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9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001: NEADS Talks with Tanker Plane about Refueling Scrambled Fighters

Andy Marshall.Andy Marshall. [Source: Bangor Daily News]A member of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) talks with the crew of a tanker plane about providing fuel to the fighter jets launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, and yet, after the crew agrees to assist the fighters, the tanker is apparently unavailable to do so until at least 30 minutes later. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 112, 152-153] The tanker plane, which has the call sign “Maine 85,” is one of the eight KC-135s attached to the 101st Air Refueling Wing, based at Bangor International Airport in Maine. Its pilots are Lieutenant Colonel Adam Jenkins and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Marshall. [Portland Press Herald, 9/13/2001; Bangor Daily News, 9/9/2011] It is scheduled to provide fuel to a number of F-15 fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts, that should be flying a training mission this morning in an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, south of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see (9:00 a.m.-9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 153]
NEADS Asks Tanker to Support Scrambled Fighters - A member of staff at NEADS now talks over the radio with a member of Maine 85’s crew (presumably one of the pilots), and asks if the plane could provide fuel to the two F-15s that are kept on “alert” at Otis Air Base and that were scrambled in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] These fighters are currently flying into Whiskey 105 (see 9:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The person at NEADS says to Maine 85 that he was “wondering if you’d be able to support a couple of F-l5s currently on an active air.” He adds, “I’d like to park you in Whiskey 105 for a while.” Maine 85 replies, “We’re scheduled for Whiskey 105, sir, with some F-15s.” (This is presumably a reference to the F-15s that are due to fly a training mission in the military airspace this morning.) The person at NEADS says that the tanker’s support “would be for a Panta flight currently on an active emergency for us,” referring to the two fighters scrambled in response to Flight 11.
Tanker Plane Agrees to Assist Fighters - Maine 85 says it will do as requested, replying: “That’s no problem for us. We’re gonna be descending shortly to flight level 240 [i.e. 24,000 feet] and heading south to the western portion of Whiskey 105 for our standard refueling. We’ll be right in there.” NEADS thanks Maine 85 and then informs it: “We have Panta 45 [i.e. the scrambled fighters] currently in the western part of Whiskey 105. We’re working a possible hijack and aircraft emergency in downtown New York.” Maine 85 responds, “Yes sir, anything we can do to help.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] Subsequently, at around 9:14 a.m., Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, will tell a colleague: “We’ve got Maine 85 going to Whiskey 105 right now.… He’s going into Whiskey 105, so that’s, that’s no problem. He’s got lots of fuel.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001]
Tanker Apparently Unavailable for 30 Minutes - However, despite communicating with Maine 85 at around 9:05 a.m., according to the account of author Lynn Spencer, NEADS is apparently unable to locate a tanker plane that could refuel the fighters scrambled from Otis Air Base during the next 30 minutes. After one of the pilots of these fighters informs NEADS that the two aircraft are running low on fuel, NEADS personnel are instructed to locate a suitable tanker (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But by around 9:35 a.m., according to Spencer, the fighters will not have heard back from NEADS. Maine 85 will only be contacted and directed toward the two fighters after one of the Otis pilots then remembers that the KC-135 should be available and in his area, and the other Otis pilot therefore calls NEADS about this (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 112, 152-153]

Entity Tags: Adam Jenkins, Andy Marshall, 101st Air Refueling Wing, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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