!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News

Context of '(9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Dulles Airport Supervisor Notifies Secret Service of Aircraft Approaching the White House'

This is a scalable context timeline. It contains events related to the event (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Dulles Airport Supervisor Notifies Secret Service of Aircraft Approaching the White House. You can narrow or broaden the context of this timeline by adjusting the zoom level. The lower the scale, the more relevant the items on average will be, while the higher the scale, the less relevant the items, on average, will be.

According to an FAA report, between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., air traffic controllers at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington Dulles International Airport notice an unidentified blip, later identified to be Flight 77, on their radar screens. This is several minutes earlier than the 9/11 Commission will claim they notice it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9]
Plane Flying East at High Speed - The TRACON at Dulles Airport, which is about 22 miles west of the Pentagon, learned several minutes earlier that the FAA had lost contact with Flight 77. It then advised its controllers to look out for “primary targets” (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Navy Times, 9/22/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] These are radar tracks that can still be viewed when a plane’s transponder has been turned off. [Salon, 9/10/2004] Several of the facility’s controllers now observe a primary radar target heading eastbound toward Washington at high speed, almost 500 miles per hour. Although the aircraft has no transponder signal to identify it, it is later determined to be Flight 77. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Conflicting Times - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the Dulles TRACON controllers only notice this aircraft at 9:32 a.m. (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] The FAA report, which is published less than a week after 9/11, will state that its time of between 9:25 and 9:30 is “approximate, based on personnel statements from Dulles Terminal Radar Approach Control.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] But this earlier time will receive some corroboration from a report in USA Today, which states that the FAA’s Command Center is notified by a Dulles controller of the unidentified aircraft at “just before 9:30 a.m.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Furthermore, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who is currently at the White House, will tell the 9/11 Commission that at “about 9:25 or 9:26” he overhears someone warning Vice President Dick Cheney of an aircraft approaching Washington (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Radar evidence obtained by CBS News will show that “at 9:30 a.m.… radar tracked the plane as it closed to within 30 miles of Washington.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Danielle O’Brien.Danielle O’Brien. [Source: ABC News]At 9:32 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, several air traffic controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport notice a fast-moving target, which is later determined to be Flight 77, heading eastbound on their radar screens. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33] At the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Dulles Airport, which is 22 miles west of the Pentagon, controllers have been searching for primary radar targets since 9:21, when the facility was notified of the loss of contact with Flight 77 (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Navy Times, 9/22/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25]
Controllers See Fast-Moving Radar Track - They now notice an unidentified blip on their screens, heading toward the White House at unusually high speed. [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 145] Controller Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “I noticed the aircraft. It was an unidentified plane to the southwest of Dulles, moving at a very high rate of speed.… I had literally a blip and nothing more. I slid over to the controller on my left, Tom Howell, and I asked him, ‘Do you see an unidentified plane there southwest of Dulles?’ And his response was, ‘Yes. Oh, my gosh, yes! Look how fast he is.’” According to O’Brien, the aircraft is between 12 and 14 miles away when she notices it. It is heading for what is known as Prohibited Area 56 (P-56), which is the airspace over and near the White House, at a speed of about 500 miles per hour. [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001; Department of Transportation, 8/4/2005] Because the plane’s transponder has been turned off (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001) its identity and type are presently unknown, and the Dulles controllers initially think it is a military aircraft (see (9:25 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25]
TRACON Notifies Others - The Dulles TRACON alerts Washington’s Reagan National Airport (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and the Secret Service (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001) to the approaching aircraft. Its operations supervisor also provides continuous updates over a teleconference that has been established at the FAA’s headquarters. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25] According to an FAA chronology that is published shortly after 9/11, the Dulles TRACON controllers notice the unidentified aircraft earlier than the 9/11 Commission says, at between 9:25 and 9:30 (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Danielle O’Brien, Washington Dulles International Airport, Tom Howell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A supervisor at Washington Dulles International Airport contacts the Secret Service at the White House and informs it that an unidentified aircraft is heading toward Washington at a high rate of speed. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 pdf file] Air traffic controllers at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Dulles Airport have recently noticed this aircraft on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). Its identity and type are currently unknown, but it is later determined to be Flight 77. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9, 25]
Supervisor Calls White House over Hotline - The Dulles TRACON has a direct phone line to the Secret Service at the White House. After a controller alerts him to the suspicious aircraft, John Hendershot, the operations supervisor, calls the Secret Service over this line. [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 12/22/2003 pdf file] He says, “We have an unidentified, very fast-moving aircraft inbound toward your vicinity, eight miles west.” [ABC News, 10/24/2001]
Supervisor Uncertain about Response - Hendershot is unsure what response his call elicits. He will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I guess the operator picked it up,” and say that he assumed the information he provided was relayed to the relevant people at the White House. He will also tell the Commission that, following his call, “no one from Dulles tower was talking to the White House during the minute-minute countdown concerning the unknown primary approaching from the west.” [9/11 Commission, 12/22/2003 pdf file] A supervisor at Washington’s Reagan National Airport also contacts the Secret Service around this time, to notify it of the approaching aircraft (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] But, while the White House is alerted, personnel at Dulles Airport will tell the 9/11 Commission that there is no discussion about notifying the US Capitol of the unidentified aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, US Secret Service, John Hendershot

