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A Boeing 707 belonging to an Argentine airline comes close to hitting the television mast atop the World Trade Center’s North Tower. The plane is flying in clouds at 1,500 feet, instead of at its assigned altitude of 3,000 feet, and descending toward Kennedy Airport. About four miles, or less than 90 seconds, from the WTC, the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Hempstead, Long Island, becomes aware of the situation thanks to a new automated alarm system and is able to radio the pilot with the order to climb. The alarm system that sounds, called Minimum Safe Altitude Warning, has been in operation for about a year. When radar shows a plane at an altitude within 500 feet of the highest obstruction in a particular area and 30 seconds away, a buzzer sounds repeatedly at the TRACON. At the same time, the letters LA (for low altitude) flash on the radar scope next to the plane’s blip. [New York Times, 2/26/1981]

Entity Tags: New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, World Trade Center

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

In November 1982, US Representative Charlie Wilson (D-TX) travels to Islamabad, Pakistan, and meets with President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. He promises Zia to deliver a crucial weapons system that has so far been denied by the US—the latest radar systems for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter planes. Wilson also meets with CIA Station Chief Howard Hart, who is in charge of providing support for the Afghan resistance to the Soviets. He urges Hart to expand the program and stresses that vast amounts of money can be made available. [Crile, 2003, pp. 106-129] The next month, President Zia comes to the US to meet with President Reagan. Zia first meets with Wilson in Houston and expresses his gratitude for helping Pakistan acquire F-16 radar systems (see November-December 1982). Wilson then broaches the subject of Pakistan secretly purchasing arms from Israel for the Afghan War. Zia agrees to this in principle. [Crile, 2003, pp. 131-132]

Entity Tags: Ronald Reagan, Charlie Wilson, Howard Hart, Muhammad Zia ul-Haq

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Soviet-Afghan War

Mathias Rust Landing in Moscow.Mathias Rust Landing in Moscow. [Source: sssss]In a quixotic attempt to ease Cold War tensions, a German teenager named Mathias Rust penetrates Soviet air defenses and flies all the way from Helsinki to Moscow, finally landing within yards of the Kremlin. His success in defeating Soviet air security is called “a national shame” by Mikhail Gorbachev, who promptly sacks a number of top military officers.
Entering Soviet Airspace - According to a detailed recounting of Rust’s flight in Air & Space Magazine, his small Cessna is seen on Soviet radar as soon as he enters Soviet air space in what—after the break-up of the Soviet Union—is Estonia and, since he is not on a pre-approved flight, “three missile units were put on alert.” Throughout his flight, Rust takes no special measures to evade radar and simply flies straight toward Moscow at about 1,000 feet above ground. As he flies deeper inland, Soviet controllers continue to monitor his progress; “army units [are] put on high alert and two fighter-interceptors [… are] scrambled to investigate.” One of the interceptors reports seeing a small plane but takes no further action. It is unclear why Rust is not immediately forced to land or simply shot down.
More Fighters Scrambled - About two hours later, as Rust enters another radar sector, the same sequence of events takes place: he is seen on radar, two fighters are scrambled. “A Soviet MIG-23 pull[s] up beside him.” Once again, for reasons that will not be established, the commander on the ground takes no further action: “the fighter pilot’s commander either did not believe the pilot’s report or did not think it was significant, so the information was never passed up the chain of command.” As he continues to Moscow, Rust’s plane is never lost to radar, but controllers fail to realize that he is an unauthorized foreign plane—there are no such things in the Soviet Union—and conclude that he must be a “student” or “a helicopter on a search-and-rescue mission.”
"Ring of Steel" - Although Rust has turned off his transponder, air controllers decide to assign him a “friendly” designation, assuming he is a Soviet pilot who has forgotten to turn it on. As he approaches Moscow, Rust “pass[es] the outermost belt of Moscow’s vaunted ‘Ring of Steel,’ an elaborate network of anti-aircraft defenses that since the 1950s had been built up as a response to the threat of US bombers. The rings of missile placements circle the city […] but were not designed to fend off a single, slow-flying Cessna.” Finally, Rust reaches the outskirts of Moscow. The city’s airspace is restricted, with all overflights prohibited. “At about this time, Soviet investigators would later tell Rust, radar controllers realize[…] something [is] terribly wrong, but it [is] too late for them to act.”
Mass Firings - The Soviet leadership’s reaction to the military’s bungling will be swift. Within days, the defense minister and air defense chief will be sacked and later “hundreds of other officers [will be] fired or replaced […]. It will be the biggest turnover in the Soviet military command since Stalin’s bloody purges of the 1930s.” [New York Times, 6/7/1987; Air & Space Magazine, 6/1/2005; Washington Post, 5/27/2007]

Entity Tags: Mathias Rust

Category Tags: Other Pre-9/11 Events

IARA logo.IARA logo. [Source: IARA]In November 1996, the FBI monitors the progress of bin Laden buying a new satellite phone and tracks the purchase to Ziyad Khaleel, a US citizen and radical militant living in Missouri (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Newsweek will later say that this puts the Sudan-based charity Islamic American Relief Agency (IARA) “on the FBI’s radar screen” because Khaleel is one of IARA’s eight regional US directors. [Newsweek, 10/20/2004] Khaleel is monitored as he continues to buy new minutes and parts for bin Laden’s phone at least through 1998 (see July 29-August 7, 1998). He is also the webmaster of the official Hamas website. His name and a Detroit address where he lived both appear prominently in ledgers taken by US investigators from the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in 1994, a charity front with ties to both bin Laden and the CIA (see 1986-1993). That Detroit address is also tied to Ahmed Abu Marzouk, the nephew of Mousa Abu Marzouk, a high-ranking Hamas leader who is imprisoned in the US between 1995 and 1997 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). Furthermore, Khaleel is working for the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a Hamas-linked organization cofounded by Mousa Abu Marzook. [National Review, 10/2/2003] A secret CIA report in early 1996 concluded that the IARA was funding radical militants in Bosnia (see January 1996). US intelligence will later reveal that in the late 1990s, IARA is regularly funding al-Qaeda. For instance, it has evidence of IARA giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to bin Laden in 1999. But Newsweek will later note that “at the very moment that the [IARA] was allegedly heavily involved in funneling money to bin Laden, the US branch was receiving ample support from the US Treasury through contracts awarded by the State Department’s Agency for International Development (USAID).” Between 1997 and 1999, USAID gives over $4 million to IARA, mostly meant for charity projects in Africa. Finally, at the end of December 1999, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke gets USAID to cut off all funding for IARA. But the charity is merely told in a latter that US government funding for it would not be “in the national interest of the United States” and it is allowed to continue operating. At the same time, US agents arrest Khaleel while he is traveling to Jordan (see December 29, 1999. The US government will wait until 2004 before shutting down IARA in the US and raiding the Missouri branch where Khaleel worked. Newsweek will later comment, “One question that is likely to arise [in the future] is why it took the US government so long to move more aggressively against the group.” [Newsweek, 10/20/2004]

Entity Tags: USAID, Ziyad Khaleel, Islamic African Relief Agency, Osama bin Laden, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Ahmed Abu Marzouk, Richard A. Clarke, Islamic Association for Palestine, Mousa Abu Marzouk, Hamas

Category Tags: Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing

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). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, 1st Air Force, Air National Guard, Litton Data Systems

Category Tags: US Air Security, Military Exercises

The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). After the exchange of “pleasantries,” Abu Hamza and his handler discuss his recent breach with the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant group, which has been indiscriminately killing civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997). The handler notes that “[Abu] Hamza is bowed but not broken,” and adds, “For him the jihad goes on, if not in Algeria then somewhere else.” Abu Hamza tells the MI5 officer that Britain “is seen as a place to fundraise and to propagate Islam.” Authors Daniel O’Neill and Sean McGrory will later comment, “The admission that Abu Hamza and his followers were using [Britain] to raise funds to finance terrorism overseas did not seem to cause a blip on the MI5 agent’s radar.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 145]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Sean O’Niell, Daniel McGrory, Abu Hamza al-Masri

Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

Paul Nenninger.Paul Nenninger. [Source: KRCU]The US Secret Service runs training exercises that involve computer simulations of planes crashing into the White House, in order to test security there. [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]
Plane Crash Scenarios Test White House Security - Secret Service agent Paul Nenninger has, since 1997, been assigned to the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center in Beltsville, Maryland, where he serves as program manager in charge of the Security and Incident Modeling Lab (SIMLAB). [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 299] In a 2005 book, he will write that from 1998 up until the time of the 9/11 attacks, the Rowley Training Center is “crashing planes into the White House… on a simulation program provided by the military.” This is done “to test the security responses of the various agencies that interact to provide security and support to the White House.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175] The plane crash scenarios are perhaps inspired by an incident in 1994, when a suicidal pilot crashed a Cessna into the White House grounds (see September 11, 1994). Time magazine reported at the time that “security officials have long feared in private [that] the White House is vulnerable to sneak attack from the air.” [Time, 9/26/1994; New York Times, 10/3/2001]
Exercises Held Based on 'Terrorist Attacks on the White House' - Nenninger will not state whether the simulated plane crashes are imagined to be part of a terrorist attack. However, he will comment that simulations “allow you to practice scenarios that can be attempted by a terrorist or other deranged individual.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 177-178] And in May 2001, Secretary of the Treasury Paul O’Neill testifies that the Secret Service “holds interagency tabletop exercises in preparation for terrorist attacks on the White House.” However, it is unclear if he is referring to the same exercises as those described by Nenninger. [US Department of the Treasury, 5/8/2001]
Secret Service Uses Advanced Analytical Software - For the simulations, the Secret Service has what Nenninger will describe as “a very good piece of analytical software” called the Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS). This program was developed by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California. It was released by LLNL in 1998 and distributed to the Secret Service by the Joint Warfighting Center at Fort Monroe, Virginia. [Science and Technology Review, 9/2000; Nenninger, 2005, pp. 176] JCATS can handle things like “alarms” and “FAA radar” in the simulations, according to Nenninger. The computer simulations are particularly popular with the Secret Service’s special operations units, which request “more and more time in SIMLAB.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 184-185]
Colleague Says 'You Know All about That' in Response to Attack on WTC - On the morning of September 11, 2001, Nenninger is at the Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC, for a board meeting. When he and the others there for the meeting learn that a plane has crashed into the World Trade Center, another Secret Service agent in the room points at Nenninger and, referring to the computer simulations he has been involved with, comments, “You know all about that.” [Nenninger, 2005, pp. 175]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service, Paul O’Neill, Paul L. Nenninger

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

FBI reward notice for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.FBI reward notice for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [Source: FBI]Islamic militant Ramzi Yousef is sentenced to 240 years for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. At the same time, prosecutors unseal an indictment against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for participating with Yousef in the 1995 Operation Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In unsealing this, US Attorney Mary Jo White calls KSM a “major player” and says he is believed to be a relative of Yousef. [Washington Post, 1/9/1998] The US announces a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998 and wanted posters with his picture are distributed. [New York Times, 6/5/2002] This contradicts the FBI’s claim after 9/11 that they did not realize he was a major terrorist before 9/11. [US Congress, 12/11/2002] For instance, a senior FBI official later says, “He was under everybody’s radar. We don’t know how he did it. We wish we knew.… He’s the guy nobody ever heard of.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] However, another official says, “We have been after him for years, and to say that we weren’t is just wrong. We had identified him as a major al-Qaeda operative before September 11.” [New York Times, 9/22/2002] Yet strangely, despite knowing KSM is a major al-Qaeda operations planner and putting out a large reward for his capture at this time, there is no worldwide public manhunt for him as there successfully was for his nephew Ramzi Yousef. KSM’s name remains obscure and he isn’t even put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list until one month after 9/11. [Lance, 2003, pp. 327-30]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mary Jo White, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Ramzi Yousef

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]

Entity Tags: Joint Surveillance System, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Richard B. Myers

Category Tags: US Air Security

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; Toronto Star, 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; New York Times, 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. [Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 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). [Toronto Star, 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.

