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Profile: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was a participant or observer in the following events:

Michael White.Michael White. [Source: Publicity photo]Cleveland Hopkins Airport and numerous buildings in the city of Cleveland are evacuated, following the decision to land Delta Air Lines Flight 1989—which is wrongly thought to be hijacked and with a bomb on board—at the Cleveland airport. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 191-192]
Airport Concerned about Delta 1989 - Delta Air Lines was concerned about Flight 1989, and instructed it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167; USA Today, 9/11/2008] FAA and military personnel have mistakenly suspected that this aircraft has been hijacked (see (9:28 a.m.-9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and their concerns have reached personnel at Cleveland Airport. Fred Szabo, the airport commissioner, will later recall: “There was an indication that this might be a terrorist plane. We didn’t know if there were bombs on board, or if it was a hijacked plane.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-168]
Airport Evacuated as Plane Approaches - As Delta 1989 heads in to land, air traffic controllers instruct it to follow a long path that initially takes it far past the airport. According to author Lynn Spencer, the “controllers are giving themselves time to evacuate the airport since [Delta 1989] has been confirmed hijacked and since they believe it contains a bomb intended to detonate when the aircraft crashes into the terminal.” Even FAA personnel at the airport evacuate their building and make their way to a huge NASA hangar next door. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 191-192] After Delta 1989 lands, police block off all entrances to the airport terminal, and bomb-sniffing dogs are brought to baggage pickup areas. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]
City Buildings Evacuated - Furthermore, for the first time in his administration, Cleveland Mayor Michael White orders the evacuation of all federal and city buildings. [WCPN, 9/20/2001] Schools are closed and a parking ban is issued downtown. [WCPN, 9/12/2001] White also asks owners of large commercial high-rises to evacuate. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001] These evacuation efforts presumably benefit from the fact that Cleveland is one of six major Ohio cities that has, for a number of years, been part of a federal program to help defend against domestic terrorism. [WCPN, 9/20/2001]
NASA Facility Evacuated - Even the 3,500 employees at the NASA Glenn Research Center, which is located adjacent to the Cleveland airport, are ordered to evacuate their facility. Directors there had in fact met and decided to evacuate the center after seeing the television coverage of the second attack on the World Trade Center. It takes about an hour and a half to get everyone out of the building. [Cleveland Free Times, 9/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Fred Szabo, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Michael R. White

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.An aircraft at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. [Source: Cleveland Plain Dealer]Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, a Boeing 767 out of Boston that is wrongly suspected of being hijacked (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 9:44 a.m.) September 11, 2001), lands at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio, and is directed to a remote area of the airport. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006]
Plane Flies Long Path toward Airport - Delta Air Lines had been concerned about Flight 1989, and ordered it to land as soon as possible in Cleveland (see (9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 167; USA Today, 9/11/2008] As it was heading in to land, air traffic controllers instructed Delta 1989 to follow a trajectory that initially took it far past Cleveland Airport. Unknown to the plane’s pilots, the controllers incorrectly believe the flight has been hijacked and contains a bomb, and they were therefore making time to evacuate the airport before the plane landed (see (9:50 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 191]
Plane Directed to Remote Area - Once Delta 1989 is on the ground, the Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) informs the FAA’s Cleveland Center that Delta 1989 is “on the ground at 1418,” where “1418” means 10:18 a.m. Cleveland Center asks, “Very safely too, I hope?” The TRACON responds that the plane is being taken to the bomb area to check. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] Delta 1989 is directed to “taxi left onto taxiway Bravo and wait there.” This taxiway leads to a remote part of the airport that is far away from the terminal. The pilot does as instructed. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 229]
Passengers Not Allowed Off - The pilots radio the airport’s air traffic control tower and say: “Just to make sure we don’t have any misunderstandings here, our flaps are up, we are landing only as a precaution at the company’s request. You understand that?” They ask if they are going to get to their gate soon, but the controller responds that city authorities are in charge and he believes people will be coming to search the aircraft. The controller advises that city authorities have said to keep the plane’s passengers on the aircraft for now. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] The passengers and crew will have to remain on board for perhaps a couple of hours, until FBI agents allow them off (see 11:28 a.m.-12:23 p.m. September 11, 2001). [WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 270-271]
Conflicting Reports of Landing Time - Subsequent accounts will give conflicting times for when Delta 1989 lands at Cleveland Airport. According to a detailed timeline provided by the airport’s control tower, the aircraft is “on the ground” at 10:18 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] Several accounts will give similar landing times of between 10:05 a.m. and 10:10 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002; USA Today, 8/13/2002] But a NORAD official will tell the 9/11 Commission that Delta 1989 landed at 9:47 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Other accounts will say it lands at between 10:33 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Air Route Traffic Control Center, Cleveland Terminal Radar Approach Control, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, David Dunlap, Paul Werner

