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Context of '(1995): FAA Runs Hijacking Exercise; NORAD Participates'

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) holds a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking, which involves a real plane playing the part of the hijacked aircraft. The exercise will be described to the 9/11 Commission in 2004 by Major Paul Goddard, who is the chief of live exercises for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at the time of the 9/11 attacks. According to Goddard, the exercise, held in 1995, is called “Twin Star” and the FAA invites NORAD to participate in it, “since a real commercial airliner was to be shadowed by a fighter intercept.” Goddard will tell the 9/11 Commission his understanding is that the exercise involves the entire FAA system, and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon also participates in it. [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004] Colin Scoggins, the military operations specialist at the FAA’s Boston Center on 9/11, will describe what is apparently this exercise when he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in 2003. He will say he believes the exercise is “joint FAA/military” and is conducted “in 1995 or 1996.” According to Scoggins, the exercise involves “a military scramble to escort a hijacked aircraft,” but the fighter jets taking part are “unable to intercept” the mock hijacked plane. [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file] Apparently describing the same exercise in a documentary film, Scoggins will say, “We had run a hijack test years before [9/11] and the fighters never got off on the appropriate heading, and it took them forever to catch up.” [Michael Bronner, 2006]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Colin Scoggins, National Military Command Center, Twin Star, Paul Goddard, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

On the evening of September 11, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the military decline to comment on whether fighter jets were launched to intercept any of the hijacked aircraft earlier in the day. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, refuses to say whether the agency requested military intercepts. Major Barry Venable, a spokesman for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), similarly says he does not know whether the FAA asked NORAD to send up jets to intercept the errant aircraft. Lt. Col. Margaret Quenneville, a spokeswoman for the 102nd Fighter Wing of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which operates from Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, refuses to comment on whether the fighter wing was requested to intercept the hijacked airliners. [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/12/2001] Several days later, it will be revealed that two F-15s were indeed launched from Otis around the time the first WTC tower was hit, and three F-16s were launched from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia shortly before the time the Pentagon was hit (see September 14, 2001). [CBS News, 9/14/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/16/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001] But as late as September 15, the New York Times is reporting, “The Federal Aviation Administration has officially refused to discuss its procedures or the sequence of events on Tuesday morning, saying these are part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Margaret Quenneville, Barry Venable, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Laura Brown

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Members of the 9/11 Commission are informed that the air threat conference call, initiated by the military in response to the attacks on September 11, was recorded. This call reportedly began at around 9:37 a.m. on 9/11. Throughout the day, numerous key officials had participated in it, including the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense, plus senior officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Despite more than 18 months having passed since the attacks, Pentagon officials say they have not yet transcribed the tapes of the conference call. After the 9/11 Commission makes repeated requests, the Pentagon finally creates a classified transcript. On August 6, this is forwarded to the White House for an “executive-privilege review,” which is supposedly required because of Vice President Cheney’s participation in the call. The commission is then promised access to the 200-page transcript. However, the fact that it is not time coded may hinder the commission’s ability to outline an exact sequence of events, and commissioners say they may need to obtain the actual tapes recordings. Whether they are eventually allowed full or partial access to the tapes is unclear: The 9/11 Commission Report, released in 2004, will make numerous references to the “[Defense Department] transcript, Air Threat Conference Call.” It will only make one reference to “the tape… of the air threat conference call,” which it says was used to help reconstruct events in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC). The report will state that all the times it gives for the air threat conference call are estimates, believed to be accurate within a three-minute margin of error. This would suggest it did not have full access to the tape recordings. [US News and World Report, 8/31/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 37 and 463-465] The recording of the air threat conference call is of particular significance, because the National Military Command Center (NMCC), which initiated the call, is—according to military instructions—the “focal point within Department of Defense for providing assistance” in response to hijackings in US airspace. [US Department of Defense, 6/1/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: White House, US Department of Defense, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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