Entity Tags: US Strategic Command, Vigilant Virgo, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Warren Patterson, John J. Hamre, US Space Command

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

An AC-130.An AC-130. [Source: US Air Force]In the immediate aftermath of a decision not to attack bin Laden with cruise missiles for fear of collateral damage (see December 18-20, 1998), the US military looks for other options than the inaccurate cruise missiles. On this day, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Henry Shelton formally directs Generals Anthony Zinni and Peter J. Schoomaker to develop plans for an AC-130 gunship attack against al-Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. The AC-130 is an aircraft designed specifically for special forces missions. It can fly in fast or from a high altitude, undetected by radar. It is capable of rapidly firing precision-guided projectiles that are much less likely to cause collateral damage. The two generals do submit such a plan on January 12, 1999, but the plan will never be developed beyond this initial document. One reason is that Zinni is against the idea. Another obstacle is that due to technical reasons the AC-130s would need to be based in a nearby country (most likely Uzbekistan, which is the most supportive of US efforts to get bin Laden at this time (see 1998 and After)). Political agreements allowing for basing and overflight rights would have to be arranged, but there is never any attempt to do so. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 135, 486]

Entity Tags: Henry Hugh Shelton, Peter J. Schoomaker, Anthony Zinni

Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

The Vienna, Virginia, house where Waleed Alshehri and Ahmed Alghamdi lived.The Vienna, Virginia, house where Waleed Alshehri and Ahmed Alghamdi lived. [Source: Paul Sperry]Diane and John Albritton later say they call the CIA and police several times this year to report suspicious activity at a neighbor’s home, but authorities fail to respond. [New York Daily News, 9/15/2001; MSNBC, 9/23/2001] A man named Waleed Alshehri, allegedly one of the 9/11 hijackers, is renting the house on Orrin Street in Vienna, Virginia, at the time (three blocks from a CIA facility). [Associated Press, 9/15/2001] He makes his neighbors nervous. “There were always people coming and going,” said Diane Albritton. “Arabic people. Some of them never uttered a word; I don’t know if they spoke English. But they looked very focused. We thought they might be dealing drugs, or illegal immigrants.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001] A man named Ahmed Alghamdi, allegedly another one of the hijackers, lived at the same address until July 2000. [WorldNetDaily, 9/14/2001; Fox News, 6/6/2002] Shortly after 9/11, it was reported that Waleed Alshehri lived with Ahmed Alghamdi in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Daily Telegraph, 9/20/2001] Albritton says they observed a van parked outside the home at all hours of the day and night. A Middle Eastern man appeared to be monitoring a scanner or radio inside the van. Another neighbor says, “We thought it was a drug house. All the cars parked on the street were new BMWs, new Mercedes. People were always walking around out front with cell phones.” There were frequent wild parties, numerous complaints to authorities, and even a police report about a woman shooting a gun into the air during a party. [WorldNetDaily, 9/14/2001] Other neighbors also called the police about the house. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001] “Critics say [the case] could have made a difference [in stopping 9/11] had it been handled differently.” Standard procedures require the CIA to notify the FBI of such domestic information. However, FBI officials have not been able to find any record that the CIA shared the information. [Fox News, 6/6/2002] FBI Director Mueller has said “the hijackers did all they could to stay below our radar.” [US Congress, 5/8/2002] Although Fox News, based on information from the CIA and FBI, will still be reporting that these two men are the hijackers of the same name in the summer of 2002, the 9/11 Commission will say that these two hijackers first entered the US in the spring of 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). [Fox News, 6/6/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 527-8]

Entity Tags: Diane Albritton, Federal Bureau of Investigation, John Albritton, Robert S. Mueller III, Ahmed Alghamdi, Central Intelligence Agency, Waleed Alshehri

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Other 9/11 Hijackers

Bill Harlow.Bill Harlow. [Source: 15-seconds (.com)]Circle William, a Tom Clancy-style military thriller by CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, is released, and centers on a terrorist plot involving a kamikaze air attack with a commercial airliner. In the book, a US submarine off the coast of Libya intercepts a cryptic phone conversation that suggests Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi is planing to attack the Israeli Knesset with a nerve gas-laden plane. The Pentagon quickly surmises that the plot probably requires “a terrorist willing to sacrifice himself and make the delivery using a commercial airliner.” When the CIA uncovers that Libya is keeping an unused Airbus 300 in a hangar at Tripoli airport, it infers that the plan is to first fly the plane west along the coast toward Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, then to drop below radar coverage somewhere along the route. “We [figure] they would plan [to] remain at low altitude until they could get [to] the Cairo air traffic control region. Then they would pop up, mix in with the heavy traffic along that corridor, and try [to] sneak in to somewhere in Israel.” [Harlow, 1999, pp. 116, 166] Harlow joined the CIA in 1997 after a long Navy career, mainly as a public affairs officer. He will later co-author George Tenet’s memoirs, At the Center of the Storm. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 19]

Entity Tags: Bill Harlow

Category Tags: Warning Signs

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. [ABC News, 10/25/1999; Washington Post, 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. [CNN, 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. [Washington Post, 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. [Washington Post, 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; CNN, 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]

Entity Tags: Payne Stewart, Federal Aviation Administration, North American Aerospace Defense Command, National Military Command Center, Eglin Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, Southeast Air Defense Sector

Category Tags: US Air Security

It is reported that the US Secret Service is using an “air surveillance system” called Tigerwall. This serves to “ensure enhanced physical security at a high-value asset location by providing early warning of airborne threats.” Tigerwall “provides the Secret Service with a geographic display of aircraft activity and provides security personnel long-range camera systems to classify and identify aircraft. Sensor data from several sources are fused to provide a unified sensor display.” [US Department of Defense, 2000; US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 pdf file] Among its responsibilities, the Secret Service protects America’s highest elected officials, including the president and vice president, and also provides security for the White House complex. [US Congress, 5/1/2003] Its largest field office with over 200 employees is in New York, in Building 7 of the World Trade Center. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002] Whether the Secret Service, in New York or Washington, will make use of Tigerwall on 9/11 is unknown. Furthermore, in New York the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the WTC, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visited. Presumably it keeps this is in Building 7, where its field office is. [Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] As well as Tigerwall, the Secret Service appears to have other air surveillance capabilities. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will describe that on 9/11, the Secret Service had “a system that allowed them to see what FAA’s radar was seeing.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 7] Barbara Riggs, a future deputy director of the Secret Service who is in its Washington, DC headquarters on 9/11, will describe the Secret Service “monitoring radar” during the attacks. [PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] Furthermore, since 1974 the Secret Service operations center has possessed a special communications line from the control tower of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. This hotline allows air traffic controllers monitoring local radar to inform agents at the White House of any planes that are off course or appear to be on a “threatening vector.” [Time, 9/26/1994]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

After the Bush administration takes office in January 2001, it is slow to develop new approaches to Pakistan and Afghanistan. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice orders a new policy review for al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but sets no deadline for it to be completed. State Department officials will later say that Secretary of State Colin Powell shows little interest in the policy review. It takes four months for the Bush administration to even nominate a new assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs. President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf exchange formal letters with each other shortly after Bush takes office, but the letters have little impact. In January, US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam prepares two cables to brief the new Bush administration about Pakistan, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. There is no response from Washington and no request for further information, even though Milam is the point person for meetings with the Taliban. The US embassy is not consulted at all about the new policy review, indicating just how low a priority the review is. A senior US diplomat will later say: “Al-Qaeda was not on the radar screen in Washington. Nobody thought there was any urgency to the policy review. Papers were circulated, dates were made to meet, and were broken—it was the usual bureaucratic approach.” The first significant meeting related to the review takes place in April, but little is accomplished (see April 30, 2001). The first cabinet-level meeting relating to the policy review takes place on September 4, just one week before the 9/11 attacks. US policy towards Pakistan is discussed, but no firm decisions are reached (see September 4, 2001). After 9/11, Rice will say: “America’s al-Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. We recognized that America’s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies and our overall foreign policy.… Al-Qaeda was both a client of and patron to the Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided al-Qaeda with a powerful umbrella of protection, and we had to sever that.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 56-60]

Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Al-Qaeda, Bush administration (43), George W. Bush, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Taliban, William Milam

Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

During this period, apparently, there are only 14 fighter planes on active alert to defend the continental United States (and six more defending Canada and Alaska). [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] However, in the months before 9/11, rather than increase the number, the Pentagon is planning to reduce the number still further. Just after 9/11, the Los Angeles Times will report, “While defense officials say a decision had not yet been made, 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.” By comparison, in the Cold War atmosphere of the 1950s, the US had thousands of fighters on alert throughout the US. [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/2001] In fact, there will be high level military discussions as late as September 8, 2001, where the option of eliminating the bases altogether is considered (see September 7-8, 2001). As late as 1998, there were 175 fighters on alert status. [Bergen Record, 12/5/2003] Also during this time, FAA officials try to dispense with “primary” radars altogether, so that if a plane were to turn its transponder off, no radar could see it. NORAD rejects the proposal [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, US Department of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, US Air Security

Hortman Aviation.Hortman Aviation. [Source: Hortman Aviation Services Inc.]9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah has two sessions of training at a flight school in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but is denied a request to rent a plane from there due to his inadequate piloting skills. Jarrah arrived in Philadelphia on June 2 (see June 2-5, 2001). The following day, he arrives at Hortman Aviation, a flight school at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport, and asks to rent a Piper Cherokee aircraft from there. [9/11 Commission, 4/27/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 242; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 54 pdf file] He indicates that he has 225 hours of flying time, and says he has a private pilot’s license but is working on his commercial license. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 3/20/2002, pp. 50-51]
Jarrah Wants to Fly the Hudson Corridor - Jarrah tells Herbert Hortman, the owner and operator of Hortman Aviation, that he is “in town for a couple of days” and that he is interested in flying along the Hudson Corridor. [9/11 Commission, 4/27/2004 pdf file] The Hudson Corridor is a “hallway” along the Hudson River where a pilot can fly at low altitude without having to fly on radar. It passes New York landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and the World Trade Center, but heavy air traffic makes it a dangerous route for an inexperienced pilot to fly. Hortman will later reflect that, in hindsight, he finds it “highly unusual” for someone from Florida, like Jarrah, to know of the Hudson Corridor. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 3/20/2002, pp. 51; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 242]
Instructor Finds Jarrah Has Poor Landing Skills - Hortman assigns David Powell, an instructor at the flight school, to take Jarrah on a “check out” flight, to determine his piloting skills. Accompanied by Powell, Jarrah flies across the Delaware River to New Jersey and lands at the Flying W Airport in Lumberton. During the flight, Jarrah tells Powell that he is from Germany and that he learned to fly in Florida. Although Jarrah is able to complete the flight, he is deemed to be unsatisfactory in his ability to land the aircraft: He lands the Piper Cherokee, which has fixed, un-retractable landing gear, on the nose gear, rather than using the proper technique of landing it on its main gear. Powell tells him he will have to return the following day for a second check out flight.
Jarrah Has Second 'Check Out' Flight, but Instructor Still Unhappy - Jarrah returns to the flight school on June 4 and takes the second check out flight. Although he handles the plane more effectively this time, Powell notes that on this occasion there is minimal wind, and so Jarrah’s landings are unaffected by the wind. Powell also finds that Jarrah has difficulty using the plane’s radio and contacting the control tower at the Northeast Philadelphia Airport. He does not recommend that Jarrah be allowed to rent an aircraft from Hortman Aviation. Herbert Hortman tells Jarrah he will need to return to the flight school for another day of instruction before he will be allowed to rent and fly an aircraft from there. Jarrah schedules a third lesson and check out flight, but never returns to Hortman Aviation. Although Jarrah has an FAA pilot’s license that was issued in Florida, Hortman is surprised he has qualified for this, considering his limited flying skills, and speculates that the license was issued by a less than reputable flying school. [9/11 Commission, 4/12/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 4/27/2004 pdf file]
Jarrah Accompanied by Unidentified Older Man - On at least one occasion when Jarrah attends Hortman Aviation, he is accompanied by another man, who he introduces as his “uncle.” The man is also Middle Eastern, but has a darker complexion than Jarrah. Hortman will later describe him as being of average height and in his mid to late 40s. He is “appropriately dressed” and does not appear to be a recent immigrant to the United States. Hortman is unable to tell whether the man understands English, as Jarrah does all the talking. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 3/20/2002, pp. 51; 9/11 Commission, 4/27/2004 pdf file] Like Jarrah, Hani Hanjour, the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 77 on 9/11, requests flights along the Hudson Corridor around this time, at a flight school in New Jersey (see (April-July 2001)). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 242]

