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Context of '(9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001: NORAD Phones Start Ringing ‘Like Crazy’'

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In the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, workers see the second aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center live on television. [Gazette (Colorado Springs), 10/7/2001] Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, later says that he now realizes “it was not an accident but a coordinated attack.” Then, he recalls, “At about that moment in time, every phone in this cab, and every phone over in the command center, and every phone in all the centers in this building were ringing off the hook.” Master Corporal Daniel Milne, the emergency action controller in the operations center, will similarly recall, “The feeling was total disbelief. Then the phones started ringing like crazy.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002; Legion Magazine, 11/2004] It is unclear what causes all the phones to simultaneously ring. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, after the second tower is hit, “Calls from fighter units… started pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] So this could be one factor. Also, a 1996 article in Airman magazine had quoted Stacey Knott, a technician in the NORAD operations center. She’d said, “Things can be pretty quiet in here.” However, “One of the busiest times is during exercises. This room fills up.… The phones are ringing off the hook, and I’ve got phones in each hand.” [Airman, 1/1996] On this morning, those in Cheyenne Mountain are in fact participating in a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; CNN, 9/11/2006] This is reportedly only canceled “shortly after” the second attack (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) [Airman, 3/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 59] So it is plausible that this is also a factor in causing all the phones to suddenly ring. A similar thing appears to occur in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. According to a news article based on the recollections of two officers who are there, after the second plane hits the WTC, “Phones in the center began ringing off the hook.” [American Forces Press Service, 9/7/2006] Rick Findley later suggests that all the ringing phones are not a hindrance for NORAD, claiming, “The good news is we had lots of people here and we already had an operational architecture. We already had the command and control, the network, the phones, the data links. Everything was already in place that enabled us to react to the situation.” [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Daniel Milne, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Eric A. “Rick” Findley, Vigilant Guardian

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Amraam missiles being loaded onto a 119th Fighter Wing jet at an unknown time on the day of 9/11. The 119th is based at Langley Air Force Base, Virgnina.Amraam missiles being loaded onto a 119th Fighter Wing jet at an unknown time on the day of 9/11. The 119th is based at Langley Air Force Base, Virgnina. [Source: William Quinn]Shortly after the second World Trade Center crash, calls from fighter units begin “pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” From Syracuse, New York, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard calls and tells Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS): “Give me 10 [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers [Amraams].” Marr replies, “I want it all.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; News 10 Now, 9/12/2006] Reportedly, Marr says: “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.” [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002] Canadian Major General Rick Findley, based in Colorado and in charge of NORAD on this day, reportedly has his staff immediately order as many fighters in the air as possible. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/11/2002] However, according to another account, NEADS does not accept the offers until about an hour later. The Toledo Blade will report, “By 10:01 a.m., the command center began calling several bases across the country for help.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] The 9/11 Commission will conclude that an order for other bases to prepare fighters to scramble is not given until 9:49 a.m. In fact, it appears the first fighters from other bases to take off are those from Syracuse at 10:42 a.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is over an hour and a half after Syracuse’s initial offer to help, and not long after a general ban on all flights, including military ones, is lifted at 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). These are apparently the fourth set of fighters scrambled from the ground. Previously, three fighters from Langley Air Force Base, two from Otis Air National Guard Base, and two from Toledo, Ohio, were scrambled at 10:01 a.m. (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001), but did not launch until 15 minutes later. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Eric A. “Rick” Findley, 174th Fighter Wing, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

