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Context of 'Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001: FAA Manager Linda Schuessler Responds to Second WTC Crash, Secures FAA Command Center'

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A number of key senior FAA personnel happen to be away from their usual bases this morning, at the time of the attacks.
bullet Bill Peacock, the FAA director of air traffic services, is in New Orleans for a meeting with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). Among his many duties, Peacock is “the ultimate manager of all the air traffic controllers in the country’s system.” He will be transported from New Orleans later in the day in an FAA business jet, one of the few aircraft permitted to fly, and only arrive at FAA headquarters shortly after 5:00 p.m. [Freni, 2003, pp. 12 and 70]
bullet Jack Kies, the FAA’s manager of tactical operations, is in Nashua, New Hampshire for a meeting with representatives of the Canadian air traffic control organization. [Freni, 2003, pp. 65-66] Consequently Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations, has to take his place in charge of the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. [Federal Aviation Administration, 5/18/2006]
bullet Tony Ferrante, the manager of the FAA’s air traffic investigation arm, is in Chicago to testify at a hearing. He will become frustrated later in the day about being stuck there, knowing he should he at his post in Washington gathering forensic data on the hijackings and crashes. [Freni, 2003, pp. 7, 19 and 47-48]
bullet Rick Hostetler, a member of the FAA’s planning and procedures organization, is at the dentist’s in Waldorf, Maryland when the attacks begin. His job includes acting as the FAA’s primary air traffic liaison for the Secret Service, the US Special Operations Command, and the Pentagon. After seeing the second WTC tower hit live on television, reportedly while sitting in the dentist’s chair, he will quickly set out for his duty station at the FAA Command Center. But due to the heavy traffic, his journey will take hours and the attacks will be over by the time he gets there. [Freni, 2003, pp. 27, 47 and 90]
bullet Mike Canavan, the director of the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security, is visiting the airport in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He will only make it back to Washington in the evening, on a special Army flight. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] As part of his job, Canavan is the FAA’s hijack coordinator, responsible for requesting military assistance in the event of a hijacking (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17-18]
bullet FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is in a breakfast meeting at the Department of Transportation, in Washington, DC. She will quickly relocate to FAA headquarters soon after the first attack (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Freni, 2003, pp. 62-63]
Whether the absence of these senior personnel impairs the FAA’s ability to respond to the attacks is unknown.

Entity Tags: Jack Kies, Federal Aviation Administration, Tony Ferrante, Bill Peacock, Mike Canavan, Jane Garvey, Rick Hostetler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A Fairfax, Virginia company that makes computer software that tracks and records the flight paths of planes helps media companies and airlines to reconstruct the paths of all four of the hijacked aircraft. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer sells an Internet-accessible application that provides constantly updated information on the positions of aircraft in flight. It uses radar feeds that the FAA collects from control centers across the US. [Business Wire, 6/16/2000; St. Petersburg Times, 8/12/2001] All of Flight Explorer’s employees begin sorting through its data “after the first crash [of Flight 11] was reported,” so presumably this is at around 8:50 a.m. Whether any particular agency, such as the FAA, requests this or they do it of their own initiative is unknown. Although there are some 4,000 planes in the air above the US at the time of the attacks, the company is quickly able to pinpoint the paths of all four hijacked aircraft. It then creates charts and animated videos of the four flights’ actual and intended routes. About 12 news agencies, including all the major networks, request these animated illustrations. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer is apparently unhindered by the fact that flights 11 and 93 have their transponders turned off during the hijackings. Its reconstruction of Flight 77’s path ends, however, at 8:57, around the time that aircraft’s transponder goes off and it disappears from controllers’ radar screens (see (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet the 9/11 Commission will later say that, despite this disappearance, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off.” Why the Flight Explorer illustration does not therefore show the rest of Flight 77’s journey is not clear. [AVweb, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Until a few years back, Flight Explorer was the only company that recorded flight paths. Since the 1999 death of golfer Payne Stewart (see October 25, 1999) the FAA has also been recording these paths. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001] The final report of the 9/11 Commission will make no mention of the Flight Explorer flight path recordings. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222]

Entity Tags: Flight Explorer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta is in a breakfast meeting with the Belgian transportation minister, to discuss aviation issues. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey is also in the meeting, which is in the conference room next to Mineta’s office at the Department of Transportation (DOT) in Washington, DC. Soon after 8:45 a.m., Mineta’s Chief of Staff John Flaherty interrupts, and takes Mineta and Garvey aside to Mineta’s office to tell them that news agencies are reporting that some kind of aircraft has flown into the WTC. While Garvey immediately goes to a telephone and contacts the FAA Operations Center, Mineta continues with the meeting. But a few minutes later Flaherty again takes him aside to tell him the plane is confirmed to be a commercial aircraft, and that the FAA had received an unconfirmed report of a hijacking. The TV is on and Mineta sees the second plane hitting the WTC live. He terminates his meeting with the Belgian minister, and Garvey heads off to the FAA headquarters. The White House calls and requests that Mineta go and operate from there, so he quickly heads out too. He will soon arrive there, and enters its underground bunker at around 9:20 a.m. (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [US Congress, 9/20/2001; Freni, 2003, pp. 62-63; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Before leaving the Department of Transportation, Mineta orders the activation of the DOT’s Crisis Management Center (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Congress, 10/10/2001]

Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Jane Garvey, John Flaherty

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the order of Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, the Department of Transportation’s Crisis Management Center (CMC) was quickly activated after the first WTC tower was hit (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It is thus fully operational by this time, with security procedures initiated, secure lines of communication, and key contacts on line. The CMC is located in the Office of Emergency Transportation, on the 8th floor of the DOT’s Washington headquarters. It serves as a focal point for the transportation response during emergencies, enabling senior department personnel to conduct operations in a coordinated manner. [US Department of Transportation, 12/30/1999 pdf file; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, 9/20/2001; US Congress, 10/10/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] It includes representatives from all nine transportation modes (i.e., the different means of transport, such as road, rail, air), including Federal Aviation, as well as public affairs, and intelligence and security functions. It is capable of gathering information in real time via its own reporting system, and provides a flow of information to the DOT leadership, the White House, and Cabinet leaders on developments within the nation’s transportation infrastructure (including in the air). The CMC will remain fully operational, manned on a 24/7 basis, even in the weeks after the attacks have ended. [US Congress, 10/10/2001; Mineta Transportation Institute, 10/30/2001, pp. 12 pdf file] Furthermore, according to Mineta, in an incident “involving a major crash of any type,” the Office of the Secretary of Transportation “goes into a major information-gathering response. It contacts the mode of administration overseeing whatever mode of transportation is involved in the incident. It monitors press reports, contacts additional personnel to accommodate the surge in operations, and centralizes the information for me through the chief of staff. In major incidents, it will follow a protocol of notification that includes the White House and other agencies involved in the incident.” He says that these activities, “albeit in the nascent stage of information-gathering,” took place in the initial minutes after Flight 11 hit the WTC. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Transportation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Linda Schuessler.Linda Schuessler. [Source: Robert A. Reeder / Washington Post]After staff members at the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, see the second attack on the World Trade Center live on CNN, Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations there, makes the decision to secure the center in order to protect the building and its occupants. The Command Center’s doors are locked and all non-FAA personnel are ordered to leave the premises immediately. [Freni, 2003, pp. 64; Spencer, 2008, pp. 80-81] Schuessler will later say her reason for doing this is “because we didn’t know exactly what the situation was and what was going on.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001] At some point early on, she also assigns a member of staff to each manager at the Command Center, to be a note-taker and keep a record of every decision and order given by that manager. She realizes that documentation of all actions will be crucial for later recreating the day’s events. [Freni, 2003, pp. 65]
FAA Managers Gather Information - Schuessler will recall that, following the second attack, those in the Command Center start receiving information from FAA field facilities, “about unusual things that were going on.” National operations manager Ben Sliney, three first-level supervisors, and Schuessler are involved in gathering together information from around the country that the specialists at the Command Center are receiving. Schuessler will recall, “Every few minutes, we would gather in the middle of the operational floor and share the information and discuss what some of our options might be, what we needed to be doing.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001; Freni, 2003, pp. 64]
Schuessler Standing in for Absent Manager - Linda Schuessler has come to the Command Center after working at FAA headquarters, and lacks operation-level experience there. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81] She is in charge of the Command Center this morning only because Jack Kies, the FAA’s manager of tactical operations, who would normally be in charge, is away for a meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Freni, 2003, pp. 65-66; Federal Aviation Administration, 5/18/2006] According to author Lynn Spencer, Schuessler therefore focuses on staying out of Ben Sliney’s way, and taking care of administrative tasks. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 81]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Ben Sliney, Linda Schuessler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who saw the second plane hitting the WTC on television while at the Department of Transportation, had been called to the White House (see (8:48 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). When he arrives there, as he later recalls, he sees “People… coming out of the White House, pouring out of the Executive Office Building, running over towards Lafayette Park.” As he enters the White House, Mineta is told he has to be briefed by counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. He goes to the Situation Room where Clarke talks to him for four or five minutes, briefly informing him of what is going on. Clarke instructs him, “You have to get over to the Presidential Emergency Operation Center to be with the vice president.” The Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) is the bunker located below the White House. As Mineta does not know where it is, a Secret Service agent leads him to it. He will arrive there around 9:20-9:27, according to his own recollections (see (Between 9:20 a.m. and 9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Daily Californian, 3/18/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Norman Mineta, Richard A. Clarke

