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The NORAD emblem.The NORAD emblem. [Source: NORAD]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending US airspace, gradually reduces the number of aircraft it has on “alert”—armed and ready for immediate takeoff—in response to the changing nature of the threats it has to defend against, so that there will be just 14 fighter jets on alert across the continental United States when the 9/11 attacks take place. (Jones 2011, pp. 7-8)
NORAD Has 1,200 Interceptor Aircraft in 1960 - NORAD is a bi-national organization, established by the US and Canada in 1958 to counter the threat posed by the Soviet Union. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16) It is initially responsible for intercepting any Soviet long-range bombers that might attack the Northern Hemisphere. By 1960, it has about 1,200 interceptor aircraft dedicated to this task. But during the 1960s, the Soviets become less reliant on manned bombers, and shift instead to ballistic missiles. In response to this changed threat and also budget constraints, the number of NORAD interceptor aircraft goes down to about 300 by the mid-1970s.
NORAD's Mission Changes after Cold War Ends - With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact in 1991, the threats NORAD has to counter change significantly. During the early 1990s, NORAD’s mission consequently changes from one of air defense to one of maintaining “air sovereignty,” which NORAD defines as “providing surveillance and control of the territorial airspace.” The new mission includes intercepting suspicious aircraft, tracking hijacked aircraft, assisting aircraft in distress, and counterdrug operations. (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 14-15; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file; Jones 2011, pp. 7) As this change takes place, the number of aircraft defending American airspace is reduced. In 1987, there are 52 fighters on alert in the continental United States. (Filson 1999, pp. 112-113) But by December 1999, there are just 14 alert fighters remaining around the continental US. (McKenna 12/1999)
Number of Alert Sites Goes Down Prior to 9/11 - The number of NORAD “alert sites”—bases where the alert aircraft are located—is also reduced in the decades prior to 9/11. During the Cold War, there are 26 of these sites. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16) By 1991, there are 19 of them, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of NORAD’s Continental US Region from 1997 to 2002. (Filson 2003, pp. v) By 1994, according to a report by the General Accounting Office, there are 14 alert sites around the US. (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 1) And by 1996, only 10 alert sites remain. (Utecht 4/7/1996, pp. 9-10)
Military Officials Call for Eliminating Alert Sites - In the 1990s, some officials at the Pentagon argue for the alert sites to be eliminated entirely. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16-17) The Department of Defense’s 1997 Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review indicates that the number of alert sites around the continental US could be reduced to just four, but the idea is successfully blocked by NORAD (see May 19, 1997). (Filson 2003, pp. iv-v, 34-36; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) However, three alert sites are subsequently removed from the air sovereignty mission. These are in Atlantic City, New Jersey; Burlington, Vermont; and Great Falls, Montana. (Arnold 4/1998)
Seven Alert Sites Remain - By December 1999, therefore, there are just seven alert sites around the continental US, each with two fighters on alert. These sites are Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida; Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida; Portland Air National Guard Base, Oregon; March Air Reserve Base, California; Ellington Air National Guard Base, Texas; Otis Air National Guard Base, Massachusetts; and Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Only two of these sites—Otis ANGB and Langley AFB—serve the northeastern United States, where the hijackings on September 11 will take place. (McKenna 12/1999; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)

In the fall of 1960, 1961, and 1962, the United States conducts three large-scale air defense exercises called Sky Shield that require a complete ban on commercial and private aviation for about 12 hours. During a period of extreme tensions with the Soviet Union and widespread fear of a nuclear attack by bombers or intercontinental missiles, the Sky Shield exercises test the reliability of North America’s elaborate network of radar stations in Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland, as well as along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Each exercise involves an attack by a fleet of “Soviet” bombers (actually US, Canadian, and British planes) from the North Pole or from the coasts, followed by the mobilization of hundreds of fighter jets trying to intercept and shoot down the intruders. Sky Shield will be recalled after 9/11 in part because it will be the first time in 40 years that the skies are completely cleared. The third Sky Shield, in 1962, involves the systematic grounding of hundreds of civilian jets as rapidly as possible to test the FAA’s ability to clear the skies in case of attack. This procedure, called SCATANA, will be implemented again on 9/11 on NORAD’s order (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Time 10/20/1961; Mola 3/1/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 2-3; Mola 11/1/2006)

The illustration for the DVD of the 1964 film.The illustration for the DVD of the 1964 film. [Source: Sony Pictures]Fail-Safe, a military thriller by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler about over-confidence in the reliability of military technology, is published at the height of the Cold War. The book’s plot hinges on a computer error sending American nuclear bombers to destroy Moscow, and the efforts of the US president and his advisers to call them back before they can complete their mission. The book notes that US military strategists believe that civilian planes as well as military planes are matters of concern, as a civilian pilot could try “hara-kiri over New-York or Montreal.” The idea of using a civilian plane to destroy a target is obviously of real concern to military planners.
Neoconservative Prototype - One distinctive character in the book is Walter Groteschele, a famous “nuclear philosopher” and anti-communist hawk who has argued that nuclear weapons are not just for deterrence but for actual use. The pre-emptive use of nuclear bombs would kills millions, he acknowledges, but the US would still win the war. Groteschele is Jewish and his hard-line views are in reaction to Jewish helplessness during the Holocaust. Jewish neoconservatives have often linked their views with the Holocaust (see Early 1970s). In the novel, Groteschele argues that the president should not attempt to call back the bombers, but should instead let them finish off the Soviets. (Burdick and Wheeler 1962)
Film Versions - In 1964, the novel will be made into a film; (Sidney Lumet 1964) in 2000, the novel will be adapted for television. (Stephen Frears 2000)

Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard.Captain Tom Herring, an F-15 pilot with the Florida Air National Guard. [Source: Airman]Fighter jets are regularly scrambled by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) in response to suspicious or unidentified aircraft flying in US airspace in the years preceding 9/11. (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 4; Associated Press 8/14/2002) For this task, NORAD keeps a pair of fighters on “alert” at a number of sites around the US. These fighters are armed, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes of receiving a scramble order (see Before September 11, 2001). (Arnold 4/1998; Hebert 2/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003; Grant 2004, pp. 14) Various accounts offer statistics about the number of times fighters are scrambled:
bullet A General Accounting Office report published in May 1994 states that “during the past four years, NORAD’s alert fighters took off to intercept aircraft (referred to as scrambled) 1,518 times, or an average of 15 times per site per year.” Of these incidents, the number of scrambles that are in response to suspected drug smuggling aircraft averages “one per site, or less than 7 percent of all of the alert sites’ total activity.” The remaining activity, about 93 percent of the total scrambles, “generally involved visually inspecting unidentified aircraft and assisting aircraft in distress.” (General Accounting Office 5/3/1994, pp. 4)
bullet In the two years from May 15, 1996 to May 14, 1998, NORAD’s Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), which is responsible for the “air sovereignty” of the western 63 percent of the continental US, scrambles fighters 129 times to identify unknown aircraft that might be a threat. Over the same period, WADS scrambles fighters an additional 42 times against potential and actual drug smugglers. (Porter 1998)
bullet In 1997, the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—another of NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US—tracks 427 unidentified aircraft, and fighters intercept these “unknowns” 36 times. The same year, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) handles 65 unidentified tracks and WADS handles 104 unidentified tracks, according to Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region on 9/11. (Arnold 4/1998)
bullet In 1998, SEADS logs more than 400 fighter scrambles. (Grant 2004, pp. 14)
bullet In 1999, Airman magazine reports that NORAD’s fighters on alert at Homestead Air Reserve Base in Florida are scrambled 75 times per year, on average. According to Captain Tom Herring, a full-time alert pilot at the base, this is more scrambles than any other unit in the Air National Guard. (McKenna 12/1999)
bullet General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD on 9/11, will later state that in the year 2000, NORAD’s fighters fly 147 sorties. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004 pdf file)
bullet According to the Calgary Herald, in 2000 there are 425 “unknowns,” where an aircraft’s pilot has not filed or has deviated from a flight plan, or has used the wrong radio frequency, and fighters are scrambled 129 times in response. (Slobodian 10/13/2001)
bullet Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times to intercept suspicious aircraft, according to the Associated Press. (Associated Press 8/14/2002)
Lieutenant General Norton Schwartz, the commander of the Alaskan NORAD Region at the time of the 9/11 attacks, will say that before 9/11, it is “not unusual, and certainly was a well-refined procedure” for NORAD fighters to intercept an aircraft. He will add, though, that intercepting a commercial airliner is “not normal.” (Air Force Magazine 9/2011 pdf file) On September 11, 2001, NEADS scrambles fighters that are kept on alert in response to the hijackings (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001 and 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 26-27)

At some point between 1991 and 2001, a regional NORAD sector holds an exercise simulating a foreign hijacked airliner crashing into a prominent building in the United States, the identity of which is classified. According to military officials, the building is not the World Trade Center or the Pentagon. The exercise involves some flying of military aircraft, plus a “command post exercise” where communication procedures are rehearsed in an office environment. (Starr 4/19/2004)

Colin Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recommends that the number of aircraft dedicated to defending US airspace be reduced, a recommendation echoed by the General Accounting Office (GAO) over a year later. The continental air defense mission, carried out by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), was developed during the Cold War to protect against any Soviet bombers that might try to attack the US via the North Pole. In 1960, NORAD had about 1,200 fighter jets dedicated to this task, but now its US portion comprises 180 Air National Guard fighters, located in 10 units and 14 alert sites around the US. In February 1993, Powell issues a report in which he suggests that, due to the former Soviet Union no longer posing a significant threat, the air defense mission could be transferred to existing general-purpose combat and training forces. In May 1994, the GAO issues a report agreeing with Powell, saying that a “dedicated continental air defense force is no longer needed.” The report also says: “NORAD plans to reduce the number of alert sites in the continental United States to 14 and provide 28 aircraft for the day-to-day peacetime air sovereignty mission. Each alert site will have two fighters, and their crews will be on 24-hour duty and ready to scramble within five minutes.” (US Department of Defense 2/12/1993; General Accounting Office 5/3/1994) NORAD will play a key role in responding to the hijackings on 9/11. By then, it will have just 14 fighters available around the US on “alert”—on the runway, fueled, and ready to take off within minutes of being ordered into the air. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17)

A 20-year-old Ethiopian man hijacks a Lufthansa Airbus bound from Frankfurt to Addis Ababa, via Cairo. Wielding a gun (which is subsequently found to be just a starter pistol), he forces the pilot to divert the plane to New York. The 11-hour ordeal ends after the plane lands at JFK International Airport and the hijacker surrenders to the FBI. (CNN 3/14/1996; Weale 2/8/2000; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 457)
Fears of Plane Being Crashed - Journalist Eric Margolis, who is on the plane, will later say that he and the other passengers are “convinced the hijacker… intended to crash the plane into Manhattan.” (Margolis 2/13/2000) While giving television commentary on the morning of 9/11, Larry Johnson—currently the deputy director of the State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism—will say it was feared when the plane was flown to New York “that it might be crashed into something.” (NBC 9/11/2001)
Air Force Responds - In response to the hijacking, F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, from where fighters will also be launched in response to the first hijacking on 9/11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). Later, F-16s are scrambled from Atlantic City, New Jersey. The fighters intercept the Lufthansa aircraft off the coast of eastern Canada, and initially trail it from a distance of about ten miles. As the plane approaches JFK Airport, the fighters move in to a distance of five miles. They do a low fly-by as the plane lands at JFK. They circle overhead for a while, until the hijacking situation is resolved, and then return to their bases. (Spencer 2008, pp. 29)
Participants in Response Also Involved on 9/11 - This is the last hijacking to occur prior to 9/11 involving US air traffic controllers, FAA management, and military coordination. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 14; Cooper 8/5/2004) At least two of the military personnel who participate in the response to it will play key roles in responding to the 9/11 attacks. Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is currently the assistant deputy commander of operations at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, NY. (Baker 3/27/2005) On this occasion, he talks with his counterpart at the FAA and explains that the FAA needs to start a request up its chain of command, so the military can respond quickly if the hijacking—which takes place in Europe—comes to the United States. He then informs his own chain of command to be prepared for a request for military assistance from the FAA. Several hours later, Marr is notified that military assistance has been authorized, and the fighter jets are scrambled from Otis and Atlantic City. (Spencer 2008, pp. 26-27) Timothy Duffy, who will be one of the F-15 pilots that launches from Otis Air Base in response to the first hijacking on 9/11, is also involved. His role on this occasion is unreported, though presumably he pilots one of the jets scrambled from Otis after the Lufthansa plane. (Spencer 2008, pp. 29)

Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), gains experience in military training exercises. After flying on active duty for nearly 18 years, in 1994 Marr leaves the service. For 20 months, he works as the captain of a Lear 36 business jet that is contracted as part of a simulated “target force,” hired to stage attacks on the United States. In 1996 he returns to NEADS as the director of exercise and analysis. In this post, Marr no doubt gains further experience around military exercises. In 1998, he is named vice commander of NEADS, and in 1999 he will be promoted to become the commander of NEADS. (Baker 3/27/2005; Spencer 2008, pp. 5-6) Marr’s particular experience around military exercises is notable, since NEADS will be in the middle of a major training exercise on the morning of 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Seely 1/25/2002)

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) holds a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking, which involves a real plane playing the part of the hijacked aircraft. The exercise will be described to the 9/11 Commission in 2004 by Major Paul Goddard, who is the chief of live exercises for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at the time of the 9/11 attacks. According to Goddard, the exercise, held in 1995, is called “Twin Star” and the FAA invites NORAD to participate in it, “since a real commercial airliner was to be shadowed by a fighter intercept.” Goddard will tell the 9/11 Commission his understanding is that the exercise involves the entire FAA system, and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon also participates in it. (9/11 Commission 3/4/2004) Colin Scoggins, the military operations specialist at the FAA’s Boston Center on 9/11, will describe what is apparently this exercise when he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in 2003. He will say he believes the exercise is “joint FAA/military” and is conducted “in 1995 or 1996.” According to Scoggins, the exercise involves “a military scramble to escort a hijacked aircraft,” but the fighter jets taking part are “unable to intercept” the mock hijacked plane. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) Apparently describing the same exercise in a documentary film, Scoggins will say, “We had run a hijack test years before [9/11] and the fighters never got off on the appropriate heading, and it took them forever to catch up.” (Michael Bronner 2006)

William Cohen.William Cohen. [Source: US Department of Defense]Secretary of Defense William Cohen issues a comprehensive assessment of America’s defense requirements, called the Report of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). This is a six-month analysis of the “threats, risks and opportunities for US national security,” and reviews all aspects of the US defense strategy. (US Department of Defense 5/19/1997) Among other things, the 1997 QDR outlines the conversion of six continental air defense squadrons to general purpose, training or other missions. It calls for there being just four “alert” air defense sites around the US: at Otis, Massachusetts; Homestead, Florida; Riverside, California; and Portland, Oregon. (US Department of Defense 5/1997; Filson 2003, pp. 348) Major General Larry Arnold, who is commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region on 9/11, later says: “The QDR didn’t make any sense at all. [T]here was a fight just to maintain the number of alert sites that we had. We felt we could operate fairly reasonably with about ten sites and thought eight was the absolute highest risk we could take.” NORAD Commander in Chief General Howell M. Estes III has written to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that a minimum of seven alert sites are needed to maintain America’s air sovereignty. In the end, three extra alert sites are added to the four suggested in the QDR. These are at Hampton, Virginia; Panama City, Florida; and Ellington, Texas. Larry Arnold later says, “I didn’t feel particularly comfortable with seven [alert sites] because there are great large distances between the alert sites.” (Filson 2003, pp. 36) Other bases will lose their NORAD air defense functions over the next year, including those in Fresno, California; Fargo, North Dakota; Duluth, Minnesota; Burlington, Vermont; Atlantic City, New Jersey; and Great Falls, Montana. (US Department of Defense 5/1997) Of these closed bases, the most critical loss on 9/11 will be the Atlantic City, New Jersey base, located about halfway between New York City and Washington. Boston air traffic control, apparently unaware the base has lost its air defense function will try and fail to contact the base shortly after learning about the first hijacking of the morning, Flight 11 (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

A modernization program of the 1st Air Force’s air operation centers, which include NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is started. Over the next several years, Litton Data Systems is tasked with computerizing the way the Air National Guard accomplishes its air sovereignty mission, which is the surveillance of US skies in coordination with the FAA. Until now, flight plans from the FAA have been “compiled in logs and have to be searched by hand to identify aircraft,” according to National Guard magazine. “The new system will mean fewer manual inquiries and phone contact with FAA officials about commercial aircraft. The FAA flight plan is now hooked up via computer with the new R/SAOCs [Regional/Sector Air Operation Centers] so operators can easily track friendly aircraft through our air space without having to get someone on the phone or thumb through written log books of flight plans. Composite air pictures are now shown in real time on the screen with no delay in transmission. Plans on the screen are shown as they are happening.” The software also allows computer simulations to be used for training purposes, so operators can “go through a situation at their terminals as if it were happening.” Col. Dan Navin, the special assistant to the commander of 1st Air Force, says, “It will enhance our ability to do what many say is the most important job of the Air Force, and that is air sovereignty.” The new systems should be fully operational in all seven 1st Air Force air operation centers by 2003. (National Guard 9/1997) It is possible that this software is being used on the morning of 9/11, when a NORAD training exercise will include simulated information, known as “inject,” being shown on its radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Simmie 12/9/2001)

Major General Larry Arnold, who became commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in December 1997, fights to preserve the resources assigned to US air sovereignty (see May 19, 1997 and Late August 2001). To emphasize the need for air bases with fighter jets on alert, Arnold frequently gives a presentation describing “asymmetric” threats and including a slide featuring Osama bin Laden. As Arnold will later recall: “[W]e thought that the biggest threat to the US in the briefing that I always gave… was going to come from an asymmetric threat, from a terrorist or a rogue nation, or maybe associated with the drug cartels to some degree. The picture that we used to have on one of our slides there, dating all the way back to 1997 and 1998, was Osama bin Laden.” (Filson 2002) Colonel Alan Scott, who serves under Arnold at CONR, will later describe the “El Paso example” that Arnold uses to illustrate the need for more alert sites. Scott says: “We had fairly large gaps between our seven alert sites pre-9/11. The largest was between Riverside, CA, and Houston, TX. El Paso, TX, was in the middle of those two alert sites. There was no perceived ‘military’ threat from Mexico. As the threat of terrorism arose, General Arnold began to use the example in his talks to various groups. The example was that if a terrorist called and said in one hour he would overfly El Paso, TX, and spray deadly gas, we would watch it live on CNN because we could not get aircraft to that location in time to stop the attack.” (Filson 7/14/2002)

At its operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices dealing with hijackings five times per month, on average, during training exercises. A NORAD document produced a month after 9/11 will state that the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) “routinely conducts the Amazon Arizona series of internal exercises that include hijack scenarios.” Prior to September 11, 2001, the document continues, “CMOC averaged five hijack training events each month.” Further details of these “Amazon Arizona” exercises are unstated in the document. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 10/13/2001) But other sources provide additional information about what they might entail.
Exercises Are 'One of the Busiest Times' in Operations Center - According to a 1989 NORAD document, “Arizona” exercises are a “Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base internal system training mission.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989) And in 2004, NORAD will state that its exercises before 9/11 that include hijacking scenarios test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” (Starr 4/19/2004) According to Stacey Knott, a technician at the CMOC, “One of the busiest times” in the operations center “is during exercises.… We have the battle staff and CAT [Crisis Action Team] in here; generals and admirals are running in and out.” Knott has said that exercises at the CMOC give her “an idea what things would be like if something were to go down,” and so, “[i]f something actually did happen, we’d be ready for it.” (McKenna 1/1996)
Operations Center Is 'Focal Point for Air Defense Operations' - It is unclear over what period up to 9/11 the CMOC averages five hijack training events per month. It appears to be at least going back to 1998: In 2003, Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his office keeps computer hard drive information about NORAD exercises “roughly” back to that year. Merchant will add that he “did not believe that his office retained other exercise information, such as after-action reviews, for exercises prior to 1998.” (9/11 Commission 11/14/2003 pdf file) According to NORAD’s website, “the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center provides warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America, assists the air sovereignty mission for the United States and Canada, and, if necessary, is the focal point for air defense operations to counter enemy bombers or cruise missiles.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 11/27/1999) On the morning of 9/11, members of the battle staff at the CMOC will be participating in the exercise Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tudor 3/2002; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)

General Richard B. Myers takes over as commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), commander in chief of the US Space Command, and commander of the Air Force Space Command. He replaces General Howell M. Estes III. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 6/3/1998; Air Force News 8/19/1998) Myers will serve in these positions until February 22, 2000, when he will be replaced by General Ralph E. Eberhart. (Air Force News 2/22/2000) On 9/11, Myers will serve as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Myers 2009, pp. 10)

At some point during his tenure as commander in chief of NORAD (see August 14, 1998), General Richard Myers expresses concerns about the adequacy of the radar system over the US, which NORAD shares with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in what is called the Joint Surveillance System. Myers will later tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD is unable to “correlate” over 50 percent of the unknown radar tracks it picks up, either because it cannot launch an interceptor aircraft in time or because it cannot deal with the tracks appropriately. Some of them disappear from radar before NORAD can correlate them with the FAA. Myers makes Pentagon officials aware of the problem, telling them, “don’t think we’re providing 100 percent air sovereignty here… we’re looking outward, and a number of those tracks are never correlated.” He will recall that in connection with the internal radar issue, “I saw a letter I put out talking about a potential terrorist issue… that’s why you would want these radars up… it’s kind of a future issue.” According to Myers, there is talk about the future potential of a terrorist threat as a rationale for “trying to get people to address the FAA/[Air Force] radar funding issue in a more robust way.” Myers also finds NORAD’s command and control software inadequate. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that the “system was very old and was contracted to be replaced, but the contractor did not perform. The issue was how many tracks the system could handle at once; NORAD kept modifying the equipment to allow more inputs but it needed a new system.” However, Myers will also confirm to the 9/11 Commission that “from a technical radar standpoint, NORAD had pretty good coastal range, and that the activity on 9/11 was within the radar area that was accessible to NORAD.” (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 6/9/2004)

John Hamre.John Hamre. [Source: R. D. Ward / US Department of Defense]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducts an exercise, called Vigilant Virgo 99-1, in which simulated missiles are injected into its radar systems, apparently similar to the way simulated information will be injected onto its radar screens for a training exercise on the morning of September 11, 2001. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999; Simmie 12/9/2001; Arkin 2005, pp. 546) In August 1998, Secretary of Defense William Cohen directed the commanders in chief who are responsible for the Department of Defense’s unified combatant commands to plan, carry out, and report on a series of simulated Year 2000 “operational evaluations.” (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 8 pdf file; United States General Accounting Office 11/1999, pp. 15 pdf file) Vigilant Virgo is the first in a series of NORAD operational evaluations that are going to be held in response to this order. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999; United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 2 pdf file; Military Operations Research Society 6/22/1999, pp. 193 pdf file)
Exercise Tests NORAD's Year 2000 Preparedness - The three-day exercise is intended to evaluate if NORAD’s systems are vulnerable to the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem, which would be caused by computers being unable to properly read dates at the start of the new millennium. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999; Feder 2/9/1999) It evaluates the capability of NORAD’s systems to track and forward information about missile and space air threats when the command’s clocks are rolled forward to January 1, 2000. (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 8-9 pdf file) The exercise is a collaborative effort in which NORAD is supported by personnel, equipment, and facilities belonging to the US Space Command and the US Strategic Command. (US Department of Defense 1/14/1999; US Department of Defense 1/15/1999)
'Missile Events' Are Injected into NORAD's Sensors - Vigilant Virgo focuses on the missile warning element of NORAD’s integrated tactical warning and attack assessment function. (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 11 pdf file; Military Operations Research Society 6/22/1999, pp. 193 pdf file) It involves “well over 30 missile events” being “injected” into NORAD’s sensors, according to Lieutenant Colonel Warren Patterson, a member of the Joint Staff Year 2000 Task Force. These simulated events involve data that is injected “as though it [is] being sensed for the first time by a radar site,” Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre will later describe. Some of the simulations involve mass attacks, while others involve attacks by a single missile. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999) The Y2K preparedness of the entire ground radar array network is analyzed during the exercise. (Kraig 3/1999)
Exercise Finds No Vulnerabilities in NORAD's Systems - Vigilant Virgo will be considered a success. The exercise will find that there is “no degradation in any of the systems, whether they were in the Year 2000 environment, the virtual Year 2000 environment, or whether they were in the real world, 1998 environment,” Patterson will say. “We are highly confident now, at this point, that CINC [commander in chief] NORAD can do his early warning mission,” he will conclude. (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999)
Exercise on 9/11 Will Use Simulated Radar Information - NORAD is the military organization responsible for monitoring and defending North American airspace. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16; Department of National Defence 7/25/2017) Personnel at its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), based in Rome, New York, will be responsible for coordinating the military’s response to the 9/11 hijackings. (Shenon 2008, pp. 203) It will be conducting an exercise on the morning of September 11, 2001, which, like Vigilant Virgo, involves simulated information being injected onto its radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001, 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001, and 10:12 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Simmie 12/9/2001) NORAD will conduct a follow-on exercise to Vigilant Virgo from February 15 to February 28, 1999, called Amalgam Virgo 99-2, which will involve a comprehensive evaluation of its systems for aerospace control, air warning, missile warning, and space warning. (United States General Accounting Office 6/1999, pp. 11 pdf file; Arkin 2005, pp. 253-254) Whether that exercise will involve simulated information being injected onto radar screens is unclear.

At some point during the two-year period preceding 9/11, NORAD fighters perform a mock shootdown over the Atlantic Ocean of a jet loaded with chemical poisons heading toward the US. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), drafts a briefing that he then gives at various venues, on the threat of terrorists using aircraft to crash into buildings. According to a memo of his 2003 interview with the 9/11 Commission, Stuart briefs “over time in 1999, 2000, and 2001 the logical progression that linked hijackings to the use of explosives in vehicles [a probable reference to the 1998 African embassy bombings] and then, logically, to the use of aircraft.” Stuart gives his briefing at annual intelligence conferences at both the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) and NORAD itself. At CONR, the receiving official is Colonel Tom Glenn; at NORAD it is Navy Captain Michael Kuhn. According to the 9/11 Commission memo, the hijacking scenarios that Stuart conceives are “primarily personal views; there was no substantive intelligence. He based his analysis on the boldness of past terrorist actions.” Stuart also discusses his analyses with his counterparts at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—a Major Clegg—and its Western Air Defense Sector (WADS)—a Lieutenant Colonel Schauer. In all cases, he briefs that a hijacking would originate overseas, inbound to the US. He never imagines it could originate inside the US. Stuart believes that security vulnerabilities overseas make it far more likely that hijackings will come from outside the US. He never imagines multiple hijackings in any scenario, although he envisions terrorists taking over planes and piloting them at the last possible moment as they crash. Stuart will be at NEADS on 9/11, and will participate in its response to that day’s attacks. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file)

According to USA Today, “In the two years before the Sept. 11 attacks, the North American Aerospace Defense Command conduct[s] exercises simulating what the White House [later] says was unimaginable at the time: hijacked airliners used as weapons to crash into targets and cause mass casualties.” One of the imagined targets is the World Trade Center. According to NORAD, these scenarios are regional drills, rather than regularly scheduled continent-wide exercises. They utilize “[n]umerous types of civilian and military aircraft” as mock hijacked aircraft, and test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” The main difference between these drills and the 9/11 attacks is that the planes in the drills are coming from another country, rather than from within the US. Before 9/11, NORAD reportedly conducts four major exercises at headquarters level per year. Most of them are said to include a hijack scenario (see Before September 11, 2001). (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004)

A map showing the planned flight path of Payne Stewart’s plane and the crash site location.A map showing the planned flight path of Payne Stewart’s plane and the crash site location. [Source: CNN]A runaway Learjet crashes near Mina, South Dakota, after flying on autopilot for several hours. On board is champion golfer Payne Stewart, along with five others. It is believed the accident is due to a loss of cabin pressure at high altitude, which would have caused all on board to go unconscious from lack of oxygen. (Sealey 10/25/1999; Walsh and Claiborne 10/26/1999; National Transportation Safety Board 11/28/2000) After air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane, it was tracked by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), assisted by several Air Force and Air National Guard fighters and an AWACS radar control plane, up until when it crashed. It was also tracked on radar screens inside the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. (McIntyre 10/26/1999) The Learjet had departed Orlando, Florida at 9:19 a.m., bound for Texas. The FAA says controllers lost contact with it at 9:44 a.m. (Walsh and Claiborne 10/26/1999) , but according to a later report by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) the plane first failed to respond to air traffic control at 9:33 a.m., after which the controller repeatedly tried to make contact for the next 4 1/2 minutes, without success. (National Transportation Safety Board 11/28/2000) NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector was notified of the emergency at 9:55 a.m. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459) At 10:08 a.m., two F-16 fighters from Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida that were on a routine training mission had been asked by the FAA to intercept the Learjet, but never reached it. At about 10:52 a.m., a fighter from Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, was directed to within 9 miles of it, and at around 11:00 a.m. began a visual inspection of the plane. It accompanied the Learjet from 11:09 to 11:44 a.m. At 11:59 a.m., according to early accounts, four Air National Guard fighters and a refueling tanker from Tulsa, Oklahoma were told to chase the Learjet, but got no closer than 100 miles from it. However, the NTSB later claims that two Tulsa fighters were with it between 12:25 and 12:39 p.m., and were able to visually inspect it. At 12:54 p.m., two Air National Guard fighters from Fargo, North Dakota intercepted the Learjet. Soon after 1:14 p.m., it crashed in swampland, after spiraling to the ground. (Walsh and Claiborne 10/26/1999; Associated Press 10/27/1999; National Transportation Safety Board 11/28/2000) During its flight, the FAA had routed air traffic around the Learjet, and made sure no other planes flew beneath it, due to the danger of it crashing. (Associated Press 10/26/1999) There is some discussion as to what could have been done had the plane been on a collision course with a populated area, with CNN reporting, “[O]nly the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down.” Pentagon spokesman Ken Bacon says the military has no written instructions for shooting down manned civilian planes. According to a 1997 military instruction, the shooting down of unmanned objects such as missiles requires prior approval from the secretary of defense. (US Department of Defense 7/31/1997 pdf file; McIntyre 10/26/1999) A Pentagon spokesman says the fighters that monitored the Learjet had no missiles, but two other fighters on “strip alert” at Fargo had been armed but didn’t take off. (CNN 10/26/1999) The 9/11 Commission will later compare NORAD’s response to this incident with its response to Flight 11 on 9/11, and claim: “There is no significant difference in NORAD’s reaction to the two incidents.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 459)

The United Nations headquarters building in New York.The United Nations headquarters building in New York. [Source: Mark Garten / United Nations]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices a scenario in which five terrorists take over a transcontinental aircraft with the intention of crashing it into the United Nations headquarters building in New York. The simulation takes place during a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region, called Falcon Indian. NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental US, including the Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, take part in this exercise. General Richard Myers, currently the commander in chief of NORAD, will reveal the details of the scenario during an August 2004 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. According to Myers, the scenario is based around a China Air aircraft flying from Los Angeles to JFK International Airport in New York, which is “hijacked east of Colorado Springs by five terrorists.” If the plane is not intercepted by the US military, the terrorists intend “to crash into [the] United Nations building.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 362) The UN headquarters building is a 39-story high-rise, located a few miles from the World Trade Center. (Arena 12/2/1999; Evening Standard 9/11/2002) In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants have to follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, coordinate with external agencies, and carry out a handover of responsibilities between NORAD sectors. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Like in this scenario, the teams of hijackers that take over three of the four aircraft targeted in the 9/11 attacks will comprise of five terrorists. And all four of the aircraft targeted on 9/11 will be making transcontinental flights, like the plane hijacked in this scenario, although they will be flying from the east coast to the west rather than from the west to the east. (Schmemann 9/12/2001; CNN 9/20/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 4, 11) A subsequent Falcon Indian exercise in June 2000 will include scenarios in which hijackers plan to crash aircraft into the White House and the Statue of Liberty (see June 5, 2000). (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force whose mission includes the protection of the continental US against air attacks, tells the Associated Press that he is deeply worried by the possibility of an airborne terrorist attack. He says: “I lie awake worrying. It is one thing to put a truck inside the twin trade towers and blow it up. It is quite another to be able to fly a weapon across our borders. That is an attack, a direct attack, an unambiguous attack from outside our country.” In 1999, a study commissioned by Arnold emphasized the continued importance of the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission and the threat of terrorism (see 1999). (Kaczor 2/1/2000; Kaczor 8/2/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 92) As one of the top commanders of NORAD, Arnold will play a pivotal role on the morning of 9/11 (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001, (10:08 a.m.-10:10 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 42)

The Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center standing behind it.The Statue of Liberty, with the World Trade Center standing behind it. [Source: Port Authority of New York and New Jersey]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices two scenarios in which aircraft are hijacked, and in one scenario the hijackers plan to crash the plane into the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, while in the other the hijackers plan to crash into the White House in Washington, DC. The scenarios are included in a command post exercise conducted by the Continental United States NORAD Region called Falcon Indian. NORAD’s three air defense sectors in the continental United States, including the Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, are participating in this exercise. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989; US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 362)
Hijackers Take Over Learjet, Plan to Crash into White House - The two hijacking scenarios will be described by General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee in August 2004. According to Myers, one of the scenarios involves a Learjet being hijacked and maintaining a “tight formation with [a] Canadair airliner, loaded with explosives.” (From Myers’s description it is unclear whether the Learjet or the Canadair airliner is the plane carrying explosives.) According to Myers, the “Learjet planned to crash into the White House.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants have to follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Communist Group Plans to Crash Plane into Statue of Liberty - The other scenario is based around a “Communist Party faction” that hijacks an aircraft “bound from [the] western to [the] eastern United States,” according to Myers. There are “[h]igh explosives on board” the aircraft and the fictitious hijackers intend “to crash into the Statue of Liberty.” During the simulation, the FAA requests assistance from the military. Exercise participants have to again follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, as well as carrying out a handover of responsibilities between NORAD sectors. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Even though these two NORAD exercise scenarios involve hijackers attempting to use planes as weapons, the 9/11 Commission will claim in its final report, “The threat of terrorists hijacking commercial airliners within the United States—and using them as guided missiles—was not recognized by NORAD before 9/11.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17) A previous Falcon Indian exercise in November 1999 included a scenario of hijackers planning to crash an aircraft into the United Nations headquarters building in New York (see November 6, 1999). (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004)

A FedEx MD-11 aircraft.A FedEx MD-11 aircraft. [Source: Alan Radecki]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices scenarios based around suicidal pilots planning to deliberately crash stolen aircraft into the United Nations headquarters—a skyscraper in New York. The two scenarios are practiced on October 16 and October 23 as part of NORAD’s annual command post exercise called Vigilant Guardian. All of NORAD, including its Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, participates in this exercise. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005)
Simulation Involves Planned Suicide Plane Attack - General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe the scenario practiced on October 16: “Due to recent arrests involving illegal drug trafficking in Maine, an individual steals a Federal Express plane and plans a suicide attack into the United Nations building in New York City.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Simulation Involves WMD Directed at the UN - The October 23 scenario, according to Myers, is based around “[w]eapons of mass destruction directed at the United Nations. An individual steals a Federal Express aircraft and plans a suicide attack on the United Nations building in New York City.” In response, exercise participants practice command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, and fighter jets conduct an interception of the stolen aircraft. (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) Federal Express currently flies mostly the DC-10 and the MD-11, which are both large jet planes, so presumably one of these kinds of aircraft is considered in the exercise scenarios. (Schneider 1/17/2001) The UN headquarters building—the target in the scenarios—is a 39-story high-rise, located just a few miles from the World Trade Center. (Arena 12/2/1999; Evening Standard 9/11/2002)
Scenarios Revealed in 2004 - The details of these two scenarios will come to light in August 2004 during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will be revealed by Myers, at that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) asks him, “Did NORAD conduct exercises or develop scenarios, prior to September 11, 2001, to test a military reaction to an aircraft hijacking which appeared destined to result in a suicide crash into a high-value target?” (US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services 8/17/2004) NORAD will state in 2004 that, until 9/11, it conducts four major exercises each year. Most of these include a hijack scenario, but not all of them involve planes being used as weapons. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004) NORAD’s next Vigilant Guardian exercise, in 2001, will actually be several days underway on 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It will include a number of scenarios based around plane hijackings, with the fictitious hijackers targeting New York in at least one of those scenarios (see September 6, 2001, September 9, 2001, September 10, 2001, and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff holds a large, worldwide exercise called Positive Force, which focuses on the Defense Department’s ability to conduct large-scale military operations and coordinate these operations. (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 8/14/2000 pdf file) The 2001 Positive Force exercise is a “continuity of operations exercise,” meaning it deals with government contingency plans to keep working in the event of an attack on the US. (Borger 4/15/2004) Over a dozen government agencies, including NORAD, are invited to participate. The exercise prepares them for various scenarios, including non-combatant evacuation operations, cyber attacks, rail disruption, and power outages. It includes “a series of simulated attacks against the maritime, surface and aviation sectors” of America’s national security transportation infrastructure. (US Congress 5/8/2001; Wahl 10/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 6/9/2002) Apparently, one of the scenarios that was considered for this exercise involved “a terrorist group hijack[ing] a commercial airliner and fly[ing] it into the Pentagon.” But the proposed scenario, thought up by a group of Special Operations personnel trained to think like terrorists, was rejected. Joint Staff action officers and White House officials said the additional scenario is either “too unrealistic” or too disconnected to the original intent of the exercise. (Gaudiano 4/13/2004; Wedge 4/14/2004; Graham 4/14/2004; Schmitt 4/14/2004; Borger 4/15/2004)

Osama bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the Amalgam Virgo exercise.
Osama bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the Amalgam Virgo exercise. [Source: NORAD]The US military conducts Amalgam Virgo 01, a multi-agency live-fly homeland security exercise sponsored by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and involving the hypothetical scenario of a cruise missile being launched by “a rogue [government] or somebody” from a barge off the East Coast. Osama bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the proposal for the exercise. (Gilmore 6/4/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 253; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) The exercise takes place at Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Drones simulating cruise missiles are launched from Tyndall, head out to sea, circle a ship as if they are being launched from there, and then head back to land. Air Force F-16s, Navy gunners, and Army missile defense units attempt to find and track the drones. The Coast Guard attempts to catch the ship serving as the dummy launch site. (Coryell 6/3/2001) Another scenario in the exercise involves a suicide mission in which a Haitian man with AIDS attempts to deliberately crash a small private plane into NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall AFB. (US Air Force 2001) The next Amalgam Virgo exercise, scheduled to take place in 2002, will involve two simultaneous commercial aircraft hijackings. Planning for that exercise will begin in July 2001 (see July 2001). (Gilmore 6/4/2002; Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)

NORAD is already planning for the Amalgam Virgo 02 exercise. This exercise, scheduled for June 2002, will involve the simulation of two simultaneous commercial aircraft hijackings. One plane, a Delta 757, flown by Delta pilots, will fly from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, Alaska. It will be “hijacked” by FBI agents posing as terrorists. The other plane will be a Navy C-9 bound from Oak Harbor, Washington, to Vancouver, British Columbia, and will be “hijacked” by Royal Canadian Mounted Police. On both planes, military personnel will act as civilian passengers. US and Canadian fighters are to respond, and either force the planes to land or simulate shooting them down. Describing Amalgam Virgo 02 to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD’s Major General Craig McKinley later says, “Threats of killing hostages or crashing were left to the script writers to invoke creativity and broaden the required response for players.” About 1,500 people will participate in the exercise. USA Today will note that this is an exception to NORAD’s claim that, prior to 9/11, it focused only on external threats to the US and did not consider the possibility of threats arising from within the US. 9/11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste will similarly comment that this planned exercise shows that, despite frequent comments to the contrary, the military considered simultaneous hijackings before 9/11. (CNN 6/4/2002; Gilmore 6/4/2002; Wadhams 6/5/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004)

Personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) are briefed about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden. Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NEADS, will tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD’s Continental United States Region has developed an “Osama bin Laden… threat briefing,” which is the last briefing of its kind before 9/11. The increased threat level relating to bin Laden and al-Qaeda is then “briefed at NEADS,” he will say. Further details of the briefing NEADS personnel receive are unstated. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003; 9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS, based in Rome, New York, is responsible for protecting the airspace in which the hijackings take place on September 11. It will therefore be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) runs a training exercise called Fertile Rice, based on the scenario of Osama bin Laden attacking a prominent target in the Washington, DC, area, using an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) armed with a fuel-air explosive. An information sheet for the exercise will describe the scenario. “According to reliable sources,” it will state, “operatives of Osama bin Laden will attack a highly visible US government target within the next 24-36 hours. Specifically, the terrorist will utilize an unmanned aerial vehicle, believed to be the Russian-developed Colibri, modified to be launched off a ship.” Bin Laden has acquired at least one, and perhaps two, Colibri UAVs. The plans for the Colibri may have been illegally purchased by his agents posing as Iranian Air Force representatives. The terrorists’ exact target is unknown, but “unconfirmed reports” suggest it is in the Washington area.
Drone Has Electronic Jamming Equipment - The Colibri is a propeller-driven remotely piloted vehicle that is designed to perform a wide variety of military and civilian missions. It is 4.25 meters long, has a wingspan of 5.9 meters, and its maximum speed is 155 miles per hour. The aircraft bin Laden has obtained in the scenario is reportedly fitted with sophisticated electronic jamming equipment, as well as equipment for monitoring electronic communications and radar.
Ship Carrying the Drone Left from a Port in the Middle East - The ship carrying the Colibri left a port in the Middle East about two weeks ago in the scenario and is set to rendezvous with an unspecified person off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia, on August 4. This person will provide the final targeting information that will be programmed into the Colibri. The ship is reportedly also carrying a dozen shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, automatic weapons, and unspecified types of plastic explosives.
Drone Is Carrying a Highly Destructive Explosive - The Colibri’s “weapon payload” in the scenario is reportedly a type of fuel-air explosive. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/4/2001; Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/5/2001) Fuel-air explosives are highly destructive. They “disperse an aerosol cloud of fuel, which is ignited by an embedded detonator to produce an explosion,” according to the Federation of American Scientists. The “rapidly expanding wavefront” that results from the explosion “flattens all objects within close proximity of the epicenter of the aerosol fuel cloud and produces debilitating damage well beyond the flattened area.” (Federation of American Scientists 2/5/1998)
Weekly Exercise Includes Simulated Hijackings - Fertile Rice is a NEADS command post exercise (CPX). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989) (A CPX is defined by the Department of Defense as a type of exercise “in which the forces are simulated, involving the commander, the staff, and communications within and between headquarters.” (US Department of Defense 11/8/2011 pdf file) ) Fertile Rice exercises are held weekly at NEADS prior to 9/11, according to Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the NEADS mission crew commander technician. They routinely involve simulated aircraft hijackings, although multiple hijack scenarios are never included. Occasionally the aircraft that is hijacked has taken off from within the United States. Sometimes the scenario takes place over land and at other times it takes place over water. These large-scale exercises include at least seven “targets,” according to McCain, although what the targets might be is unstated. (9/11 Commission 10/28/2003; 9/11 Commission 10/28/2003 pdf file) NEADS, based in Rome, New York, is responsible for protecting the airspace in which the hijackings take place on September 11 and will therefore be responsible for coordinating the US military’s response to the hijackings. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Bronner 8/1/2006; Shenon 2008, pp. 203)

About 100 members of the 174th Fighter Wing, part of the New York Air National Guard, are deployed to Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, to patrol the no-fly zone over southern Iraq, as part of the ongoing Operation Southern Watch. This is the unit’s second deployment there, its first having been in March 2001. (Ramirez and Wasilewski 9/11/2001; Wasilewski 9/12/2001; US Congress 3/1/2005; 174th Fighter Wing 12/9/2005) The 174th FW is located at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, five miles north of Syracuse, in Central New York State. It is currently equipped with 17 F-16 fighters. These are kept in a six-bay shelter where they are, reportedly, “ready to fly in any weather, at a moment’s notice.” (Airman 1/2001; Wasilewski 9/25/2001; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/26/2005) However, Hancock Field is not one of NORAD’s two “alert” sites in the northeast US. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The unit has 350 full-time staff and 650 part-timers, who work one weekend each month plus two full weeks a year. (Wasilewski 9/25/2001; Ramirez 10/24/2001) The 100 members of the unit who go to Saudi Arabia are due to arrive back at Hancock Field at around 3 p.m. on 9/11, but as a consequence of the day’s events are diverted to Canada. (Wasilewski 9/14/2001) They will eventually arrive back at the base on September 14. (Wasilewski 9/15/2001) In the months after 9/11, 174th FW fighters are involved in flying combat air patrols over New York City. (Ramirez 12/8/2001; New York State 3/26/2003)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), struggles to maintain funding for a plan to defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. Arnold has long been worried by the US’s vulnerability to an airborne attack by terrorists (see 1999 and February 2000). But, as he will later recount, not everyone shares his concern. He will say: “Just two weeks before September 11, 2001, I had met with Vice Admiral Martin Mayer, the deputy commander in chief of Joint Forces Command located in Norfolk, Virginia. He had informed me that he intended to kill all funding for a plan my command had been working on for two years, that would defend against a cruise missile attack by terrorists. While I convinced Admiral Mayer to continue his funding support, he told me in front of my chief of staff, Colonel Alan Scott; Navy Captain David Stewart, the lead on the project; and my executive officer, Lt. Col. Kelley Duckett, that our concern about Osama bin Laden as a possible threat to America was unfounded and that, to repeat, ‘If everyone would just turn off CNN, there wouldn’t be a threat from Osama bin Laden.’” (Spencer 2008, pp. 289)

F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch.F-15s from the 1st Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base patrol the southern no-fly zone in support of Operation Southern Watch. [Source: Jack Braden / United States Air Force]At the time of the 9/11 attacks, the 94th Fighter Squadron, which is stationed at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, is away on a 90-day combat deployment to Saudi Arabia for Operation Southern Watch, to enforce the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. Two days before 9/11, on September 9, the 27th Fighter Squadron, which is also stationed at Langley AFB, returns from Saudi Arabia, where it has been performing the same mission. (BBC 12/29/1998; Air Force Association 10/2/2002; 1st Fighter Association 2003) The 94th and 27th Fighter Squadrons are two of the three F-15 fighter squadrons that are part of the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the “host unit” at Langley AFB. The third of these is the 71st Fighter Squadron. Between them, the three squadrons have 54 “primary assigned” F-15C fighter jets. (Langley Air Force Base 11/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 2/12/2006) On September 11, most of the F-15s of the 71st FS are also away from base, for the Red Flag exercise in Nevada (see (Late August-September 17, 2001)). (Sizemore 9/24/2001; Doscher 9/15/2006)
Langley Jets Not Part of NORAD Alert Unit - Langley Air Force Base, which is 130 miles south of the Pentagon, is one of two “alert sites” that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) can call upon to get jets quickly launched. However, the F-15s of the 1st Fighter Wing are not involved in this mission. Instead, that task belongs to the North Dakota Air National Guard’s 119th Fighter Wing, which has a small detachment at Langley AFB and keeps two fighter jets there ready to take off when required. (Weisman 9/16/2001; Hebert 2/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 17; Spencer 2008, pp. 114) Despite not being part of the NORAD alert unit, aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing are involved in the military response to the 9/11 attacks. Jets belonging to the 27th FS are airborne within two hours of the attacks, “providing protection for the National Command Authority and the rest of the nation’s civilian and military leadership.” (Air Force Association 10/2/2002) And F-15s belonging to the 71st FS are launched from Langley AFB following the attacks, to patrol the skies of the East Coast. (Langley Air Force Base 1/2005; 1st Fighter Association 3/14/2006)
Possible Effect on 9/11 Response - Whether the deployment of the 94th Fighter Squadron to Saudi Arabia diminishes Langley AFB’s ability to respond on 9/11 is unknown. However, Air Force units are cycled through deployments like Operation Southern Watch by the Aerospace Expeditionary Force (AEF) Center, which is at Langley Air Force Base. And according to NORAD Commander Larry Arnold, “Prior to Sept. 11, we’d been unsuccessful in getting the AEF Center to be responsible for relieving our air defense units when they went overseas.” (Camelo 6/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 12/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 99)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices for dealing with the simulated hijackings of two commercial aircraft by terrorists, as part of its annual training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. Whether the simulated hijackings take place simultaneously or at different times of the day is unclear. (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 3)
Terrorists Threaten to 'Rain Terror from the Skies' - One of the two exercise scenarios involves the hijacking of a Boeing 747 bound from Tokyo, Japan, to Anchorage, Alaska. According to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission, the scenario involves the “[t]hreat of harm to [the plane’s] passengers and possibly [a] large population within [the] US or Canada.” It includes what is apparently a fictitious Asian terrorist group called “Mum Hykro,” which is threatening to “rain terror from the skies onto a major US city unless the US declares withdrawal from Asian conflict.” During the hijacking scenario, some of the plane’s passengers are killed. The plane’s course is changed to take it to Vancouver, Canada, and then to San Francisco, California. In response to the hijacking, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and FAA headquarters direct military assistance, in the form of “covert shadowing” of the hijacked aircraft. NORAD has to liaise with the appropriate air traffic control centers. Its Alaskan region (ANR) and its Canadian region (CANR) participate in the scenario.
Group Threatens to Blow up Plane - In the other hijacking scenario, 10 members of another fictitious terrorist group, “Lin Po,” seize control of a Boeing 747 bound from Seoul, South Korea, to Anchorage. The hijackers have weapons on board that were smuggled onto the plane in small tote bags by ground crew members prior to takeoff. Gas containers were also smuggled onto the aircraft by baggage handlers before takeoff. Arming devices are attached to these containers, which can be remotely detonated. The terrorist group issues demands and threatens to blow up the plane if these are not met. The CIA and NSA caution that the group has the means and motivation to carry out a chemical and biological attack. The group kills two of the plane’s passengers and threatens to use the gas it has on board in some manner. In response to the simulated hijacking, NORAD directs fighter jets to get in a position to shoot down the hijacked airliner, and orders ANR to intercept and shadow it. In the scenario, the 747 eventually lands in Seattle, Washington. (9/11 Commission 2004)
Most NORAD Exercises Include Hijack Scenario - Vigilant Guardian is one of four major exercises that NORAD conducts each year. Most of these exercises include a hijack scenario. (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004) Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission in 2003 that he cannot “remember a time in the last 33 years when NORAD has not run a hijack exercise.” (9/11 Commission 11/14/2003 pdf file) This year’s Vigilant Guardian will include additional aircraft hijacking scenarios on September 9 and September 10 (see September 9, 2001 and September 10, 2001), and a further simulated plane hijacking is scheduled for the morning of September 11 (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

The future of “continental air sovereignty” over America is in doubt. Discussions at the Air Force’s highest levels call for the dismantling of NORAD’s seven “alert” sites around the US and its command and control structure. (Filson 2003, pp. 149) Maj. Gen. Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental Region, will later add that “the secretary of the Air Force, James G. Roche, stated that he and the then chief of staff of the Air Force, General John Jumper, had decided to withdraw funding for air defense, and they had made that decision on September 7, 2001.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 289) Earlier in the summer of 2001, “a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military” (see Summer 2001). (Schrader and Richter 9/15/2001)

The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) commences Northern Vigilance, a military operation that involves it deploying fighter jets to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor a Russian Air Force training exercise. The Russian exercise is scheduled to take place over the North Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic Oceans from September 10 to September 14 (see September 10, 2001), and the NORAD fighters are set to stay in Alaska and Northern Canada until it ends. (BBC 2001, pp. 161; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Gertz 9/11/2001) As well as conducting this operation, NORAD is currently running a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian, which “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report (see September 10, 2001, (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001, and (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) The Russians will cancel their exercise on the morning of September 11 in response to the terrorist attacks in the United States (see (After 10:03 a.m.) September11, 2001), when they “knew NORAD would have its hands full,” according to the Toronto Star. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Doscher 9/8/2011) It is unknown from which bases NORAD sends fighters for Northern Vigilance and how many US military personnel are involved. However, in December 2000, it took similar action—called Operation Northern Denial—in response to a “smaller scale” Russian “long-range aviation activity in northern Russia and the Arctic.” More than 350 American and Canadian military personnel were involved on that occasion. (Canadian Chief of Defense Staff 5/30/2001, pp. 6 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001)

Personnel at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS) at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, practice for the scenario of an aircraft being hijacked by Cuban asylum seekers. The scenario is part of the annual NORAD training exercise, Vigilant Guardian. (9/11 Commission 2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 3) In the scenario, the fictitious hijackers take over an Ilyushin IL-62 jet airliner that took off from Havana, Cuba. The hijackers, who are “demanding political asylum, demand to be taken to” New York City, according to a document later produced by the 9/11 Commission. As the scenario plays out, the FAA requests support from NORAD. The FAA directs the plane toward Jacksonville, Florida, but the hijackers then demand to be taken to Atlanta, Georgia. Finally, the hijacked plane lands safely at Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia. (9/11 Commission 2004) The following morning, September 11, personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York, are scheduled to practice what is apparently a similar plane hijacking scenario, presumably as part of the same Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to Vanity Fair, that scenario will involve “politically motivated perpetrators” seeking asylum “on a Cuba-like island.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)

Based on interviews with FBI officials, the New Yorker will report that, for several years prior to 9/11, the US government plans for “simulated terrorist attacks, including scenarios [involving] multiple-plane hijackings.” This presumably refers to more than just the Amalgam Virgo 02 exercise (see July 2001), which is based on the scenario of two planes being simultaneously hijacked. (New Yorker 9/24/2001) Similarly, NORAD will state that before 9/11, it normally conducts four major exercises each year at headquarters level. Most of them include a hijack scenario, and some of them are apparently quite similar to the 9/11 attacks (see Between 1991 and 2001 and Between September 1999 and September 10, 2001). (Komarow and Squitieri 4/18/2004; Starr 4/19/2004) According to author Lynn Spencer, before September 11, “To prepare for their missions in support of NORAD, the Air National Guard pilots—some of the finest pilots in the world—often use hijacking scenarios to train for intercept tactics.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 84-85) John Arquilla, an associate professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, later says that while “No one knew specifically that 20 people would hijack four airliners and use them for suicide attacks against major buildings… the idea of such an attack was well known, [and] had been war gamed as a possibility in exercises before Sept. 11.” (Howe 7/18/2002)

NORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, ColoradoNORAD’s war room in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado [Source: Val Gempis]Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins and other day shift employees at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, start their workday. NORAD is conducting a week-long, large-scale exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Seely 1/25/2002) Deskins is regional mission crew chief for the Vigilant Guardian exercise. (ABC News 9/11/2002)
Exercise Includes Simulated Attack on the US - Vigilant Guardian is described as “an exercise that would pose an imaginary crisis to North American Air Defense outposts nationwide”; as a “simulated air war”; and as “an air defense exercise simulating an attack on the United States.” According to the 9/11 Commission, it “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” (Seely 1/25/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 55 and 122; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) Vigilant Guardian is described as being held annually, and is one of NORAD’s four major annual exercises. (Filson 2003, pp. 41; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) However, one report says it takes place semi-annually. (Scott 6/3/2002) Accounts by participants vary on whether 9/11 is the second, third, or fourth day of the exercise. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Seely 1/25/2002; Kampouris 9/11/2002) Vigilant Guardian is a command post exercise (CPX), and in at least some previous years was conducted in conjunction with Stratcom’s Global Guardian exercise and a US Space Command exercise called Apollo Guardian. (US Congress n.d.; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) All of NORAD is participating in Vigilant Guardian on 9/11. (Scott 6/3/2002)
Exercise Includes Simulated Hijacking - Vanity Fair reports that the “day’s exercise” (presumably Vigilant Guardian) is “designed to run a range of scenarios, including a ‘traditional’ simulated hijack in which politically motivated perpetrators commandeer an aircraft, land on a Cuba-like island, and seek asylum.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) However, at NEADS, most of the dozen or so staff on the operations floor have no idea what the exercise is going to entail and are ready for anything. (Cooper 8/5/2004)
NORAD Fully Staffed and Alert - NORAD is currently running a real-world operation named Operation Northern Vigilance (see September 9, 2001). It may also be conducting a field training exercise calling Amalgam Warrior on this morning (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command will be in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, “In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on September 11.” (Scott 6/3/2002; Kelly 12/5/2003) Colonel Robert Marr, in charge of NEADS, will say: “We had the fighters with a little more gas on board. A few more weapons on board.” (ABC News 9/11/2002) However, Deskins and other NORAD officials later are initially confused about whether the 9/11 attacks are real or part of the exercise (see (8:38 a.m.-8:43 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Jeff Ford.Jeff Ford. [Source: Thomas Doscher / US Air Force]Personnel in NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, take part in a major Cold War-style training exercise called Vigilant Guardian, a war game in which the theoretical enemy is Russia. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; Simpson 8/28/2011; Roeder 9/10/2011) All of NORAD, including its subordinate units (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), participates in the exercise. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/23/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011) More than 50 people in the NORAD Battle Management Center in Cheyenne Mountain take part. (Tudor 3/2002; Doscher 9/8/2011) Vigilant Guardian is an annual exercise and is scheduled to last two weeks. (Arkin 2005, pp. 545; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011) It has been underway for several days. Those in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) have been participating in it “for at least three or four days,” according to Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011)
Vigilant Guardian Is a 'Full-Blown Nuclear War' Exercise - Vigilant Guardian is a “transition to wartime operations command post exercise,” according to an information page for its participants. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/23/2001) The 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11 will describe it as a “simulated air war.” (Filson 2003, pp. 55) Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall that it involves NORAD “simulating war.… You know, attacks coming from the outside, Soviet-style bombers coming in, cruise-missile attacks, that type of thing.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011) Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Vigilant Guardian is a “full-blown nuclear war” exercise, and includes bomber response and intercontinental ballistic missile response. (9/11 Commission 3/4/2004)
Russia Is Imagined Enemy - The theoretical enemy in the exercise is Russia. (Simpson 8/28/2011) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the exercise “postulated a bomber attack from the former Soviet Union.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 458) Merchant will explain that “NORAD must use Russia in its exercises at the strategic level since no other country poses a great enough threat to NORAD’s capabilities and responsibilities.” (9/11 Commission 3/4/2004)
Personnel Updated on Exercise during Shift Change - Armstrong will later recall that today starts off “like any other day. We came in thinking it would be a normal day… we did a standard shift changeover in the morning and we were getting right into where we were at in relation to the exercise.” He will describe that in a shift change during the exercise, “We’d say, ‘Okay, here’s what happened during the night shift (or the day shift),’ and we’d give each other an update, and then we’d start planning for whatever was on the agenda for that day.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011) According to the Denver Post, after commencing his shift, Armstrong “mapped out strategy in a chess game of ever-escalating scenarios, from strained diplomacy to the outbreak of conventional warfare that headed inexorably toward nuclear conflict” with Russia. (Simpson 8/28/2011)
B-1 Bomber Scheduled to Fly out over Pacific Ocean - The “planned big event for the day” in the exercise is “supposed to be a B-1 bomber that was flying out of Fairchild Air Force Base [in Washington State] and going out over the Pacific,” according to Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel who is working in the CMOC. Ford will add that there are “other things going on as part of the exercise, air exercise events, and then some scripted inputs that we were reacting to there in the Air Warning Center, whether it be unknown aircraft that we scramble aircraft for to intercept—or whatever.” (Doscher 9/8/2011)
Exercise Posture Allegedly Helps Response to Attacks - Vigilant Guardian will reportedly end after 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hits the World Trade Center (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the CMOC personnel participating in it will then become involved in responding to the real-world attacks. (Tudor 3/2002; Toronto Star 11/11/2008) Glover will claim that the CMOC’s response to the terrorist attacks benefits from the position the operations center is in for the exercise. He will say NORAD is “lucky” because “all the directorates such as operations, logistics, security, all those folks were up in the [Cheyenne] Mountain on an exercise posture.” He will add that “these are the same folks that we would bring up in case of contingencies or in time of going to war. So, in reality, I had all the guys up into the NORAD Battle Management Center that I needed to conduct the exercise as well as the contingency operations that happened on 9/11.” (Doscher 9/8/2011)
NORAD Monitoring Russian Exercise - NORAD was created in 1958, during the Cold War, to protect North American airspace against nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union. (Shenon 4/25/2004; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 8/6/2004; Dick 11/2004) According to the Toronto Star, “Whether it’s a simulation or a real-world event, the role of the [CMOC] is to fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot.” (Simmie 12/9/2001) As well as the Vigilant Guardian exercise, NORAD is currently in the middle of an operation called Northern Vigilance, with its fighter jets deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada to monitor an exercise being run by the Russian Air Force (see September 9, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001) The battle staff members in Cheyenne Mountain are positioned to deal with both this operation and the exercise. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)

Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), speaks over the phone with Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), about the day’s training exercise. Marr is in the battle cab at NEADS, in Rome, New York, while Arnold is at the CONR headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file) All of NORAD, including NEADS, is currently participating in the major annual exercise, Vigilant Guardian. (Northeast Air Defense Sector 8/23/2001; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; Doscher 9/8/2011) Marr has just been in a staff meeting, and now checks in with Arnold to make sure their communication lines are up and ready for the exercise. (Grant 2004, pp. 19) Marr tells Arnold that the personnel on the NEADS operations floor are ready to begin the exercise. Marr will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “primary communication” on this day “is to higher headquarters,” presumably meaning Arnold. However, the two men are not on a continual open line. (9/11 Commission 1/23/2004 pdf file) Arnold will tell the Commission that he and Marr “did not stay on the line continually, but spoke when information needed to be passed,” throughout the day. (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)

Tom Roberts.Tom Roberts. [Source: NBC News]Boston flight controller Pete Zalewski, handling Flight 11, sees that the flight is off course and that the plane has turned off both transponder and radio. Zalewski later claims he turns to his supervisor and says, “Would you please come over here? I think something is seriously wrong with this plane. I don’t know what. It’s either mechanical, electrical, I think, but I’m not sure.” When asked if he suspected a hijacking at this point, he replies, “Absolutely not. No way.” According to the 9/11 Commission, “the supervisor instructed the controller [presumably Zalewski] to follow standard operating procedures for handling a ‘no radio’ aircraft once the controller told the supervisor the transponder had been turned off.” Another flight controller, Tom Roberts, has another nearby American Airlines Flight try to contact Flight 11. There is still no response. The flight is now “drastically off course” but NORAD is still not notified. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Note that this response contradicts flight control manager Glenn Michael’s assertion that Flight 11 was considered a possible hijacking as soon as the transponder was discovered turned off.

Boston flight control reportedly “notifies several air traffic control centers that a hijack is taking place.” (Ellison 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 pdf file) , 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.” (Wald 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. (Kelly 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).

At 8:26, Flight 11, which is already way off course, makes an unplanned 100-degree turn to the south over Albany, New York. A minute later, it turns right, to the south-southwest. Then, two minutes on, at 8:29, it turns left to the south-southeast. Boston air traffic controllers never lose sight of the flight, though they can no longer determine altitude as the transponder is turned off. Its last known altitude was 29,000 feet. (Clayton 9/13/2001; Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; MSNBC 9/11/2002) Before this turn, the FAA had tagged Flight 11’s radar dot for easy visibility and, at American Airlines’ System Operations Control (SOC) in Fort Worth, Texas, “All eyes watched as the plane headed south. On the screen, the plane showed a squiggly line after its turn near Albany, then it straightened.” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001) Boston air traffic controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” (Ross and Rackmill 9/6/2002) However, apparently, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) has different radar. When they are finally told about the flight, they cannot find it (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS has to repeatedly phone the FAA, airlines, and others, for clues as to the plane’s location. NEADS will eventually focus on a radar blip they believe might be Flight 11, and watch it close in on New York. (Seely 1/25/2002; Scott 6/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002)

The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here).The FAA Command Center, the center of daily management of the US air traffic system. On 9/11 it is managed by Ben Sliney (not pictured here). [Source: CNN]The FAA’s Boston Center calls the FAA Command Center and says it believes Flight 11 has been hijacked and is heading toward the New York Center’s airspace. The Command Center immediately establishes a teleconference between the Boston, New York, and Cleveland air traffic control centers, so Boston can help the other centers understand what is happening, in case Flight 11 should enter their airspace. Minutes later, in line with the standard hijacking protocol, the Command Center will pass on word of the suspected hijacking to the FAA’s Washington headquarters (see 8:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 19; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 11; Spencer 2008, pp. 21)
National Operations Manager Learns of Hijacking - A supervisor at the Command Center promptly passes on the news of the possible hijacking to Ben Sliney, who is on his first day as the national operations manager there. The supervisor says the plane in question is “American Flight 11—a 767 out of Boston for Los Angeles.” According to author Lynn Spencer, “Sliney flashes back to the routine for dealing with hijackings from the days when they were more common.” The procedure is to “[k]eep other aircraft away from the errant plane. Give the pilots what they need. The plane will land somewhere, passengers will be traded for fuel, and difficult negotiations with authorities will begin. The incident should resolve itself peacefully, although the ones in the Middle East, he recalls, often had a more violent outcome.” Apparently not expecting anything worse to happen, Sliney continues to the conference room for the daily 8:30 staff meeting there (see 8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Command Center a 'Communications Powerhouse' - The FAA Command Center is located in Herndon, Virginia, 25 miles from Washington, DC. According to Spencer, it “is a communications powerhouse, modeled after NASA’s Mission Control. The operations floor is 50 feet wide and 120 feet long, packed with tiered rows of computer stations, and at the front, seven enormous display screens show flight trajectories and weather patterns.” The center has nearly 50 specialists working around the clock, planning and monitoring the flow of air traffic over the United States. These specialists work with airlines and air traffic control facilities to fix congestion problems and deal with weather systems. (Spencer 2008, pp. 1 and 19-20)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), participates in a video teleconference with other senior NORAD officials and is therefore unavailable when NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tries contacting him for authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11. (Filson 2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) Arnold is in the video teleconferencing room at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.
Teleconference Discussing 'Russian Exercise' - Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force who is in the room with Arnold, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the teleconference is “about the Russian exercise.” (9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file) Del Toro is presumably referring to either the Russian Air Force exercise that NORAD is currently monitoring (see September 9, 2001) or the exercise, Vigilant Guardian, that NORAD is currently running, which reportedly includes a simulated war against Russia (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; Arkin 2005, pp. 545; Simpson 8/28/2011)
NORAD Officials from US and Canada on Teleconference - It is unclear exactly who else is participating in the teleconference. Arnold will tell the 9/11 Commission that as well as “our folks”—presumably referring to some of his colleagues at CONR—it includes “the NORAD staff.” The “NORAD staff” presumably includes officials from NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and its headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Arnold will tell author Leslie Filson that the teleconference includes “the CINC”—presumably meaning General Ralph Eberhart, the commander in chief of NORAD, who is at Peterson Air Force Base—and also officials from the Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) and the Canadian NORAD Region (CANR). (Filson 2002; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)
Arnold Not Alerted to Hijacking - While Arnold is on the teleconference, NEADS calls CONR to alert him to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but no one at CONR interrupts the teleconference to fetch him or pass on to him the urgent message from NEADS. Arnold will only learn of the hijacking after the teleconference ends (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and he will then call NEADS back (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Spencer 2008, pp. 31, 38)

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy.Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy. [Source: CBC]After being informed of the possible hijacking of Flight 11, an air traffic controller in the control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base calls the base’s operations desk to let it know that it might be receiving a call from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, has just called the control tower at Otis Air Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, alerting it to the problems with Flight 11 and requesting military assistance. The controller who took the call told Bueno he needed to call NEADS in order to get fighter jets launched (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 47; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)
Tower Controller Calls Operations Desk - According to author Lynn Spencer, the tower controller subsequently “figures a call [to Otis Air Base] will be coming from NEADS soon and a scramble order is likely. He knows the fighter pilots will appreciate the heads-up.” He therefore calls the Otis Air Base operations desk. According to Spencer, the phone is answered by Master Sergeant Mark Rose, who is the superintendent of aviation management, in charge of flight records and currency for the pilots of the 102nd Fighter Wing. (Spencer 2008, pp. 27) But according to the 102nd Fighter Wing’s own history of the 9/11 attacks, the call is answered by a Technical Sergeant “Margie Woody.” (102nd Fighter Wing 2001)
Controller Confuses Superintendent - Rose (or Woody, if the wing’s account is correct) is initially confused by the call. The tower controller does not identify himself or say where he is calling from, but instead begins by asking, “What do you have available?” As Spencer will describe, “For all [Rose] knows, this could be a wrong number or a crank call,” so rather than giving information about the base, Rose responds, “What are you talking about?” The controller then identifies himself and explains that he has just received a report about a hijacking. Rose realizes he needs to pass the call on to someone more appropriate.
Pilot Informed of Hijacking - Pilot Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, who is the director of operations for the 102nd Fighter Wing, is standing next to Rose by the operations desk. Rose tells him, “Duff, you got a phone call,” and then says the caller is “Otis tower—something about an apparent hijacking under way: American 11, a 767, out of Boston and headed for California.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 27-28) Duffy will later recall his response to this news: “As soon as we heard there was something about a hijacking we got moving.” (Filson 2003, pp. 50) On his handheld radio he calls Major Daniel Nash, who along with Duffy is an “alert” pilot on duty at this time, and instructs him to suit up ready for any scramble call. (Spencer 2008, pp. 28) The two pilots will run to the nearby locker room, put on their G-suits and helmets, and then head out toward their jets (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Viser 9/11/2005) Meanwhile, a commander at Otis will phone NEADS to report the FAA’s request for military assistance (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Call Is Not 'the First Notification Received by the Military' - The exact time the tower controller calls the operations desk at is unclear. Duffy will later guess that the call occurs “at about 8:30, 8:35.” (Duffy 10/22/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 50) But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when the FAA’s Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) According to the102nd Fighter Wing’s history of the 9/11 attacks, the call to the operations desk is made at 8:38 a.m. (102nd Fighter Wing 2001) Bueno also called the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), which is located on Otis Air Base, at 8:34 a.m., to request that fighters be launched from Otis (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001), and in response, the TRACON contacts the Otis tower and operations desk (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/30/2003 pdf file)

Apparently around 8:34 a.m., the FAA’s Boston Center attempts to contact an Atlantic City, New Jersey, military unit, to have it send fighters after Flight 11. However, the outcome of this call, and whether it is even answered, is unclear. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Atlantic City International Airport is the home of the 177th Fighter Wing of the New Jersey Air National Guard, which flies F-16 fighter jets. The 177th FW was part of NORAD’s alert force for many years, and kept two F-16s constantly on alert, ready to scramble when requested. But in October 1998, as a result of Pentagon cutbacks, it lost its scramble-ready status and began converting to a general-purpose F-16 mission (see May 19, 1997). (Kelly 12/5/2003; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) The outcome of Boston Center’s attempt at contacting the Atlantic City unit is unclear. The 9/11 Commission will only state, “The center… tried to contact a former alert site in Atlantic City, unaware it had been phased out.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will also try contacting the unit minutes later, but its call will not be answered (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 34) The Bergen Record will later comment that, with the removal of the Atlantic City fighters from NORAD’s alert mission, “the Pentagon left what seems to be a yawning gap in the midsection of its air defenses on the East Coast—a gap with New York City at the center.” (Kelly 12/5/2003) Around this time, two F-16s from the 177th FW are away from base performing a training mission, and are just minutes from New York City, but the pilots are unaware of the unfolding crisis (see 8:46 a.m.-9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, claims he makes his first call to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) regarding Flight 11. He later recalls that he informs NEADS that the aircraft is “20 [miles] south of Albany, heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots.” (Griffin 2007, pp. 43) Flight 11 was over Albany at 8:26 (see (8:26 a.m.-8:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file) At such a high speed, it would have reached 20 miles south of there around 8:28. However, Scoggins says he is quite certain he only arrives on the floor at Boston Center at around 8:35. He says that although he’d later tried to write up a chronology of events, he “couldn’t get a timeline that made any sense.” Furthermore, Scoggins claims that even before he’d arrived, Joseph Cooper, a Boston Center air traffic management specialist, had already phoned NEADS about the hijacking. (Griffin 2007, pp. 43 and 335) The 9/11 Commission makes no mention of either call. It says “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked” is when Boston Center calls NEADS just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) However, a report by ABC News is more consistent with Scoggins’ claims, indicating that Boston Center contacts NEADS about the hijacking earlier, at around 8:31. (ABC News 9/11/2002) (Boston Center also contacts the FAA’s Cape Cod facility at 8:34 and requests that it notify the military about Flight 11 (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). Apparently around the same time, it tries contacting a military unit at Atlantic City (see (8:34 a.m.) September 11, 2001).) Scoggins says he makes “about 40 phone calls to NEADS” in total on this day. (Griffin 2007, pp. 43) NEADS Commander Robert Marr later comments that Scoggins “deserves a lot of credit because he was about the only one that was feeding us information. I don’t know exactly where he got it. But he was feeding us information as much as he could.” (Michael Bronner 2006)

Three F-16 fighter jets take off from Andrews Air Force Base, which is 10 miles from Washington, DC, and fly to North Carolina for a routine training mission, meaning they will be about 200 miles away from base when the attacks in New York take place. (Scott 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/28/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/17/2004; 9/11 Commission 2/27/2004) The jets belong to the 121st Fighter Squadron, part of the 113th Wing of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, which is based at Andrews. (District of Columbia Air National Guard 7/24/2001; Scott 9/9/2002; GlobalSecurity (.org) 8/21/2005) They are piloted by Major Billy Hutchison, Eric Haagenson, and Lou Campbell. Haagenson and Campbell are less experienced, junior pilots. Hutchison is flying with them because most of the pilots with his unit are on leave, having just returned from the “Red Flag” training exercise in Nevada (see Late August-September 8, 2001).
Jets Heading to Range to 'Drop Some Bombs' - The three F-16s are going to train for a surface attack. (9/11 Commission 2/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) Hutchison will later recall: “We had gone up to [the gunnery range in] Dare County, North Carolina, to drop some bombs and hit a refueling tanker and come on back. It was going to be an uneventful day.” (Filson 2003, pp. 79) The range is located 207 miles from Andrews Air Force Base. (Scott 9/9/2002) The jets are scheduled to arrive back at Andrews at 10:45 a.m. (District of Columbia Air National Guard 9/11/2001)
September 11 a 'Light Flying Day' - Because members of the 113th Wing have just returned from the Red Flag exercise, September 11 is a “light flying day.” According to Major David McNulty, the senior intelligence officer of the 113th Wing, the unit would normally have launched eight jets—“an eight-ship”—for this training mission. But as only seven pilots and a few planes are available, a “three-ship” has been launched instead. (9/11 Commission 3/11/2004 pdf file) The three F-16s heading out for the training mission will not arrive back at Andrews until between 10:14 a.m. and 10:36 a.m., by which time the terrorist attacks will already be over (see 10:14 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (10:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/17/2004)

Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell.Tech. Sgt. Jeremy Powell. [Source: Scott A. Gwilt/ Rome Sentinel]The FAA’s Boston Center calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, to alert it to the suspected hijacking of Flight 11. According to the 9/11 Commission, this is “the first notification received by the military—at any level—that American 11 had been hijacked.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 13) The call is made by Joseph Cooper, an air traffic controller at the Boston Center, and answered by Jeremy Powell, a technical sergeant on the NEADS operations floor. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 25) Beginning the call, Cooper says: “Hi. Boston Center TMU [traffic management unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.” Powell replies, “Is this real-world or exercise?” Cooper answers, “No, this is not an exercise, not a test.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Shortly into the call, Powell passes the phone on to Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Deskins identifies herself to Cooper, and he tells her, “We have a hijacked aircraft and I need you to get some sort of fighters out here to help us out.” (Seely 1/25/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; Bamford 2004, pp. 8; Spencer 2008, pp. 26)
Military Claims Call Goes against Procedure - The 1st Air Force’s official history of the response to the 9/11 attacks will later suggest that Boston Center is not following normal procedures when it makes this call to NEADS. It states: “If normal procedures had taken place… Powell probably wouldn’t have taken that phone call. Normally, the FAA would have contacted officials at the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center who would have contacted the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The secretary of defense would have had to approve the use of military assets to assist in a hijacking, always considered a law enforcement issue.” The only explanation it gives for this departure from protocol is that “nothing was normal on Sept. 11, 2001, and many say the traditional chain of command went by the wayside to get the job done.” (Filson 2003, pp. 51)
Accounts Conflict over Time of Call - There will be some conflict between different accounts, as to when this vital call from Boston Center to NEADS occurs. An ABC News documentary will indicate it is made as early as 8:31 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Another ABC News report will state, “Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD.” (ABC News 9/14/2002) NEADS logs indicate the call occurs at 8:40 a.m., and NORAD will report this as the time of the call in a press release on September 18, 2001. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001) The 8:40 time will be widely reported in the media prior to the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report. (Associated Press 8/21/2002; BBC 9/1/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002; CNN 9/11/2002) But tape recordings of the NEADS operations floor that are referred to in the 9/11 Commission Report place the call at 8:37 and 52 seconds. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Bronner 8/1/2006) If the 8:37 a.m. time is correct, this would mean that air traffic controllers have failed to successfully notify the military until approximately 12 minutes after they became certain that Flight 11 had been hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), 16 minutes after Flight 11’s transponder signal was lost (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and 24 minutes after the plane’s pilots made their last radio contact (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) At 8:34, the Boston Center tried contacting the military through the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, which is located on Otis Air National Guard Base, but was told that it needed to call NEADS (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 22)

NORAD fails to notify the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon that aircraft have been hijacked before the NMCC initiates a significant event conference in response to the terrorist attacks. (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004) NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted to the first hijacking, of Flight 11, at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and it is alerted to the second hijacking, of Flight 175, at 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20, 23) And yet, according to an after-action report produced by the NMCC, NORAD does not contact the NMCC to alert it to these incidents before the significant event conference commences, at 9:29 a.m. (see 9:29 a.m.-9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004)
NORAD Does Not Provide Information to Deputy Director - Captain Charles Leidig, the acting deputy director for operations in the NMCC, will later say that he “does not remember getting a lot of information from NORAD” before the significant event conference begins. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file) NMCC personnel apparently learn that an aircraft has been hijacked when an officer in the center calls the FAA at 9:00 a.m. (see 9:00 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 5/5/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35)
NORAD First Mentions a Hijacking at 9:33 a.m. - NORAD will apparently talk to the NMCC about a hijacking for the first time at around 9:33 a.m., when its representative on the significant event conference states that they “concur that [a] hijacked aircraft is still airborne [and] heading towards Washington, DC.” (US Department of Defense 9/11/2001; US Department of Defense 9/11/2001 pdf file) (They will presumably be referring to the incorrect information that Flight 11 is still in the air after it has crashed into the World Trade Center (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26) )
NORAD Does Not Request a Conference - Additionally, according to the NMCC’s after-action report, NORAD “does not request any conference at [National Command Authority] level” prior to the commencement of the significant event conference. (9/11 Commission 6/9/2004) The significant event conference is actually initiated by Leidig. The NMCC has an important role to play in an emergency like the current crisis. Its job under these circumstances “is to gather the relevant parties and establish the chain of command between the National Command Authority—the president and the secretary of defense—and those who need to carry out their orders,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 4/29/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 37) It is also “the focal point within [the] Department of Defense for providing assistance” when there is a hijacking in US airspace, according to a recent military instruction (see June 1, 2001). (US Department of Defense 6/1/2001 pdf file)

Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), learns of the possible hijacking of Flight 11 after leaving a video teleconference, but initially thinks the reported hijacking is part of a NORAD training exercise. (Filson 2002; Code One Magazine 1/2002) Arnold, who is at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, has been in the video teleconferencing room, participating in a teleconference with other senior NORAD officials (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), recently tried phoning Arnold to get authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but no one at CONR interrupted the teleconference to fetch Arnold, and so Marr left an urgent message for the CONR commander (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 31)
Note Informs Arnold of Hijacking - Arnold is now in the video teleconferencing room with Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force, discussing the just-concluded teleconference, when his executive officer, Kelley Duckett, hands him a note with Marr’s message on it. The note says the FAA’s Boston Center is reporting a hijacking and requesting assistance with it, and asks that Arnold phone Marr back immediately. (Filson 2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 2/2/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Arnold Thinks Hijacking Is 'Part of the Exercise' - NORAD is currently in the middle of a major training exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Code One Magazine 1/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 545) Arnold will later say that, as a result, when he learns of the possible hijacking: “The first thing that went through my mind was: ‘Is this part of the exercise? Is this some kind of a screw-up?’” (ABC News 9/11/2002) According to author Lynn Spencer, “Even as NORAD’s commander for the continental United States, Arnold is not privy to everything concerning the exercise.” The exercise “is meant to test commanders also, to make sure that their war machine is operating as it should.”
Arnold Told Hijacking Is 'Real-World' - Since a simulated hijacking is scheduled as part of the day’s exercise (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Arnold asks Duckett, “Is this part of the exercise?” Duckett replies that the hijacking is real-world. (Spencer 2008, pp. 38) Arnold will say that “understanding this is real-world is obviously important, so I rushed downstairs to our battle staff position.” (Filson 2002) It occurs to Arnold that it has been many years since NORAD handled a hijacking (see February 11, 1993). He is relieved that, “because we were in the middle of an exercise,” he recently reviewed the protocol for what to do in response to a hijacking, and so “we were pretty well familiar with those procedures.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Spencer 2008, pp. 38) Arnold will promptly phone Marr and instruct him to go ahead and scramble fighters in response to the hijacking (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39)

Major General Larry Arnold.Major General Larry Arnold. [Source: US Air Force]Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), calls Colonel Robert Marr, the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), who is seeking authorization to scramble fighter jets in response to the hijacked Flight 11, and instructs him to “go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get authorities later.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) After learning that the FAA wants NORAD assistance with a possible hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Marr tried calling Arnold at CONR headquarters, at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, for permission to scramble fighters from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold was in a teleconference (see (8:30 a.m.-8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), so Marr left a message requesting that Arnold call him back. (Scott 6/3/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 55-56; Spencer 2008, pp. 31) With the teleconference now over, Arnold calls Marr on a secure phone line and is informed of the ongoing situation. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file)
Marr Reports Hijacking, Wants to Scramble Fighters - Marr says the FAA’s Boston Center is “reporting a possible hijacked aircraft, real-world, somewhere north of JFK Airport.” He says, “I’ve got Otis [fighters] going battle stations [i.e. with the pilots in the cockpits but the engines turned off] and I’d like to scramble them to military airspace while we try to get approval for an intercept.” Arnold had wondered if the reported hijacking was a simulation, as part of a NORAD training exercise taking place on this day (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and therefore asks, “Confirm this is real-world?” Marr confirms that the hijacking is “real-world.”
Marr Lacks Details of Hijacked Flight - Arnold asks where the hijacked aircraft is and Marr replies: “We don’t have a good location. The FAA says they don’t have it on their scopes, but had it west of Boston and thought it was now heading to New York.” Arnold then asks, “Do we have any other information, type, tail, number of souls on board?” to which Marr replies, “I don’t have all the particulars yet, but we’ll pass them on as we get them.”
Arnold Tells Marr to Scramble Fighters - According to author Lynn Spencer, in response to Marr’s request to scramble the Otis fighters, “Arnold’s instincts tell him to act first and seek authorizations later.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) He therefore says, “Go ahead and scramble them, and we’ll get authorities later.” (Filson 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Marr tells Arnold he will “scramble Otis to military airspace” while they try to figure out what is going on. (Grant 2004, pp. 20) Arnold will later recall that it is his and Marr’s intention to place the fighters in “Whiskey 105”—military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island—“since neither he nor Marr knew where the hijacked aircraft was.” (9/11 Commission 2/3/2004 pdf file) Arnold ends by saying, “Let me know when the jets get airborne,” and adds that he will “run this up the chain” of command. Marr will then direct the NEADS mission crew commander to issue the scramble order (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). Meanwhile, Arnold will call the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, about the hijacking, and officers there tell him they will contact the Pentagon to get the necessary clearances for the scramble (see (8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Filson 2003, pp. 56; Spencer 2008, pp. 39)

After 9/11, NORAD and other sources will claim that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is notified at this time that Flight 175 has been hijacked. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Kugler 8/19/2002; Adcock 9/10/2002) However, the FAA’s New York Center, which is handling Flight 175, first alerts its military liaison about the hijacking at around 9:01 (see 9:01 a.m.-9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). In addition, according to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is not informed until two minutes later (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) According to the Commission, the first “operational evidence” that there is something wrong on Flight 175 is not until 8:47, when its transponder code changes (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001), and it is not until 8:53 that the air traffic controller handling it concludes that Flight 175 may be hijacked (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 21-22)

General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, learns that a plane has been hijacked and then drives to his office, where he sees the television reports showing an aircraft has crashed into the World Trade Center, but he does not initially realize a terrorist attack is taking place. Eberhart has just arrived back at his home in Colorado after going for a jog when, at around 8:45 a.m., he receives a call from Captain Michael Jellinek, command director at NORAD’s operations center in Cheyenne Mountain. Jellinek tells Eberhart that the FAA has reported a suspected hijacking on the East Coast. He says this is a “real-world” hijacking and not part of an exercise, and that NORAD has authorized the scrambling of fighter jets in response. Eberhart will later recall that he isn’t “too excited” about the incident at this time and is thinking it is a “traditional” hijacking. Shortly after receiving the call, he drives to his office, at NORAD’s headquarters at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado Springs. He arrives there at around 9:00 a.m. to 9:10 a.m., he will recall, and then sees CNN’s coverage of the burning WTC on television. He calls the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center and asks if the aircraft that crashed into the WTC was the plane that was suspected of being hijacked. The person he speaks to says reports on CNN indicated that a small aircraft, and not the hijacked commercial aircraft, hit the WTC. There is apparently “great confusion in the system” at this time, Eberhart will comment. He will say the information NORAD currently has is only as good as what the FAA has provided. Eberhart will see the second hijacked plane, Flight 175, crashing into the WTC live on television at 9:03 a.m. and then realize that a coordinated terrorist attack is taking place (see (9:03 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004)

Michael Jellinek.Michael Jellinek. [Source: Tom Kimmell]The NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, receives a call notifying it that the FAA has requested military assistance with a hijacking, and senior officers there agree with the decision that has been made to launch fighter jets in response to the hijacking, and say they will call the Pentagon to get the necessary clearance for this. (Filson 2003, pp. 56; 9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 39) Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region, has just talked over the phone with Colonel Robert Marr at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), and Marr suggested to him that fighters be scrambled in response to the hijacked Flight 11. Arnold told Marr to go ahead with the scramble and said he would sort out getting authorization for it (see (8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Arnold therefore now calls the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC). The call is answered by Captain Michael Jellinek, the command director on duty there. (Scott 6/3/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) Arnold says the FAA has requested assistance for an ongoing hijacking. (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file)
NORAD Director Approves Decision to Launch Fighters - Jellinek passes on the details of the request to Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, who has just finished the night shift and is returning to the CMOC battle cab from breakfast. Jellinek will later recall: “I pick up the other phone because I know [Findley is] there. One button and I’m talking to him. It’s faster to do that than walk around the window, say the same thing.” (Slobodian 10/1/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 11/27/2001; Simmie 12/9/2001) Findley “concurs with Arnold’s assessment and decision to scramble the fighters,” according to author Lynn Spencer, and quickly approves the fighters’ launch. (Scott 6/3/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 39) He “immediately gives the thumbs up” through the window, according to Jellinek. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 11/27/2001) Arnold will say he is told (presumably by Jellinek): “Yeah, we’ll work this with the National Military Command Center [at the Pentagon]. Go ahead and scramble the aircraft.” (Filson 2002; Filson 2003, pp. 56) According to Findley: “At that point, all we thought was we’ve got an airplane hijacked and we were going to provide an escort as requested [by the FAA]. We certainly didn’t know it was going to play out as it did.” (Kampouris 9/11/2002)
NORAD Personnel Request Permission for Scramble - Findley will say that after the CMOC receives the call from Arnold, he “knew what to do, and so did everybody else on the battle staff.” He tells the members of the battle staff to “open up our checklist” and “follow our NORAD instruction,” which includes having “to ask in either Ottawa or Washington, ‘Is it okay if we use NORAD fighters to escort a potential hijacked aircraft?’” (CNN 9/11/2006) Findley and the others in the CMOC will subsequently see the coverage on CNN, reporting that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, but do not initially realize the plane involved was the hijacked aircraft they have been called about (see (8:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Slobodian 10/1/2001; Kampouris 9/11/2002; Doscher 9/8/2011)

Curt Applegate sitting next to his air traffic control terminal.Curt Applegate sitting next to his air traffic control terminal. [Source: NBC News]After being focused on Flight 11, Dave Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, first notices problems with Flight 175. (MSNBC 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 21) Both Flight 11 and Flight 175 have been in the airspace that Bottiglia is responsible for monitoring (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:42 a.m.-8:46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Bottiglia has just watched Flight 11’s radar blip disappear, which means the plane has dipped below his radar’s coverage area, so is below 2,000 feet. But he does not yet realize it has crashed. He says aloud, “Well, we know he’s not high altitude anymore.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 37) Around this time, Flight 175’s transponder changes twice in the space of a minute (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Conflicting Accounts - According to MSNBC, “within seconds” of losing Flight 11’s blip, “Bottiglia has another unexpected problem.” While looking for Flight 11, he realizes that Flight 175 is also missing, and “instinctively… knows the two [planes] are somehow related.” He asks another controller to take over all of his other planes. (MSNBC 9/11/2002) But according to the 9/11 Commission’s account, Bottiglia is still trying to locate Flight 11 after it crashes, and so it is not until 8:51 a.m. that he notices the problem with Flight 175 (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 21)
'An Intruder over Allentown' - Around the time Flight 175 changes its transponder code, air traffic controller Curt Applegate, who is sitting at the radar bank next to Bottiglia’s, sees a blip that might be the missing Flight 11. He shouts out: “Look. There’s an intruder over Allentown.” According to the Washington Post, “In air traffic jargon, an ‘intruder’ is a plane with an operating transponder that has entered restricted airspace without permission.” In fact, it is the missing Flight 175. (Lane, Phillips, and Snyder 9/17/2001; MSNBC 9/11/2002) However, these accounts make no mention of NORAD being notified about the problems with Flight 175 at this time. But according to a NORAD timeline released shortly after 9/11, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) was alerted about Flight 175 by the FAA several minutes earlier, at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)

Major General Rick Findley.Major General Rick Findley. [Source: NORAD]Personnel in the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, learn of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center from television coverage of the attack, but do not realize the crash involved the hijacked aircraft they have just been notified of. (Slobodian 10/1/2001; Kampouris 9/11/2002; Doscher 9/8/2011) Jeff Ford, an Air Force lieutenant colonel working in the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC), will later recall, “[W]e started seeing the TV inputs from CNN on the aircraft, the first aircraft that had hit the Twin Towers.” (Doscher 9/8/2011) Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, has just learned that the FAA has requested NORAD assistance with a hijacking (see (8.46 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 3/1/2004 pdf file; Spencer 2008, pp. 38-39) He now enters the battle cab at the operations center. Someone there tells him, “Sir, you might want to look at that.” Findley will later recall: “I looked up and there was the CNN image of the World Trade Center. There was a hole in the side of one of the buildings.”
CMOC Personnel Think Small Plane Hit WTC - Findley asks, “What’s that from?” and is told, “Well, they’re saying it’s a commuter aircraft.” Findley says, “That’s too big a hole for a commuter aircraft.” He asks if the crash was caused by the hijacked aircraft he has been informed of. “I was scratching my head, wondering if it was another aircraft altogether,” he will recall. (Slobodian 10/1/2001; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/11/2002) Others in the CMOC are unaware that the crash was the result of a terrorist attack and involved a large commercial aircraft. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Armstrong, NORAD’s chief of plans and forces, will recall, “[W]e didn’t really know that it was anything other than perhaps a general aviation aircraft because those were the first indications that we had was it was just… reported like a small, maybe a general aviation aircraft that had hit one of the buildings.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011) According to Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center: “[W]e weren’t sure whether it was a mistake… was this intentional? Was there a problem? The weather was good, you know, that type of thing. So we really didn’t know what the reason was that this aircraft struck the tower.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011) Ford will recall: “[W]e knew something was wrong because there really wasn’t any reason for any navigational problems for that aircraft. There might have been a malfunction or something on the aircraft that had taken place, but we really didn’t have any indications of what was going on yet.” (Doscher 9/8/2011)
CMOC Personnel Unaware that Crash Was Deliberate - The CMOC is “the nerve centre of North America’s air defense,” according to the BBC. (BBC 9/1/2002) Its role, according to the Toronto Star, is “to fuse every critical piece of information NORAD has into a concise and crystalline snapshot.” (Simmie 12/9/2001) But it is only after personnel there see the television coverage of the second plane hitting the WTC at 9:03 a.m. that they realize “we had something much more sinister than just an accident, a really coordinated and deliberate action,” according to Findley. (Kampouris 9/11/2002) Armstrong will recall: “[W]hen we saw the video [of the second crash], we said: ‘Wait a second. Those are commercial-size airplanes. Those aren’t general aviation aircraft.’ That obviously changed the situation significantly.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2011) According to Glover, after the second crash, “We knew then that the first one was not a mistake and we knew that this was intentional.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011)

The National Military Joint Intelligence Center.The National Military Joint Intelligence Center. [Source: Joseph M. Juarez / Defense Intelligence Agency]Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), calls the National Military Joint Intelligence Center (NMJIC) at the Pentagon regarding the hijacking of Flight 11, but the center is unable to provide him with any more information than he already has. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) NEADS was alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 at 8:37 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 20) Stuart now calls the Air Force desk at the NMJIC about it. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) The NMJIC, located in the Joint Staff area of the Pentagon, constantly monitors worldwide developments for any looming crises that might require US involvement. (Blazar 9/25/1997; Joint Chiefs of Staff 2/6/2006) It “forms the heart of timely intelligence support to national-level contingency operations,” according to James Clapper, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. And during a crisis, it “serves as a clearinghouse for all requests for national-level intelligence information.” (Clapper 3/1994 pdf file) However, Stuart will later recall that the NMJIC can provide him with “no additional relevant information” on the hijacking. Stuart then calls Robert Del Toro, an intelligence officer with the 1st Air Force at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. But, Stuart will say, the 1st Air Force also has “no further information” about the hijacking. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file)

According to a statement by two high-level FAA officials, “Within minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center, the FAA immediately established several phone bridges [i.e., telephone conference calls] that included FAA field facilities, the FAA command center, FAA headquarters, [Defense Department], the Secret Service, and other government agencies.” The FAA shares “real-time information on the phone bridges about the unfolding events, including information about loss of communication with aircraft, loss of transponder signals, unauthorized changes in course, and other actions being taken by all the flights of interest, including Flight 77. Other parties on the phone bridges in turn shared information about actions they were taken.” The statement says, “The US Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters phone bridge and established contact with NORAD on a separate line.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Another account says the phone bridges are “quickly established” by the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC). This is a small office at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, which is staffed by three military officers at the time of the attacks (see (Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It serves as the center’s liaison with the military. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the phone bridges link “key players, such as NORAD’s command center, area defense sectors, key FAA personnel, airline operations, and the NMCC.” (Scott 6/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) According to an FAA transcript of employee conversations on 9/11, one of the phone bridges, between the FAA Command Center, the operations center at FAA headquarters, and air traffic control centers in Boston and New York, begins before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center at 8:46 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 10/14/2003, pp. 3-10 pdf file) If these accounts are correct, it means someone at NORAD should learn about Flight 77 when it deviates from its course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim that the FAA teleconference is established about 30 minutes later (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The Air Force liaison to the FAA will claim she only joins it after the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Technicians on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) receive what is apparently their first notification that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, in a phone call from the FAA’s Boston Center. (Bronner 8/1/2006) NEADS ID technicians are currently trying to locate Flight 11, when they are called by Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center. ID tech Stacia Rountree answers the call. In response to Scoggins’s information, Rountree says to her colleagues, “A plane just hit the World Trade Center.” She asks Scoggins, “Was it American 11?” He tells her this is not confirmed. (Spencer 2008, pp. 50) Another of the ID techs, Shelley Watson, starts murmuring in response to the news: “Oh my God. Oh God. Oh my God.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) A computer maintenance technician then runs onto the operations floor and announces that CNN is broadcasting that a 737 has hit the WTC. (Spencer 2008, pp. 51)
NEADS Calls New York Center - Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley, the leader of the ID techs, tells Watson: “Update New York! See if they lost altitude on that plane altogether.” Watson immediately calls the FAA’s New York Center and asks, “Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?” When the person who answers her call says no, Watson explains, “Being hit by an aircraft.” The person at New York Center says, “You’re kidding,” but Watson adds, “It’s on the world news.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) One of the NEADS technicians is finally able to display the live CNN coverage on one of the 15-foot screens at the front of the room. People stare in silence at the footage of the burning North Tower. (Spencer 2008, pp. 51)

William Wibel, principal of a school inside Otis Air National Guard Base, is inside the Otis base preparing for a meeting when he learns that the WTC has been attacked and his meeting is canceled. He says, “As I drove away, and was listening to the news on the radio, the 102nd was scrambling into duty.” (Kinsella and Dennehy 9/12/2001) The WTC crash does not break on local news and radio until about 8:52 a.m. Even if he hears CNN’s early reporting starting at 8:48 a.m., it still presumably takes time to learn the meeting is canceled, go back to his car and so forth. NORAD says the fighters took off from Otis at 8:52 a.m.

Adam AriasAdam Arias [Source: US Air Force]Major Don Arias, the public affairs officer for NORAD, has just learned of the first WTC crash from television and a phone call from NEADS (see (8:38 a.m.-8:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Alarmed because his younger brother works at the WTC, he calls him immediately. Adam Arias works for an investment company on the 84th floor of the South Tower. According to some accounts, Don Arias tells his brother that the aircraft that crashed into the North Tower was likely a hijacked plane that he has been informed of, and orders him to “Get out of there. Go home.” (Florida State Times 11/2001; Seely 1/25/2002; Seydel 9/2002) But according to Newsday, Don Arias tells his brother he has heard there is “another hijacked airliner and might be another attack.” (Newsday 10/30/2001) This would be consistent with an early NORAD timeline, which had the agency receiving notification of the second hijacking at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, later accounts, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will claim NORAD only hears of it around the time the plane hits the South Tower (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Adam Arias reacts to his brother’s call with urgency, going around the floor exhorting people to leave, and physically throwing one woman out of her office. Several survivors will later credit him with saving their lives. (Seely 1/25/2002; Seydel 9/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 124) Adam Arias will be killed when the South Tower collapses. (Barber 9/9/2003)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center directs the two fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 toward a new heading, based on instructions he has just received from NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS).
NEADS Gave New Heading for Fighters - The Boston Center controller, who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, has just been contacted by someone from NEADS. The caller from NEADS, referring to the two fighters from Otis Air Base, said, “The heading that we gave him on, I guess, is a bad heading.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (The original flight strip for the fighters gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file) ) The caller said the fighters’ target was “now south of JFK,” and added, “Can you direct the Panta flight [i.e. the two Otis fighters] towards that now?” The controller replied: “If I’m talking to him, I don’t know where that target [is]. I don’t even see the target at all.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001) The “target,” Flight 11, crashed into the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 7) However, the caller explained that NEADS had just talked to Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the Boston Center, and Scoggins said the target was “south of JFK now.” The caller therefore reiterated, “We want to get [the Otis fighters] headed in that direction.” The controller confirmed, “I’ll do that.”
Controller Passes on New Heading to Pilot - Seconds later, Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots of the two fighters out of Otis Air Base, checks in with the Boston Center controller. Duffy says, “Boston Center, Panta 45 with you out of 13-5 for 290.” (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) (“Panta 45” is Duffy’s call sign. (Spencer 2008, pp. 113) ) The controller tells Duffy, “Panta 45, roger, fly heading of 260.” Duffy confirms the new heading. The controller then instructs, “Maintain block 290.” Duffy confirms, “Six zero on the heading, climbing to flight level [of] 290.” The controller will then tell Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed into the WTC (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001)

The head air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center notifies a manager at the facility that she believes Flight 175 has been hijacked. The manager tries to notify regional managers about this, but cannot reach them because they are discussing the hijacking of Flight 11 and refuse to be disturbed. However, even though the controller managing Flight 175 said, “we may have a hijack” at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001), the 9/11 Commission will conclude that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is not notified about the aircraft until 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) The Commission’s account will conflict with previous accounts that state that NEADS was notified of the Flight 175 hijacking at 8:43 a.m. (see 8:43 a.m. September 11, 2001). The head of the New York Center, Mike McCormick, has already decided at 8:52 a.m. that Flight 175 has been hijacked and is on a suicide run to New York City (see (8:52 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (CNN 8/12/2002)

Flight 77’s transponder is turned off, meaning that the aircraft’s speed, altitude, and flight information are no longer visible on radar displays at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center. (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) The Indianapolis Center air traffic controller in charge of Flight 77 watched the plane go off course and head southwest before its data disappeared from his radar screen. He looks for primary radar signals along the aircraft’s projected flight path as well as in the airspace where it had started to turn, but cannot find it. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) He tries contacting the plane repeatedly, saying “American 77, Indy,” and: “American 77, Indy, radio check. How do you read?” But there is no response. (Wald and Sack 10/16/2001; New York Times 10/16/2001)
NEADS Not Contacted - US News and World Report will later comment, “[E]xperts say that an airliner making a 180-degree turn followed by a transponder turnoff should have been a red flag to controllers.” It will quote Robert Cauble, a 20-year veteran of Navy air traffic control, who says: “The fact that the transponder went off, they should have picked up on that immediately. Everyone should have been on alert about what was going on.” (Schultz 10/8/2001) Yet the Indianapolis Center supposedly does not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS will only learn that Flight 77 is missing at 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 26-27)
Controller Thinks Plane Suffered Mechanical Failure - While several air traffic control centers were reportedly informed of the Flight 11 hijacking as early as 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to the 9/11 Commission, the controller handling Flight 77 does not realize other aircraft have been hijacked, and he is unaware of the situation in New York. He mistakenly assumes Flight 77 has experienced an electrical or mechanical failure. (Ellison 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) After he informs other Indianapolis Center personnel of the developing situation, they will clear all other aircraft from the plane’s westerly route so their safety will not be affected if Flight 77 is still flying along its original path but unable to be heard. (Freni 2003, pp. 29; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 460; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30)
Airline and Possibly Pentagon Learn of Flight 77 Problems - While NEADS is not alerted about the errant aircraft, a controller at the Indianapolis Center will contact American Airlines at 8:58 to inform it that contact has been lost with Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30) And an article in the New York Times will indicate that the Pentagon’s National Military Command Center (NMCC) promptly becomes aware of the problems with Flight 77 (see (Shortly After 8:51 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Wald 9/15/2001)

About a half-dozen air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center in Ronkonkoma, NY, watch Flight 175 on the radar screen in its final minutes, as it approaches Manhattan. (National Transportation Safety Board 2/19/2002 pdf file; Bronner 8/1/2006) Flight 175 is marked on the screen with the letter “I” for “intruder.” Initially, those at the center think it might be heading for Newark Airport, maybe for an emergency landing there. But controller Jim Bohleber says, “No, he’s too fast and low, he’ll never make Newark.” (Adcock 9/10/2002) The controllers start speculating what Flight 175 is aiming for, with one of them guessing the Statue of Liberty. (Bronner 8/1/2006) They are astonished at the extraordinary rate at which it is descending (see (8:58 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). A controller counts down its altitude, “Eight, six, four” thousand feet, and then says, “My god, he’s in the ground in the next step.” But someone else at the center says, “No, that’s the Trade Center right there.” (The Learning Channel 8/20/2006) But, according to the 9/11 Commission, the New York Center does not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 175 until 9:03 a.m., the same time as it crashes into the South Tower (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23) Workers at the crisis center at United Airlines’ headquarters outside Chicago, also closely watch Flight 175 head into New York City on radar. (Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002)

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs it that contact has been lost with Flight 77. The controller is a sector radar associate, whose job is to help with hand-offs and to coordinate with other sectors and facilities. He speaks to American Airlines dispatcher Jim McDonnell. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 30; Spencer 2008, pp. 63) The controller begins, “This is Indianapolis Center trying to get a hold of American 77.” McDonnell asks for clarification, “Who you trying to get a hold of?” and the controller replies: “American 77.… On frequency 120.27.… We were talking to him and all of a sudden it just, uh…” McDonnell interjects: “Okay, all right. We’ll get a hold of him for you.” The call comes to an abrupt end and the controller then continues trying to contact Flight 77. (New York Times 10/16/2001; Spencer 2008, pp. 63-64) Soon after this call, American Airlines’ executive vice president of operations, Gerard Arpey, will give an order to stop all American flight takeoffs in the Northeast US (see Between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m. September 11, 2001). By 8:59 a.m., American Airlines begins attempts to contact Flight 77 using ACARS (a digital communications system used primarily for aircraft-to-airline messages). Within minutes, some time between 9:00 a.m. and 9:10 a.m., American will get word that United Airlines also has lost contact with a missing airliner (presumably Flight 175). When reports of the second WTC crash come through after 9:03 a.m., one manager will mistakenly shout, “How did 77 get to New York and we didn’t know it?” (Mccartney and Carey 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 454; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 31) The sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center will call American Airlines again about Flight 77 at 9:02, and again speak with McDonnell (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001). (New York Times 10/16/2001)

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice phones President Bush, who is away in Florida, to pass on to him the news that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, and she tells the president that the plane involved was a commercial jetliner, not a light aircraft. (Rice 11/1/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35; Bush 2010, pp. 126) Rice, who is in her office at the White House, has just been informed of the crash by her executive assistant, but she mistakenly believes it was an accident involving a small plane (see Shortly After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Rice 10/24/2001; Rice 9/11/2002) Bush has just arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota for an education event there (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Sammon 2002, pp. 41-42; Rice 8/1/2002 pdf file)
Bush Calls WTC Crash a 'Strange Accident' - Rice calls Navy Captain Deborah Loewer, the director of the White House Situation Room, who is traveling with the president, and Loewer fetches Bush. (Rice 10/24/2001) Bush goes to a classroom that has been converted into a communications center for the traveling White House staff and talks to Rice using a secure phone there. (Bush 2010, pp. 126) Rice says, “Mr. President, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.” (Rice 10/24/2001) Bush has already been informed of this by members of his entourage (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 11/26/2001; Sammon 2002, pp. 42; Bush 2010, pp. 126) He says, “That’s a really strange accident,” and Rice replies, “Yeah, it really is.” (Bumiller 2007, pp. xi-xii)
Bush Told that Crash Involved a Commercial Plane - Bush asks Rice, “What kind of plane?” and Rice says she has been told it was a twin-engine plane. She tells Bush she will let him know if she learns anything more about the crash. Around this time, Rice’s executive assistant, Army Lieutenant Colonel Tony Crawford, comes and tells Rice that it is now believed the plane that hit the WTC was a commercial plane. Rice passes on this information to Bush and then says, “That’s all we know right now, Mr. President.” (Rice 10/24/2001; Rice 11/1/2001; Thomas 12/30/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 35) Bush will later recall that at this moment, “I was stunned.” He thinks to himself: “That plane must have had the worst pilot in the world. How could he possibly have flown into a skyscraper on a clear day? Maybe he’d had a heart attack.” Bush mutters, “There’s one terrible pilot.” He tells Rice to stay on top of the situation and then asks his communications director, Dan Bartlett, to work on a statement promising the full support of federal emergency management services. (Sammon 2002, pp. 42-43; Bush 2010, pp. 126-127)
Bush and Rice Continue with Their Schedules - After the call ends, Bush heads on to watch a children’s reading drill at the school (see 9:02 a.m. September 11, 2001) and Rice goes to her senior staff meeting (see (9:04 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Rice 8/2/2002; Rice 8/6/2002; Sammon 10/7/2002) Representative Dan Miller (R-FL), who is waiting in a receiving line to meet the president, has been told to hold on while Bush takes the call from Rice. When Bush comes over to Miller after the call, he appears unbothered. Miller will recall: “[I]t was nothing different from the normal, brief greeting with the president. I don’t think he was aware at the time, maybe, of the seriousness.” (Martin 7/4/2004) Author James Bamford will comment that at this time, “neither Rice nor Bush was aware that the United States had gone to ‘battle stations’ alert and had scrambled fighter jets into the air to intercept and possibly take hostile action against multiple hijacked airliners, something that was then known by hundreds of others within NORAD, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Pentagon.” (Bamford 2004, pp. 17)

A soldier monitors a NORAD radar screen.A soldier monitors a NORAD radar screen. [Source: National War College]NORAD has had fighter jets deployed to Alaska and Northern Canada for the past two days. They are there for a real-world maneuver called Operation Northern Vigilance, tasked with monitoring a Russian air force exercise being conducted in the Russian Arctic all this week (see September 9, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001) At its operations center deep inside Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, NORAD is also reportedly at “full ‘battle staff’ levels for a major annual exercise that tests every facet of the organization.” The operations center is now contacted by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), based in Rome, New York. NEADS says the FAA believes there is a hijacking in progress and is asking NORAD for support; this is not part of the exercise. As the Toronto Star will later report: “In a flash, Operation Northern Vigilance is called off. Any simulated information, what’s known as an ‘inject,’ is purged from the screens.” (Simmie 12/9/2001) NORAD has the capacity to inject simulated material, including mass attacks, during exercises, “as though it was being sensed for the first time by a radar site.” (US Department of Defense 1/15/1999) However, Northern Vigilance is a military operation, not a training exercise. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/9/2001; US Congress 3/11/2005) So presumably the “simulated information” is part of a NORAD exercise currently taking place, such as Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, many minutes into the real 9/11 attacks, there may be false radar blips appearing on the screens of NORAD personnel. Additional details, such as whose radar screens have false blips and over what duration, are unclear. However, while the Toronto Star will indicate that the simulated material is removed from NORAD radar screens shortly before 9:03 a.m., when the second attack on the World Trade Center takes place, at 10:12 a.m. an officer at the operations center will call NEADS and ask it to “terminate all exercise inputs coming into Cheyenne Mountain” (see 10:12 a.m. September 11, 2001). (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; Simmie 12/9/2001) This would indicate that the NORAD operations center continues receiving simulated radar information for over an hour more, until after Flight 93 has crashed (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and the terrorist attacks have ended. The Russians, after seeing the attacks on New York and Washington on television, will quickly communicate that they are canceling their Russian Arctic exercise. (Simmie 12/9/2001; Alberts 10/19/2002)

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, learns from an FAA teleconference that there is a second hijacked plane over the US. He has previously called the FAA’s New York Center and was told, “We’re working a hijack,” but mistakenly thought the controller was referring to Flight 11 (see (Between 8:40 a.m. and 8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins now hears on the FAA headquarters’ hijack teleconference of the second hijacked airliner, Flight 175. (Spencer 2008, pp. 48-49 and 82) Spencer’s account is consistent with a May 2003 statement by the FAA, according to which the FAA established its teleconference “[w]ithin minutes after the first aircraft hit the World Trade Center” (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) But the 9/11 Commission will claim that the FAA headquarters’ hijacking teleconference is only established at “about 9:20” (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 36) According to Spencer, Scoggins assumes that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) is also on the FAA teleconference and is receiving the same information that he is about the second hijacking. However, the “FAA headquarters’ teleconference is between air traffic control facilities, the [FAA] Command Center, the Defense Department, and several other agencies; NORAD is not looped in.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 82) Although the FAA will claim that the “Air Force liaison to the FAA immediately joined the FAA headquarters [teleconference] and established contact with NORAD on a separate line,” the Air Force liaison will subsequently claim she only joins the teleconference after 9:37 a.m., when the Pentagon is hit (see (Shortly After 9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; US Department of Transportation 8/31/2006 pdf file) Even though Scoggins assumes NEADS is already aware of the information, he will subsequently call it with the news of the second hijacking (see (9:02 a.m.-9:07 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 82)

Moments before Flight 175 crashes into the World Trade Center, Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to notify it that there is a second hijacked aircraft over the US. Scoggins learned of the second hijacking on the FAA headquarters’ hijack teleconference (see (Shortly Before 9:02 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and senses that he should call NEADS with this latest information. According to author Lynn Spencer, Scoggins “imagines that he must be one of dozens of FAA facilities flooding [NEADS] with phone calls. What he doesn’t know is that his is in fact the only one giving them information about the flights this morning, other than the coverage on CNN.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 82) However, the 9/11 Commission will say that NEADS also learns of the second hijacking around this time from the FAA’s New York Center, stating, “The first indication that the NORAD air defenders had of the second hijacked aircraft, United 175, came in a phone call from New York Center to NEADS at 9:03” (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 23) Just after Scoggins reports the second hijacking to NEADS, those on the NEADS operations floor see the live television coverage of Flight 175 hitting the South Tower on a screen at the front of the room. (Spencer 2008, pp. 82) Apparently, Scoggins’s phone call continues for several minutes: According to the 9/11 Commission, “Between 9:04 a.m. and 9:07 a.m., the NEADS identification technicians were on the phone with FAA Boston Center seeking further information on Flight 175 when Boston Center confirmed a second crash at the World Trade Center.” (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 24)

In the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, workers see the second aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center live on television. (Diedrich 10/7/2001) Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, later says that he now realizes “it was not an accident but a coordinated attack.” Then, he recalls, “At about that moment in time, every phone in this cab, and every phone over in the command center, and every phone in all the centers in this building were ringing off the hook.” Master Corporal Daniel Milne, the emergency action controller in the operations center, will similarly recall, “The feeling was total disbelief. Then the phones started ringing like crazy.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/11/2002; Dick 11/2004) It is unclear what causes all the phones to simultaneously ring. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine, after the second tower is hit, “Calls from fighter units… started pouring into NORAD and sector operations centers, asking, ‘What can we do to help?’” (see (After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) (Scott 6/3/2002) So this could be one factor. Also, a 1996 article in Airman magazine had quoted Stacey Knott, a technician in the NORAD operations center. She’d said, “Things can be pretty quiet in here.” However, “One of the busiest times is during exercises. This room fills up.… The phones are ringing off the hook, and I’ve got phones in each hand.” (McKenna 1/1996) On this morning, those in Cheyenne Mountain are in fact participating in a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian. (Scott 6/3/2002; CNN 9/11/2006) This is reportedly only canceled “shortly after” the second attack (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) (Tudor 3/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 59) So it is plausible that this is also a factor in causing all the phones to suddenly ring. A similar thing appears to occur in the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon. According to a news article based on the recollections of two officers who are there, after the second plane hits the WTC, “Phones in the center began ringing off the hook.” (Garamone 9/7/2006) Rick Findley later suggests that all the ringing phones are not a hindrance for NORAD, claiming, “The good news is we had lots of people here and we already had an operational architecture. We already had the command and control, the network, the phones, the data links. Everything was already in place that enabled us to react to the situation.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/11/2002)

William Glover.William Glover. [Source: Thomas Doscher / US Air Force]The NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, receives numerous reports from the FAA of additional hijacked aircraft, but most of these reports turn out to be incorrect. Lieutenant Colonel William Glover, the commander of NORAD’s Air Warning Center, will later recall that after 9:03 a.m., when the second plane hits the World Trade Center, those in the operations center are “starting to receive reports… that we have these hijackings coming in.” He will say, “We had all these other reports coming in now, we were receiving from FAA, that there’s other issues on there.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011) According to Glover, the FAA says to NORAD, “Hey, this may be a possible hijack, or this aircraft may be a possible hijack.” As a result, those in the operations center “did not know how many more there were. Were there five, six, seven, or eight?” (BBC 9/1/2002) Major General Rick Findley, NORAD’s director of operations, will similarly recall: “Lots of other reports were starting to come in. And now you’re not too sure. If they’re that clever to coordinate that kind of attack, what else is taking place across North America?” (Simmie 12/9/2001) According to Glover, the uncertainty about how many additional hijacked planes there are will lead NORAD to implement a limited version of a plan called SCATANA, which clears the skies and gives the military control of US airspace (see (11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 6/3/2002; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, most of the additional hijackings that the FAA is reporting to NORAD turn out to be false alarms. Glover will say that most of the reports “were not true.” (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 9/8/2011) According to the 9/11 Commission Report, there are “multiple erroneous reports of hijacked aircraft” during the morning (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28)

Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing.Logo of the 552nd Air Control Wing. [Source: US Air Force]An Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) plane on a training mission in the Washington, DC, area is instructed to return to its base in Oklahoma, even though its advanced communications and surveillance capabilities would significantly benefit the military’s air defense efforts in response to the terrorist attacks. The AWACS belongs to the 552nd Air Control Wing, located at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. (US Air Force 4/1/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/16/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 265) It has been flying a training mission somewhere near Washington (see Before 9:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Code One Magazine 1/2002)
AWACS Sent Back to Oklahoma - According to author Lynn Spencer, the AWACS is directed to return to Tinker Air Force Base “in the immediate confusion after the attacks.” The exact time the plane’s crew receives this order, and the identity of the person or organization that gives the order, are unstated. NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) will contact the AWACS later on, and instruct it to turn around and head to Washington, to provide radio and radar coverage over the capital (see (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 265-266)
AWACS Has Advanced Surveillance and Communication Capabilities - The AWACS, also called the E-3 Sentry, is a modified Boeing 707 that provides surveillance, command, control, and communications to military commanders. (Schmitt 9/23/1995; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/16/2006; US Air Force 9/22/2015) According to a US Air Force manual, the plane’s “advanced surveillance radar provides long-range, low-level detection of aircraft targets over all types of terrain.” (US Air Force 4/1/2000) It can track friendly and enemy aircraft over a 300-mile radius. (Schmitt 9/23/1995) Mark Rosenker, the director of the White House Military Office, will say that AWACS planes “give you the big picture in the sky. They’re able to identify what’s a friend, what’s a foe.” (White House 8/29/2002)
AWACS Would Help NEADS Contact Fighters - These planes are particularly important to NEADS. (9/11 Commission 10/30/2003 pdf file) Spencer will describe: “The NEADS radio transmitter, like all radio transmitters, operates by line of sight. This means that the radio signals, which travel in a straight line, require an unobstructed path between the transmitter and the [fighter] jets” that NEADS is trying to communicate with this morning. Due to the curvature of the earth and the distance between NEADS, in Rome, New York, and Washington, the fighters’ launched to protect the capital (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001) will be unable to pick up the NEADS signal on their radio receivers when they descend below 20,000 feet, after arriving over Washington (see (Between 9:49 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (11:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). “What’s needed,” Spencer will write, “is an AWACS plane, which has the capability to provide both radar and radio coverage over a citywide area.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 265)

The FAA’s Boston Center notifies the two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) that a second aircraft has been hijacked, and then tells the fighters of the second crash at the World Trade Center. The fighters are currently flying into a military training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island, known as “Whiskey 105” (see 9:01 a.m. September 11, 2001). They are being handled by Boston Center air traffic controller Stephen Roebuck.
Pilots Told of Second Hijacking and Crash - Roebuck asks the pilots of the fighters if they are in contact with “company,” meaning the military, and they say they are. He then informs them of the report of a second aircraft being hijacked. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004) However, one of the pilots, Major Daniel Nash, will later say he is not told the call sign of this second hijacked aircraft, “UAL 175, until after he landed.” (9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file) Roebuck hears from a colleague at the Boston Center that a second plane has hit the WTC. Just before 9:08 a.m., he notifies the Otis pilots of this. Roebuck will recall that he tries to communicate this “second event” to them calmly. (9/11 Commission 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004)
Pilot Switches into 'Combat Mode' - Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the other Otis pilot along with Nash, will later recall his response to the news of the second crash, saying: “I look up and we’re about 60 or 70 miles outside Manhattan, and I can see the towers burning.… Okay, obviously everything just changed from my personal mind-set. We take off to go help somebody, and now as I look up and can see the burning I say, ‘Okay, now people are dying.’ It’s kind of hard to explain, but basically you switch into a combat mode where you say, ‘Okay, this just got real serious real fast.‘… Now people are dying and you’re thinking, ‘Okay, what do I have to do?’ And you have to put emotion aside because you don’t have time for it.” (Filson 2003, pp. 60) Both pilots will later claim that prior to learning of the second hijacking and the second crash, they had been unaware that the first hijacked plane, Flight 11, had hit the WTC. (Nash 10/2/2002; Duffy 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission 10/14/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/7/2004 pdf file) However, recordings of communications at the Boston Center reveal that Duffy was told of that first crash at 8:55 a.m. (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 2004) Duffy and Nash are also told about the second crash by someone at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) around this time (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (102nd Fighter Wing 2001; Nash 10/2/2002; Spencer 2008, pp. 84)

Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash.Andrew Card speaks to President Bush and tells him of the second World Trade Center crash. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Andrew Card, President Bush’s chief of staff, enters the classroom where Bush is participating in a reading demonstration, and tells him about the second crash at the World Trade Center and that America is under attack. (ABC News 9/11/2002; Yurdakul 9/10/2009; BBC 9/9/2011) Bush learned about the first hijacked plane crashing into the WTC when he arrived at the Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida, shortly before 9:00 a.m. (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 11/26/2001; Rove 2010, pp. 249-250) He decided, though, to continue with the scheduled event at the school (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Associated Press 8/25/2002) Card was told about the second crash at the WTC by Deborah Loewer, director of the White House Situation Room, while he was in the “staff hold,” a room adjacent to the classroom where the reading demonstration is taking place (see Shortly After 9:03 a.m. September 11, 2001). (McGinn 3/16/2013; Priess 2016, pp. 240-241) He decided that he needed to tell the president what had happened and went to pass on the news to Bush. (Yurdakul 9/10/2009; BBC 9/9/2011)
Bush Is Told, 'America Is under Attack' - In the classroom, the children have just finished a spelling and pronunciation drill, and are reaching for their textbooks for the second part of the reading demonstration. Card, who was waiting at the door, takes advantage of the lull. He walks across the room toward Bush, leans down, and whispers in the president’s ear: “A second plane hit the second tower. America is under attack.” He then takes a couple of steps back so the president is unable to ask him any questions. (Sammon 10/7/2002; Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file; Bohn 2015, pp. 214; Graff 9/9/2016) “There was no time for discussion or anything,” Bush will later comment. Card then takes up a position at the side of the room, next to Florida Lieutenant Governor Frank Brogan. (Sammon 2002, pp. 83-84) Card will explain why he gives such a brief message to Bush about the second crash, saying: “I knew that this was not the place to stand and have a conversation with the president. I just wanted to convey the situation to the president in stark reality and inviting him, then, to find the best chance to excuse himself from the classroom.” (Card 8/12/2002)
Bush Feels 'Outrage' but Continues with the Event - Bush will recall how he feels after hearing Card’s message, writing: “My first reaction was outrage. Someone had dared attack America. They were going to pay.” (Bush 2010, pp. 127) “An expression of grim sobriety spread across the president’s face” after Card speaks to him, journalist and author Bill Sammon will describe. “He raised his chin and nodded almost imperceptibly to signal that he got the message. His eyes darted nervously around the room, as if he didn’t know quite where to focus them.” (Sammon 2002, pp. 84) However, even though it is now clear that America is under attack, the Secret Service takes no action to get Bush out of the classroom. “[N]o agents were there to surround the president and remove him instantly,” author Philip Melanson will note. (Melanson 2005, pp. 330-331) Instead, perhaps 15 or 30 seconds after Card speaks to him, Bush picks up his copy of the textbook and continues listening to the children reading. (Barrs 9/1/2002)
Bush Will Be Criticized for Continuing with the Event - Intelligence expert and author James Bamford will criticize Bush for his lack of response to Card’s devastating information, writing: “[H]aving just been told that the country was under attack, the commander in chief appeared uninterested in further details. He never asked if there had been any additional threats, where the attacks were coming from, how to best protect the country from further attacks, or what was the current status of NORAD or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Nor did he call for an immediate return to Washington. Instead, in the middle of a modern-day Pearl Harbor, he simply turned back to the matter at hand: the day’s photo op.” (Bamford 2002, pp. 633) Bush, though, will explain his lack of response to the 9/11 Commission, telling it that “his instinct was to project calm, not to have the country see an excited reaction at a moment of crisis.” He will say that he “felt he should project strength and calm until he could better understand what was happening.”
Bush Remains in the Classroom for Several More Minutes - Card tells Bush about the second crash at 9:05 a.m., according to the 9/11 Commission Report. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 38) But ABC News reporter Ann Compton, who is in the classroom watching the reading demonstration, recognizes that something serious has happened when she sees Card interrupting the event and makes a note of the time, which her watch shows as 9:07 a.m. (ABC News 9/11/2002) Bush will stay in the classroom for at least seven minutes after Card informs him of the second crash (see (9:08 a.m.-9:13 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:13 a.m.-9:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file)

Indianapolis flight control reports the loss of contact with Flight 77 to the FAA’s Great Lakes Regional Operations Center. They describe it as a possible crash. The center waits 15 minutes before passing the information to FAA headquarters at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Federal Aviation Administration 9/17/2001 pdf file; Phillips 11/3/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) However, American Airlines headquarters has been notified of the same information before 9:00 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Washington flight control notices a new eastbound plane entering its radar with no radio contact and no transponder identification. They do not realize it is Flight 77. They are aware of the hijackings and crashes of Flights 11 and 175, yet they apparently fail to notify anyone about the unidentified plane. (Adcock, Donovan, and Gordon 9/23/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Another report says they never notice it, and it is only noticed when it enters radar coverage of Washington’s Dulles International Airport at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Phillips 11/3/2001)

Tape recordings of the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York indicate that both NEADS and NORAD are experiencing significant problems communicating with other agencies:
bullet At 9:12 a.m., a member of staff at NEADS tells another military agency over the phone: “We’re trying to reach the military coordinator. We’re having a difficult time.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At 9:22 a.m., a women at NEADS calls what is apparently an American Airlines office in New York, to ask about a report NEADS has received that Flight 11 is still airborne and headed towards Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). After being given a phone number she needs to call for more information, the woman at NEADS replies: “[D]o me a favor and have them call us? We cannot call out for some reason.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At around 10:31 a.m., someone from the 1st Fighter Wing, which is the host unit at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, calls NEADS. During the conversation, they mention, “I tried to get a hold of NORAD… and their lines are all busy.” NEADS replies, “Yeah, I can believe it,” and adds, “Right now the circuits are so busy.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet Around 11:50 a.m., someone with the New York Air National Guard’s 109th Airlift Wing is on the phone to NEADS. They mention, “We’re having a tough time getting hold of you guys.” NEADS responds, “We’re having problems with our phone lines as well.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)
bullet At 11:57 a.m., a member of staff at NEADS complains: “They turned off all the goddamned lines to the outside.… No, local. So you can’t make outside phone calls.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

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?” (Dennehy 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)

Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), instructs a colleague of his to send a tanker plane from McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey into military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean. Ten minutes ago, NEADS contacted McGuire Air Force Base and asked if it had any tankers available to support the fighter jets that took off from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacking of Flight 11. An officer at McGuire said the base had two KC-10 tankers airborne and these planes were carrying plenty of fuel (see 9:04 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Staffer Is Told to Send a Tanker into Training Airspace - A member of staff at NEADS now discusses what to do with these tankers with Nasypany. “We’ve got McGuire offering two more tankers if we need them,” he says. Nasypany says in response, “Okay” and then instructs, “Get me that KC-10, stick him in 107.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) “107” is “Whiskey 107,” an area over the Atlantic Ocean, about 70 miles east of Atlantic City, New Jersey, that is frequently used for military training. (CNN 2/7/1997; Wald 2/7/1997; Global Security (.org) 5/7/2011) The staffer asks Nasypany if he wants to send one or both of the tankers into Whiskey 107. Nasypany replies, “One” and adds: “Two KC-10s should do it fine. Put him in 107.”
Both Tankers Are Apparently Sent over the Ocean - Nasypany then tells another person about the tankers and what he intends to do with them. “I got two offers up from McGuire for KC-10s,” he says, adding, “I’m taking one KC-10, putting him in Whiskey 107, gonna hold him there for the Langley guys.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) The “Langley guys” are the F-16 fighters at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia that have been put on “battle stations” (see (9:09 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and will be scrambled at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 24, 27) Despite what Nasypany has said, both—not just one—of the KC-10s from McGuire Air Force Base will apparently be directed into Whiskey 107. At 9:25 a.m., Nasypany will tell a colleague he has “two KC-10s” out of McGuire and he is “sticking them in Whiskey 107.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

A technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) tells a caller that the day’s training exercise has not yet been called off, despite the attacks in New York. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001) All of NORAD, including NEADS, has been participating in a major exercise called Vigilant Guardian this morning (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Scott 6/3/2002; Arkin 2005, pp. 545) According to some accounts, this exercise was canceled shortly after 9:03 a.m., when the second World Trade Center tower was hit (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Tudor 3/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 59) However, Sergeant Mark Jennings, a NEADS tracking technician, now answers a phone call, and the caller says he has been watching the coverage of the terrorist attacks on television “for about 10 minutes, and I said, ‘I wonder if they’re—did they suspend the exercise?’” Jennings informs the caller that the exercise has not yet been suspended, answering, “Not at this time, no.” He adds: “But I think they’re going to [suspend it]. I don’t know. Things look pretty horrific out there.” The caller acknowledges, “Alrighty, man.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/11/2001)

According to an early timeline laid out to CNN by unnamed but “informed defense officials,” the FAA informs NORAD at this time that Flight 93 may have been hijacked. (CNN 9/17/2001) In public testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2003, NORAD officials will similarly claim that the FAA first reports the possible hijacking of Flight 93 at this time. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Yet this is 12 minutes before the hijacking is meant to have occurred (see (9:28 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 38) One explanation is put forward that could possibly help explain the discrepancy: There are media reports that “investigators had determined from the cockpit voice recorder from United Airlines Flight 93… that one of the four hijackers had been invited into the cockpit area before the flight took off from Newark, New Jersey.” Cockpit voice recordings indicate that the pilots believed their guest was a colleague “and was thereby extended the typical airline courtesy of allowing any pilot from any airline to join a flight by sitting in the jumpseat, the folded over extra seat located inside the cockpit.” (Fox News 9/24/2001; Giles 9/25/2001) This would be consistent with passenger phone calls from the plane, describing only three hijackers on Flight 93 (see (9:27 a.m.-10:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Longman 2002, pp. 120) However, the reports will not be confirmed. The 9/11 Commission Report will dismiss the claim that NORAD was alerted at 9:16, stating, “In public testimony before this Commission in May 2003, NORAD officials stated that at 9:16, NEADS received hijack notification of United 93 from the FAA. This statement was incorrect. There was no hijack to report at 9:16. United 93 was proceeding normally at that time.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 34) No further explanations will be offered for the incorrect timelines. NORAD’s own initial timeline, released on September 18, 2001, will not give a time for when the FAA alerted it to Flight 93. It will only say that the FAA and its Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) “established a line of open communication discussing AA Flt 77 and UA Flt 93.” (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001)

Personnel on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) confirm to their mission crew commander (MCC) that they are prepared to issue an order to fighter pilots, telling them to fire on a commercial airliner.
MCC Concerned about Possible Shootdown - Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS MCC, is concerned about what might happen next as the day’s crisis unfolds. He realizes he may need to order fighter jets under his command to shoot down an errant aircraft. He therefore starts walking up and down the operations floor, impatiently asking all his section heads and weapons technicians, “Are you prepared to follow an order to shoot down a civilian airliner?” All of them affirm that they will issue such an order if required to do so.
Nasypany Confers with Marr - Satisfied with their answers, Nasypany gets on the phone to Colonel Robert Marr, who is in the NEADS battle cab, and asks him, “Have we already asked the questions?” What Nasypany means is, have they asked about getting authorization to take out a threatening aircraft? According to author Lynn Spencer, “Those authorizations, [Nasypany] knows, are going to have to come from the president himself, passed down from senior NORAD command in Colorado Springs.” Marr replies that Major General Larry Arnold, who is at the Continental US NORAD Region (CONR) headquarters in Florida, is seeking the necessary authorizations and is prepared to take any action required. Nasypany then briefs Marr on the armaments on board the fighters NEADS has had launched (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). He adds: “My recommendation, if we have to take anybody out, large aircraft, we use AIM-9s in the face. If need be.” He means that if there is another hijacking, the most effective way to bring the plane down would be to fire a missile into its nose. (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 140-141)
Pilots Do Not Receive Shootdown Authorization - At around 9:35 a.m., according to Spencer, a NEADS weapons controller will ask one of the pilots that launched in response to the first hijacking whether he would be willing to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) According to the 9/11 Commission, however, NEADS personnel will only learn that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., and even then they will not pass this order along to the fighter pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43)

Arthur Eberhart.Arthur Eberhart. [Source: Spc. Edgar R. Gonzalez]In a government report analyzing the effectiveness of rescue worker response to the Pentagon crash, it is mentioned that, “At about 9:20 a.m., the WFO [FBI Washington Field Office] Command Center [is] notified that American Airlines Flight 77 had been hijacked shortly after takeoff from Washington Dulles International Airport. [Special Agent in Charge Arthur] Eberhart dispatche[s] a team of 50 agents to investigate the Dulles hijacking and provide additional security to prevent another. He sen[ds] a second team to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport as a precautionary step. At the WFO Command Center, Supervisory Special Agent (SSA) Jim Rice [is] on the telephone with the Pentagon when Flight 77 crashe[s] into the building.” (US Department of Health & Human Services 7/2002, pp. C-55) Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is not told that Flight 77 had been hijacked at this time or any time before it crashes. However, the FAA has claimed they officially warned NORAD at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and informally warned them even earlier (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Having just received an incorrect report that Flight 11—which has already hit the World Trade Center—is still airborne and heading toward Washington (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001), technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try, unsuccessfully, to locate the aircraft on their radar screens. (Spencer 2008, pp. 137-139) At NEADS, Major James Anderson says the hijackers are “probably not squawking anything anyway,” meaning their plane’s transponder is not broadcasting a signal. He adds, “I mean, obviously these guys are in the cockpit.” Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander, replies, “These guys are smart.” Another member of staff adds, “Yeah, they knew exactly what they wanted to do.” (Bronner 8/1/2006) After giving the order to launch the F-16s kept on alert at Langley Air Force Base (see 9:23 a.m. September 11, 2001), Nasypany calls out, “I need more trackers!” He needs his technicians to locate the hijacked plane on radar so that his weapons team can pass on its coordinates to the Langley fighters. But the trackers are unable to find the transponder code for Flight 11 on their radar screens. They begin calling up, one at a time, the tracks on their screens that are in the airspace between New York and Washington, and attach a tag to each after it has been identified. One technician draws a line on a map between New York and Washington, showing the area across which Flight 11 would be traveling. It includes Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Baltimore. He looks at his radar screen and sees there are hundreds of tracks in that area. (Spencer 2008, pp. 138-139) Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, who gave NEADS the incorrect report about Flight 11, will later say he’d only heard the plane was still airborne and heading for Washington on a conference call between FAA centers. According to Vanity Fair, air traffic controllers “were never tracking an actual plane on the radar after losing American 11 near Manhattan, but if it had been flying low enough, the plane could have gone undetected.” (Bronner 8/1/2006)

Major Kevin Nasypany inside NEADSMajor Kevin Nasypany inside NEADS [Source: Mark Schafer/ Vanity Fair]According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS has just been told that the hijacked Flight 11 is still in the air and heading toward Washington. Major Kevin Nasypany, the mission crew commander, says to NEADS Commander Robert Marr, “Okay, uh, American Airlines is still airborne. Eleven, the first guy, he’s heading towards Washington. Okay? I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I’m gonna take the fighters from Otis, try to chase this guy down if I can find him.” After receiving approval to do so, Nasypany issues the order. “Okay… scramble Langley,” he says. “Head them towards the Washington area.” The Langley, Virginia, base gets the scramble order at 9:24 a.m. (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). NEADS keeps its fighters from the Otis base over New York City. In 2004 the 9/11 Commission will state, “this response to a phantom aircraft, American 11, is not recounted in a single public timeline or statement issued by FAA or [Defense Department]. Instead, since 9/11, the scramble of the Langley fighters has been described as a response to the reported hijacking of American 77, or United 93, or some combination of the two.” Yet the “report of American 11 heading south as the cause of the Langley scramble is reflected not just in taped conversations at NEADS, but in taped conversations at FAA centers, on chat logs compiled at NEADS, Continental Region headquarters, and NORAD, and in other records.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

Shortly after 9/11, NORAD reported that the FAA notified them at this time that Flight 77 “may” have been hijacked and that it appears headed toward Washington. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Associated Press 8/21/2002) Apparently, flight controllers at Dulles International Airport discover a plane heading at high speed toward Washington; an alert is sounded within moments that the plane appears to be headed toward the White House. (Phillips 11/3/2001) In 2003, the FAA supported this account, but claimed that they had informally notified NORAD earlier. “NORAD logs indicate that the FAA made formal notification about American Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m. (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but information about the flight was conveyed continuously during the phone bridges before the formal notification.” (Federal Aviation Administration 5/22/2003) Yet in 2004, the 9/11 Commission claims that both NORAD and the FAA are wrong. The 9/11 Commission explains that the notification NEADS received at 9:24 a.m. was the incorrect information that Flight 11 had not hit the WTC and was headed south for Washington, D.C. Thus, according to the 9/11 Commission, NORAD is never notified by the FAA about the hijacking of Flight 77, but accidentally learns about it at 9:34 a.m. (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004)

Captain Craig Borgstrom.Captain Craig Borgstrom. [Source: US Air Force / Austin Knox]The three F-16 fighter jets ordered to scramble from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) take off and, radar data will show, are airborne by 9:30 a.m. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Tyson 4/16/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Delayed during Launch - Major Dean Eckmann will recall that, after receiving the scramble order, he and the two other pilots have “a pretty quick response time. I believe it was four to five minutes we were airborne from that point.” (BBC 9/1/2002) According to the 1st Air Force’s book about 9/11, the three fighters are “given highest priority over all other air traffic at Langley Air Force Base” as they are launching. (Filson 2003, pp. 63) But, according to author Lynn Spencer, in spite of this, the jets are delayed. As Eckmann is approaching the runway, he calls the control tower for clearance to take off, but the tower controller tells him, “Hold for an air traffic delay.” Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s Washington Center “have not had time to clear airliners out of the way for the northerly heading. Dozens of aircraft at various altitudes fill the jets’ route.” After having to wait two minutes, Eckmann complains: “We’re an active air scramble. We need to go now!” Finally, the tower controller tells him, “Roger, Quit flight is cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning the fighters are to fly due east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
Taking Off - The three jets launch 15 seconds apart, with Eckmann in front and the two other jets following. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143-144) Pilot Craig Borgstrom will later recall, “[W]e took off, the three of us, and basically the formation we always brief on alert, we’ll stay in a two- to three-mile trail from the guy in front.” (Filson 2003, pp. 63) According to the BBC, the pilots get a signal over their planes’ transponders, indicating an emergency wartime situation. (BBC 9/1/2002)
Could Reach Washington before Pentagon Attack - F-16s have a maximum speed of 1,500 mph at high altitude, or 915 mph at sea level, so the three fighters could plausibly travel the 130 miles from Langley Air Force Base to Washington in just minutes. (Chant 1987, pp. 404; Associated Press 6/16/2000; Weisman 9/16/2001; Graham 9/16/2001 pdf file; US Air Force 10/2007) Major General Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will tell the 9/11 Commission, “I think if those aircraft had gotten airborne immediately, if we were operating under something other than peacetime rules, where they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC, and gone into burner, it is physically possible that they could have gotten over Washington” before 9:37, when the Pentagon is hit. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) Yet according to the 9/11 Commission, the jets are redirected east over the Atlantic Ocean and will be 150 miles from the Pentagon when it is hit (see 9:30 a.m.-9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Conflicting Times - Some early news reports after 9/11 will say the Langley jets take off at the later time of 9:35 a.m. (Washington Post 9/12/2001; CNN 9/14/2001; Graham 9/15/2001; CNN 9/17/2001) But according to Colonel Alan Scott, the former vice commander of the Continental US NORAD Region, though the jets are airborne at 9:30, the report of this does not come down until 9:35, so this fact may account for the conflicting times. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)

According to some accounts, Vice President Dick Cheney is in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House by this time, along with Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta and others. Mineta will recall that, while a suspicious plane is heading toward Washington, an unidentified young man comes in and says to Cheney, “The plane is 50 miles out.” Mineta confers with acting FAA Deputy Administrator Monte Belger, who is at the FAA’s Washington headquarters. Belger says to him: “We’re watching this target on the radar, but the transponder’s been turned off. So we have no identification.” According to Mineta, the young man continues updating the vice president, saying, “The plane is 30 miles out,” and when he gets down to “The plane is 10 miles out,” asks, “Do the orders still stand?” In response, Cheney “whipped his neck around and said, ‘Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?’” Mineta will say that, “just by the nature of all the events going on,” he infers that the order being referred to is a shootdown order. Nevertheless, Flight 77 continues on and hits the Pentagon. (BBC 9/1/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; Martin 7/4/2004) However, the 9/11 Commission will later claim the plane heading toward Washington is only discovered by the Dulles Airport air traffic control tower at 9:32 a.m. (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). But earlier accounts, including statements made by the FAA and NORAD, will claim that the FAA notified the military about the suspected hijacking of Flight 77 at 9:24 a.m., if not before (see (9:24 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The FBI’s Washington Field Office was also reportedly notified that Flight 77 had been hijacked at about 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will further contradict Mineta’s account saying that, despite the “conflicting evidence as to when the vice president arrived in the shelter conference room [i.e., the PEOC],” it has concluded that he only arrived there at 9:58 a.m. (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) According to the Washington Post, the discussion between Cheney and the young aide over whether “the orders” still stand occurs later than claimed by Mineta, and is in response to Flight 93 heading toward Washington, not Flight 77. (Balz and Woodward 1/27/2002)

The FAA’s Boston Center contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) and reports that another aircraft, Delta Air Lines Flight 1989, is missing. (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2003; 9/11 Commission 2004) Why the Boston Center does this is unclear, since Delta 1989 is currently being handled by the FAA’s Cleveland Center, not the Boston Center. (Adams, Levin, and Morrison 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 10) And, according to the 9/11 Commission, Delta 1989 “never turned off its transponder,” so it should still be clearly visible on radar. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 16, 28) Twelve minutes later, at 9:39, Boston Center will call NEADS and incorrectly tell it that Delta 1989 is a possible hijack (see 9:39 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; Bronner 8/1/2006)

According to former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, around this time the acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers speaks to him via video link (see 9:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). During their conversation, Myers mentions, “We are in the middle of Vigilant Warrior, a NORAD exercise.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 5) However, no other references have been found to this exercise, “Vigilant Warrior.” Considering that exercise terms are “normally an unclassified nickname,” (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 4/23/1998 pdf file) this is perhaps a little odd. Could Richard Clarke have mistakenly been referring to the Vigilant Guardian exercise (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which is taking place on 9/11? According to a later news report though, NORAD confirms that “it was running two mock drills on Sept. 11 at various radar sites and Command Centers in the United States and Canada,” one of these being Vigilant Guardian. (Kelly 12/5/2003) If this is correct then there must be another NORAD exercise on 9/11. If not “Vigilant Warrior,” a possibility is that the exercise referred to by Richard Clarke is in fact “Amalgam Warrior,” which is a NORAD-sponsored, large-scale, live-fly air defense and air intercept field training exercise. Amalgam Warrior usually involves two or more NORAD regions and is held twice yearly, in the spring for the West Coast and in the autumn for the East Coast. (US Congress n.d.; McKenna 1/1996; Arkin 2005, pp. 254; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Is it possible that in 2001 the East Coast Amalgam Warrior is being held earlier than usual (like Global Guardian (see 8:30 a.m. September 11, 2001)) and is taking place on 9/11? In support of this possibility is a 1997 Defense Department report that describes the Stratcom exercise Global Guardian, saying it “links with other exercise activities sponsored by the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Unified Commands.” The exercises it links with are Crown Vigilance (an Air Combat Command exercise), Apollo Guardian (a US Space Command exercise), and—significantly—the NORAD exercises Vigilant Guardian and Amalgam Warrior. (US Department of Defense 5/1997; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Since in 2001, Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) is occurring the same time as Global Guardian, might Amalgam Warrior be as well? In his book Code Names, William Arkin says that Amalgam Warrior is “sometimes combined with Global Guardian.” (Arkin 2005, pp. 254) Amalgam Warrior tests such activities as tracking, surveillance, air interception, employing rules of engagement, attack assessment, electronic warfare, and counter-cruise-missile operations. A previous Amalgam Warrior in 1996 involved such situations as tracking unknown aircraft that had incorrectly filed their flight plans or wandered off course, in-flight emergencies, terrorist aircraft attacks, and large-scale bomber strike missions. Amalgam Warrior 98-1 was NORAD’s largest ever exercise and involved six B-1B bombers being deployed to Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, to act as an enemy threat by infiltrating the aerial borders of North America. (McKenna 1/1996; Arkin 2005, pp. 254; GlobalSecurity (.org) 4/27/2005) Another Amalgam Warrior in fall 2000 similarly involved four B-1 bombers acting as enemy forces trying to invade Alaska, with NORAD going from tracking the unknown aircraft to sending up “alert” F-15s in response. (Price 10/27/2000; Associated Press 10/29/2000) If either one (or both) of these exercises ending with the name “Warrior” is taking place on 9/11, this could be very significant, because the word “Warrior” indicates that the exercise is a Joint Chiefs of Staff-approved, Commander in Chief, NORAD-sponsored field training exercise. (North American Aerospace Defense Command 8/25/1989) Real planes would be pretending to be threats to the US and real fighters would be deployed to defend against them.

John Werth.John Werth. [Source: CBS]Shortly after hearing strange noises from the cockpit of Flight 93, Cleveland air traffic controllers notice the plane has descended about 700 feet. John Werth, the controller who is handling the plane, tells the supervisor nearest to him, “I think we have another one [i.e., another hijacking].” He will repeatedly radio the cockpit over the next four minutes, asking the pilot to confirm the hijacking, but receive no response. At 9:30 a.m., Werth begins asking other nearby flights on his frequency if they’ve heard screaming; several say that they have. (Gregor 12/21/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28; Hirschkorn 9/10/2006) The Cleveland Center immediately notifies United Airlines’ headquarters of the loss of communication with Flight 93 (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). However, the FAA chain of command is apparently not also immediately informed. And the Cleveland Center will not contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 93 until 10:07 a.m. (see 10:05 a.m.-10:08 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 28 and 30)

Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington.Route of the Langley Air Base fighters to Washington. [Source: Yvonne Vermillion/ MagicGraphix.com]The three F-16s that took off from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) head east, out over the Atlantic Ocean, instead of north toward the Baltimore area, as NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) instructed when it issued the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Sack 11/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
Three Reasons Jets Head East - The 9/11 Commission will give three reasons why the Langley jets go east instead of north: “First, unlike a normal scramble order, this order did not include a distance to the target or the target’s location. Second, a ‘generic’ flight plan—prepared to get the aircraft airborne and out of local airspace quickly—incorrectly led the Langley fighters to believe they were ordered to fly due east (090) for 60 miles. Third, the lead pilot and local FAA controller incorrectly assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ superseded the original scramble order.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27)
NORAD Commander Blames 'Peacetime Rules' - In his testimony before the 9/11 Commission in May 2003, Larry Arnold, the commanding general of NORAD’s Continental US Region, will address the question of why the Langley jets head out over the sea. He says, “When we scramble an aircraft… the aircraft take off and they have a predetermined departure route.” According to Arnold, NORAD is “looking outward,” and so “our mission, unlike law enforcement’s mission, is to protect things coming towards the United States.” He concludes, “So our peacetime procedures, to de-conflict with civil aviation’s, so as to not have endanger[ed] civil aviation in any particular way.” Arnold will also suggest that “peacetime rules” might be partly to blame for the Langley jets heading in the wrong direction. He says, “[I]f we were operating under something other than peacetime rules… they could have turned immediately toward Washington, DC.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003) According to the Wall Street Journal, the “peacetime rules” Arnold refers to are “noise restrictions requiring that [the Langley jets] fly more slowly than supersonic speed and take off over water, pointed away from Washington.” (Paltrow 3/22/2004 pdf file) One of the Langley pilots, Captain Craig Borgstrom, will later recall that, shortly after the jets take off, NEADS “gave us max-subsonic,” which is “as fast as you can go without breaking the sound barrier.” (Filson 2003, pp. 65)
Risk of Midair Collision - NORAD official Major General Craig McKinley will tell the 9/11 Commission that “another reason why” the Langley jets are “vectored east originally” is that “the air traffic over the Northeast corridor is so complex that to just launch fighters… into that air traffic system can cause potential damage or midair collision. So we rely on the FAA to de-conflict those corridors.” (9/11 Commission 5/23/2003)
Jets Far Away from Pentagon - When the Pentagon is hit at 9:37 a.m., the Langley jets have flown nearly 60 miles out over the ocean and are 150 miles from Washington (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 27; Spencer 2008, pp. 151)

The Norfolk Tower TRACON.The Norfolk Tower TRACON. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]The FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) is briefly in charge of the three F-16s launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but it does not redirect them northward in line with the military’s orders, after the Langley air traffic control tower previously instructed them to fly east. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96)
Jets Are Sent East instead of North - When NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) issued the scramble order (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), it specified that the Langley jets be directed north toward Washington, DC. But as the jets were taking off, the Langley tower instructed them to go “090 for 60,” meaning they were to fly east for 60 miles (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 142-143)
TRACON Does Not Redirect the Jets - When aircraft take off from Langley Air Force Base, control of them is passed from the Langley tower to the Norfolk TRACON. (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file) Controllers at the TRACON are permitted to change an aircraft’s flight plan, in the case of the Langley jets the “090 for 60” instruction. (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003 pdf file) A 9/11 Commission memorandum will state that the Langley jets are “not bound to the 60 mile distance and could have turned to the north at any time they were directed to or had orders to do so.” (9/11 Commission 10/6/2003 pdf file) However, although the TRACON is aware that NEADS ordered the jets to head north, it does not redirect them toward this heading instead of going east. (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, the reason is that “both the lead Langley pilot,” Major Dean Eckmann, “and the FAA’s Norfolk TRACON facility… assumed the flight plan instruction to go ‘090 for 60’ was newer guidance that superseded the original scramble order instructions” issued by NEADS. (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96)
Pilot Agrees to Follow the Tower's Directions - At 9:33 a.m., Norfolk TRACON controller Michael Strother asks Eckmann what direction he wants to head in. Strother says, “Quit 2-5, are you going directly to the Langley 090 at 60?” If Eckmann wanted to go somewhere other than what is specified in the flight plan, Strother has the authority to grant the request. But Eckmann replies, “Affirmative.” He says, “That’s our second clearance,” and, referring to the NEADS scramble order, adds, “We had an earlier clearance of a vector and an altitude.” The 9/11 Commission will summarize, “Put simply, the Langley pilots received flight direction guidance from both the scramble order and the Langley AFB departure flight plan, and continued on the latter heading for several minutes until a direction and geographic destination was provided.” (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 96)
Navy Facility Takes Over Control of the Jets - Norfolk TRACON subsequently passes control of the three F-16s on to “Giant Killer,” the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia (see 9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). This is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Wald 2/10/1997; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004; Spencer 2008, pp. 143) It will not be until around the time the Pentagon is hit that the Langley jets are redirected to their correct heading (see 9:36 a.m. September 11, 2001), after NEADS notices they are going in the wrong direction (see 9:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Bronner 8/1/2006; Spencer 2008, pp. 149-151)

The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia, takes control of the three F-16 fighter jets launched from Langley Air Force Base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001), even though, according to air traffic controllers at the facility, it should not be communicating with the fighters. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004) The Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility, known as “Giant Killer,” is the Navy air traffic control agency that handles all over-water military operations. (Spencer 2008, pp. 143; US Navy 2/11/2016) The flight plan for the Langley F-16s puts the fighters into its airspace (see (9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) The facility consequently takes over control of the aircraft from the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 2004; 9/11 Commission 1/9/2004)
Fighters Shouldn't Be Switched to the Facility's Frequency, Controller Will Say - However, according to Senior Chief Petty Officer Darren Clipper, an air traffic controller at the facility, the Norfolk TRACON “should not have switched the flight to Giant Killer frequency, plain and simple.” “Giant Killer should not have been talking to the fighters,” Clipper will state. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer is “not expected to be [one of the] participants in active air scrambles.” If NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) scrambles fighters, he will say, the “onus is on the fighters and NEADS to go where they want to go,” and “it is Giant Killer’s responsibility to stay out of the way.” Based on the scramble order for the Langley fighters (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001), Clipper will say, the FAA’s Washington Center and the Norfolk TRACON “should have made sure there was a clear path for the fighters to go direct” to the control of NEADS. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file)
Other Controllers Say the Facility Does Not Handle Scrambled Jets - Petty Officer Matthew Barcus, another controller at Giant Killer, will say a similar thing to what Clipper does. “Most of the time, Giant Killer does not talk to the scrambled aircraft,” he will tell the 9/11 Commission. He will say that a scrambled flight “is usually handed off to [NEADS] by Norfolk” TRACON or the FAA’s Washington Center. (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) And Lieutenant Commander Mary Klug, the operations officer at the facility, will tell the 9/11 Commission that Giant Killer does “not normally control scrambled aircraft.” (9/11 Commission 12/3/2003 pdf file) However, author Lynn Spencer will apparently contradict Clipper, Barcus, and Klug, writing, “Protocol dictates that Giant Killer direct the jets until they reach Washington Center’s airspace, where the FAA controllers take over.” (Spencer 2008, pp. 149)
Pilot Has Poor Experiences of Dealing with the Facility - Major Brad Derrig, the pilot of one of the fighters scrambled from Langley Air Force Base, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his experience with Giant Killer is that the facility is “not very good.” Sometimes, he will say, when Langley fighters have contacted Giant Killer, controllers at the facility “didn’t know who the air defense fighters were.” (9/11 Commission 12/1/2003)

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS contacts Washington flight control to ask about Flight 11. A manager there happens to mention, “We’re looking—we also lost American 77.” The commission claims, “This was the first notice to the military that American 77 was missing, and it had come by chance.… No one at FAA Command Center or headquarters ever asked for military assistance with American 77.” (9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Yet, 38 minutes earlier, flight controllers determined Flight 77 was off course, out of radio contact, and had no transponder signal (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). They’d warned American Airlines headquarters within minutes. By some accounts, this is the first time NORAD is told about Flight 77, but other accounts have them warned around 9:25 a.m.

In the middle of the 9/11 attacks, General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, drives from his NORAD headquarters office at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado to the NORAD operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, about a dozen miles away. The journey reportedly takes him 45 minutes and en route he loses a cell phone call with Vice President Cheney. The reason he makes this journey is unknown, though it is reported that there are superior communications capabilities available at Cheyenne Mountain. (Zubeck 6/16/2006; Finley 7/28/2006; Reid 7/29/2006) The exact times when Eberhart departs Peterson AFB and arrives at Cheyenne Mountain are unclear. General Richard Myers says that Eberhart phones him from Peterson either just before or just after the Pentagon is hit, which suggests that Eberhart heads out some time between 9:35 a.m. and 9:40 a.m. (Armed Forces Radio And Television Service 10/17/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/17/2004) Eberhart tells the 9/11 Commission that when he arrives at the NORAD operations center, the order to shoot down hijacked aircraft has already been passed down NORAD’s chain of command. According to the commission’s timeline, this would indicate he arrives after 10:31 a.m. (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42) Yet other reports state that the massive blast doors to Cheyenne Mountain are shut at around 10:15 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001), which suggests that Eberhart arrives earlier.

According to most accounts, the two fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) never receive an order from the military to shoot down hostile aircraft. However, one account will suggest otherwise. (Dennehy 8/21/2002; Filson 2003, pp. 70; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-44; Viser 9/11/2005) According to the 9/11 Commission, personnel at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) learn that NORAD has been cleared to shoot down threatening aircraft at 10:31 a.m., but they do not pass this order on to the fighter pilots (see 10:31 a.m. September 11, 2001). The only order conveyed to the pilots is to “ID type and tail” of hostile aircraft. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 42-43) In 2005, the Boston Globe will report that the two Otis pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, “stressed that they never had orders to shoot down any of the [hijacked] planes.” (Viser 9/11/2005) However, in October 2002, Duffy will tell author Leslie Filson that, while flying over Manhattan, he and Nash “were given clearance to kill over their radio frequencies, but to this day aren’t sure who gave that order. Was it NEADS or a civilian air traffic controller?” (Filson 2003, pp. 70, 89) At around 9:35 a.m., NEADS radioed Duffy to check he would be prepared to shoot down a hijacked aircraft (see (9:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Spencer 2008, pp. 153) And at some point, a civilian air traffic controller tells the two Otis pilots that if another plane is hijacked, it will have to be shot down (see (9:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). (Dennehy 8/21/2002)

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