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Profile: Davison Army Airfield
Davison Army Airfield was a participant or observer in the following events:
A helicopter and its crew that are always on standby for “contingency” missions in the Washington area are away from base early this morning conducting a traffic survey, but apparently return at some point before the Pentagon is hit. The crew belongs to the 12th Aviation Battalion. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ] The 12th Aviation Battalion is stationed at Davison Army Airfield at Fort Belvoir, located 12 miles south of the Pentagon. It is the aviation support unit for the Military District of Washington, and operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000] According to a chief warrant officer with the unit, the 12th Aviation Battalion has “two crews that are always on standby for any kind of contingency mission.” It is one of these crews that is “out flying around doing a traffic survey.” [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ] The exact time period during which the crew and their helicopter are away from base is unstated, but they apparently return to Davison Airfield before 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see Shortly Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] They will be the first crew with the battalion to take off in support of the rescue operations at the Pentagon once the unit’s aircraft are permitted to launch again following the attack. Others members of the 12th Aviation Battalion are also away from base this morning, for weapons training (see 8:46 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
Air traffic controllers at Washington’s Reagan National Airport fail to notify the Pentagon and a nearby Army airfield about an unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, which they are tracking as it approaches the capital. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33]
Controllers Call Secret Service but Not Military - Controllers in the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Reagan National Airport are aware of the unidentified, fast-moving aircraft that is approaching the White House from at least as early as 9:33 a.m. (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9, 39; Spencer, 2008, pp. 145-146] (However, those in the airport’s control tower possibly only learn of it slightly later (see (9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 158] ) Although a supervisor at the TRACON promptly alerts the Secret Service at the White House to the aircraft (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001), none of the Reagan Airport controllers contact the Pentagon or the nearby Davison Army Airfield about it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
Aviation Unit Located near Pentagon - Davison Army Airfield is located at Fort Belvoir, an Army base 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The airfield’s principal missions include maintaining “a readiness posture in support of contingency plans,” exercising “operational control” of the local airspace, and providing “aviation support for the White House, US government officials, Department of Defense, Department of the Army, and other government agencies.” The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is the aviation support unit for the Military District of Washington, is stationed at Davison Airfield. The battalion operates UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. [Pentagram, 5/7/1999; Military District of Washington, 8/2000] Its airfield operations unit—Davison Airfield Management—operates and maintains the heliport at the Pentagon. [Soldiers Magazine, 7/2006]
Tower Supervisor Unhappy - The supervisor of air traffic control currently working in the control tower at Davison Airfield will be unhappy about the failure of the Reagan Airport controllers to alert his unit or the Pentagon to the approaching aircraft. He will voice his complaints when he later talks to one of those controllers. The supervisor will later recall: “I was asking him, ‘Did you know that the aircraft was coming this way?’ And he said: ‘Yes. We were tracking him for so many miles.’”
Controller: 'It Never Occurred to Me' to Call Military - The supervisor will ask the controller: “Why you didn’t say anything to Davison? Why you didn’t say anything to the Pentagon? Because if you would have said something, my controller at the Pentagon would have called the DPS unit,” meaning the Defense Protective Service, which guards the Pentagon, “and it would have alerted them that there was something coming to Washington, DC, an aircraft with hostile intentions or something.” The controller will reply, “Well, you know what, it never occurred to me,” and say, “we didn’t know that he was going to hit the Pentagon.” [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
The air traffic control tower at an Army airfield near the Pentagon receives a call from someone at Washington’s Reagan National Airport—presumably an air traffic controller—who instructs it to recall all its aircraft. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] Davison Army Airfield is at Fort Belvoir, 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The 12th Aviation Battalion, which is the Military District of Washington’s aviation support unit, is stationed there. This includes three helicopter companies that fly UH-1 “Huey” and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. [Military District of Washington, 8/2000]
Airfield Told to Land All Aircraft 'Very Quickly' - According to a supervisor of air traffic control at Davison Airfield who is currently in the airfield’s control tower, shortly before the time when the Pentagon is hit a controller at his facility receives the call from Reagan Airport telling them to recall all their air traffic. The supervisor, who will say that the caller is “going crazy,” takes over the call. The caller then tells him to “recall all your traffic. Just make sure that everybody lands.… [H]e was like, telling us, everybody that you got outside, bring them in and land them quickly, very quickly.” The supervisor tells him, “Give me a reason and I’ll do it,” but the caller responds, “I can’t tell you the reason, but you need to do this.” [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] (At around 9:32 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission, Washington’s Dulles Airport notified Reagan Airport of a “radar target tracking eastbound at a high rate of speed” toward Washington (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), so it is plausible that this is what has prompted Reagan Airport to call the Davison control tower. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33] )
Davison Airfield Recalls Its Aircraft - After the caller hangs up, the supervisor at Davison Airfield instructs the air traffic controller at his facility to “tell everybody to come in.” The controller then starts “recalling everybody that just departed,” and the supervisor approves “for them to make it straight in, the helicopters to land straight in without using the regular traffic pattern.” The control tower recalls its aircraft individually, rather than putting out a single broadcast telling all aircraft to return to the airfield. The supervisor will recall: “[E]verybody was coming in. And at that time when everybody was coming in… I was like thinking, why? Why do they want to recall everybody? That means that something is going on.” While the control tower is still recalling its aircraft, the supervisor looks out of a window to the northeast, and notices a large black cloud of smoke in the area of the Pentagon, the result of the attack there. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] It is unclear what aircraft from Davison Airfield are airborne and recalled to base. But a 12th Aviation Battalion helicopter and its crew that are always on standby for “contingency” missions have been away this morning, conducting a traffic survey (see Early Morning September 11, 2001). They are presumably recalled at this time, if not beforehand. [Army Center of Military History, 11/14/2001 ]
Jacqueline Kidd and Sean Boger. [Source: Jennifer Lilly]The air traffic controller and his assistant in the control tower at the Pentagon’s heliport are concerned that they are in a prime location for another terrorist attack, and discuss the possibility of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. [Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 21] The controller, Sean Boger, a civilian who is working for the Army, and his assistant, Army Specialist Jacqueline Kidd, are working in the control tower located between the Pentagon and its heliport, from where they direct helicopter landings and departures. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 27; Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 21] They have seen the reports on television about the planes hitting the World Trade Center, and so realize that a terrorist attack is taking place. [Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002]
Controllers Discuss Possibility of Crash at Pentagon - Kidd will later recall that, after seeing the second crash on television, she and Boger begin “discussing the possibility of if it was a terrorist attack, and how we were at a prime spot to be hit. We started talking about that immediately.” She will add that Boger mentions to her that the flight path of Reagan National Airport, which is about a mile away, “comes right by the Pentagon, and I said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ And he said, ‘They can do the same thing to us.’” However, Kidd and Boger reportedly talk “casually” about the possibility of a plane hitting the Pentagon, “without seriously feeling threatened.” [Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] According to other accounts, Boger wonders aloud why no airliner has ever hit the Pentagon, considering how close it is to Reagan Airport. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 27] Kidd tells him, “You’ve been saying that for three years,” and he responds, “Yeah, you’re right.” [Creed and Newman, 2008, pp. 21] Reportedly, Boger is “talking about an accident, not a terrorist attack.” [Pentagram, 11/16/2001]
Controller Discusses Concerns with Supervisor at Airfield - Boger also calls the control tower at Davison Army Airfield, which is about 12 miles south of the Pentagon, around this time, and discusses his concerns with the supervisor of air traffic control there. Boger works for the supervisor’s unit and has already called the supervisor to alert him to the attacks in New York. Boger now tells the supervisor how worried he is “that an aircraft can just easily do that,” presumably referring to the possibility of a plane crashing into the Pentagon. He also says, “I don’t know what I’m going to do if I see a plane coming like that towards—towards us.” The supervisor will later comment, “I always was aware of that, of how close some aircraft would fly over the facility… and how easy it would be for somebody to kind of storm the small tower.” The supervisor tells Boger that if he sees an airplane heading his way, “what you do is you grab [Kidd] and get out of the building, and just go towards Route 27,” the road in front of the heliport area. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] However, while personnel like Boger, Kidd, and the supervisor of air traffic control are considering the possibility of a plane hitting the Pentagon at this time, no steps are taken to alert workers at the Pentagon before it is struck (see Before 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001), and an order to evacuate the building will only go out over the Pentagon’s public address system shortly after the attack there. [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 137-138; Vogel, 2007, pp. 429]
Pentagon Hit Close to Tower - Boger and Kidd will both suffer minor injuries when the Pentagon is hit less than 100 feet from where they are, and the heliport tower will be badly damaged by the explosion. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] Kidd will be on the tower’s ground floor, on her way outside to her car, when the crash occurs. [Pentagram, 11/16/2001; Fort Belvoir News, 1/18/2002] Boger will still be up in the tower, and, he will say, sees Flight 77 flying low and fast toward—and then into—the Pentagon. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 27]
Davison Army Airfield. [Source: Airnav.com]Shortly after the Pentagon crash, an air traffic control supervisor at Davison Army Airfield sees two unidentified aircraft near the Pentagon on the radar of his facility, which is located at Fort Belvoir, about 12 miles south of the Pentagon. The supervisor, who is working in the airfield’s control tower, looks out the window toward where the Pentagon is and sees a large black cloud of smoke. He is told by a colleague that news reports are saying a small airplane has hit the Pentagon. He then looks at the facility’s radar scope, which shows two aircraft circling above the Pentagon. The transponder of one of these is transmitting the emergency code. The supervisor will recall: “I look at where the Pentagon area is [on the radar scope], and I look, and there was an aircraft squawking 7700, meaning emergency. And it was circling—it was coming down and fast.… [A]nd there was another target with no markings or anything—it was just a target,” with none of the accompanying information that would be emitted by a transponder. This second aircraft is “descending rapidly and very fast.” The supervisor will recall that the two aircraft “circled around and both tags they disappeared. But they stay in the air.” He will provide no further information on the identities of the aircraft or why one of them is transmitting the emergency code. [US Army Center for Military History, 11/14/2001 ] There will be eyewitness accounts of aircraft near the Pentagon around this time (see (9:35 a.m.-9:36 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001, and (9:41 a.m.-9:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
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