Entity Tags: Hortman Aviation, Herbert Hortman, David Powell, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Possible Hijacker Associates in US, Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization logo. The Shanghai Cooperation Organization logo. [Source: Shanghai Cooperation Organization]The Shanghai Five (see 1996) becomes known as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and expands to include Uzbekistan. [BBC, 6/11/2001] SCO member-states agree unanimously to take the organization to a “higher level” and expand its mission beyond the original objectives of resolving border disputes and dealing with Islamic separatists to include issues such as regional economic development, commerce, and investment. [Shanghai Cooperation [.org], 6/20/2005] Leaders of the organization’s member-states say they hope the SCO will counterbalance US dominance of world affairs. According to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the organization will foster “world multi-polarization” and contribute to the “establishment of a fair and reasonable international order.” [Associated Press, 6/15/2001] During their meeting in Shanghai, members sign a letter of support for the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (see May 26, 1972), which the United States has said it wants to scrap to make way for a missile defense shield (see December 13, 2001). [BBC, 6/15/2001] SCO members say the defense system will have a “negative impact on world security.” [Associated Press, 6/15/2001] One Russian official at the meeting says the 1972 ABM Treaty is the “cornerstone of global stability and disarmament.” [BBC, 6/15/2001] China and Russia also discuss collaborating on a joint program to develop a radar system capable of tracking US F-117A stealth fighter planes. [CNN, 6/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Russia, Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan

Timeline Tags: US confrontation with Iran

Category Tags: US Dominance

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; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006; Shenon, 2008, pp. 203]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Joe McCain, Fertile Rice

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

Hani Hanjour.Hani Hanjour. [Source: FBI]9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour goes to the Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland, about 20 miles west of Washington. He wants to rent a single engine Cessna airplane. However, when two instructors take him on three test runs, they find he has trouble controlling and landing the plane. One instructor has to help him land. Due to his poor skills, therefore, he is not allowed to rent one of their planes without more lessons. Further, while Hanjour appears to have logged over 600 hours of flying experience and possesses a valid pilot’s license (though it has in fact expired), he refuses to provide contact information: He gives no phone number and only gives his address as being a hotel in Laurel. In spite of Hanjour’s lack of flying skills, chief instructor Marcel Bernard later claims, “There’s no doubt in my mind that once [Flight 77] got going, he could have pointed that plane at a building and hit it.” [Capital News, 9/19/2001; Gazette (Greenbelt), 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001; Washington Post, 10/15/2001] However, on 9/11, in piloting Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hanjour would have needed to do much more than simply point the plane at a target. Because Flight 77 at first seemed to overshoot its target, the Washington Post will note that “the unidentified pilot executed a pivot so tight that it reminded observers of a fighter jet maneuver. The plane circled 270 degrees to the right to approach the Pentagon from the west, whereupon Flight 77 fell below radar level.… Aviation sources said the plane was flown with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm.” [Washington Post, 9/12/2001] One Washington air traffic controller will later comment, “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane.” [ABC News, 10/24/2001] One law enforcement official who will study Flight 77’s descent after 9/11 will call it the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Remarkably, the 9/11 Commission will overlook the numerous accounts of Hanjour’s terrible piloting skills (see April 15, 1999 and January-February 2001) and state that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed assigned the Pentagon target specifically to Hanjour because he was “the operation’s most experienced pilot.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 530]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Hani Hanjour, 9/11 Commission, Marcel Bernard

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Hani Hanjour, Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training

Personnel at United Airlines’ headquarters, near Chicago, are subjected to a surprise training exercise in which they are led to believe that one of their planes has crashed, and their experience with this exercise allegedly means they will be better able to respond to the 9/11 attacks. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; 9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; Studdert, 5/26/2015 pdf file; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015]
Manager Is Concerned that the Airline Is Unprepared for an Accident - Andy Studdert, United Airlines’ chief operating officer, has been concerned that, since it hasn’t suffered a real accident in over 15 years, United Airlines is unprepared to respond properly should one occur now. “I was worried we’d become cocky,” he will later comment. “We thought it couldn’t happen to us.” Around March this year, therefore, he told the airline’s other managers, “One of these days, I’m gonna come in here and I’m gonna do a no-notice drill.” [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012] A “no-notice” drill is an exercise that is conducted without its participants being given any formal advance notice of when it will occur. [US Department of Justice, 5/21/2000; Inglesby, Grossman, and O'Toole, 2/1/2001; Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education, 10/15/2011]
Pilot Is Told to Pretend His Plane Is Experiencing an Emergency - Today, Studdert holds this no-notice exercise. Only a few people know about it in advance. Studdert tells a United Airlines employee who he will refer to as his “safety guy” to contact the pilot of a flight to Australia and give them some instructions. The pilot is therefore told he needs to call in during his flight and report an emergency. He should say there is an “uncontained number three engine failure, rapid descent, decompression,” but stop talking halfway through the word “decompression” and then go silent. He should also turn off the plane’s transponder. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] (A transponder is a device that sends an aircraft’s identifying information, speed, and altitude to air traffic controllers’ radar screens. [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] )
Airline Personnel Think One of Their Planes Has Crashed - The simulated emergency takes places this afternoon. At around 2 o’clock, Studdert is interrupted by his secretary, Maryann Irving, who rushes into his office and tells him a Boeing 747 has lost contact while flying over the Pacific Ocean. In response, he runs to the airline’s operations center. [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012] Airline employees believe the apparently troubled aircraft has crashed. Some of them are upset and some become physically ill. [Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] “There are people throwing up in the hall; there are people crying; there are people just staring out the windows,” Studdert will describe.
Personnel Think the Crisis Is Real for 30 Minutes - Since no one in the operations center is able to contact the apparently troubled aircraft, Studdert opens the airline’s crisis center. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012] The crisis center, according to journalist and author Jere Longman, is “a terraced, theater-like room that resembled NASA’s Mission Control.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 77] Opening it, according to Studdert, is a significant course of action. When this happens, everyone working for the airline becomes responsible either for running the airline or acting to support the management of the emergency. This means that “3,000 people are put on an immediate activation.” [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/23/2012] United Airlines employees believe one of their planes has crashed for about 30 minutes and then Studdert reveals that the apparent catastrophe is just an exercise scenario. [USA Today, 8/13/2002] He gets on the crisis center’s communications link, which, he will say, “has got 170 stations and people all over the country, all over the world,” and announces, “This has been a no-notice drill; there is no event; everything’s fine.”
Employees Are Furious about the Exercise - The reaction to the exercise in the days after it takes place will be particularly bitter and Studdert will face severe criticism for running it. “I had the board members calling; I had the unions demanding I be fired; I had people telling me I’m the most evil person in the world,” he will recall. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012; Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012] Some employees “wanted to kill me,” he will say.
Exercise Has Similarities to the Situation Experienced on September 11 - It is unclear whether Studdert’s exercise has a beneficial or a detrimental effect on the ability of United Airlines to respond to the hijackings 12 days later, on September 11. Studdert will claim that it prepares employees to manage the events of September 11 and reveals weaknesses, such as outdated phone numbers, which are quickly corrected. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 4/26/2012; Dubuque Telegraph Herald, 11/12/2015] “It’s amazing, after 9/11… how many people came up to me and thanked me [for running the exercise], because we were ready,” he will say. [Center for Values-Driven Leadership, 3/15/2012] It is possible, however, that it will cause some United Airlines employees to initially think the reports about the terrorist attacks on September 11 are part of another exercise, although accounts are contradictory (see (8:50 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Chicago Tribune, 7/16/2003] The scenario of Studdert’s exercise in fact has some similarities with the situation that operations center personnel have to deal with on September 11. On that day, communication with Flight 175—the first of the two United Airlines planes that are hijacked—will be lost (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and the plane will have its transponder code changed, although the transponder will not be turned off (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20-21] Communication will subsequently be lost with Flight 93—the second United Airlines plane to be hijacked (see 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (9:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001)—and that plane’s transponder will be turned off (see (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 38-39, 43]
Crisis Center Holds Quarterly Exercises - The United Airlines crisis center usually runs exercises four times a year. Most of these deal with safety issues, but security scenarios are also rehearsed, according to Ed Soliday, the airline’s vice president of safety and security. Typically, the 9/11 Commission will be told, these exercises “are scripted” and based around an act of bioterrorism or an international incident. United Airlines has also practiced hijacking scenarios, according to Soliday, although none of these dealt with the threat of an aircraft being used as a weapon. [9/11 Commission, 11/20/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 11/21/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Andrew P. Studdert, Maryann Irving, United Airlines, Ed Soliday

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Military Exercises

The Joint Surveillance System (JSS).The Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Source: Dr. Steven R. Bussolari, MIT Lincoln Laboratory]Military radar in Massachusetts, which is used by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), is out of use this morning in order to undergo maintenance work. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file]
Radar Scheduled to Go Down - The J53 radar in North Truro, Massachusetts, is one of a number of radar sites that NEADS receives data from. [United States Space Command, 12/30/1995; Jane's C4I Systems, 9/1/2005; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/23/2006 pdf file] It has a range of 250 miles. According to Technical Sergeant Jeffrey Richmond, the assistant air surveillance technician at NEADS, J53 is scheduled to go down this morning for some major repairs to be carried out. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file]
NEADS Personnel Refer to Radar - A member of staff at NEADS apparently refers to the J53 radar being offline shortly after those on the NEADS operations floor learn of the Flight 11 hijacking (see (8:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and while they are trying to locate the hijacked aircraft. She mentions that NEADS technicians “still should be able to get it” (presumably referring to the plane’s radar track) “without 53.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001] (According to Richmond, the area covered by J53 is overlapped by other radars, “so the need for radar to undergo routine maintenance is accounted for.”) ID technician Shelley Watson will later recall that the NEADS ID desk uses the J53 radar as a point from which it attempts to locate Flight 11. At some time during the morning, Richmond insists that J53 be put back online at some capacity. Whether this happens is unstated. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file]
Radar Part of 'Joint Surveillance System' - The J53 radar site is part of the Joint Surveillance System (JSS). [Transportation Safety Board of Canada, 9/2/1998; US Department of the Air Force, 11/1/1999 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The JSS consists of “long-range radar sites around the perimeter of the US, with data shared by the [Department of Defense], FAA, Customs, and others.” A 2003 Department of Defense report will state that, at the time of the 9/11 attacks, US air defense relies “largely on outward looking ground-based radars, specifically, the Joint Surveillance System.” [US Department of Defense, 7/2003 pdf file] According to General Ralph Eberhart, the commander of NORAD, NORAD has access to the JSS, “which is that system that rings the United States and looks out.” He will say this system “looks for that foreign threat. It looks for someone coming into our airspace that’s not authorized.” [US Congress. Senate, 10/25/2001]

