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(9:54 a.m.-6:54 p.m.) September 11, 2001: President Bush and His Entourage Have Difficulty Following Events on TV due to the Poor Reception on Air Force One

President Bush watching TV in his office on Air Force One.President Bush watching TV in his office on Air Force One. [Source: White House]President Bush and those with him on Air Force One are less aware of ongoing events than millions of Americans are, because the television reception on the plane is weak and intermittent. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 83; Draper, 2013, pp. 100; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] The president’s plane currently has no satellite television. [White House, 8/8/2002; Bush, 2010, pp. 130] The TV system is instead only able to pick up local stations as the plane flies over large populated areas and even then the reception is poor. [Walsh, 2003, pp. 210; Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 21] When the plane is over a populated area, the televisions on board flicker briefly before the images fade away. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002; Wall Street Journal, 8/26/2011]
Passengers Only See 'Bits and Pieces' of the News - “It was not a good signal,” Mark Rosenker, director of the White House Military Office, will later recall, and the plane’s passengers are only able to see “bits and pieces” of what is being broadcast. [White House, 8/29/2002] “Everyone is watching the monitors, trying to get snippets of visual information, and the reception keeps going in and out,” White House photographer Eric Draper will say. [Albuquerque Tribune, 9/10/2002] “After a few minutes on a given station, the screen would dissolve into static,” Bush will describe. [Bush, 2010, pp. 130]
Passengers Are 'Starving for Information' - Partly because of their inability to follow events on television, Draper will say, “Everyone [on Air Force One] was starving for information.” [Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016] “Bush was largely blind to the vivid images of destruction and disarray that were seen by millions of Americans live on television,” journalists Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker will write. [Schmitt and Shanker, 2011, pp. 21] Those on the plane end up learning the news through sharing information among themselves by word of mouth. [Sarasota Magazine, 11/2001; National Journal, 8/31/2002] Bush will state, however, that despite the poor television reception, he manages to catch “enough fleeting glimpses of the coverage to understand the horror of what the American people were watching.” [Bush, 2010, pp. 130]
Bush Is Frustrated by the 'Woeful' Communications - Officials will subsequently comment on Air Force One’s inadequate communications capabilities and their effects today. The president’s plane lacks “continuous direct broadcast television receive capability” and today’s events highlight “limitations in the president’s airborne capability to… monitor real-time news coverage,” the Air Force will state. [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002] “One of my greatest frustrations on September 11 was the woeful communications technology on Air Force One,” Bush will write. [Bush, 2010, pp. 130] The communications systems on Air Force One will be upgraded in order to correct the problems experienced today. [White House, 8/8/2002; Business Week, 11/4/2002; Walsh, 2003, pp. 33; Business Week, 3/20/2017] As well as having difficulty following events on television, Bush and his staffers have problems communicating with their colleagues in Washington, DC, while they are on Air Force One (see (9:54 a.m.-2:50 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [Northwest Indiana Times, 9/22/2002; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 9/10/2006; Politico Magazine, 9/9/2016]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Eric Draper, Mark Rosenker, US Department of the Air Force

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline


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