistakenly suspected it might be hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and since then it has been instructed to land at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; Levin 9/11/2008) Flight 93 is currently flying east across Pennsylvania. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file) NEADS has already tried getting fighter jets from a unit in Duluth, Minnesota, sent after Delta 1989, but the unit was unable to respond (see (Shortly After 9:41 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/22/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file)
NEADS Calls Selfridge Base - A NEADS weapons technician now calls the 127th Wing at Selfridge Air National Guard Base. He knows the unit has two F-16s in the air on a training mission. Although these jets are unarmed and only have a limited amount of fuel remaining, the commander at the Selfridge base agrees to turn them over to NEADS. (Spencer 2008, pp. 178) The commander says: “[H]ere’s what we can do. At a minimum, we can keep our guys airborne. I mean, they don’t have—they don’t have any guns or missiles or anything on board.” The NEADS technician replies, “It’s a presence, though.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)
Fighters May Have to Crash into Hijacked Plane - Military commanders realize that, without weapons, the Selfridge fighter pilots might have to slam their jets into a hijacked plane to stop it in its tracks. Colonel Robert Marr, the NEADS battle commander, will later reflect, “As a military man, there are times that you have to make sacrifices that you have to make.” (Raddatz 8/30/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002) However, the Selfridge jets never have to intercept either of the two suspect aircraft, and instead are able to head back to base. (Filson 2003, pp. 70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file)
Selfridge Called due to Concerns about Delta 1989? - According to author Lynn Spencer, the NEADS weapons technician’s call to the Selfridge unit is made in response to a report NEADS received about the possible hijacking of Delta 1989 (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 178) Vanity Fair magazine and the 9/11 Commission will also say NEADS calls the Selfridge unit in response to this report about Delta 1989. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Bronner 8/1/2006)
NORAD Commander Gives Different Account - However, Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, will suggest the Selfridge unit is called due to concerns about both Delta 1989 and Flight 93. He will say: “We were concerned about Flight 93 and this Delta aircraft [Flight 1989] and were trying to find aircraft in the vicinity to help out. We didn’t know where it was going to go. We were concerned about Detroit… and the fighters up there were out of gas with no armament.” (Filson 2003, pp. 71)
NEADS Commander Claims Fighters Sent toward Flight 93 - Robert Marr will give another different account. He will claim that NEADS contacts the Selfridge base solely because of its concerns over Flight 93. He tells author Leslie Filson that before Flight 93 reversed course and headed back east (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001), NEADS thought it was “headed toward Detroit or Chicago. I’m thinking Chicago is the target and know that Selfridge Air National Guard Base has F-16s in the air.” NEADS contacts “them so they could head off 93 at the pass.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68) Marr will tell the 9/11 Commission that the Selfridge F-16s are going to be “too far from Cleveland to do any good,” and so he believes NEADS directs them to intercept Flight 93. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) (Presumably, he means the jets cannot be responding to Delta 1989, which has been told to land in Cleveland (Levin 9/11/2008) )
9/11 Commission Disputes Arnold's and Marr's Accounts - The 9/11 Commission will reject Arnold’s and Marr’s accounts. It will state, “The record demonstrates, however, that… the military never saw Flight 93 at all” before it crashes, and conclude, “The Selfridge base was contacted by NEADS not regarding Flight 93, but in response to another commercial aircraft in the area that was reported hijacked (Delta Flight 1989, which ultimately was resolved as not hijacked).” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 101) Lt. Col. Doug Champagne, the pilot of one of the Selfridge F-16s, will recall that “he and his colleague never received orders to intercept [Flight 93] in any way.” (Casey 9/6/2006) Reports based on interviews with the two Selfridge pilots will make no mention of the jets being directed to intercept Delta 1989 either (see (9:56 a.m.-10:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 68-70; Carroll 9/2006 pdf file; Casey 9/6/2006)

