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Profile: La Guardia Airport
La Guardia Airport was a participant or observer in the following events:
A training exercise is held at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon. Mark Edelman, chief external relations officer of the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, will later say the Greater New York chapter has been preparing for the possibility of a biological terrorist attack since the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). And today—“the very Saturday before September 11”—there is “a bioterror drill at La Guardia Airport,” he will add. Details of what the exercise involves are unstated. Whether any agencies other than the Red Cross participate in the exercise is also unstated. [Philanthropy News Digest, 12/7/2001] La Guardia Airport is located eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York, and is operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. [Bloomberg, 7/27/2015; Reuters, 7/27/2015] Another exercise is being held there today by the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services, which is based around a simulated plane crash (see September 8, 2001). [Academic Emergency Medicine, 3/2002]
Steve Kanarian. [Source: Steve Kanarian]The New York City Fire Department (FDNY) Bureau of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) holds a training exercise at New York’s La Guardia Airport, based around the scenario of a jet aircraft carrying about 150 passengers crashing at the end of the runway. [Academic Emergency Medicine, 3/2002; Kanarian, 2011, pp. 23] The exercise, called Operation Low Key, is an annual drill, which assesses the emergency preparedness response to aviation accidents at La Guardia Airport. [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 18]
Exercise Is Intended as Preparation for a Mass Casualty Incident - Before the exercise begins, its participants gather in a briefing room at the airport where Robert McCracken, chief of EMS operations, tells them the exercise is “an important drill for preparation for an aviation accident or a MCI [mass casualty incident].” The exercise commences when an announcement is made, informing participants that a “10-40”—a confirmed plane crash—has been reported at the airport. Participants in their emergency vehicles are then escorted across the runway by members of the Port Authority Police Department (PAPD). [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 21-23] (La Guardia Airport is run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. [Reuters, 7/27/2015] )
Exercise Is Regarded as 'a Job Well Done' - The participants arrive at the scene of the simulated crash where there is a plane, and mock casualties are strewn around the runway. To the left, a fire is burning, simulating a burning aircraft. The firefighters and EMS personnel then carry out their response to the mock disaster as if they were responding to a real incident. At the end of the exercise, they gather in the PAPD building at the airport and discuss the day’s events. They are “complimented on a job well done,” according to Steve Kanarian, an FDNY paramedic who participates in the exercise. [Kanarian, 2011, pp. 23-25] La Guardia Airport is eight miles from midtown Manhattan in the borough of Queens, New York. [Bloomberg, 7/27/2015; Reuters, 7/27/2015] Another exercise is being held there today by the Red Cross, which is based around the scenario of a terrorist attack with a biological weapon (see September 8, 2001). [Philanthropy News Digest, 12/7/2001] Three days later, on September 11, FDNY EMS personnel will receive a real report of a “10-40” and subsequently respond to the crashes at the World Trade Center. [Fire Engineering, 9/2002; JEMS, 9/7/2011]
Boston flight control reportedly “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” [Guardian, 10/17/2001] This is immediately after Boston controllers heard a transmission from Flight 11, declaring, “We have some planes” (see 8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), and would be consistent with a claim later made to the 9/11 Commission by Mike Canavan, the FAA’s associate administrator for civil aviation security. He says, “[M]y experience as soon as you know you had a hijacked aircraft, you notify everyone.… [W]hen you finally find out, yes, we do have a problem, then… the standard notification is it kind of gets broadcast out to all the regions.” [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] An early FAA report will say only that Boston controllers begin “inter-facility coordination” with New York air traffic control at this time [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 ] , but the New York Times reports that controllers at Washington Center also know “about the hijacking of the first plane to crash, even before it hit the World Trade Center.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001] However, the Indianapolis flight controller monitoring Flight 77 claims to not know about this or Flight 175’s hijacking twenty minutes later at 8:56 a.m. (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). Additionally, the flight controllers at New York City’s La Guardia airport are never told about the hijacked planes and learn about them from watching the news. [Bergen Record, 1/4/2004] Boston Center also begins notifying the FAA chain of command of the suspected Flight 11 hijacking at this time (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but it does not notify NORAD for another 6-15 minutes, depending on the account (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Bob Varcadipane. [Source: NBC News]At the air traffic control tower at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, controllers see the smoke coming from the World Trade Center in the distance and start calling other FAA facilities in the area about this. Controller Rick Tepper looks out the window of the tower across the Hudson River at New York City, and sees the huge cloud of smoke coming from the North Tower, which Flight 11 has crashed into it. He points this out to fellow controller Greg Callahan. In his office at the tower, Bob Varcadipane, the supervisor there, starts receiving a flood of phone calls reporting that a small aircraft has hit the WTC. According to author Lynn Spencer, “The assumption is that only a small plane could have gone so badly off course.” The Newark tower controllers start calling the towers at JFK, La Guardia, and Teterboro Airports, along with other air traffic control facilities in the area, to see if any of them has lost an aircraft. But none say they have; they have not yet been informed of the crash and are shocked at what they see when told to look out their windows at the burning WTC. Varcadipane calls the FAA’s New York Center to find out if they know whose plane hit the Twin Towers. He is told: “No, but Boston Center lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.” Varcadipane wonders if this 767 is the plane that hit the WTC, and says back: “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” According to NBC: “a horrific realization dawns on controllers. American Flight 11, still missing from radar, finally has been found.” Word of the plane’s fate subsequently “quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 41-42] However, the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which handles Flight 77, will reportedly not learn of the first hijackings until around 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]
An unidentified woman in the La Guardia control tower speaks to a Port Authority police officer. La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports. The Port Authority patrols both the WTC and the city’s airports. The woman asks the officer what has happened at the WTC, and the officer replies that he has learned from the news that a plane crashed into it. [New York Times, 12/30/2003] Around the same time, one flight controller in the tower says to another, “But you don’t know anything.” The other responds, “We don’t know. We’re looking at it on Channel 5 right now.”
