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Profile: Steve Hedrick
Steve Hedrick was a participant or observer in the following events:
Tape recorders that normally record all of the air traffic monitoring stations on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) fail to record the positions of the two NEADS employees who are responsible for controlling the fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/28/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459; Shenon, 2008, pp. 203-204]
No Recordings of Two Radio Channels - The 9/11 Commission Report will state that “there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis [Air National Guard Base] scramble.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] According to an e-mail sent during the Commission’s investigation by Miles Kara, one of the Commission’s staff members, the two NEADS employees whose positions are not recorded are Steve Hedrick and Brad Gardner. Kara will write: “Since we have zero evidence of the voices of Hedrick and Gardner [on the recordings of the NEADS operations floor], the NORAD position that their channels were never recorded may be accurate.… We never hear them.” [9/11 Commission, 5/25/2004] The 9/11 Commission will state, however, that it “found a single communication from the weapons director or his technician on the guard frequency at approximately 9:11, cautioning the Otis fighters, ‘remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA requests assistance’” (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Positions Not Recorded Due to 'Technical Issue' - The 9/11 Commission will say there are no recordings of the two positions because of “a technical issue,” although it will give no details of what that issue might be. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] There are four Dictaphone multi-channel reel-to-reel tape recorders in a corner of the NEADS operations floor, which should be recording every radio channel. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] These tape recorders are run by General Dynamics. Richard Crane is the technical representative of General Dynamics at NEADS who is responsible for the recordings on this day. [9/11 Commission, 10/28/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 10/28/2003 ]
Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to request information on his target, but apparently neither Duffy nor the person he speaks with at NEADS mention that Flight 11 has already hit the World Trade Center during the call, even though both men should already be aware of the crash. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Filson, 10/22/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 60; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] Duffy and another pilot, Major Daniel Nash, took off from Otis Air National Guard Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but they were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Duffy has just spoken to an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and ended the call saying he would talk to NEADS “right now.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] Duffy will later recall that he contacts NEADS at about 8:56 a.m. or 8:57 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ]
Duffy Told His Target Is over JFK Airport - Duffy presumably talks with Steve Hedrick at NEADS, since Hedrick is responsible for controlling the two Otis fighters. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ] As soon as he has checked in with NEADS, Duffy will recall, “I authenticate to make sure I’ve got the right person.” He then asks for “bogey dope,” meaning information on his target—Flight 11—“to try to find out where the contact is.” [Filson, 10/22/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 60] Duffy is told, incorrectly, that his target is over New York’s JFK International Airport. Duffy replies, “Okay, I know where that is,” and then, he will recall, “we started heading right down to Long Island.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002]
WTC Crash Apparently Not Discussed - However, it appears that neither Duffy nor the person he speaks with at NEADS mention the plane crash at the WTC during their conversation. Duffy will say that when he is subsequently informed that a second plane has hit the WTC (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001), he is unaware that Flight 11 has already hit the WTC. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ] And yet Duffy and personnel at NEADS have already been informed of that first crash.
Pilot and NEADS Previously Notified of Crash - Duffy has just been told of the crash during his conversation with the Boston Center controller (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] NEADS personnel learned of it at 8:51 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), although there is now some confusion on the NEADS operations floor over whether the plane that crashed was indeed Flight 11 (see 8:55 a.m.-8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It will later be impossible to ascertain exactly what is said in the current conversation between Duffy and NEADS. Although tape recorders should be recording every radio channel at NEADS, because of a “technical issue,” the positions of Hedrick and his weapons director technician, Bradley Gardner, are supposedly not recorded (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/25/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Duffy Searches for Flight 11 on Radar Scope - Duffy will recall that following the call with NEADS, he is looking at his radar scope “to try and find a radar contact over the Kennedy sector with the hijacked aircraft.” Duffy will again contact NEADS to request “bogey dope” a few minutes later, and during that call is informed of the second plane hitting the WTC. [Filson, 2003, pp. 60; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 ]
The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) have been directed to “Whiskey 105,” a military airspace training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island. According to the 9/11 Commission, “To avoid New York area air traffic and uncertain about what to do, the fighters were brought down to military airspace to ‘hold as needed.’ From 9:09 to 9:13, the Otis fighters stayed in this holding pattern.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 85] Otis pilot Major Daniel Nash will later comment, “Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
'Pushback' from FAA Controllers - By 9:08 a.m., Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, had learned of the second World Trade Center crash and wanted to send the Otis fighters to New York City. However, according to Vanity Fair, the NEADS “weapons techs get ‘pushback’ from civilian FAA controllers, who have final authority over the fighters as long as they are in civilian airspace. The FAA controllers are afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with a passenger plane, of which there are hundreds in the area, still flying normal routes.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Author Lynn Spencer will add: “[L]ocal FAA controllers are busy shutting down New York’s airspace and are less than eager to grant the fighters access to the civilian airspace. They’re afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with the hundreds of airliners that are still in the area. Many of those flights are doing unpredictable things just now, such as canceling their flight plans and changing course, and controllers are not convinced that they can provide adequate separation if fast-moving fighters are added to the mix. They just need a few more minutes, they keep saying.”