Members of New York Police Department’s elite Emergency Service Unit (ESU) are given an order that means they have to get out of the World Trade Center or delay entering it and consequently many of them will avoid being killed when the South Tower collapses, at 9:59 a.m. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102; Appel 2009, pp. 112-113) The ESU is a highly trained organization comprised of first response rescuers. (City of New York 6/29/2002) Its members respond to situations that require the most specialized training, such as hostage taking and water rescue, and use the most advanced equipment. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101)
Officers Are Ordered to Come Down from the WTC - Inspector Ronald Wasson, commanding officer of the ESU, earlier on divided his officers into four teams of five or six men and then sent two teams into each of the Twin Towers to assist the rescue operation. (McPhee and O'Shaughnessy 11/11/2001) But now, ESU commanders give the order for the unit’s members to “go tactical.” This means the officers in the towers have to come out of the buildings and go to the unit’s SWAT (special weapons and tactics) vans; put on their BDU (battle dress uniform) suits, flak jackets, and Kevlar helmets; and arm themselves with heavy weapons and assault rifles.
Commander Thinks Terrorists Might Attack the First Responders - The decision to order ESU officers to go tactical is made by Wasson, according to a book by Lieutenant William Keegan of the Port Authority Police Department. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102) Wasson is currently assembled with a number of other ESU officers outside the Twin Towers, at the corner of West and Vesey Streets. (Appel 2009, pp. 68) He decides that ESU officers should go tactical due to his concern that armed terrorists might attack the first responders at the WTC. He is “worried that with all his personnel inside the buildings, he [has] no way to protect the cops, firefighters, or civilians from the kind of low-intensity warfare—snipers, automatic weapons, car bombs, hostage situations—he [is] sure [will] follow the attack,” Keegan will write. He believes it is the responsibility of the New York Fire Department to deal with the fires in the Twin Towers, while the Police Department should be preparing for what might happen next. Many ESU members will come out of the towers after receiving the order to go tactical, according to Keegan. (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 101-102)
Order Is Given after an Officer Hears of the Pentagon Attack - However, according to author Anthea Appel, the order to go tactical is made by Sergeant Tom Sullivan, another ESU officer. Sullivan is currently at the corner of West and Vesey Streets along with Wasson, getting ready to take two teams into the WTC. At 9:56 a.m., after hearing over his radio about the attack on the Pentagon, which occurred at 9:37 a.m. (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), he exclaims, “Screw rescue!” He then pulls his men back and announces that all ESU teams will be “going in tactical,” according to Appel. “I want heavy vests, helmets, rifles, and machine guns,” he says. In response to his announcement, ESU officers start taking off their rescue gear and putting on combat gear. They take off their safety helmets and replace them with ballistic helmets. They take off their air tanks, unbuckle their Roco harnesses, and put on more body armor over their bulletproof vests. They also unlock their gun bins and take out shotguns, submachine guns, and assault rifles. Some officers grumble under their breath, annoyed at being held back. “They didn’t like wasting time fiddling around with equipment,” Appel will comment, “and this sudden switch interrupted their adrenaline momentum.” They will be in the middle of changing into their combat gear when the South Tower collapses (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Appel 2009, pp. 112-113)
Order Is Wrong but Saves Lives - The order to go tactical will turn out to be mistaken as there are no attacks by armed terrorists on the first responders at the WTC. However, as a result of it being issued, numerous ESU members will be outside the Twin Towers instead of inside the buildings when the South Tower comes down and many of them will therefore avoid being killed in the collapse. While 14 ESU members will die in the WTC collapses, a far greater number will survive, Keegan will write, “because Wasson’s order pulled them out of the towers and saved their lives.” (Keegan and Davis 2006, pp. 102) One ESU member, Detective Frank DeMasi, will conclude that Sullivan “definitely saved his life when he made that last-minute decision to switch from rescue to tactical mode,” according to Appel, since the delay while they changed into their combat gear “kept DeMasi and his teammates from walking into the South Tower before it collapsed.” (Appel 2009, pp. 265-266)

Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing.Two F-16s belonging to the 147th Fighter Wing. [Source: Gonda Moncada / Texas Military Forces]Four armed F-16 fighter jets belonging to the Texas Air National Guard are directed toward Air Force One in order to escort the president’s plane. (BBC 9/1/2002; Kohn 9/11/2002; Bombardier 9/8/2006 pdf file; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40)
SEADS Sends Fighters toward Air Force One - Air Force One has taken off from Sarasota, Florida (see 9:54 a.m. September 11, 2001), and the White House has requested a fighter escort for it (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Martin 7/4/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) orders jets that belong to the 147th Fighter Wing of the Texas Air National Guard toward the president’s plane. (Hehs 4/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will later recall: “We were not told where Air Force One was going. We were told just to follow the president.” (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
Ellington Field an 'Alert' Site - The 147th Fighter Wing is based at Ellington Field, a joint civil and military use airport about 15 miles south of Houston. (Rendon 12/9/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005; GlobalSecurity (.org) 1/21/2006) Ellington Field is one of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US, which all have a pair of armed fighters ready to take off immediately if called upon. (McKenna 12/1999; Hebert 2/2002)
Pilots Not Told What Their Target Is - Two of the F-16s sent toward Air Force One are on the ground at Ellington Field and have been placed on “battle stations,” with the pilots sitting in the cockpits, when the scramble order is received. (Hehs 4/2002) The other two have been flying a training mission (see After 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001), and are pulled off it to escort Air Force One. (Arnold 12/2001 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) Among the four pilots are Shane Brotherton and Randy Roberts. Their new mission is so secret that their commander does not tell them where they are going. When they ask what their target is, the commander says, “You’ll know when you see it.” Brotherton will later recall, “I didn’t have any idea what we were going up [for] until that point.” (Kohn 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 255)
Jets First to Reach Air Force One - At least two of the 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will be seen from Air Force One at around 11:30 a.m., although an official will tell reporters on board that fighters are escorting the plane about 15 minutes before that time (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They are the first fighters to reach Air Force One after it left Sarasota, according to most accounts. (Keen and Carney 9/11/2001; Kohn 9/11/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 87; Martin 7/4/2004; Rosenfeld and Gross 2007, pp. 40; Spencer 2008, pp. 255) However, a few accounts will indicate the first jets to reach it belong to a unit of the Florida Air National Guard located at Jacksonville International Airport (see (10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Department of Defense 9/2001; Langley 12/16/2001) The 147th Fighter Wing F-16s will accompany Air Force One all the way to Washington, DC. (Filson 2003, pp. 87-88; Cousins 7/9/2005)

McChord Air Force Base.McChord Air Force Base. [Source: Michel Teiten]Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls NORAD’s Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), which is at McChord Air Force Base in Washington State, to request assistance. He says: “I’d like to… steal some aircraft out of Fargo from you guys.… Bring up the weapons too, if possible,” to which WADS replies: “Yep, ok. We will do that.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) The three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base at 9:30 (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) are in fact from the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which, though based at Fargo, ND, has had a detachment of two F-16s on alert at Langley since late 2000. However, these are under the command of NEADS, not WADS. (Sizemore 9/22/2001; Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; McChord Air Museum 2007) It is therefore not clear what specific fighters are now being referred to when Nasypany speaks of the “aircraft out of Fargo,” nor is it clear if and when these planes are launched. Colonel John Cromwell, the commander of WADS, will later recall that he calls every fighter wing commander west of the Mississippi, and by midday (3:00 p.m. ET) has more than 100 fighter jets on alert. (Gilbert 6/3/2006)