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Passengers and crew members on board Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, which was wrongly suspected to have been hijacked, are finally allowed to get off their plane and are taken to be interviewed by the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; WKYC, 9/11/2006] Delta 1989 made an emergency landing at Cleveland Hopkins Airport in Ohio after FAA and military personnel mistakenly thought it was hijacked and might have a bomb on board (see (10:18 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 27-28; WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 167-169] The plane was directed to a remote part of the airport, far away from the terminal, and the pilots were told not to allow passengers off.
No Evidence of Hijacking or Bomb - At 11:28 a.m., Cleveland Airport’s air traffic manager calls city officials and says he has no apparent reason to believe Delta 1989 has been hijacked, and he does not have any specific bomb threats. He says he has just received clearance from the FAA headquarters, which told him the airport had no reason to hold the aircraft unless city officials have other information from the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 229]
SWAT Team and FBI Approach Plane - Delta 1989’s pilots, Captain Paul Werner and First Officer David Dunlap, are finally informed that the Cleveland Police SWAT (special weapons and tactics) team and a team of FBI agents are coming out to their aircraft. While the FBI agents approach the plane, the SWAT team takes up a position about 50 yards behind it. Lt. Bernie Barabas, the leader of the SWAT team, will later recall, “If there had been some sort of problem and this turned into a situation where this was a live hijacking, or if they started killing Americans, we were going to act.”
SWAT Team Sees Pilot with Bloodied Face - Suspicion is aroused when Werner accidentally knocks his head and cuts it while returning to his seat, after going to the cabin to speak to the plane’s passengers. The members of the SWAT team outside are perplexed when they see him leaning out of the window to give the “all clear” signal, with blood running down his face. They then board the plane. [WKYC, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 270]
Passengers Taken off Plane - By 11:34 a.m., according to an FAA chronology, the FBI has commenced a controlled debarkation of Delta 1989. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] The FBI agents slowly and carefully remove the passengers in small groups. [WKYC, 9/11/2006] According to some accounts, there are 78 people on the plane. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] But other accounts say there are about 200 on it. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Newsnet 5, 9/11/2001; WCPN, 9/12/2001] The FBI then instructs everyone that has got off to gather their belongings and line them up on the tarmac. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 270] Every piece of luggage and carry-on baggage will be opened and examined by security agents. [WKYC, 9/11/2006] Bomb-sniffing dogs board the aircraft, which is then searched, but no explosives will be found.
Passengers Taken Away and Interviewed - The SWAT team gathers the plane’s crew and passengers onto nearby buses. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 271] According to a timeline provided by the Cleveland Airport air traffic control tower, at 12:23 p.m. the passengers are taken to the Federal Facilities Building, located on the opposite side of the airfield to the terminal, where they are debriefed by the FBI. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/16/2001] But the Associated Press will report that they are taken to a nearby NASA facility, presumably the Glenn Research Center, which is located next to the Cleveland airport. [Associated Press, 9/11/2001; National Journal's Technology Daily, 11/27/2002] After being interviewed separately by FBI agents, the passengers will be put up at a local Holiday Inn. [Portland Press Herald, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Cleveland Police Department, Bernie Barabas, Paul Werner, David Dunlap, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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