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. 
Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta. [Source: US Department of Transportation]Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta arrives at the White House bunker—the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC)—containing Vice President Dick Cheney and others. Mineta will tell NBC News that he arrives there at “probably about 9:27,” though he later says to the 9/11 Commission that he arrives at “about 9:20 a.m.” He also later recalls that Cheney is already there when he arrives. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/4/2004; Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006] This supports accounts of Cheney reaching the bunker not long after the second WTC crash (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Questioned about this in 2007 by an activist group, Mineta will confirm that Cheney was “absolutely… already there” in the PEOC when he arrived, and that “This was before American Airlines [Flight 77] went into the Pentagon,” which happens at 9:37. Yet, while admitting there is “conflicting evidence about when the vice president arrived” in the PEOC, the 9/11 Commission will conclude that the “vice president arrived in the room shortly before 10:00, perhaps at 9:58.” Mineta also later claims that when he arrives in the PEOC, Mrs. Lynne Cheney, the wife of the vice president, is already there. Yet the 9/11 Commission will claim she only arrives at the White House at 9:52 (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; 911truthseattle (.org), 6/26/2007] Once in the PEOC, Mineta establishes open phone lines with his office at the Department of Transportation and with the FAA Operations Center. [Academy of Achievement, 6/3/2006]

Entity Tags: Lynne Cheney, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Norman Mineta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Additional measures are taken to increase the level of security at the FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. [Freni, 2003, pp. 65] After the second attack on the World Trade Center, the Command Center’s doors were locked, and all non-FAA personnel were ordered to leave the premises immediately (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Freni, 2003, pp. 64; Spencer, 2008, pp. 81] Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations, is still concerned about the security of the center, and calls the building owner to request additional protection. Soon, armed guards are stationed at all entrances and roaming the floor there. The exact time when this happens is unstated. [Freni, 2003, pp. 65] It is unclear whether the increase in security is a general precaution, or is in response to specific threats against the Command Center.

Entity Tags: Linda Schuessler, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Within two hours of the attacks the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron (RADES) based at Hill Air Force Base, Utah begins reviewing the radar trails of the four earlier hijacked aircraft, after Pentagon officials have turned to them to find out exactly what happened. Using their own software, the unit has the unique ability to create a “track of interest analysis,” singling out and zooming in on each of the planes. The unit has captured most of the flights of the four planes, but lost sight of Flight 93 at some point. [Airman, 12/2003] The FBI also contacts RADES within hours of the attacks, requesting detailed information on the hijacked planes. [Hilltop Times, 4/15/2004] NORAD official Colonel Alan Scott later will tell the 9/11 Commission that much of his radar data for the “primary targets” on 9/11 was not seen that day. He will say, “It was reconstructed days later by the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, and other agencies like it who are professionals at going back and looking at radar tapes and then given that they are loaded with knowledge after the fact, they can go and find things that perhaps were not visible during the event itself.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Data reconstructed by RADES will be used as a source several times in the account of the hijackings and military response to them in the 9/11 Commission’s final report. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 457-459]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Defense, 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

At FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, David Canoles, the FAA’s manager of air traffic evaluations and investigations, and his staff begin coordinating the collection of forensic evidence that might clarify how the morning’s attacks unfolded. They coordinate the capture and copying of radar track data showing the paths of the four hijacked planes, and obtain air traffic control voice tapes from every facility that had spoken with these planes. FAA Assistant Investigations Manager Tony Mello and other employees will work for most of the afternoon, all night, and part of the following day, gathering data and coordinating with the FBI, Secret Service, Defense Department, White House, and National Transportation Safety Board, making sure these other agencies receive as much evidence as is available. Radar tracks are crudely plotted, showing the flight paths of the four jets, and voice tapes are transcribed. Having been stuck in Chicago when the attacks occurred, (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001), Tony Ferrante, the manager of FAA investigations, will finally arrive at FAA headquarters at 5:00 a.m. on September 12. His first priority is “to ensure that the radar data and voice tapes from every location involved in the attack [are] put under lock and key as soon as possible,” presumably to be kept safe for any investigations. He looks at and listens to the relevant controller tapes, and begins constructing a detailed timeline of the four hijacked aircraft. Along with Tony Mello and others of his staff, Ferrante will spend several days working out the movements of the four planes. FAA radar experts Dan Diggins and Doug Gould will also spend days interpreting the radar tracks of the four planes, piecing together a detailed timeline of their actions from takeoff to crash. [Freni, 2003, pp. 74 and 76-77] The FAA will publish a fairly comprehensive chronology of the hijackings on September 17, though this will not be made public until September 2005. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Security Archive, 9/9/2005] Presently, it refers any media requests for flight patterns to Flight Explorer, a software company that makes charts of plane routes using information from the FAA’s radar system (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/13/2001] The US military has also started doing its own reconstructions of the radar data for the hijacked aircraft (see (11:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Doug Gould, David Canoles, Dan Diggins, Tony Mello, Federal Aviation Administration, Tony Ferrante, Flight Explorer

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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