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Daniel Caine.Daniel Caine. [Source: White House]The Secret Service calls the District of Columbia Air National Guard (DCANG) at Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, and asks if it can get fighter jets launched. [Filson, 2003, pp. 78]
Secret Service Calls DCANG - Major Daniel Caine, the supervisor of flying with the 113th Wing of the DC Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews, called his contact at the Secret Service earlier on to see if they needed assistance from his unit, but was told they did not (see (Between 9:05 a.m. and 9:32 a.m.) September 11, 2001). But the Secret Service has just learned of a suspicious aircraft five miles from the White House (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and so one of its agents now calls Caine back. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 124, 156] Caine’s previous call to the Secret Service had been with agent Kenneth Beauchamp, who told Caine he would call back. However, he did not do so. The name of the agent that makes the current call is unstated. [9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 pdf file]
Agent Wants Planes Launched - The Secret Service agent asks, “Can you get airplanes up?” He then tells Caine to stand by, and says somebody else will call. Caine will later recall, “When I heard the tone in his voice, I called our bomb dump and told them to uncrate our missiles.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 78] But before Caine does this, Lieutenant Colonel Marc Sasseville, the acting operations group commander under the 113th Wing, calls Brigadier General David Wherley, the commander of the 113th Wing, to get permission to use their “war-reserve missiles.” Wherley gives the go-ahead, and then Caine calls the weapons loaders across the base and orders them, “Get some live AIM-9s [missiles] and bring them over!” At the same time, Sasseville calls the unit’s maintenance officer and orders that their jets be prepared for launch (see (9:35 a.m.-11:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/8/2004 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 156-157] Someone from the Secret Service’s White House Joint Operations Center will soon call Caine, and request that armed fighters be launched over Washington (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 78; 9/11 Commission, 3/11/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Daniel Caine, US Secret Service, David Wherley, Marc Sasseville, District of Columbia Air National Guard

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Secret Service calls for the immediate evacuation of Vice President Dick Cheney from his office after learning that a suspicious aircraft is flying toward the White House. Air traffic controllers informed the Secret Service that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the aircraft then turned away from the White House and so, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, the Secret Service made no attempt to evacuate Cheney from his office at that time. Now, however, the Secret Service learns that the aircraft is “beginning to circle back.” This news prompts it to order “the immediate evacuation of the vice president.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39] Someone at the Secret Service Joint Operations Center at the White House passes on the details of the suspicious aircraft to Special Agent James Scott, the “on-duty shift whip” for Cheney’s Secret Service detail, and the shift agents with him in the West Wing of the White House, where Cheney’s office is located. The agents hear the “broadcast alert” over their radios, telling them, “Unidentified aircraft coming toward the White House.” [United States Secret Service, 10/1/2001; United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file] Some or possibly all of the agents will immediately go into Cheney’s office, and hurry the vice president out of there and down toward the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, a bunker below the White House (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Gellman, 2008, pp. 114-116] However, a number of accounts will indicate that Cheney was evacuated from his office earlier on, at around 9:03 a.m., when the second plane crashed into the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, James Scott