New York Center Not Answering Phone - Nasypany tries contacting the military liaison at the FAA’s New York Center, but no one is answering the phone. According to Spencer, “He wants the Otis fighters over New York, not in military airspace 100 miles off the coast, but he has little choice. Without permission from the FAA to penetrate the civil airspace over New York, NEADS must advise the Otis F-15 pilots… to continue to remain clear of the city.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 111-112]
Director Wants Jets 'Closer In' - At 9:10 a.m., the senior director on the NEADS operations floor tells the weapons director, “I want those fighters closer in.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick asks Major James Fox, the weapons team leader, “Can we give [the fighters] a mission?” Fox replies, “Right now their mission is to hold.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 111] Then, at around 9:11 a.m., either the senior weapons director at NEADS or his technician instructs the Otis fighters to “remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA requests assistance.”
Fighters Exit Holding Pattern for New York - Just before 9:13 a.m., the Otis pilots tell their controller at the FAA’s Boston Center that they need to establish a combat air patrol over New York. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar data show that at 9:13, when the Otis fighters were about 115 miles away from the city, the fighters exited their holding pattern and set a course direct for Manhattan” (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24]
Because the two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 expended a large amount of fuel as they flew toward the New York area (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), there are now concerns about getting them refueled. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] The fighters are currently flying a “holding pattern” in “Whiskey 105,” which is military training airspace just south of Long Island, over the Atlantic Ocean (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the lead Otis pilot, reports to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) that the two fighters have only 30 minutes of fuel remaining. At NEADS, Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, orders, “Find me a tanker!” Weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick quickly calls McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey to see if it has any of its KC-10 tankers airborne, but none are. Nasypany gets on the phone to Colonel Robert Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, and requests launching the two F-16s kept on alert at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, so as to provide backup for the Otis fighters. Marr then discusses this over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold who is at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, but neither thinks it is a good idea. According to author Lynn Spencer: “If the battle expands, they don’t want to have all their assets in one place. Nor can they have them running out of fuel at the same time.” Marr and Arnold agree that they will try to find fuel for the Otis fighters. The Langley jets are ordered to “battle stations only” (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001) so they will be ready to launch if a refueling tanker cannot be found. Marr tells Nasypany that he will need to find fuel for the Otis fighters. NEADS technicians then begin searching for a tanker. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460; Spencer, 2008, pp. 112-113] A member of staff at NEADS talked over the radio with a KC-135 tanker plane from Bangor, Maine, at around 9:05 a.m., and the plane’s crew agreed to provide support to the Otis fighters (see 9:04 a.m.-9:06 a.m. September 11, 2001). [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] But, according to Spencer’s account, NEADS is apparently unable to find a tanker to refuel the fighters until around 9:35 a.m., when one of the Otis pilots remembers that the KC-135 from Bangor should be available and in his area, and informs the other Otis pilot, who calls NEADS about this (see (Shortly After 9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 152-153]
The two F-15s launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 finally exit their “holding pattern” off the Long Island coast, and fly directly toward New York. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26] According to the 9/11 Commission, the two fighters had been sent to the military-controlled airspace over the Atlantic Ocean because they lacked a target, and so have been flying in this area for the last few minutes (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). They are currently about 115 miles from the city. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20 and 24] Visibility is extremely clear and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, one of the two Otis pilots, will later recall that he can see the World Trade Center towers burning in the distance. He has just called NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and asked: “What do you want me to do next? What do you need from me right this second?” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 63]
NEADS Takes Control of Airspace - At NEADS, battle commander Colonel Robert Marr had lost patience waiting for approval from the FAA to send the Otis jets to New York, and so has just declared “AFIO” (Authorization for Interceptor Operations) for New York airspace, which gives the military authority to enter that airspace without permission (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 113] Therefore, a couple of minutes after Duffy made his inquiry, NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick gets back to him to relay the AFIO directive. Hedrick instructs Duffy: “Proceed direct to Manhattan and set up combat air patrol. NORAD has taken over control of the airspace.” Duffy confirms, “Okay, got that.”