An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center.
An F-16 flies over New York City on September 12, 2001. Smoke is still rising from the World Trade Center. [Source: Air National Guard]An air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center radios the pilots launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) and tells them they may have to take out a hijacked aircraft. One of the two Otis pilots, Major Daniel Nash, will later recall, “The New York controller did come over the radio and say if we have another hijacked aircraft we’re going to have to shoot it down.” (BBC 9/1/2002) However, he will add that this is just “an off-the-cuff statement.” (Dennehy 8/21/2002) It is unclear at what time this communication occurs, though a BBC documentary will place it at about the time the South Tower collapses, which would be around 9:59 a.m. (BBC 9/1/2002) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has already radioed one of the Otis pilots to check that he is prepared to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) But according to most accounts, the two pilots never receive an order from the military to shoot down hostile aircraft (see (After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 43; Viser 9/11/2005)

The pilots that took off from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) hear a warning over radio that errant aircraft will be shot down, and receive an instruction from the Secret Service to protect the White House. (Spencer 2008, pp. 222-223)
Pilots Learn of FAA Order - The three Langley fighter jets have now reached the Baltimore-Washington area. (Spencer 2008, pp. 222) The pilots hear over their radios that the FAA has ordered all civilian aircraft to land. (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001) (The FAA issued this instruction at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure 9/21/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 29) )
Borgstrom Hears Shootdown Warning - The three pilots are all on different radio frequencies, but are able to communicate between themselves on their auxiliary frequency. According to author Lynn Spencer, one of them, Captain Craig Borgstrom, hears a message over the emergency radio frequency that is in response to the FAA’s recent order: “Attention all aircraft! Attention all aircraft! You are ordered to land at the nearest suitable airport. All aircraft must land immediately. Violators will be shot down.” The source of this message is unstated. (Filson 2003, pp. 66; Spencer 2008, pp. 222-223) (Author Leslie Filson will describe the Langley pilots hearing what is apparently a separate but similar message later on, some time after 10:42 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-11:05 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 82) )
Instructed to Protect the White House - Around the time Borgstrom hears this, Major Dean Eckmann, the lead Langley pilot, is on the radio with the FAA’s Washington Center. A Secret Service agent has arrived there and wants to talk to him. (Filson 2003, pp. 68; Spencer 2008, pp. 222-223) Eckmann then receives a garbled message over his radio, which is difficult to make out. (Sack 11/15/2001) The message is, “Protect the house.” Eckmann will later recall, “I took it to mean protect the White House.” (Filson 2003, pp. 68) He notifies the two other pilots—Borgstrom and Major Brad Derrig—of this message. He tells them, “I think I just talked to the Secret Service, but I’m not sure.” (Sack 11/15/2001)
Possible Shootdown Order? - According to Spencer, this message means that “Unknown to NEADS” (NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector), Eckmann has been “given shootdown authority directly from the Secret Service, bypassing the military chain of command.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 223) But Borgstrom and Derrig will later say they “never received explicit orders to fire on incoming planes perceived to be hostile.” (Sack 11/15/2001) Borgstrom radios NEADS weapons director Steve Citino and asks for specific instructions about what to do (see 10:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 223) According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS will only learn that NORAD has been given clearance to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then it does not pass this order along to the fighter pilots under its command (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43)

