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Profile: Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC)
Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia (MPDC) was a participant or observer in the following events:
A US Park Police helicopter that is responding to the attack on the Pentagon and flying above the building transmits a live video feed of the crash scene to the FBI and other agencies, providing them with instant information about the extent of the damage and destruction at the Pentagon. [US Congress. House, 9/11/2002; National Park Service, 9/21/2002] The helicopter, which has the call sign “Eagle I,” is one of two helicopters belonging to the Park Police Aviation Unit that arrived at the Pentagon minutes after the attack there (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001] It has microwave “downlink” capability, which enables its crew to fly over a particular location and transmit instantaneous video images to the Park Police chief’s command post and other locations.
FBI Requests Video of Crash Scene - Shortly after Eagle I arrives over the Pentagon, the crew receives a request from the FBI to send it information using the downlink on their helicopter’s video camera. [McDonnell, 2004, pp. 22 ] According to Sergeant Ronald Galey, the pilot of Eagle I, the FBI arrives on the scene “within 10 minutes or 15 minutes” of his helicopter reaching the Pentagon. Galey will later recall: “We heard from them immediately: ‘Start your downlink, we want to capture everything that we can.’” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] The downlink capability then enables the crew of Eagle I “to transmit real-time images and information to people who needed them to make decisions,” according to the National Park Service’s account of 9/11. As well as the FBI, the images are sent to the Secret Service, the Washington, DC, Metropolitan Police, and Park Police headquarters. Eagle I spends “the next four or five hours flying overhead and transmitting video images to the FBI.” [National Park Service, 9/21/2002; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 23 ]
Fire Department Chief Goes Up in Helicopter - The Park Police’s two Bell 412 helicopters are packed with sophisticated equipment. As well as the microwave downlink, they have an infrared heat detection system known as FLIR (forward looking infrared). When the Arlington County Fire Department later has difficulty getting its equipment to the proper locations to fight the fires in the Pentagon, its chief will be taken up in Eagle I and flown low over the building. The infrared imagery will help him locate the fires under the roof so he can better position his firefighting crews and equipment. [National Park Service, 1/17/2002; Rotor and Wing, 2/2002; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 23-24 ]
A US Park Police helicopter flying above the burning Pentagon. [Source: Mark D. Faram / US Navy]A US Park Police helicopter that recently arrived over the Pentagon is contacted by an air traffic controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport and given responsibility for controlling the airspace over Washington, DC, since the control tower at Reagan Airport is being evacuated. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-48 ; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 ] The Park Police Aviation Unit’s two helicopters arrived at the Pentagon within minutes of the attack there (see Shortly After 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Rotor and Wing, 11/2001] While one of the helicopters landed to conduct medical evacuations, the other, which has the call sign “Eagle I,” circled overhead. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 20-21 ]
Airport Tower Being Evacuated - Eagle I has made three or four orbits around the Pentagon when a controller in the Reagan Airport tower radios its pilot, Sergeant Ronald Galey. The controller says the tower is currently evacuating. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; National Park Service, 1/17/2002] According to some accounts, the tower is being evacuated due to reports of more hijacked aircraft heading in its direction (see (9:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [NBC 4, 9/11/2003; Spencer, 2008, pp. 215-216] But according to other accounts, the controller tells Galey the tower is evacuating because it is being affected by smoke that is drifting across from the burning Pentagon. [US Department of Health and Human Services, 7/2002, pp. A-48 ; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 ; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 162] Galey will recall the controller saying: “Eagle I, we can’t see anything outside the tower. [The smoke is] getting in our ventilation system. We’re abandoning the tower.” Therefore, the controller gives Galey control of the airspace for the entire Washington area, telling him, “You’ve got the airspace.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 ]
Pilot Alarmed at Being Given Control of Airspace - The control tower at Reagan Airport is “normally the ‘nerve center’ for directing any response to this type of incident,” according to a National Park Service news article. [National Park Service, 9/21/2002] Galey is initially alarmed. He will recall thinking, “Exactly what I need right now is I’ve got control of the airspace.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] However, he is unaware that the FAA has ordered that all airborne aircraft must land at the nearest airport (see (9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which will make his task easier. [US Congress. House. Committee On Transportation And Infrastructure, 9/21/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 29]
NORAD Advises Pilot on Controlling Airspace - The controller gives Galey the radio frequency for NORAD, and tells him to contact NORAD. [National Park Service, 1/17/2002; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 21-22 ] The person Galey then talks to at NORAD informs him: “Look, you have no [air] traffic in DC, except for the traffic that you’re calling. The aircraft that you’re calling in, we’re going to allow to come in. Other than that, there should be no one besides the military, and we’ll call you out the military traffic.” Galey will later reflect: “So that helped tremendously. That function alone was not very taxing.” [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001] The person at NORAD also tells Galey there is “an unauthorized aircraft inbound from the Pennsylvania area, with the estimated time of arrival approximately 20 minutes into DC.” Galey will recall that he and the rest of his crew discuss what they should do, and decide that “we’d take our chances and stay there [at the Pentagon], and do what we came there to do.” [National Park Service, 1/17/2002]
Airspace Control Passed on to Metropolitan Police Helicopter - Eagle I becomes “the air traffic control function for the area, flying a slow racetrack pattern over the site and clearing aircraft in and out,” according to Lieutenant Philip Cholak, the Park Police Aviation Unit commander. [Aviation International News, 10/1/2001] But after a time Galey asks his paramedic to request that a Metropolitan Police helicopter be launched to take over the command and control of the Washington airspace. He tells the paramedic: “You know we’re going to have to do a medevac mission here. We’re going to have to relinquish the command/control function to somebody else.” A Metropolitan Police helicopter subsequently arrives and relieves Eagle I of its command and control function. [US Naval Historical Center, 11/20/2001; McDonnell, 2004, pp. 22 ]
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