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Context of 'Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001: Otis Air Base Commanders Assemble, Make Transition to ‘Wartime Posture’'

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A number of pilots with the 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts are preparing to take off for a training mission and see two of their unit’s fighter jets being scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but they are not asked to respond to the emerging crisis themselves and continue with their preparations for the training mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Richard, 2010, pp. 9-12]
Pilots Preparing for Training over the Atlantic - The pilots are preparing to fly a defensive counter-air mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 10, 12; Airman, 9/3/2011] According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15 fighters will be participating in the training mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s take part in the mission. Richard will recall that after the coordination briefing for the training mission, he goes to the “life support shop” and puts on his flying gear, and then goes to the operations desk. There, the unit’s supervisor of flying, Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, briefs the pilots preparing for the training mission on current weather and airfield updates, and gives them the status of a KC-135 tanker plane that will be refueling their fighters during the training mission. Richard then heads to his F-15, inspects it, and speaks to his crew chief.
Pilots Notice Commotion as Fighters Are Scrambled - As Richard starts his fighter’s engines, he notices a commotion on one side of the flight line ramp. He will recall: “The broken, disjointed communication over the ultra high frequency (UHF) radio indicated confusion. Members of the 102nd Security Forces Squadron, the cops, marshaled into protective positions. Two vehicles appeared with their blue emergency lights flashing. We all knew what was going on.” The 102nd Fighter Wing keeps a pair of F-15s on alert—armed, fueled up, and ready to take off within minutes of a scramble order—and, Richard will recall, “[T]he alert aircraft were being scrambled.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 10-11]
Pilots Watch Alert Fighters Take Off, but Unconcerned about This - The pilots preparing to take off for the training mission idle their engines and wait while the two alert fighters take off (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] Richard will describe: “I watched from my jet as the clamshell doors on the alert hangars opened, heard the alert jets’ engines whine to life, and saw them aggressively emerge from the facility like an eager predator in search of its prey. Suddenly, the command post announced, ‘Scramble!’ They blasted off, shattering the previously still, calm, peaceful morning.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 12] The pilots involved in the training mission are apparently unaware of why these fighters are being scrambled. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] Richard will recall: “I wasn’t too concerned when I saw the scrambled aircraft take off. We see many scrambles during the year and most all are just aircraft or vessels that can’t be identified but are friendly.” [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001]
Pilots Continue Preparing for Training - Once the two alert fighters are airborne, the pilots on the ground continue preparing for their training mission. “Back on the flight line,” Richard will recall, “I arranged my formation for takeoff and followed the standard procedures en route to our training area southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 12] Richard and the other pilots will begin their training mission in Whiskey 105 (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They will only learn of the first crash at the World Trade Center and be recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and some of them will take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will only be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246]
Unit's Mission Is to Protect Northeast US - The 102nd Fighter Wing at Otis Air Base, according to its own statement, has aircraft and their crews “on continuous 24-hour, 365-day alert to guard our skies.” The unit says its “mission is to protect the Northeast United States from armed attack from another nation, terrorist attack, and activities such as smuggling, illicit drug activity, and illegal immigration.” Its large area of responsibility includes “the major industrial centers of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, and all national command centers in Washington, DC.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] The 102nd Fighter Wing is equipped with 18 F-15 Eagles, including the two that are kept on alert. [Boston Globe, 9/15/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Jonathan T. Treacy, Martin Richard, 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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 pdf file]
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]