General Henry Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talks over the phone with General Richard Myers, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is at the Pentagon, and is given information about the Pentagon attack and the military’s response to the terrorist attacks. Shelton took off at 7:15 a.m. to fly to Europe for a NATO conference (see 7:15 a.m. September 11, 2001). He learned of the attacks in New York while his plane was over the Atlantic Ocean, and has just been told of a “big explosion at the Pentagon” (see (8:50 a.m.-10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
First Report Is of a Hand Grenade Going Off at Pentagon - Shelton heads to the communications console just behind the plane’s cockpit. From there, he talks over a secure, encrypted phone line with Myers, who is in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. Myers updates Shelton on what is known about the explosion at the Pentagon. He says the first report is that a hand grenade went off in the Pentagon parking lot.
Myers Updates Shelton on Military Response to Attacks - Myers then gives Shelton a complete status report. He says: “We’ve transitioned the SIEC [significant event conference] into an air threat conference call, which is in progress as we speak (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:37 a.m.-9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). FAA has requested that NORAD take over control of US airspace. Fighters have scrambled to escort Air Force One (see (After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and we’re sending AWACS up to provide further monitoring (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). We’ve escalated to Threatcon Delta and are about to launch the NAOC [National Airborne Operations Center plane]. Bases around the world are locked tight, [Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul] Wolfowitz has been relocated to Site R (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), plus, [Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley has requested we implement full ‘Continuity of Government measures’ (see 9:59 a.m. September 11, 2001), and we are proceeding along those lines.”
Myers Says Plane Hit the Pentagon - Myers is then interrupted by some commotion in the background. When he returns to the line, he tells Shelton, “Okay, we just got the word: the prior report was incorrect; it was not a hand grenade that exploded, it was another commercial airline that struck the Pentagon.” He then continues with his status report, saying, “[P]er the president, we’ve gone weapons free in the event of a hijacked aircraft or one that threatens the White House.” (Giesemann 2008, pp. 20, 22-24; Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 430-433)
Shelton Wants to Return to Washington - Myers will tell the 9/11 Commission that after he arrives at the NMCC—presumably referring to the time of this phone call—he “recommended General Shelton return to Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file) But Shelton will recall that he tells Myers, “I need you to call Ed Eberhart [General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD] at NORAD and let him know that we’re coming back [to Washington] on Speckled Trout [the nickname of the plane he is on], and tell him that I would consider it a personal favor if he would see to it that the chairman and his crew are not shot down on their way back to Andrews.” Myers confirms, “Will do.” According to Shelton, his plane is called back 10 minutes later “with confirmation that we had been officially cleared to fly through the shutdown airspace.” (Shelton, Levinson, and McConnell 2010, pp. 433) But according to Captain Rob Pedersen, the flight navigator on Shelton’s plane, it is several hours before the plane is cleared to enter the US airspace (see (After 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (McCullough 9/2011 pdf file) The plane will therefore only land at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, at 4:40 p.m. (see 4:40 p.m. September 11, 2001) and Shelton will only arrive at the NMCC an hour after that (see 5:40 p.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001 pdf file; Myers 2009, pp. 159) The exact time of the call between Shelton and Myers is unclear, though it would be at some time after about 10:00 a.m., when Myers arrives at the NMCC (see (Between 9:55 a.m. and 10:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38)

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)

Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania.Smoke rising, minutes after Flight 93 crashes in Pennsylvania. [Source: CNN]Exactly when Flight 93 crashes is unclear. According to NORAD, Flight 93 crashes at 10:03 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 9/11 Commission gives an exact time of 11 seconds after 10:03 a.m. It will claim this “time is supported by evidence from the staff’s radar analysis, the flight data recorder, NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] analysis, and infrared satellite data.” It does note that “[t]he precise crash time has been the subject of some dispute.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, a seismic study authorized by the US Army and drafted by scientists Won-Young Kim and Gerald Baum to determine when the plane crashed will conclude that the crash happened at 10:06:05 a.m. (Kim and Baum 2002 pdf file; Perlman 12/9/2002) The discrepancy is so puzzling that the Philadelphia Daily News will publish an article on the issue, titled “Three-Minute Discrepancy in Tape.” This notes that leading seismologists agree on the 10:06 a.m. time, give or take a couple of seconds. (Bunch 9/16/2002) The New York Observer will note that, in addition to the seismology study, “The FAA gives a crash time of 10:07 a.m. In addition, the New York Times, drawing on flight controllers in more than one FAA facility, put the time at 10:10 a.m. Up to a seven-minute discrepancy? In terms of an air disaster, seven minutes is close to an eternity. The way our nation has historically treated any airline tragedy is to pair up recordings from the cockpit and air traffic control and parse the timeline down to the hundredths of a second. However, as [former Inspector General of the Transportation Department] Mary Schiavo points out, ‘We don’t have an NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) investigation here, and they ordinarily dissect the timeline to the thousandth of a second.’” (Sheehy 2/15/2004)

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