From the White House Situation Room, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gives the instruction for fighter jets to establish patrols over all major US cities. Clarke has been talking with the FAA over the White House video conference, and his deputy, Roger Cressey, has just announced that a plane hit the Pentagon. According to his own recollection, Clarke responds: “I can still see [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld on the screen [for the Pentagon], so the whole building didn’t get hit. No emotion in here. We are going to stay focused.” He orders Cressey: “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want combat air patrol over every major city in this country. Now.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-8; Australian, 3/27/2004] A combat air patrol (CAP) is an aircraft patrol over a particular area, with the purpose of intercepting and destroying any hostile aircraft before they reach their targets. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2001] It is unclear how long it takes for CAPs to be formed over all major cities, as Clarke requests. At 9:49, NORAD Commander Ralph Eberhart will direct all the US’s air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations (see 9:49 a.m. September 11, 2001), but bases have reportedly been calling into NORAD and asking for permission to send up fighters since after the second WTC crash (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] At around 11:00 a.m. Eberhart will implement a plan called SCATANA, which clears the skies and gives the military control over US airspace (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Roger Cressey, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

General Ralph Eberhart.General Ralph Eberhart. [Source: NORAD]As the 9/11 Commission will later describe, the commander of NORAD, General Ralph Eberhart, now directs “all air sovereignty aircraft to battle stations, fully armed.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 38] Being at “battle stations” means the pilots have to suit up into their flight gear and get into their planes, ready to start the engines and taxi out if a scramble order follows. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 27] Senior NORAD officials will subsequently give the order to launch available fighter jets across the nation (see (Between 9:50 a.m. and 10:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178, 180]
Clarke Requested Combat Air Patrols - A few minutes earlier, according to his own account, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, learned of an aircraft hitting the Pentagon and instructed his deputy: “Find out where the fighter planes are. I want combat air patrol over every major city in this country” (see (Between 9:38 a.m. and 9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Whether Clarke’s actions influenced Eberhart to issue his order is unknown. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7-8]
Fighter Units Possibly Offered Help Much Earlier - The Toledo Blade will state that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) only begins calling bases across the US to request help “[b]y 10:01 a.m.” [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] But an article in Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine will indicate that NORAD and NEADS began receiving calls from various fighter units, asking, “What can we do to help?” right after the second World Trade Center tower was hit at 9:03, when it had become obvious the US was under attack (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002] It is therefore unclear why the instruction to put available fighters on battle stations—or to scramble them—was not issued significantly earlier.

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Richard A. Clarke, Ralph Eberhart, Northeast Air Defense Sector, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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.” [Toledo Blade, 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). [Newhouse News Service, 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). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-245]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Air National Guard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) contacts an Air National Guard unit in Toledo, Ohio, and requests that it launch two fighter jets in response to the attacks. [WTOL, 9/11/2006; Lynn Spencer, 2008; Spencer, 2008, pp. 178]
First Time that Unit Has Answered a NORAD Request - The 180th Fighter Wing of the Ohio Air National Guard is based at Toledo Express Airport. It has 20 F-16 fighter jets and about three dozen pilots. [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] Its “primary mission” is “to provide combat ready F-16C and support units capable of deploying worldwide in minimum response time.” [180th Fighter Wing, 9/19/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org.), 10/21/2001] The unit is not one of NORAD’s seven alert facilities around the US, and this is believed to be the first time it has ever answered a request for help from NORAD. [Airman, 12/1999; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001]
Call due to Concern over Delta 1989 - According to author Lynn Spencer, a weapons technician at NEADS makes the call to the 180th FW due to concerns about Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which is incorrectly thought to have been hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 177-178] NEADS has already contacted units in Minnesota and Michigan about this aircraft (see (Shortly After 9:41 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/23/2004 pdf file; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] The weapons technician calls the Toledo unit after Master Sergeant Joe McCain gives an update across the NEADS operations floor: “Delta [19]89! Hard right turn!” According to Spencer, the weapons technician knows the 180th FW is much better positioned than the Selfridge unit’s fighters are to reach Delta 1989. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178]
NORAD Commander Gives Different Explanation - But according to Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, the weapons technician’s call might also be in response to concerns over Flight 93. Arnold will say that NEADS calls the 180th FW “because we thought [Flight] 93 or Delta Flight 1989 might be headed toward Chicago.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 71] Two Toledo pilots who initially answer the call from NEADS appear to believe the call is a joke, but their wing commander then picks up the line and responds appropriately (see 10:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 178-179]
Unit Prepared for Crisis Like This - Although it is not one of NORAD’s alert facilities, Lt. Col. Gary Chudzinski, a former commander of the 180th FW, will later comment that the Toledo unit has always been aware that it could be alerted to crises such as the current one, “but you just don’t expect it.” According to General Paul Sullivan, who heads all Ohio Air National Guard units, the 180th FW’s pilots practice “air interception,” but a typical mission focuses on either a plane ferrying drugs or enemy fighters approaching America’s coasts. [Airman, 12/1999; Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001] Two 180th FW jets will take off from the Toledo unit at 10:17 a.m. (see 10:17 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Toledo Blade, 12/9/2001; WTOL, 9/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Gary Chudzinski, Joe McCain, Larry Arnold, 180th Fighter Wing, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Paul Sullivan

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Someone from the 174th Fighter Wing, which is based at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and speaks with Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander there. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] Earlier on, shortly after seeing the second plane hitting the World Trade Center at 9:03, a commander of the 174th Fighter Wing called NEADS to offer fighter jets to help (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). They’d said: “Give me ten [minutes] and I can give you hot guns. Give me 30 [minutes] and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; News 10 Now, 9/12/2006] Yet, now, more than an hour after the second attack, these fighters have still not been launched. Syracuse tells Nasypany, “I’ve got guys that’ll be launching in about 15 minutes.” Despite the earlier promise to have heat-seekers and slammers on the planes, Syracuse says: “We’ve got hot guns. That’s all I’ve got.” Nasypany says: “I’ve got another possible aircraft with a bomb on board. It’s in Pennsylvania, York, approximate area.” He adds that there is “another one, that’s possibly at Cleveland area.” These aircraft, he says, are United Airlines Flight 93 and Delta ‘89, respectively. (Although Flight 93 has already crashed, NEADS apparently does not learn of this until 10:15 (see 10:15 a.m. September 11, 2001).) NEADS was alerted to Delta Flight 1989 at 9:41, and mistakenly suspects it has been hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). Syracuse says: “I’ve got two jets right now. Do you need more than two?” After NEADS requests another two, Syracuse replies, “Get four set up, yep.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, the first fighters to launch from Hancock Field are two F-16s that take off at 10:42 a.m. A further three take off at about 1:30 p.m., and two more launch around 3:55 p.m. (see 10:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Nasypany, 174th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FAA allows “military and law enforcement flights to resume (and some flights that the FAA can’t reveal that were already airborne).” All civilian, military, and law enforcement flights were ordered at 9:26 a.m. to land as soon as reasonably possible. [Time, 9/14/2001] Civilian flights remain banned until September 13. Note that the C-130 cargo plane that witnessed the Flight 77 crash (see 9.36 a.m. September 11, 2001) and which came upon the Flight 93 crash site (see 10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001) right after it had crashed was apparently not subject to the grounding order issued about an hour earlier.

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two F-16 fighters take off from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, near Syracuse, NY. The fighters belong to the 174th Fighter Wing, a unit of the New York Air National Guard. A commander from Syracuse had called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) offering to help earlier in the morning (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Although at that time they’d promised: “Give me 30 minutes and I’ll have heat-seeker [missiles]. Give me an hour and I can give you slammers,” the fighters now launching have bullets but no missiles. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 10/18/2002] The Hancock pilots are ordered to “Identify all aircraft… Intercept them. Tell them to land. ‘Engage’ them if they [don’t].” [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/25/2001] Also at some time this morning, following the attacks, 174th FW officials form a command center to monitor the situation across the US. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/11/2001; Post-Standard (Syracuse), 9/12/2001] A hundred of the 174th FW’s staff have spent the last month deployed to Saudi Arabia and are due back this afternoon. However, they are diverted to Canada and arrive back at the base later in the week (see Mid-August-September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: 174th Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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