Entity Tags: Tim Spence, Otis Air National Guard Base, Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: Paul Worcester, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: Michael Kelly (102nd FW), Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Martin Richard, 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter.Flight 175 hits the WTC South Tower. The picture was taken from a traffic helicopter. [Source: WABC 7/ Salient Stills]Flight 175 hits the South Tower of the World Trade Center (Tower Two). Seismic records pinpoint the time at six seconds before 9:03 a.m. (rounded to 9:03 a.m.). Hijackers Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alghamdi presumably are killed instantly, and many more in the tower will die over the next few hours. [New York Times, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/12/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; USA Today, 12/20/2001; Federal Emergency Management Agency, 5/1/2002, pp. 1-10; New York Times, 5/26/2002; Associated Press, 8/21/2002; USA Today, 9/2/2002] According to the NIST report, the crash time is 9:02:59. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 38] According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the crash time is 9:03:11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8] Millions watch the crash live on television. The plane strikes the 77th through 85th floors in the 110-story building. Approximately 100 people are killed or injured in the initial impact; 600 people in the tower eventually die. The death toll is far lower than in the North Tower because about two-thirds of the South Tower’s occupants have evacuated the building in the 17 minutes since the first tower was struck. [USA Today, 12/20/2001; National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 5-9, 41] The combined death toll from the two towers is estimated at 2,819, not including the hijackers. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] The impact severs some columns on the south side of the South Tower. Each of the Twin Towers is designed as a “tube-in-tube” structure and the steel columns which support its weight are arranged around the perimeter and in the core. The plane, which is traveling at an estimated speed of around 500 mph (see October 2002-October 2005), severs 33 of the building’s 236 perimeter columns and damages another one. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 39] The perimeter columns bear about half of the tower’s weight, so the damage to them reduces the tower’s ability to bear gravity loads by about 7.1 percent. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 6] The actual damage to the 47 core columns is not known, as there are no photographs or videos of it, but there will be much speculation about this after 9/11. It will be suggested that some parts of the aircraft may be able to damage the core even after crashing through the exterior wall (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 107] According to NIST’s base case model, five of the core columns are severed and another five suffer some damage. [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. 235 pdf file] This may reduce the tower’s ability to bear loads by a further approximately 8 percent, meaning that the aircraft impact accounted for a loss of about 15 percent of the building’s strength. This damage will be cited as an event contributing to the building’s collapse after 9/11 (see October 23, 2002 and October 19, 2004). NIST’s base case estimate of damage to the North Tower’s core will be similar, even though the aircraft impact there was dissimilar (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 11 hit the North Tower’s core head on, whereas Flight 175 only hits the corner of the South Tower’s core. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 20-23, 38-41] In addition, some of the fireproofing on the steel columns and trusses may be dislodged (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [National Institute of Standards & Technology, 9/2005, pp. xxxvi, 83 pdf file] Photographs and videos of the towers will not show the state of fireproofing inside the buildings, but the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will try to estimate the damage to fireproofing using a series of computer models. Its severe case model (see (October 2002-October 2005)) will predict that 39 of the 47 core columns are stripped of their fireproofing on one or more floors and that fireproofing is stripped from trusses covering 80,000 ft2 of floor area, the equivalent of about two floors. NIST will say that the loss of fireproofing is a major cause of the collapse (see April 5, 2005), but only performs 15 tests on fireproofing samples (see October 26, 2005). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 41] According to NIST, less fireproofing is stripped from the North Tower (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Ahmed Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Commanders at Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, begin taking decisive action following the second attack on the World Trade Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154] The commanders learned of the attacks in New York from watching the coverage on television. After the second WTC tower was hit, one of them had ordered the base’s battle staff to assemble (see (8:56 a.m.-9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 87-88]
Commanders Gather in Operations Center - The commanders now convene in the base’s operations building. As officers take their posts, the installation operations center (IOC) there comes to life. In the glass-enclosed battle cab that is at the core of the IOC, senior commanders gather around a large conference table, which overlooks the two main operations centers: these are the command post, from where the air war is coordinated, and the survival recovery center, which handles support functions such as security, food, and medical care.
