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Context of '(9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Airborne Operations Center Launches from Base near Washington'

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An E-4B Airborne Command Post.An E-4B Airborne Command Post. [Source: US Air Force] (click image to enlarge)During the 1980s, top-secret exercises are regularly held, testing a program called Continuity of Government (COG) that would keep the federal government functioning during and after a nuclear war (see 1981-1992). The program includes a special plane called the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP). This is a modified Boeing 747, based at Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC that has its own conference room and special communications gear. Nicknamed the “Doomsday” plane, it could act as an airborne command post from where a president could run the country during a nuclear war. One of the COG exercises run by the Reagan administration involves a team of officials actually staying aloft in the NEACP for three days straight. The team cruises across the US, and up and down the coasts, periodically being refueled in mid-air. [Schwartz, 1998; Mann, 2004, pp. 144] Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld participate in the COG exercises, though whether they are aboard the NEACP in this particular one is unknown. [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] The plan that is being rehearsed for in the exercises will be activated in response to the 9/11 attacks (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Also on 9/11, three Doomsday planes (then known as “National Airborne Operations Center” planes) will be in the air, due to an exercise taking place that morning called Global Guardian (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Schwartz, 1998; Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Brent Scowcroft.Brent Scowcroft. [Source: Publicity photo]An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center (NAOC) takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, just outside Washington, DC. The E-4B is a militarized version of a Boeing 747. Its purpose is to provide the president, vice president, and Joint Chiefs of Staff with an airborne command center that could be used to execute war plans and coordinate government operations during a national emergency. The E-4B taking off from Andrews, which has the call sign “Word 31,” is carrying civilian and military officials, and is launched in order to participate in a previously scheduled military exercise, according to journalist and author Dan Verton. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; NET Nebraska, 9/2/2011] This exercise would be Global Guardian, which is being conducted by the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) to test its ability to fight a nuclear war (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001). Two other E-4Bs are also participating in Global Guardian today (see Before 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002]
Plane Ends Participation in Exercise after Taking Off - The E-4B taking off from Andrews Air Force Base is supposed to be using and testing its sophisticated technology and communications equipment for the exercise. It has “only just taken off” at the time the Pentagon is hit—9:37 a.m.—according to Verton. [Verton, 2003, pp. 144] But the flight tracking strip from Andrews will record it as having taken off at 9:27 a.m., 10 minutes before the Pentagon is hit. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] The crew will later be informed that after the plane launches, it flies “right over the top of the aircraft that eventually impacted the Pentagon.” [Flying K, 9/7/2012 pdf file] After taking off, the E-4B is “immediately ordered to cease the military exercise it was conducting and prepare to become the actual National Airborne Operations Center,” Verton will write. [Verton, 2003, pp. 144] (Global Guardian was reportedly put on pause at 9:11 a.m. (see 9:11 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it is not formally terminated until 10:44 a.m. (see (10:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Bombardier, 9/8/2006 pdf file] ) The plane then converts “on the fly from exercise status to real-world crisis management.” [Verton, 2003, pp. 150]
Plane Flies Former National Security Adviser to Base in Nebraska - Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft and his staff are on the E-4B, which will fly them to Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Flying K, 9/7/2012 pdf file] The original plan had been for the aircraft to take them to Offutt to observe the Global Guardian exercise today. [Omaha World-Herald, 2/27/2002] After reaching the base, the E-4B will take off again and resume its airborne operations. [Flying K, 9/7/2012 pdf file] Minutes after the Pentagon is attacked, an unidentified four-engine jet plane will be seen circling above the White House (see (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). CNN will suggest this is an E-4B, so it is possible it is “Word 31.” [CNN, 9/12/2007] Another E-4B, with the call sign “Venus 77,” will take off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:45 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 206]

Entity Tags: E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, Global Guardian, Brent Scowcroft

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An E-4B National Airborne Operations Center, with the call sign “Venus 77,” takes off from Andrews Air Force Base, near Washington, DC, in response to the attack on the Pentagon. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004; Farmer, 2009, pp. 206] The E-4B is a highly modified Boeing 747, fitted with sophisticated communications equipment, which can serve as a flying military command post during a national emergency. The US military has four of these planes. [Federation of American Scientists, 4/23/2000; Dayton Daily News, 9/12/2001; Verton, 2003, pp. 143] Venus 77 takes off at 9:43 a.m., according to John Farmer, who will be senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission. [Farmer, 2009, pp. 206] But the flight tracking strip from Andrews Air Force Base will record it as having taken off at 9:45 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004] The plane is initially directed toward Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. But shortly after taking off, its pilot tells air traffic control that he wants to fly to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. [Farmer, 2009, pp. 206] Wright-Patterson is one of the few designated bases for the E-4B. Another E-4B has actually been on the ground there and takes off around this time (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Dayton Daily News, 9/12/2001] The pilot of Venus 77 is cleared to head to Wright-Patterson and so he turns west. But he then says he wants to turn back east and hold south of Washington. He will be cleared to do so at 9:47 a.m. and his plane will eventually settle into a holding pattern over Richmond, Virginia. [Farmer, 2009, pp. 206-207] Farmer will claim that Venus 77 is the “mystery plane”—an unidentified white aircraft—seen over Washington around this time (see (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Farmer, 2009, pp. 372] However, that plane was reported to be “circling the White House” at 9:41 a.m., before Venus 77 takes off. [ABC News, 9/11/2001] Another E-4B, with the call sign “Word 31,” took off from Andrews Air Force Base at around 9:27 a.m. (see (9:27 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so that aircraft might be the “mystery plane” seen flying over Washington. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001 pdf file; Verton, 2003, pp. 143-144; 9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004]

Entity Tags: John Farmer, E-4B National Airborne Operations Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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