Entity Tags: Joint Surveillance System, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Jeffrey Richmond, Ralph Eberhart, Shelley Watson

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

Mike Hilliard.Mike Hilliard. [Source: Mary Schwalm / North Andover Eagle-Tribune]The air traffic control tower at Logan International Airport in Boston is called by the FAA’s Boston Center and told that communication with Flight 11 has been lost, but when the tower supervisor looks at the plane through his binoculars, he can see nothing outwardly wrong with it. [North Andover Eagle-Tribune, 9/6/2011; CNHI News Service, 9/9/2011] Flight 11 took off from Logan Airport at 7:59 a.m. (see (7:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It was in communication with the Logan control tower before being passed on to the FAA’s Boston Center. All communications between the Logan tower and Flight 11 were routine, and tower operators received no indication that anything was wrong with the flight. [Boston Globe, 9/12/2001; Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; New York Times, 10/16/2001] But since the Boston Center instructed it to ascend to 35,000 feet, just before 8:14 a.m. (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), Flight 11 has failed to respond to all air traffic controller communications (see 8:14 a.m.-8:24 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 7]
Tower Supervisor Sees Nothing Wrong with Flight 11 - The Boston Center now calls the Logan tower to alert it to the problem. “We got a call in the tower that communication with the plane had been lost,” Mike Hilliard, the tower supervisor, will later recall. Then, Hilliard will say, the radar room, which is on a level below the tower room, “called and asked if we could still see the plane.” Hilliard looks at the radar screen and can see Flight 11’s track. He then grabs his binoculars, looks out the window through them, and can see Flight 11, because the sun is reflecting off its aluminum fuselage. The aircraft is flying “at 15,000 feet, and he wasn’t trailing vapor or smoke,” Hilliard will recall. Hilliard therefore informs the radar room that he cannot see anything wrong with the plane.
Assistant Says, 'I Hope It's Not a Hijack' - One of Hilliard’s assistants then says to the supervisor, “I hope it’s not a hijack.” This gives Hilliard an uneasy feeling. He replies, “It better not be, because if they got the airplane that quick, it’s a team that took the airplane.” He says to his assistant that the problem with Flight 11 has “got to be mechanical,” and then adds, “Nobody can get a plane that quick.” [North Andover Eagle-Tribune, 9/6/2011; CNHI News Service, 9/9/2011] The 9/11 Commission will conclude that Flight 11 is hijacked at around 8:14 a.m. (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). Flight 175, the second plane to crash into the World Trade Center, takes off from Logan Airport at 8:14 a.m. (see 8:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 4, 7]

Entity Tags: Mike Hilliard, Logan International Airport, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Colin Scoggins.Colin Scoggins. [Source: John P. Meyer]Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, arrives at work an hour late and is informed of the hijacking of Flight 11. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001; WAMU, 8/3/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-33] Scoggins is an experienced air traffic controller and specializes in airspace, procedures, and military operations. He is responsible for managing operating agreements between the Boston Center and other air traffic control facilities, and between Boston Center and the military. He is also responsible for generating the military schedules that keep FAA facilities synchronized with military airspace requirements, and has therefore developed personal relationships with most of the military units in his region. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-33]
Arrives One Hour Late - In a 2006 radio interview, Scoggins will recall that he arrives at work one hour late, saying, “That morning I actually came in, took an hour early on the front of my shift, so I didn’t get in until 8:30.” [WAMU, 8/3/2006] But in a statement that will be provided to the 9/11 Commission, he says he arrives at the Boston Center slightly earlier, at “about 8:25 a.m.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001] When he enters the building, a colleague tells him about the hijacking of Flight 11. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33]
Heads to Credit Union - Rather than going immediately to help deal with the hijacking, Scoggins heads to the credit union at the center. He will recall, “I wasn’t in a rush because when hijacks do occur, sometimes too many people try to get involved, but instead they just get in the way.”
Mentions that Hijacked Plane Could Hit a Building - When he gets to the credit union, Scoggins decides he should go to the center’s traffic management unit, to make sure that fighter jets are launched in response to the hijacking. As he will later recall, he says to an employee at the credit union that “if it really came to it,” and fighter jets “had to stop the hijack from hitting a building or something, there wasn’t much [the fighters] could do.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/20/2001]
Updated on Hijacking - Scoggins then heads to the center’s operational floor, arriving there at about 8:35. [WAMU, 8/3/2006; Griffin, 2007, pp. 335] He goes to the traffic management unit and the desk of Daniel Bueno, who is the unit’s supervisor. Bueno brings Scoggins up to date on the details of the hijacking. He tells him: “It sounds real. We heard a Mideastern or Arabic voice on radio. They’ve also turned off the transponder to prevent the hijack code from appearing.” Bueno says the Boston Center controllers are still tracking the primary radar return for Flight 11, but they lack information on its altitude. According to author Lynn Spencer, it occurs to Scoggins that NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) might be able to provide altitude information for Flight 11, “because the FAA radar system filters out certain altitude information that NEADS gets.” He will therefore phone NEADS as soon as he arrives at his station (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33]

Entity Tags: Daniel Bueno, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

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. [Christian Science Monitor, 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.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/15/2001] Boston air traffic controller Mark Hodgkins later says, “I watched the target of American 11 the whole way down.” [ABC News, 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. [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002; Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, Mark Hodgkins, American Airlines, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

A Sikorsky S-76A helicopter flying over New York.
A Sikorsky S-76A helicopter flying over New York. [Source: Sikorsky]A helicopter is tracked on radar apparently crashing into the World Trade Center, according to a report later given by a New York air traffic controller over an FAA teleconference.
Helicopter Is 'the Only Target that We Saw ... to Fly into the Trade Center' - At around 10:15 a.m., Tom White, an operations manager at the FAA’s New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), will tell those on the FAA teleconference that his facility tracked a Sikorsky helicopter that had taken off from the airport in Poughkeepsie, New York, and this helicopter appeared to fly into the WTC at 8:27 a.m. (see (10:15 a.m.) September 11, 2001). White will add that, after replaying radar information, it is concluded that the helicopter is “the only target that we saw in the vicinity of the Trade Center at 12:27 [Zulu time, or 8:27 a.m. Eastern time] to fly into the Trade Center.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 5/21/2004] (However, the first crash at the WTC will not occur until 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7] ) The “Poughkeepsie airport” the helicopter took off from is presumably Dutchess County Airport. Sikorsky reportedly bases a fleet of its S-76 helicopters at Dutchess County Airport, “dispatching them to the New York metro areas as needed.” [Site Selection, 5/2000; Aviation International News, 8/1/2003] Poughkeepsie is about 70 miles north of New York City. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/3/2008]
Helicopter 'Consistent with the Speed' of What Hits WTC - White will say the helicopter’s tail number is N7601S, that it departed the Poughkeepsie airport at 8:03 a.m., and that it then headed south at a speed of around 160 knots, or 184 miles per hour. He will add: “The tower [presumably the air traffic control tower at the Poughkeepsie airport] says the only thing they had southbound at that time was a Sikorsky helicopter, which is consistent with the speed that we followed it down.… They’re saying they replayed the radar and it’s consistent with the speed of what went into the [WTC] tower.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] (However, an analysis by the US government will later estimate that Flight 11 hits the WTC at 494 miles per hour, or 429 knots, which is significantly faster than the helicopter was flying. [New York Times, 2/23/2002] )
Mistaken Information Later Corrected - It will apparently take until early afternoon for the suspicions about the Sikorsky helicopter hitting the WTC to be dismissed. An FAA chronology of this day’s events will state that at 1:00 p.m., the “Sikorsky helicopter” is “now believed not to have hit the WTC.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 1/2/2002] Another FAA chronology will state that at 1:04 p.m., it is reported that the Sikorsky helicopter “landed 20 minutes early, normal GE run at 12:28Z [i.e. 8:28 a.m. Eastern time] to WTC.” (It is unclear what is meant by “normal GE run.”) [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Tom White (FAA), New York Terminal Radar Approach Control

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, calls the FAA’s Boston Center to ask about the status of Flight 11 and is told that the plane has deviated from its flight path, air traffic controllers have lost communication with it and have lost its transponder signal, and they have heard a possible threat being made in the background over the radio. This call is American Airlines’ first contact with FAA controllers regarding Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file]
Manager Told Halleck to Call FAA - At 8:21 a.m., Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the SOC, received a call from a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, alerting him to a call the office had received from Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11, reporting the emergency on her plane (see 8:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). Marquis had replied that he would get in touch with air traffic control about this. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 9] He asked Halleck to contact the FAA’s Boston Center and find out what is happening with Flight 11. Immediately after receiving this request, Halleck calls the traffic management unit (TMU) at the Boston Center. [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file]
Boston Center Tells Halleck Details of Crisis - When the call is answered, Halleck introduces himself and then says, “[W]e’re trying to find out the status to what you know about our Flight 11.” The Boston Center controller replies that Flight 11’s last reported altitude was below 29,000 feet. He reports that the flight has altered course, saying, “He was heading west, but right now he’s pointed southwest of Albany.” Furthermore, he says, “we lost frequency with him,” meaning communication has been lost with the plane, and adds that the plane’s transponder has been turned off.
Controller Heard a 'Threat in the Background' on Flight 11 - The controller at the TMU also tells Halleck that the Boston Center controller dealing with Flight 11 “heard on the frequency a threat in the background, but that’s unconfirmed and we’re trying to pull the tape [recording of the radio communication] at this time.” Halleck asks for clarification that the controller handling Flight 11 “heard a background noise in the cockpit,” and is told: “Like a threat. Yes, sir.” The controller at the TMU adds that he has been told that it is believed the pilot’s microphone on Flight 11 was keyed, and so the controller handling the flight “heard in the background, like, yeah, ‘Return to an airport… or I’ll kill you,’ or something to that effect.” He also says the plane is not squawking any emergency transponder codes. Halleck says he is tracking Flight 11 on the aircraft situation display, and the controller replies that the Boston Center is currently tracking the plane with primary radar only. The controller ends by telling Halleck, “That is all we have.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 56-57; American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 58; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]
Halleck Does Not Pass On Information from Flight Attendant - With this call, Halleck is the first person at American Airlines to speak to FAA air traffic control personnel about Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] During the call, he does not tell the Boston Center controller about the ongoing conversation between American Airlines and Ong, or what Marquis has learned from this conversation. [United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1/16/2009 pdf file] Halleck will promptly pass on the information from the Boston Center to Marquis, and this will lead American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked (see 8:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration, Bill Halleck