Commanders Take Pre-Emptive Action - Senior commanders confer with intelligence officers who are with them in the battle cab, over what to do in response to the crisis. Lieutenant Colonel Paul Worcester, the logistics group commander of the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis, says, “We need to start doing some things preemptively.” Author Lynn Spencer will describe: “The Otis commanders decided to ‘lean forward’ in anticipation of what they might be called upon to do. But there has never been an air attack on America, and there is no protocol in place to tell them how to respond. They knew intuitively that they could not wait on guidance from the higher echelons of NORAD. This attack could easily expand, and they needed to be prepared.” The senior commanders quickly establish their agenda, which is to recall all the base’s training flights, and begin loading fuel and weapons onto all available fighter jets. According to Spencer, “The officers smoothly undertook the task of transitioning to a wartime posture.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154] A number of jets that are out on a training mission will be recalled to the base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155]

Entity Tags: Paul Worcester, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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

Entity Tags: Jeff Isch, Otis Air National Guard Base, Michael Kelly (102nd FW), 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A number of fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts that are out over the Atlantic Ocean on a training mission are notified of the first crash at the World Trade Center and then return to their base. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file; Richard, 2010, pp. 13-14; Airman, 9/3/2011] According to most accounts, six of the unit’s F-15 fighters are taking part in the training mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will write in a 2010 book that eight F-15s are taking part. [Richard, 2010, pp. 10]
Fighters Recalled for 'Possible Use' - The fighters took off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. for their “defensive counter-air” mission in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Airman, 9/3/2011] Following the second attack on the WTC at 9:03 a.m., commanders at Otis Air Base convened and decided to recall all aircraft out on training (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 153-154] A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tells a colleague that the fighters in Whiskey 105 are being recalled to Otis for “possible use, so we’ve got more aircraft [on] standby.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
Controller Tells Fighters to Return to Base - The fighters are recalled to their base at around 9:25 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] Shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, Richard is called by an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] Richard will later note that “for a controller to interrupt our training mission was out of the norm.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 13] According to Airman, the controller tells Richard: “There’s something going on in New York. I think you guys need to get back to your base.” [Airman, 9/3/2011] But Richard will recall that the controller says, “[A]n aircraft just crashed into the World Trade Center and I think you should return to base immediately.” Richard replies, “Copy,” meaning he understands. However, he will say: “I was a bit confused. I didn’t know the extent of the pandemonium residing just outside of our sterile training airspace.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 13]
Pilot Not Told Why Alert Jets Were Scrambled - Before taking off from Otis Air Base, Richard had seen the two of his unit’s fighters that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but he had been unaware of why they were being scrambled (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, Richard will recall, “When the FAA announced that the World Trade [Center] tower had been struck by an aircraft, I asked if this was why the alert pilots had been scrambled.” However, he will say, he “got no reply.” It is unclear whether the pilots on the training mission are informed of the aircraft hijackings at this time. Richard will recall, “[W]hen it came over the radio that it was a possible hijacking, it sure got our attention,” but he will not say when this radio communication occurs. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006]
Supervisor Tells Pilot to Get Back to Base - Richard hurriedly dials the radio frequency to contact Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, his unit’s supervisor of flying, who controls flying operations from the ground. [Richard, 2010, pp. 13] Richard asks, “Do you need us back on base?” and Treacy replies, “Get back here as soon as you can.” [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006]
Fighters Have Too Much Fuel to Land - The fighters were split apart over the Whiskey 105 airspace for their training mission. Rather than spending time getting them back together, Richard orders the pilots to go back to base in flights of two jets. Furthermore, another problem will delay their return: the fighters all have too much fuel to be able to land. Therefore, Richard will write, “Rather than dump the fuel overboard, which would take upwards of six to nine minutes, we got together in twos and did some basic fighter maneuvering.” These maneuvers, which are done in full afterburner, are “the most expeditious way to get to landing weight.” As the pilots request clearance to fly out of Whiskey 105 and back to Otis Air Base, their radios become crowded with communications. Richard comments, “It sounds like we are at war.”
Pilots Told to Stay at Their Aircraft after Landing - The pilots still have little idea what is going on, so Richard contacts Treacy for an update. However, Treacy has nothing concrete to tell him and only says, “After you land, stay at your jets; we’ll run the classified packs out to you.” These “classified packs” fit into the leg pocket of a pilot’s g-suit, and include the classified codes and guidance pilots fly with when on alert. Richard will write, “In light of recent events, it seemed we had been drafted for alert duty.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 13-14]
Pilots Told to Prepare Fighters for Alert - The fighters arrive at Otis Air Base around 20 minutes after they are called back there, according to author Lynn Spencer. As they taxi in, the pilots receive an instruction over their radios from Treacy, who tells them, “Cock your jets for alert!” They have never received such an order before. It means that instead of parking and shutting down their aircraft, they must prepare them to be scrambled from the flight line, with all of the instruments, controls, and switches set ready for immediate takeoff orders. After doing as instructed, the pilots head into the operations building to find out what is happening. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] Most of the squadron personnel are huddled by the television in the break room, watching the coverage of the terrorist attacks. One of the life support technicians turns to Richard and says, “It’s a goddamn Tom Clancy novel!” Richard will comment, “It was obvious now that we were at war.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 14] A number of the fighters that come back from the training mission, which have no ordnance on them, will be armed and also refueled, ready to take off to protect US airspace. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] The first fighters to subsequently take off from Otis Air Base will launch at around 10:30 a.m. (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246]

Entity Tags: Jonathan T. Treacy, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, 102nd Fighter Wing, Martin Richard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The traffic management unit (TMU) at the FAA’s Boston Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to ask whether military planes out on training should be sent home. Boston Center asks, “The military aircraft that are in the air right now, we’re wondering if we should tell them to return to base if they’re just on training missions, or what you guys suggest?” NEADS replies, “No, they’re actually on the active air for the DO [director of operations] out there,” but adds, “We did send the ones home in 105 that were on the training mission.” This is presumably a reference to some fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base that were training in “Whiskey 105,” which is military training airspace southeast of Long Island (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Boston Center mentions that there are other military aircraft still airborne for training, and asks, “In general, anybody that’s training?” After consulting with colleagues, the member of staff at NEADS tells Boston, “Yes, go ahead and send them home.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] NEADS was involved in a major training exercise this morning, though this was reportedly canceled shortly after the second WTC tower was hit (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Airman, 3/2002]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Jon Treacy.Jon Treacy. [Source: US Air Force]Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, receives the order from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to launch all its available fighter jets.