Fighters Request Lower Altitude Clearance - Duffy, who is currently flying at 20,000 feet, immediately requests clearance from the FAA to fly at lower altitude. He calls its New York Center and identifies himself with his military call sign, saying, “Panta 4-5 needs to go direct to New York City and I need lower [altitude]… right now.” The controller gives him a heading and clears him to descend to 18,000 feet. After the two Otis jets exit military airspace at 9:13, they descend to 18,000 feet and Duffy asks the New York Center controller again for lower altitude clearance. He is given permission to descend to 16,000 feet, and upon further requests is allowed to go down to 11,000 feet. Finally, Duffy insists, “Guys, I need all the way to the surface!” and the controller replies: “Roger. Panta 4-5 is clear all altitudes.” “They just gave us the airspace,” Duffy will later recall. [Filson, 2003, pp. 63; Spencer, 2008, pp. 113-114]
Conflicting Times - According to the 9/11 Commission, the two Otis fighters will arrive over Manhattan at 9:25 (see 9:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but numerous witnesses on the ground there will later recall only noticing fighters overhead after 10:00 a.m. (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24]
The North Portal entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain Complex in Colorado. [Source: NORAD]The message goes out within NORAD that the military’s defense readiness condition has been raised to Defcon 3. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004] Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld directed that the defense readiness condition be raised from Defcon 5—the lowest level—to Defcon 3 at around 10:45 a.m. (see (10:43 a.m.-10:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 326, 554; Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 131] At 10:52 a.m., an emergency action message about the increased defense readiness condition was issued. [US Department of Defense, 9/11/2001 ; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
NORAD Personnel Learn of Defcon Change - Word of the change is then communicated within NORAD. At 11:03 a.m., NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is ordered to Defcon 3. Four minutes later, at 11:07 a.m., Lieutenant Colonel Steve Usher, the director of combat operations at the headquarters of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in Florida, announces that Defcon 3 has been ordered. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2003] And a military log will state that “NORAD has directed Defcon change” at 11:12 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 2004] Staff Sergeant Brent Lanier, an emergency action controller in NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) in Colorado, is tasked with sending out a message about the change to the defense readiness condition. He will later recall: “I’d sent out false Defcon messages during exercises, but I never thought I’d have to send out an actual Defcon change message—but I did. It was frightening.” [Airman, 3/2002]
NORAD Officers Discuss Defcon Change - Major General Larry Arnold, the CONR commander, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he hears of the change to the defense readiness condition either from Major General Rick Findley, the director of operations at the CMOC, or from one of NORAD’s computer chat logs. [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 ] Usher will tell the 9/11 Commission that the instruction to raise the defense readiness condition comes either from the CONR Regional Air Operations Center or from Arnold. He will add that there is an emergency action message confirming the transition. [9/11 Commission, 2/4/2004 ] Arnold will recall that, at some unspecified time, he calls General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, about the change to the defense readiness condition, with the intention of informing Eberhart “of what was ongoing.” [9/11 Commission, 2/3/2004 ]
Change in Defcon Affects Who Can Declare a Target Hostile - Steve Hedrick, an air weapons officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that “any change in Defcon is authenticated immediately” with the fighter jets under NORAD control. He will also say that “the main change when a Defcon level changes is in who has the authority to declare a target hostile.” Hedrick will note that the order from Vice President Dick Cheney, that NORAD fighters were “cleared… to intercept tracks of interest and shoot them down if they do not respond” (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001), is “distinct and different from the transition in Defcon levels.” [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 42]
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