[Bergen Record, 1/4/2004]
“Nothing on the [later released transcripts] shows that the La Guardia controllers knew that the planes flying into their airspace had been seized by terrorists, or that military aircraft were screaming in pursuit over the Hudson River.” Port Authority officials appear to be equally oblivious. [New York Times, 12/30/2003]
According to released transcripts, a caller from the Port Authority police desk tells a La Guardia Airport control tower employee that, “they are considering [the crashes into the WTC] a criminal act.” The control tower employee replies, “We believe that, and we are holding all aircraft on the ground.”
[Associated Press, 12/29/2003] La Guardia is one of two major New York City airports, and the Port Authority patrol both the WTC and the city’s airports.
A Port Authority police officer calls a flight controller at La Guardia Airport in New York City. The officer asks, “They are inquiring whether or not you can call Kennedy’s tower, because they can’t get through, and inquire whether or not they had any contact with these aircrafts.” The flight controller responds, “At this time, we do not think that anyone in the FAA had any contact with them.” [New York Times, 12/30/2003] “Kennedy” is a reference to John F. Kennedy Airport, another major airport in New York City. Port Authority police, who patrol both the WTC and the airports, seek information from the controllers about the hijackers. However, the controllers are unable to offer any news. [New York Times, 12/30/2003]
Barry Mawn. [Source: Associated Press]On September 13, New York authorities take into custody ten people of Middle Eastern descent at JFK International and La Guardia Airports, reportedly fearing they intend to hijack aircraft and commit another suicidal terrorist attack on a US target. This leads to all three major New York-area airports—JFK, La Guardia, and Newark—being abruptly shut down, just hours after they reopened for the first time since the 9/11 attacks took place. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/14/2001]
Armed and Carrying False ID - According to the Washington Post, the detained individuals are carrying knives and false identification. [Washington Post, 9/14/2001] Four of them are reportedly arrested as they try to board a flight from JFK Airport to Los Angeles, and a woman is held on suspicion of assisting these four. Some of the four are reported as having pilots’ certificates from Flight Safety International in Vero Beach, Florida, where some of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are currently believed to have taken flying lessons. Later on, the other five men are arrested at La Guardia Airport “under similar circumstances.” [Dallas Morning News, 9/14/2001] According to the New York Times, “Law enforcement officials said one of those held was carrying a false pilot’s identification.” Furthermore, several of the detained men “showed up at the airport with tickets for flights canceled on Tuesday [September 11] and tried to use them.” Investigators say they believe one of the men had been among a group of passengers that behaved suspiciously and became aggressive after their aircraft—United Airlines Flight 23—had its takeoff canceled on the morning of 9/11 (see (After 9:19 a.m.) September 11, 2001). New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik says one of the men arrested at JFK Airport “attempted to clear security and he was stopped.” [New York Times, 9/14/2001]
Men Released, No Connections Found to 9/11 Attacks - However, the following morning the FBI announces that none of the detainees had any connection to the 9/11 attacks, and all but one of them have been released. Barry Mawn, the head of the New York FBI office, says: “The reporting that has been going on all night, I can definitively tell you, is inaccurate.… [W]e did talk to approximately a dozen individuals. We have only one individual left who is still being questioned by the task force. All other ten have been released.” [CNN, 9/14/2001; PBS, 9/14/2001] Justice Department spokeswoman Mindy Tucker says that no knives, box cutters, guns, or other weapons were found on the individuals. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001] After talking to the directors of the FBI and CIA, Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) tells CNN that the detained men had “no connection whatsoever to what happened at the World Trade towers or the Pentagon, or this organizational network.” He explains: “One guy, an actual pilot, got on the plane, coincidentally had his brother’s identification as well. His brother happened to live in the apartment complex that was one in Boston where some of [the alleged hijackers] had actually been.” Biden adds: “Ten other people were going to a Boeing conference. They had stickers on their bags.… The folks at the airport thought, hey, wait a minute, are they impersonating crew? And they weren’t.” Biden says the one man who has not yet been released “was a screwball who was acting out, you know, acting out and saying and demanding.… Making problems, and they arrested him.” By 11:20 a.m. on September 14, the three New York-area airports are reopened. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; CNN, 9/14/2001]
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