Commander Briefs Pilots - A number of Otis pilots that were recalled from a training mission about an hour earlier (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and other pilots that have recently come to the base from their homes are gathered in front of the operations desk. Squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy tells them: “This is what we know. This is clearly a national emergency. Two aircraft have been hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center. The Pentagon has been attacked. We need to get all our jets ready to go because we’re not sure where this is heading. We have information that there are more coming.” He instructs the pilots: “You must be prepared to meet any surprise.… You may be taking out an airliner. You must engage. You cannot fail. Our nation is relying on us.” He gives them their assignments, saying whether they are required to fly now or whether they will be needed later on, to take over when other pilots have landed.
Launch Order Received - Just after Treacy finishes giving his briefing, someone comes into the room yelling out that NEADS has called the base with important orders. The person says, “We have to get everything we have airborne now!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-245] NEADS started contacting Air National Guard bases around the Northeast US by about 10:00 a.m., with the instruction to get their fighters airborne (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 180]
Pilots Head Out, but Most Jets Not Yet Armed - Treacy yells at his men, “Go, go, go!” and then the pilots run out to their aircraft. But, according to author Lynn Spencer, since the time the group of pilots returned from their training mission, “there has not been time to do much more than fuel their jets.” Most of the base’s fighters “are still unarmed. Despite the furious pace of the weapons handlers, only a handful of jets have been uploaded with some armament.” The first two F-15s that take off from Otis Air Base in response to the NEADS order will both be unarmed (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246] Another two F-15s will take off shortly after them with their guns loaded, but one of them will have only one missile loaded instead of two (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Richard, 2010, pp. 15-16, 18] Two F-15s that are kept on alert at Otis Air Base took off at 8:46 a.m. in response to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jonathan T. Treacy, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Joe McGrady.Joe McGrady. [Source: John P. Meyer]Two F-15 fighter jets take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the first to do so after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered the base to launch all of its available aircraft (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, these two fighters are unarmed. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246] The 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard operates from Otis Air Base, and is responsible for defending the northeastern US against various threats, including terrorist attacks. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] The aircraft maintenance squadron officer started preparing the unit’s F-15s for combat less than 15 minutes after the second attack in New York (see (9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But despite the reportedly “furious pace of the weapons handlers” who “hurried to fix all available jets with live weapons,” only a few fighters have so far been loaded with any armament. [Cape Cod Times, 9/8/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245]
Fighters Launch with No Weapons - The first two fighters to take off are piloted by Dennis Doonan and Joe McGrady. As they are the first pilots to start their F-15s and taxi off the flight line (the parking and servicing area for aircraft), they are paired up. But Doonan suddenly realizes that, though he is being sent into a combat situation, his fighter is unarmed. He radios McGrady and tells him, “I’m Winchester!” (“Winchester” is the code word for having no weapons.) McGrady’s aircraft is also unarmed, so McGrady immediately radios squadron commander Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy and in a panic tells him: “We’re Winchester, SOF [supervisor of flying]! We’re Winchester!” But Treacy instructs him: “Just go! You need to get airborne now!” McGrady and Doonan head out for takeoff, not knowing where they are going or what they will have to do, but realizing that if they have to take out a target, they must do so with their own aircraft. Once they are airborne, they will intercept a KC-10 tanker plane and four A-10 jets (see (11:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then set up a combat air patrol over Boston. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-247]
Other Fighters Take Off Armed - Another two F-15s will take off from Otis Air Base shortly after McGrady and Doonan’s fighters (see (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). These aircraft will have had their guns loaded and armed for use, but one of them will take off with only one missile loaded instead of two. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Richard, 2010, pp. 15-16, 18] The 102nd Fighter Wing’s two F-15s that are kept on “alert”—armed and ready for immediate takeoff—launched at 8:46 a.m., in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Fourteen of the base’s fighters will be “mission capable” by the end of the day, and six fighters will be airborne at a time, according to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Joe McGrady, Dennis Doonan, Michael Kelly (102nd FW), Jonathan T. Treacy, Otis Air National Guard Base, 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two F-15s take off from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts, becoming the second pair of fighter jets to take off from the base after NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered it to launch all of its available aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246; Richard, 2010, pp. 18] The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing, which is based at Otis Air Base, and are piloted by Major Martin Richard and Major Robert Martyn. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] The 102nd Fighter Wing launched its two F-15s that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate takeoff—at 8:46 a.m., in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Another two of the unit’s F-15s have just taken off (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245-246] Richard is one of several 102nd Fighter Wing pilots who were out for a training mission over the Atlantic Ocean earlier this morning (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The pilots were called back to their base following the attacks in New York (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is unclear whether Martyn also participated in the training. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006]
Pilot Doesn't Know What Is Going On - After landing back at Otis Air Base, Richard headed into the operations building and phoned his wife. He told her, “I don’t know what’s going on, but I am going flying.” Richard will later recall: “My feelings were of trepidation. I didn’t know what was going on and didn’t know what the two scrambled aircraft [i.e. the two fighters launched from his base in response to Flight 11] were doing.” Richard and Martyn had then been called to the operations desk, where Lieutenant Colonel Jon Treacy, their unit’s supervisor of flying, told them they would be flying two of the first four fighters to be subsequently taking off from the base. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Richard, 2010, pp. 14-15] Around that time, NEADS called the unit and instructed it to launch all of its available fighters, and the pilots had then been sent out to their aircraft (see (10:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 245]
Fighter Only Has One Missile Loaded - When he arrived at his fighter, Richard found Technical Sergeant Matthew Jackson loading the second of two AIM-9 heat-seeking missiles onto it. Dennis Mills, the crew chief, told Richard that his plane was fueled up and had a “hot gun with bullets,” meaning the 20mm gun was loaded and armed for use. Richard, who was impatient to get airborne, instructed Jackson to not bother loading the second missile onto his aircraft.
Intelligence Officer Warns of Eight Suspicious Aircraft - Then, Sergeant Joe Kelleher, the unit’s intelligence specialist, arrived, out of breath. Kelleher said: “There are up to eight airliners airborne with bombs on board. We know of an American [Airlines] jet out of Dulles [International Airport] and a United [Airlines] jet. I think you are going after the United jet.” The United Airlines aircraft he referred to, according to Richard, was Flight 93. [Richard, 2010, pp. 15-16] However, this plane crashed in Pennsylvania shortly after 10:00 a.m. (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] Richard will comment, “We were finding out real-time what the actual air picture was, and the information was not accurate.” Kelleher continued: “They are turning jets away from Europe and the rumor is some have crashed because they’ve run out of fuel. It’s friggin’ chaos!”
Fighters Take Off from Base - In their fighters, Richard and Martyn now taxi to the runway and take off from Otis Air Base. While climbing to altitude, Richard keeps his fighter’s engines in afterburner so as to gather the most speed he can. [Richard, 2010, pp. 16, 18] Richard and Martyn will be directed to intercept a C-130 military cargo plane (see (After 10:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and will subsequently be sent over New York to intercept and identify aircraft there (see (11:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Airman, 9/3/2011]

Entity Tags: 102nd Fighter Wing, Dennis Mills, Joe Kelleher, Robert Martyn, Jonathan T. Treacy, Matthew Jackson, Martin Richard, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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