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center.Dick Cheney heading to the the Presidential Emergency Operations Center. [Source: David Bohrer / White House]Vice President Dick Cheney is taken by the Secret Service from his office to an underground tunnel leading to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House around this time, according to some accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, although other accounts will suggest he was evacuated from his office about half an hour earlier. [United States Secret Service, 11/17/2001 pdf file; Newsweek, 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39-40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 333, 335] Cheney, who is in his office in the West Wing of the White House, is aware of the two plane crashes in New York and realizes this is a terrorist attack. He is now “watching developments on the television,” he will later recall, and starting “to get organized to figure out what to do.” [Meet the Press, 9/16/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 330-331] The Secret Service was informed that an unidentified aircraft was heading toward the White House at around 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Concern about this aircraft prompted it to order the evacuation of Cheney “just before 9:36,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 39]
Armed Agents Enter Cheney's Office - Four or five Secret Service agents carrying submachine guns therefore enter Cheney’s office, according to Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman. One of them, Special Agent James Scott, pushes through the group of government officials who are gathered around Cheney (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and tells the vice president, “Sir, we need to move you—now.” Cheney nods, indicating that he will respond to the agent in a moment, and then turns to say something to another person. But Scott brings down the flat of his hand sharply on Cheney’s desk and commands, ”Now![Gellman, 2008, pp. 114-115]
Cheney Propelled out of His Office - Scott then puts his hand on Cheney’s shoulder, grabs the vice president by the back of his belt, and moves him out the door. [Hayes, 2007, pp. 333] Cheney will comment that Secret Service agents “practice this, I’m sure, because… whether you wanted to move or not, you’re going. They don’t exactly pick you up and carry you. It’s more like they propel you forward.” [White House, 11/19/2001] As the Secret Service agents take Cheney through his outer office, the vice president manages to grab the latest issue of The Economist off a table. “I’m always carrying something in case I get hung up someplace,” he will explain. “I’ve got to have something to read.” [Newsweek, 12/30/2001; Hayes, 2007, pp. 333] Carrying the magazine but nothing more, Cheney is hurried down the hallway, past the Oval Office, and down into the basement of the White House. [White House, 11/19/2001]
Other Officials Left in Cheney's Office - The officials who were with Cheney are left in his office. Mary Matalin, one of Cheney’s senior advisers, will recall: “[S]peechwriter John McConnell and I were left behind in his office, staring at each other as if to say, ‘What are we, chopped liver?’ I think I actually said that.” [National Review, 9/8/2011] Cheney will arrive in the underground tunnel leading to the PEOC about a minute after he leaves his office (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). There he will learn that the Pentagon has been hit and talk over the phone with the president (see (9:45 a.m.-9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001) before heading into the PEOC (see (9:58 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 40; Hayes, 2007, pp. 335-336] However, according to some accounts, Cheney was evacuated from his office a significant time earlier on, around 9:03 a.m., when the second plane crashed in New York (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 9/13/2001; Daily Telegraph, 12/16/2001; ABC News, 9/14/2002; Clarke, 2004, pp. 1-2]

Entity Tags: John McConnell, Mary Matalin, James Scott, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ordering 

Time period


Email Updates

Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database

 
Donate

Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
Donate Now

Volunteer

If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.
Contact Us

Creative Commons License Except where otherwise noted, the textual content of each timeline is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike