!! History Commons Alert, Exciting News
Profile: John Hendershot
John Hendershot was a participant or observer in the following events:
A supervisor at Washington Dulles International Airport contacts the Secret Service at the White House and informs it that an unidentified aircraft is heading toward Washington at a high rate of speed. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 ] Air traffic controllers at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Dulles Airport have recently noticed this aircraft on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). Its identity and type are currently unknown, but it is later determined to be Flight 77. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9, 25]
Supervisor Calls White House over Hotline - The Dulles TRACON has a direct phone line to the Secret Service at the White House. After a controller alerts him to the suspicious aircraft, John Hendershot, the operations supervisor, calls the Secret Service over this line. [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 12/22/2003 ] He says, “We have an unidentified, very fast-moving aircraft inbound toward your vicinity, eight miles west.” [ABC News, 10/24/2001]
Supervisor Uncertain about Response - Hendershot is unsure what response his call elicits. He will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I guess the operator picked it up,” and say that he assumed the information he provided was relayed to the relevant people at the White House. He will also tell the Commission that, following his call, “no one from Dulles tower was talking to the White House during the minute-minute countdown concerning the unknown primary approaching from the west.” [9/11 Commission, 12/22/2003 ] A supervisor at Washington’s Reagan National Airport also contacts the Secret Service around this time, to notify it of the approaching aircraft (see (9:33 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] But, while the White House is alerted, personnel at Dulles Airport will tell the 9/11 Commission that there is no discussion about notifying the US Capitol of the unidentified aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 ]
Before crashing into the Pentagon, Flight 77 performs a rapid downward spiral, flying almost a complete circle and descending 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes. [CBS News, 9/21/2001]
330-Degree Turn - At 9:34 a.m., Flight 77 is about 3.5 miles west-southwest of the Pentagon. But, at an altitude of around 7,000 feet, it is flying too high to hit its target. [CBS News, 9/21/2001; New York Times, 10/16/2001; National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ] Based on an analysis of radar data and information from the plane’s flight data recorder, a 2002 National Transportation Safety Board report will describe the maneuver the aircraft then performs: “[Flight 77] started a right 330-degree descending turn to the right. At the end of the turn, the aircraft was at about 2,000 feet altitude and four miles southwest of the Pentagon. Over the next 30 seconds, power was increased to near maximum and the nose was pitched down in response to control column movements.” The aircraft accelerates to about 530 miles per hour as it closes in on the Pentagon. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 ]
Controllers Watch on Radar - Air Traffic Controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport follow Flight 77 on their radar screens as it performs this maneuver. Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “John, our supervisor, relayed verbatim, ‘OK, he’s 12 miles west, he’s moving very fast eastbound.… Eleven miles west.’ And it was just a countdown. Ten miles west, nine miles west.… And it went six, five, four, and I had it in my mouth to say three, and all of a sudden the plane turned away. In the room it was almost a sense of relief.” [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001] Todd Lewis will recall that the aircraft “was heading right towards a prohibited area in downtown Washington.… Then it turned south and away from the prohibited area, which seemed like a momentary sigh of relief, and it disappeared. But it was going away from Washington, which seemed to be the right thing.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002] However, O’Brien will continue: “[T]he plane turned back. He continued in the right-hand turn, made a 360-degree maneuver.… We lost radar contact with that aircraft. And we waited. And we waited.” [ABC, 10/24/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001]
Maneuver Indicates Advanced Flying Skills - According to CBS News, “The steep turn” made by Flight 77 “was so smooth… sources say, it’s clear there was no fight for control going on.” The “complex maneuver suggests the hijackers had better flying skills than many investigators first believed.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001] Aviation experts will conclude that this maneuver was the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Due to the aircraft’s high speed and the way it is being flown, Dulles Airport controllers mistake it for a military fighter jet (see (9:25 a.m.-9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/12/2001; ABC News, 10/24/2001; MSNBC, 9/11/2002] Yet the hijacker allegedly at the controls, Hani Hanjour, was considered to be a very poor pilot at numerous flight schools he attended (see October 1996-December 1997, 1998, January-February 2001, February 8-March 12, 2001, (April-July 2001), and Mid-August 2001). [Washington Post, 9/10/2002]
Receive weekly email updates summarizing what contributors have added to the History Commons database
Developing and maintaining this site is very labor intensive. If you find it useful, please give us a hand and donate what you can.
If you would like to help us with this effort, please contact us. We need help with programming (Java, JDO, mysql, and xml), design, networking, and publicity. If you want to contribute information to this site, click the register link at the top of the page, and start contributing.