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

The air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base.The air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base. [Source: CapeCodFD.com]Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, calls the air traffic control tower at Otis Air National Guard Base to alert it to the problems with Flight 11 and request military assistance. [Filson, 2003, pp. 47; Spencer, 2008, pp. 22] Otis Air Base, at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, is one of NORAD’s seven alert sites in the continental United States, which keeps two armed fighter jets ready for immediate takeoff. [Filson, 2003, pp. 50; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 17]
Supervisor Calls Otis, Violating Protocol - Bueno calls the control tower at Otis even though, according to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows it’s not standard operating procedure to call the military directly—that’s supposed to be done by FAA headquarters.” But he has “checked the FAA regulation manual, and in the back under section FAAO 7610.4J, Appendix 16, it states that fighters can be launched directly at FAA request, so he is going to make that happen. He may not be FAA headquarters, but he is FAA!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 22]
Bueno Requests Fighters, Told to Call NEADS - Bueno tells the controller at the Otis tower that Flight 11 has lost its identification signal and appears to be headed toward Manhattan; it looks like a possible hijacking, and fighter jets are needed, fast. [Filson, 2003, pp. 47] But the controller tells Bueno that he must follow the protocol, which is to contact NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). The controller says: “You’ve got to go through the proper channels. They’re the only ones with the authority to initiate a scramble order.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 22] Bueno asks the controller for the telephone number for NEADS. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] Following this call, the tower controller will contact the Otis Air Base operations desk, to let it know that it might be receiving a call from NEADS (see (Between 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 27]
Otis Pilots Critical of Bueno - The two alert pilots at Otis Air Base will later criticize Bueno for calling the base directly. One of them, Major Daniel Nash, will complain: “It sounds like the FAA didn’t have their [act] together at all when they were calling the [Otis] tower.… To me, it sounded like there was someone who didn’t know what they were doing.” [Boston Globe, 9/11/2005] Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the other alert pilot, will comment: “It didn’t happen the way it was supposed to.… We were the ones who were contacted right away and knew about it before the air defense sector.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 50]
Time of Call Unclear - Bueno also calls the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), which is located on Otis Air Base, at 8:34 a.m. and requests that fighters be launched from Otis (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file] Whether he makes that call before or after he calls the Otis tower is unstated. 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] If that is correct, it would indicate that Bueno calls the Otis tower after he calls the Cape TRACON.

Entity Tags: Daniel Bueno, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Daniel Nash, Otis Air National Guard Base, Timothy Duffy

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

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). [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Boston Globe, 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.” [Filson, 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]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, is told details of the crisis with Flight 11 that have just been received from the FAA’s Boston Center, and this information leads American Airlines to suspect that Flight 11 has been hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12] Minutes earlier, Marquis instructed Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, to contact the Boston Center to find out what was happening with Flight 11, and Halleck has just done so (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 4/26/2004 pdf file] Halleck now calls Marquis and tells him what he learned about Flight 11 from his call with the Boston Center. He says the aircraft is at “29,000 feet. They’ve lost comm [communications] with ‘em. Turned off his transponder. Tracking his primary [radar track] only. Was westbound. Turned southbound. Said the controller heard on the [radio] frequency, the pilot apparently adjust his mike… lot of loud voices… that sounded threatening.” Halleck then tells Marquis the details of this possible threat in the cockpit of Flight 11 that the Boston Center heard over radio. He says, “Something about ‘return or I’ll kill ya,’ or something to that effect… or threatening dialogue.” Halleck adds that he asked the Boston Center to pass on to the SOC “any information or updates” it subsequently receives. After Marquis hears this information from Halleck, he asks Halleck to “pull” Flight 11 up on his aircraft situation display. Following Halleck’s report to Marquis, American Airlines “now suspected that Flight 11 had been hijacked,” according to the 9/11 Commission. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Bill Halleck, Craig Marquis

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

John Hartling.John Hartling. [Source: NBC News]By 8:34 a.m., Flight 11 has entered airspace managed by Boston Center air traffic controller John Hartling. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 19] Although Boston controller Pete Zalewski, who was managing Flight 11, concluded the plane was hijacked almost ten minutes earlier (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), at the time the blip for Flight 11 appears on Hartling’s radar screen, Hartling is unaware that a hijacking is taking place. According to author Lynn Spencer, the reason is that “The concentration required for the job is so intense that controllers operate on a need-to-know basis. They don’t need to know what’s happening in other controllers’ sectors unless it might affect their own airspace, and distractions are rigorously kept to a minimum.” Tom Roberts, another Boston Center controller, has just been relieved from duty for a scheduled coffee break, and comes over to Hartling’s desk. Referring to Flight 11’s radar track, he tells Hartling, “This—this aircraft, we believe, is hijacked, and he’s last reported at 29,000 feet.” However, Hartling is incredulous. He will later recall that when Roberts says the plane is hijacked, “I didn’t believe him.” This is because “I didn’t think that that stuff would happen anymore, especially in this country.” Hartling continues tracking Flight 11 as it heads toward New York. Although its transponder has been turned off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he can tell that, at almost 600 mph, it is flying far faster than the 450 mph it should be moving at. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 22-24]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, John Hartling, Tom Roberts

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Cape TRACON.Cape TRACON. [Source: FAA]Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, contacts the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), located on Otis Air National Guard Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to alert it to the possible hijacking of Flight 11 and request that it arrange for military assistance in response. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
Bueno Requests Fighters - After his call is initially answered by an air traffic controller at the Cape TRACON, Bueno is quickly passed on to Tim Spence, an operational supervisor at the facility. Bueno says, “I have a situation with American 11, a possible hijack.” He adds that Flight 11 “departed Boston, going to LAX [Los Angeles International Airport]. Right now he’s south of Albany.” He says, “I’d like to scramble some fighters to go tail him.” Spence replies that he will contact Otis Air Base about the situation, and tells Bueno, “I’ll talk to these guys over here and see what we can do.” Bueno then adds that Flight 11 is currently airborne, is about 40 miles south of Albany, and is visible only on primary radar. [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file] Bueno also calls the air traffic control tower at Otis Air Base around this time, to alert it to Flight 11 and request military assistance (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 47; Spencer, 2008, pp. 22] Whether he makes that call before or after he calls the Cape TRACON is unstated. Immediately after receiving the call from Bueno, Spence will call the Otis control tower to inform it of the situation, and he then calls the operations desk at Otis Air Base to let it know that it may be receiving orders (presumably from NEADS, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector) soon (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file]
Bueno Supposedly Violating Protocol - Bueno will say he decided to call the Cape TRACON based on his memory of a previous aircraft hijacking. [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file] But according to the 9/11 Commission Report, by trying to get military assistance through the TRACON, the “Boston Center did not follow the protocol in seeking military assistance through the prescribed chain of command.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Indeed, Bueno will tell the 9/11 Commission that he knows his call should instead be to NEADS, “but due to the urgency of the circumstance [he] called directly to the FAA contact point for Otis.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file] And Spence will tell the Commission that arranging for fighters to be scrambled in response to a hijacking “is not the typical responsibility of an operations supervisor with the FAA,” like himself. He will also say that it is “unusual for the [air traffic control] centers to contact TRACON for information. Normally the FAA receives the call from the military for a scramble, but this time it went the other way around, and then the official order came back down from the military.” [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file]
Bueno Praised by Colleagues for Actions - However, according to the 9/11 Commission, “Bueno gets high marks” from the Boston Center personnel it interviews, “for instinctively calling FAA traffic approach personnel at the location where he knew the fighters to be—Otis [Air National Guard Base].” Even Colin Scoggins, the Boston Center’s military liaison, “who knew that the call had to go to NEADS, did not fault Bueno for trying to call the Air Force wing directly through other FAA personnel.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control, Daniel Bueno, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Tim Spence

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

After being informed of the hijacking of Flight 11, Tim Spence, an operational supervisor at the FAA’s Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), calls the air traffic control tower and then the operations desk at Otis Air National Guard Base, to let them know that they might soon be receiving an order to scramble the base’s fighter jets. [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004] Daniel Bueno, a supervisor at the FAA’s Boston Center, has just called Spence at the Cape TRACON, which is located on Otis Air Base at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and said he wanted fighter jets scrambled in response to Flight 11, which is a “possible hijack.” Spence told Bueno he would contact Otis Air Base and see what it could do to help (see 8:34 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 12]
TRACON Supervisor Calls Otis Tower - Spence will later recall that in the five minutes following the call from Bueno, he makes “as many calls as possible.” He gets on the phone to the air traffic control tower at Otis Air Base, to notify the controllers there of the situation and receive information on who to call next, so as to facilitate Bueno’s request. Spence will recall that the Otis tower controller he speaks to gives him the telephone number for either Otis Air Base’s base operations or the supervisor of flying desk, which is the aviation section of the base operations desk. (He will be unable to recall exactly which number he is given.) Spence will say he “may have been given a second number” by the Otis tower controller, but he “does not recall directly.”
TRACON Supervisor Calls Operations Desk - Spence then calls Otis Air Base’s operations desk. He will later be unable to remember who he speaks with there. But, he will recall, the “general discussion” he has with them is “an introduction of his position, the relay of the information of a hijack from [the FAA’s Boston Center], and a request for information on how to get a fighter scramble.” During the call, Spence acknowledges that he has no authority to authorize a fighter scramble, but he advises those at the base to prepare to receive a scramble order (presumably from NEADS, NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector), since such an order is “probably on its way.” The person at the operations desk gives Spence the phone number for NEADS.
Timing of Calls Unclear - The exact times when Spence calls the control tower and the operations desk at Otis Air Base are unclear. Spence will tell the 9/11 Commission that he makes the call to the control tower immediately after receiving the call from Bueno. [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file] That call ended just before 8:36 a.m. [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/19/2002] However, 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] If correct, that would indicate Spence calls the Otis tower at 8:38 a.m. or after. Bueno also called the Otis tower directly, to request military assistance in response to Flight 11 (see (Between 8:30 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and the tower controller subsequently contacts the base’s operations desk to alert it to the possible hijacking (see (Between 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 47; Spencer, 2008, pp. 22, 27-28] It is unclear whether the tower controller calls the operations desk before or after Spence calls it, although Spence will suggest to the 9/11 Commission that Otis Air Base “may have just received a call themselves regarding the situation” when he makes his calls, “but he is not sure.” [9/11 Commission, 9/30/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Tim Spence, Otis Air National Guard Base, Cape Terminal Radar Approach Control

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Betty Ong, a flight attendant on the hijacked Flight 11, tells American Airlines employees on the ground that her plane is flying erratically, and then says it is in a rapid descent. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 13] Ong is on the phone with employees at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina (see 8:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). One of these employees, Nydia Gonzalez, is simultaneously relaying the information Ong provides to Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas (see (8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Ong reports that all of the passengers on Flight 11 have been moved out of the first class section of the plane, back to the coach section. Gonzalez passes this information on to Marquis.
Ong Says Flight 11 Is 'Flying Sideways' - Gonzalez then asks Ong, “What’s going on honey?” Ong previously mentioned that Flight 11 was flying erratically (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), but she subsequently said it had stabilized (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001). She now says the plane is flying erratically again. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 13] Vanessa Minter, an employee at the reservations office, will later recall that Ong describes the way the plane is being flown by saying it is “flying sideways.” According to Minter, another reservations office employee, Winston Sadler, then asks Ong if she means the plane is flying erratically and Ong says yes. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 38-41] Gonzalez will similarly recall that Ong says the plane is “flying sideways, erratically.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez relays the information to Marquis, telling him, “The aircraft is erratic again, flying very erratically.”
Ong Says Flight 11 Is in a Rapid Descent - About a minute later, Gonzalez again asks Ong, “What’s going on?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Ong says her plane is descending rapidly. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 1-8; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/12/2001, pp. 69-71] Gonzalez passes this information on to Marquis, telling him, “Seems like the aircraft is descending quite a bit right now.” Marquis replies, “Okay, I have it on the radar here.” Marquis then asks Bill Halleck, an air traffic control specialist at the SOC, if Flight 11 is descending. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file] When Halleck recently contacted the FAA’s Boston Center, he was told that air traffic controllers had lost Flight 11’s transponder signal (see 8:29 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 3/25/2004, pp. 15] He therefore tells Marquis: “We don’t know [if Flight 11 is descending]. The transponder is off, so we have no active read on him.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Betty Ong, American Airlines, Vanessa Minter, Bill Halleck, Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, Winston Sadler

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Passenger Phone Calls

National Guard troops stationed at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York.National Guard troops stationed at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, New York. [Source: Rome Sentinel]At NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), a huddle of people is gathered around one of the radar scopes. NEADS Commander Robert Marr initially thinks this hubbub is due to the NORAD training exercise (presumably Vigilant Guardian) that is taking place on this day (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). He will later recall: “I’ve seen many exercises… and as I saw that huddle I said, ‘There’s got to be something wrong, something is happening here.’ You usually see that whenever they find a track on the scope that looks unusual; it’s usually an indicator that something is getting ready to kick off.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 55] According to author Lynn Spencer, Marr thinks the day’s exercise “is kicking off with a lively, unexpected twist.… His bet is that his simulations team has started off the exercise by throwing out a ‘heart attack card’ to see how the troops respond to a first-aid call from a fellow soldier, testing their first responder training.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 26] He sends Lieutenant Colonel Dawne Deskins, the regional mission crew commander for the exercise, to check out what is going on. [Filson, 2003, pp. 55] Deskins speaks briefly over the phone with the FAA’s Boston Center about the Flight 11 hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 26] She then runs back to the “battle cab”—the glass-walled room that overlooks the NEADS operations floor—and speaks to Marr with urgency in her voice. [Filson, 2003, pp. 55] She tells him: “It’s a hijacking, and this is real life, not part of the exercise. And it appears that the plane is heading toward New York City.” Although Deskins has specifically stated, “not part of the exercise,” Marr reportedly thinks, “This is an interesting start to the exercise.” According to Spencer, he thinks “This ‘real-world’ mixed in with today’s simex [simulated exercise] will keep [his staff members] on their toes.” Regardless of whether the crisis is real or not, Marr decides to instruct that the two alert F-15s at Otis Air National Guard Base be ordered to battle stations (see (8:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 26-27]

Entity Tags: Robert Marr, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Dawne Deskins, Vigilant Guardian

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Training Exercises

Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins.Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins. [Source: Newhouse News/ Peter Chen/ Landov]Members of staff at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) have difficulty locating Flight 11 and other aircraft on their radar screens.
bullet Lt. Col. Dawne Deskins of NEADS will say that when the FAA first calls and reports the first hijacking (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), “He [FAA] gave me the latitude and longitude of that track… [but] there was nothing there.” [Fox News, 9/8/2002]
bullet Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, later recalls: “I was giving NEADS accurate location information on at least five instances where AA 11 was, yet they could never identify him.… I originally gave them an F/R/D, which is a fix/radial/distance from a known location; they could not identify the target. They requested latitude/longitudes, which I gave them; they still could not identify the AA 11.… I gave them 20 [miles] south of Albany heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots, then another call at 50 south of Albany.” [Griffin, 2007, pp. 47]
bullet Master Sergeant Kevin Foster and Staff Sergeant Mark Rose, also working at NEADS this morning, later complain about their inability to locate the hijacked planes. After being informed of the first hijacking, reportedly: “As they had practiced countless times before, the NEADS team quickly began searching their [radar] screens for the plane. Because they had been informed its transponder was off, they knew to look for a tiny dash instead of the usual dot. But radar systems also use such lines to indicate weather patterns, so NEADS personnel began urgently clicking their computer cursors on each stray line to see if information indicating an aircraft would appear.” Yet, after receiving further calls indicating more hijackings, “the inability to find the hijacked planes on the radar, despite their best efforts, was difficult.” According to Foster, “We were trying to find the tracks, and not being able to was very frustrating.” [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004]
bullet NEADS Staff Sergeant Larry Thornton will recall: “Once we were called by the FAA, we could find split-second hits on what we thought we were looking for. But the area was so congested and it was incredibly difficult to find. We were looking for little dash marks in a pile of clutter and a pile of aircraft on a two-dimensional scope.” Each fluorescent green pulsating dot on their radar scopes represents an airplane, and there are thousands currently airborne, especially over the busy northeast US. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56]

Entity Tags: Mark Rose, Larry Thornton, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Kevin Foster, Dawne Deskins, Colin Scoggins, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center, makes a brief phone call to NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to see if it has been able to find any further information about Flight 11. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 32-33] Boston Center has just alerted NEADS to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Scoggins asks the ID technician who answers his call, “Have you identified the radar target for American 11?” The ID tech says they are still searching for it. Scoggins then tells her that Flight 11 is “50 miles south of Albany,” but, according to author Lynn Spencer, this information “won’t be of much help to NEADS Surveillance,” because “[t]heir monochromic displays aren’t even capable of showing the outline of states, much less those of cities like Albany or New York.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33] (However, despite this supposed inadequate capability, NEADS is reportedly able to spot Flight 11 shortly before it crashes into the World Trade Center (see 8:45 a.m.-8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), locating its radar track “going down the Hudson Valley, straight in from the north toward New York.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56] ) As NEADS has no new information to offer him, Scoggins quickly ends the call. According to Spencer’s account, this is the first time Scoggins calls NEADS this morning, after arriving at the Boston Center minutes earlier (see (8:25 a.m.-8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 33] But according to a description Scoggins gives to author David Ray Griffin in 2007, it appears that this is his second call, after an initial call at around 8:35 (see (8:35 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Scoggins will tell Griffin that he first called NEADS to inform it that Flight 11 was “20 [miles] south of Albany heading south at a high rate of speed, 600 knots,” and then he makes “another call at 50 [miles] south of Albany.” [Griffin, 2007, pp. 47]

Entity Tags: Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Technicians at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) try frantically to locate Flight 11 on their radar scopes, but are supposedly hindered by their outdated equipment. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 31-32] NEADS has just been alerted to the hijacking of Flight 11 (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Its technicians realize they need to find the location of the hijacked plane quickly, so that the weapons team will be able to pass this information on to any fighter jets that are launched after it.
Locating Flight 11 Is a 'Grueling Process' - Author Lynn Spencer will later explain: “To identify American 11, the surveillance and ID techs must go through a grueling process. Their radar scopes are filled with hundreds of radar returns not just from aircraft but from weather systems, ground interference, and what’s called anomalous propagation—false returns caused by conditions in the atmosphere, or by such obstructions as flocks of birds. The technicians must first determine which radar data on their screens is for aircraft, which they do by monitoring its movement, which is distinctive for planes. The technician must observe for at least 36 seconds to a minute just to confirm that a blip is in fact an aircraft track. The tech must attach what’s called a tactical display number to it, which tells the computer to start tracking and identifying the target. If the target is in fact a plane, then over a period of 12-20 seconds, the computer will start to generate information on the track: heading, speed, altitude, latitude, longitude, and the identifying information being transmitted by the transponder.” However, Flight 11’s transponder has been switched off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Therefore, “With the hundreds of pieces of radar data filling their screens, and little information as to the location of the flight,” the task of locating it “is daunting.”
Radar Equipment Supposedly Unsuitable - Spencer will suggest that trying to locate Flight 11 is made more difficult because the radar equipment at NEADS is outdated and unsuited to the task at hand. She writes: “[T]he NEADS radar equipment is different from that used by air traffic controllers. It’s much older, developed in the 1970s and brought into use by NEADS in the early 1980s. The system was designed to monitor the shoreline for incoming high-altitude threats: missiles coming from across the ocean. Slow and cumbersome, and not nearly as user friendly as more modern equipment, the NEADS monochromic radar displays are not designed to take internal FAA radar data or to identify radar tracks originating from inside the United States. The system offers little, if any, such low-level coverage over the country.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 31-32] Several of the NEADS personnel will later complain of their inability to locate Flight 11 on their scopes (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). But Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NEADS, believes he has located Flight 11 on the radar screen just before it crashes into the World Trade Center (see 8:45 a.m.-8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Texas, tells Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina, that FAA air traffic controllers are handling Flight 11 as a “confirmed hijacking.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Gonzalez is one of several employees at the reservations office who are on the phone with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11 who has been describing to them the trouble on her plane. Gonzalez has been relaying the information Ong provides to Marquis. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] She asks him, “What’s going on on your end, Craig?” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19] Marquis has just been told by a colleague at the SOC that FAA controllers are treating Flight 11 as a hijacking (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] He therefore replies: “We contacted air traffic control. They are gonna handle this as a confirmed hijacking. So they’re moving all the traffic out of this aircraft’s way.” He says that Flight 11 has its “transponder off, so we don’t have a definitive altitude for him.” Marquis adds that FAA controllers “seem to think that they have [Flight 11] on a primary radar. They seem to think that he is descending.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 7-19]

Entity Tags: Craig Marquis, Nydia Gonzalez

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Craig Marquis, the manager on duty at the American Airlines System Operations Control (SOC) center in Fort Worth, Texas, instructs Peggy Houck, a dispatcher at the SOC, to calculate how far Flight 11 could travel with the fuel it has left. [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22; 9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file] Marquis was recently told by a colleague at the SOC that FAA air traffic controllers are treating Flight 11 as a hijacking (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 6] He now talks to Houck and tells her that Flight 11 has “turned off his transponder.” He says controllers have the plane “on primary radar and they see him descending.” Marquis then asks Houck to calculate how far the plane could go with its current amount of fuel. He says: “Could you run me a model? [Flight 11] is currently 66,000 pounds of gas back from the time I got the call. Just give me some sort of endurance for 25,000 feet, if you would.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22] Marquis is also on the phone with Nydia Gonzalez, a supervisor at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservations Office in North Carolina who is simultaneously participating in a call with Betty Ong, a flight attendant on Flight 11. [9/11 Commission, 11/19/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 8-9] Marquis updates Gonzalez on what is happening. He tells her, “I have the dispatcher currently taking the current fuel on board, and we’re gonna run some profiles to see exactly what [Flight 11’s] endurance is.” [American Airlines, 9/11/2001, pp. 20-22] Houck will perform an analysis of the fuel capacity of Flight 11 and determine that the plane has “an approximate range of six hours.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2001, pp. 5-7] She will tell the 9/11 Commission that, around this time, she thinks the situation with Flight 11 is “looking like a typical hijacking.… She was thinking they might be headed to Cuba or Colombia.” [9/11 Commission, 1/8/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Nydia Gonzalez, Craig Marquis, Peggy Houck

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Dave Bottiglia.Dave Bottiglia. [Source: ABC News]After Flight 11 appears on his radar screen, Dave Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, is informed that this aircraft is suspected of having been hijacked. Flight 175 entered Bottiglia’s airspace not long before this (see 8:40 a.m. September 11, 2001). [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 20] Its pilot has just told Bottiglia about the “suspicious transmission” (presumably from Flight 11) he heard while departing Boston airport (see 8:41 a.m.-8:42 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Gregor, 12/21/2001 pdf file] Seconds later, Flight 11 also enters the area Bottiglia is monitoring and its target appears on his radar screen. The controller sitting next to Bottiglia gets up and points to the radar blip. He says: “You see this target here? This is American 11. Boston Center thinks it’s a hijack.” Bottiglia will later recall that his initial thought about Flight 11, based on this information, is that the hijackers “were probably going to Cuba.” As its transponder has been turned off (see (Between 8:13 a.m. and 8:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001), he has no altitude information for Flight 11, but can tell from the radar scope that it appears to be descending. According to author Lynn Spencer: “Even without a transponder, controller radars calculate ground speed for all radar targets, and when a plane is descending, the ground speed decreases. The flight had been ‘grounding’ 600 knots, and now it has decreased to 320.” Bottiglia follows Flight 11’s target on his radar screen until it disappears over New York City. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 37] Because he is focused on Flight 11, Bottiglia will not notice when Flight 175’s transponder code changes at 8:47 (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 21; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21] The New York Center was first notified of Flight 11’s hijacking at 8:25 a.m. (see 8:25 a.m. September 11, 2001), though this information was not passed on to Bottiglia. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 36-37]

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Flight UA 175

An emergency locator transmitter (ELT).An emergency locator transmitter (ELT). [Source: ELTA]A special radio transmitter that is carried by aircraft and designed to go off automatically if a plane crashes is activated in the New York area, more than two minutes before Flight 11 hits the World Trade Center. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 1/22/2009]
Pilots Inform Controller of Emergency Signal - At 8:44 a.m. and 5 seconds, David Bottiglia, an air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center, receives information from one of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of US Airways Flight 583 tells him: “I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5. It was brief, but it went off.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file] (121.5 megahertz is an emergency frequency that ELTs transmit their distress signals on. [Aircraft Electronics Association, 2009, pp. 36 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 1/22/2009] ) A minute later, at 8:45 a.m. and 8 seconds, Bottiglia hears the same thing from another of the aircraft he is monitoring. The pilot of Delta Airlines Flight 2433 tells him, “We picked up that ELT too, but it’s very faint.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001] However, Flight 11 has not yet crashed, and will hit the WTC over 90 seconds later, at 8:46 a.m. and 40 seconds (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7]
ELTs Help Locate Crashed Aircraft - An emergency locator transmitter, or ELT, is a small electronic device, which is designed to automatically begin emitting a continuous and distinctive radio signal when subjected to crash-generated forces, so as to facilitate the locating of an aircraft if it crashes. ELTs are carried aboard most general aviation aircraft in the US and are usually located far back in the plane’s fuselage or in the tail surface, so that they will suffer only minimal damage in the event of a crash impact. [Federal Aviation Administration, 3/23/1990; US Department of the Army, 8/12/2008, pp. E-6 pdf file; Aircraft Electronics Association, 2009, pp. 36 pdf file; Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, 1/22/2009]
Location Signal Comes from Unclear - The precise location from where the ELT signal is being transmitted is unclear. Around the time Flight 11 crashes, a participant in an FAA teleconference will say the signal was coming from the area Flight 11’s track was in before it disappeared from primary radar, about 20 miles from New York’s JFK International Airport. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] Peter McCloskey, a traffic management coordinator at the New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT goes off “in the vicinity of Lower Manhattan.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file]
Many Signals Are False Alarms - ELT signals not determined to be false alarms are reported to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file] Major Allan Knox, who works at the AFRCC, will tell the 9/11 Commission that he does not recall being informed of any ELT signals on September 11, but says the AFRCC will review its data to verify this statement. He will also say that at least 20 ELT signals go off each day, and that 97 percent of ELT signals are false alarms. [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file]
ELT Signal Is 'Clearly Indicative of a Crash' - However, Paul Thumser, an operations supervisor at the FAA’s New York Center with 20 years’ experience as an air traffic controller, and who is also an experienced airline pilot, will tell the 9/11 Commission that the ELT in a Boeing 767 cannot be triggered by the pilot. (The two aircraft that hit the WTC are 767s.) He will also say that the sensitivity setting for the ELT in a 767 is not low, and so it should be impossible for a hard turn or a hard landing to accidentally cause the ELT to go off. Thumser will say that “he judged it would have to be a serious impact to set the ELT off.” [9/11 Commission, 10/1/2003 pdf file] Terry Biggio, the operations manager at the FAA’s Boston Center, will similarly tell the 9/11 Commission that an ELT signal “is clearly indicative of a crash.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003]
FAA Manager Believes Signal Unrelated to Flight 11 Crash - Noting that the ELT goes off prior to Flight 11 hitting the WTC, Mike McCormick, the manager of the FAA’s New York Center, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his “best hypothesis” is that the activation of an ELT at this time is “unrelated to the event” of Flight 11 crashing. [9/11 Commission, 12/15/2003 pdf file] However, there are no reports of an ELT going off at the time when Flight 11 hits the WTC. Furthermore, another ELT will be activated in the New York area around five minutes before the second plane hits the WTC (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001, pp. 37 pdf file] Despite the pilots’ reports of picking up an ELT signal just before Flight 11 crashes, the AFRCC will inform the 9/11 Commission that a “historical ELT data search” found “no ELT signal being heard by the satellites” for the area within a radius of 50 nautical miles (about 57.5 miles) of JFK International Airport between 8:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on this day. [9/11 Commission, 2003]

Entity Tags: Allan Knox, Dave Bottiglia, Mike McCormick, Paul Thumser, Terry Biggio, Peter McCloskey

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Soldier firing a Stinger missile.Soldier firing a Stinger missile. [Source: US Army]In New York, the Secret Service has a Stinger missile secretly stored in the World Trade Center, to be used to protect the president if the city were attacked when he visits it. Presumably it keeps this is in WTC Building 7, where its field office is. [Tech TV, 7/23/2002; Weiss, 2003, pp. 379] Stinger missiles provide short-range air defense against low-altitude airborne targets, such as fix-winged aircraft, helicopters, and cruise missiles. They have a range of between one and eight kilometers. [Federation of American Scientists, 8/9/2000; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005] Whether the Secret Service makes any attempt at defending New York from the two attacking planes with its Stinger missile is unknown. The agency is also known to have air surveillance capabilities. These include a system called Tigerwall, which provides “early warning of airborne threats” and “a geographic display of aircraft activity” (see (September 2000 and after)). And according to Barbara Riggs, who is in the Secret Service’s Washington, DC headquarters on this day, the agency is “able to receive real time information about other hijacked aircraft,” through “monitoring radar and activating an open line with the FAA.” [US Department of the Navy, 9/2000, pp. 28 pdf file; PCCW Newsletter, 3/2006; Star-Gazette (Elmira), 6/5/2006] These capabilities would presumably be of use if the Secret Service wanted to defend the World Trade Center. Furthermore, according to the British defense publication Jane’s Land-Based Air Defence, “the American president’s residences in Washington and elsewhere are protected by specialist Stinger teams in case of an aerial attack by terrorist organizations.” [Jane's Land-Based Air Defence, 10/13/2000] Knight Ridder has previously reported “several sources” telling it, “Stinger missiles are in the Secret Service’s arsenal.” [Knight Ridder, 9/12/1994] And according to the London Telegraph, the Secret Service is “believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles” ready to defend the White House. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001] Flight 77 reportedly comes within four miles of the White House before turning toward the Pentagon. [ABC News, 10/24/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002] Whether the Secret Service makes any attempt at defending the place with its Stinger missiles is unknown. However, the Washington Post will later claim it is an “urban legend that Stinger missiles are mounted on the White House roof.” [Washington Post, 4/4/2002]

Entity Tags: US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Flight UA 175, Flight AA 77, World Trade Center

Master Sergeant Joe McCain, the mission crew commander technician at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), believes he has located Flight 11 on the radar screen and then watches it disappear over New York, but he does not realize it has crashed. McCain is on the phone with Colin Scoggins, the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 40-41] NEADS personnel have been unable to locate Flight 11 on their radar screens (see Shortly After 8:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Utica Observer-Dispatch, 8/5/2004]
McCain Locates Fast-Moving Aircraft - Now McCain believes he has found Flight 11, flying about 20 miles north of Manhattan. According to author Lynn Spencer, he “knows that planes tend to fly very specific routes, like highways in the sky, and this particular target seems not to be on any of those regular routes. It’s also very fast moving.” McCain tells Scoggins, “I’ve got a search target that seems to be on an odd heading here,” and then describes its location. Scoggins notices the target, but this is not Flight 11. Scoggins then realizes that Flight 11 is right behind the target McCain has identified, and yells to him: “There’s a target four miles behind it, that’s the one! That’s American 11!” McCain responds, “I’ve got it!” The aircraft is 16 miles north of New York’s JFK International Airport, and heading down the Hudson River valley. NEADS has no altitude for it, but the aircraft is clearly traveling very fast. After hanging up the phone, McCain calls out its coordinates to everyone on the NEADS operations floor. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 40] McCain will later recall: “It’s very unusual to find a search target, which is a plane with its transponder turned off, in that area. This plane was headed toward New York going faster than the average Cessna and was no doubt a jet aircraft. We had many clues. The plane was fast and heading in an unusual direction with no beacon. We had raw data only. Everything just kind of fit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 56-57] (The identity of the other fast-moving aircraft McCain had noticed, four miles ahead of Flight 11, is unstated.)
Flight 11 Disappears from Radar - Less than a minute after McCain locates the track for Flight 11, it disappears. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 41] McCain will recall, “We watched that track until it faded over New York City and right after that someone came out of the break room and said the World Trade Center had been hit.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 57] However, McCain supposedly does not realize that the plane he had spotted has crashed into the WTC. According to Spencer: “[H]e knows only that the blip he has struggled so mightily to locate has now vanished. He figures that the plane has descended below his radar coverage area to land at JFK. The fact that the plane was flying much too fast for landing does not hit him; the concept that the plane might have been intentionally crashed is simply too far outside his realm of experience.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 41]

Entity Tags: Joe McCain, Colin Scoggins, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Flight 11 disappears from primary radar four seconds before it hits the North Tower of the World Trade Center (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to an FAA timeline. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] At the FAA’s Boston Center, Colin Scoggins, the center’s military liaison, notices the loss of the plane’s primary radar track. As the center only monitors high-level air traffic, its radar information does not pick up aircraft below 1,500 feet. But Scoggins does not realize Flight 11 has crashed. The Boston Center’s last known position for the plane before it disappears is nine miles northeast of New York’s JFK International Airport. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 49]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

Two F-15 fighter jets are scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, which is 153 miles from New York City. The fighters are launched in response to the hijacked Flight 11, but this plane is already crashing into the World Trade Center at this time (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; CNN, 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]
Delay - The FAA’s Boston Center alerted NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to the hijacking of Flight 11 and requested that fighter jets be scrambled at just before 8:38 a.m. (see (8:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but the mission crew commander at NEADS only instructed the leader of his weapons team to launch the Otis fighters at 8:45 a.m. (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Otis Aircraft Head to Runway - As soon as the pilots at Otis Air Base are strapped into their aircraft, the green light directing them to launch goes on. They start their engines and taxi out of the hangar to the nearest runway. One of the pilots, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, radios his command post for guidance, asking, “Do you have words?” The response he gets is, “Possible hijack, American Flight 11, 737, flight level 290 [29,000 feet], over JFK [International Airport in New York City].” (This flight information is partly incorrect, since American 11 is a 767, not a 737.) According to the Cape Cod Times, the jets will be up in the air before their radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 42] The Otis pilots have already been preparing for the scramble order to come since learning of the hijacking from the FAA’s Cape Cod facility, some time shortly after 8:34 a.m. (see (8:36 a.m.-8:41) September 11, 2001). [BBC, 9/1/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 27-30] Their jets are reportedly not airborne until seven minutes after being scrambled, at 8:53 a.m. (see 8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001) and there will be conflicting accounts of what their original destination is (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Otis Air National Guard Base, Daniel Nash

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Flight UA 175

Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal. It is currently flying near the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border. [Guardian, 10/17/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, and then comes back on as a signal that is not designated for any plane on this day. Then, within the space of a minute, it is changed to another new code. But New York Center air traffic computers do not correlate either of these new transponder codes with Flight 175. Consequently, according to an early FAA report, “the secondary radar return (transponder) indicating aircraft speed, altitude, and flight information began to coast and was no longer associated with the primary radar return.” Therefore, while controllers are able “to track the intruder easily… they couldn’t identify it.” However, Dave Bottiglia, the New York Center air traffic controller responsible for Flight 175, is currently trying to locate the already-crashed Flight 11, and therefore supposedly does not notice the transponder code changes on Flight 175 until 8:51 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Washington Post, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21] According to a “Flight Path Study” by the National Transportation Safety Board, the change of Flight 175’s transponder code is the “first indication of deviation from normal routine.” [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file]

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Bob Varcadipane.Bob Varcadipane. [Source: NBC News]At the air traffic control tower at Newark International Airport in New Jersey, controllers see the smoke coming from the World Trade Center in the distance and start calling other FAA facilities in the area about this. Controller Rick Tepper looks out the window of the tower across the Hudson River at New York City, and sees the huge cloud of smoke coming from the North Tower, which Flight 11 has crashed into it. He points this out to fellow controller Greg Callahan. In his office at the tower, Bob Varcadipane, the supervisor there, starts receiving a flood of phone calls reporting that a small aircraft has hit the WTC. According to author Lynn Spencer, “The assumption is that only a small plane could have gone so badly off course.” The Newark tower controllers start calling the towers at JFK, La Guardia, and Teterboro Airports, along with other air traffic control facilities in the area, to see if any of them has lost an aircraft. But none say they have; they have not yet been informed of the crash and are shocked at what they see when told to look out their windows at the burning WTC. Varcadipane calls the FAA’s New York Center to find out if they know whose plane hit the Twin Towers. He is told: “No, but Boston Center lost an airplane. They lost an American 767.” Varcadipane wonders if this 767 is the plane that hit the WTC, and says back: “I have a burning building and you have a missing airplane. This is very coincidental.” According to NBC: “a horrific realization dawns on controllers. American Flight 11, still missing from radar, finally has been found.” Word of the plane’s fate subsequently “quickly travels throughout the air traffic control world.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Spencer, 2008, pp. 41-42] However, the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which handles Flight 77, will reportedly not learn of the first hijackings until around 9:20 a.m. (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]

Entity Tags: Teterboro Airport, World Trade Center, Newark International Airport, Rick Tepper, La Guardia Airport, John F. Kennedy International Airport, Bob Varcadipane, Greg Callahan, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

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. [Washington Post, 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]

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, Curt Applegate, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Flight UA 175

A Fairfax, Virginia company that makes computer software that tracks and records the flight paths of planes helps media companies and airlines to reconstruct the paths of all four of the hijacked aircraft. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer sells an Internet-accessible application that provides constantly updated information on the positions of aircraft in flight. It uses radar feeds that the FAA collects from control centers across the US. [Business Wire, 6/16/2000; St. Petersburg Times, 8/12/2001] All of Flight Explorer’s employees begin sorting through its data “after the first crash [of Flight 11] was reported,” so presumably this is at around 8:50 a.m. Whether any particular agency, such as the FAA, requests this or they do it of their own initiative is unknown. Although there are some 4,000 planes in the air above the US at the time of the attacks, the company is quickly able to pinpoint the paths of all four hijacked aircraft. It then creates charts and animated videos of the four flights’ actual and intended routes. About 12 news agencies, including all the major networks, request these animated illustrations. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/13/2001] Flight Explorer is apparently unhindered by the fact that flights 11 and 93 have their transponders turned off during the hijackings. Its reconstruction of Flight 77’s path ends, however, at 8:57, around the time that aircraft’s transponder goes off and it disappears from controllers’ radar screens (see (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Yet the 9/11 Commission will later say that, despite this disappearance, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked the flight from the moment its transponder was turned off.” Why the Flight Explorer illustration does not therefore show the rest of Flight 77’s journey is not clear. [AVweb, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Until a few years back, Flight Explorer was the only company that recorded flight paths. Since the 1999 death of golfer Payne Stewart (see October 25, 1999) the FAA has also been recording these paths. [Washington Business Journal, 9/11/2001] The final report of the 9/11 Commission will make no mention of the Flight Explorer flight path recordings. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222]

Entity Tags: Flight Explorer

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

The FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia, establishes a teleconference with FAA facilities in the New York area. These facilities are the New York Center, the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, and the Eastern Regional Office. The participants in the teleconference jointly decide to divert all air traffic that would otherwise enter the New York area, either to land or to overfly. Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations at the Command Center, will later describe, “They [New York area air traffic control personnel] would continue to work what they’d been working, but we wouldn’t give them any more.” The teleconference participants’ decision does not affect takeoffs from the New York area. After the second World Trade Center tower is hit at 9:03 a.m., the Command Center will expand this teleconference to include FAA headquarters and other agencies (see 9:06 a.m. and After September 11, 2001). [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001]

Entity Tags: New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration, FAA Eastern Regional Office, Linda Schuessler

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Employees at the FAA’s Boston Center learn that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, and Colin Scoggins, the center’s military liaison, starts to wonder if this plane was Flight 11, which disappeared from radar just before the time of the crash (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). After the center’s manager informs them that a plane has crashed into the WTC, personnel at the system engineer’s desk turn on CNN and see the footage of the burning North Tower. Scoggins hears yelling from the desk and walks over to see what is going on. He sees the news reports, which currently state that just a small aircraft hit the tower. As author Lynn Spencer will describe: “His initial thought is that some controller must have really screwed up. Yet the more he thinks about it, the less that makes sense. It’s a clear day with unlimited visibility, and planes don’t just fly into buildings.” Along with supervisor Daniel Bueno, Scoggins starts contacting other facilities, trying to find out more about what is going on. Several of these facilities are picking up an aircraft’s emergency locator transmitter—a device which begins transmitting a signal when a plane crashes. But Boston Center lacks the necessary equipment to pinpoint where the signal is coming from. Looking again at the TV footage showing the WTC, Scoggins wonders if Flight 11 crashed into the tower. He tells Bueno, “Call American [Airlines] and confirm if their aircraft is down!” Bueno complies, but soon reports back that American Airlines “can’t confirm that the plane that has hit the Trade Center is American 11. They’ve lost their radar track on the plane and cannot confirm where it is.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 49-50] Scoggins will later recall that American Airlines does not confirm that its plane has hit the North Tower for several hours. He says, “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if it was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Colin Scoggins, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Daniel Bueno, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

According to a timeline provided to CNN by unnamed but “informed defense officials,” Flight 175 deviates from its assigned flight path at this time. [CNN, 9/17/2001] Other accounts give slightly different times. According to a National Transportation Safety Board report, which is based on various sources of recorded radar, Flight 175 deviates from its assigned altitude at 8:51 a.m., and then begins turning to the southeast at 8:52, climbing during the turn up to 33,500 feet. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission Report is unspecific about when it goes off course. It says only that “Minutes later,” after its final 8:42 a.m. communication, “United 175 turned southwest without clearance from air traffic control.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 21] New York Center air traffic controller Curt Applegate later says that he follows Flight 175 on the radar screen as it turns to the left and descends. [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

The air traffic controller at the FAA’s New York Center who is responsible for monitoring Flight 175 sees the now-hijacked plane on his radar screen making a sharp turn (see (8:50 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and is astonished as it rapidly climbs 3,000 feet. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file; The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] Around this time, the controller, Dave Bottiglia, first notices that Flight 175’s transponder code has changed (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21] As he will later recall: “As I’m watching, United 175 makes a hard left-hand turn and starts climbing. Not only did he make a sharp turn, but he also climbed 3,000 feet in a matter of approximately one minute, which is a very fast rate of climb.” Bottiglia will add, “This is something that we have never seen before.” He immediately turns to the manager at the New York Center and says, “I believe I just lost United 175.” [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, the center does not alert NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to Flight 175 until 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23]

Entity Tags: New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Dave Bottiglia

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Mike McCormick.Mike McCormick. [Source: Associated Press]Mike McCormick, the head of the FAA’s New York Center, sees the coverage of the first World Trade Center attack on CNN. He assumes that Flight 175, which he is tracking on his radar screen, is also headed into the WTC. He will recall: “Probably one of the most difficult moments of my life was the 11 minutes from the point I watched that aircraft, when we first lost communications until the point that aircraft hit the World Trade Center. For those 11 minutes, I knew, we knew, what was going to happen, and that was difficult.” [CNN, 8/12/2002] Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, the New York Center will not notify NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) about Flight 175 until around the time it crashes, at 9:03 a.m. (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 23]

Entity Tags: New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Mike McCormick

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

A typical F-15.A typical F-15. [Source: US Air Force]Radar data will show that the two F-15s scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, are airborne by this time. [Washington Post, 9/15/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/18/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] It is now eight minutes since the mission crew commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) ordered that the jets be launched (see 8:45 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It is 40 minutes since air traffic controllers had their last communication with Flight 11 (see 8:13 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 28 minutes since they became certain that the aircraft was hijacked (see (8:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center seven minutes ago (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 7, 19 and 459]
Commander Wants Fighters Sent to New York - In Rome, New York, NEADS has just received news of the plane hitting the WTC (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001). Major Kevin Nasypany, the facility’s mission crew commander, is asked what to do with the Otis fighters. He responds: “Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go! This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world.… Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, JFK [International Airport] area, if you can. Make sure that the FAA clears it—your route all the way through.… Let’s press with this.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Yet there will be conflicting reports of the fighters’ destination (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), with some accounts saying they are directed toward military-controlled airspace off the Long Island coast. [Filson, 2003, pp. 56-59; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Robert Marr, Kevin Nasypany, Otis Air National Guard Base

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

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]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Colin Scoggins

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Flight 175 almost collides in mid-air with at least two other planes as it descends towards Manhattan. At the FAA’s New York Center, air traffic controller Chris Tucker sees it turn toward the path of Delta Flight 2315, a Boeing 737 heading southwest at 28,000 feet. He tells the Delta pilot: “Traffic 2 o’clock. Ten miles. I think he’s been hijacked. I don’t know his intentions. Take any evasive action necessary.” The Delta plane begins to turn to get out of the way, but Flight 175 turns as well. According to the Washington Post, the two planes’ radar targets actually merge on the radar screen. Controller Dave Bottiglia later says, “It was a terrifying moment just to watch the two airplanes miss by less than, I think it was 200 feet.” Shortly after this near miss, Flight 175 almost collides with US Airways Flight 542, another 737, flying just below and four miles behind Delta 2315. This plane’s onboard collision alert system sounds an alarm as Flight 175 comes closer and closer to it. Its pilot descends, managing to avoid a collision. According to an early FAA report, after this incident, several New York air traffic controllers speculate that the unknown aircraft heading towards New York City—only later confirmed to be Flight 175—is an emergency and is heading for an airport to land. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; Washington Post, 9/17/2001; Newsday, 9/10/2002; MSNBC, 9/11/2002; Associated Press, 9/12/2002] Earlier on, Flight 175 nearly collided with Flight 11 (see (Shortly After 8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and minutes later it will narrowly avoid another collision, with Midwest Airlines Flight 7 (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Chris Tucker

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley.Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley. [Source: ABC News]Rumors have started circulating through the civilian air traffic system that the plane that hit the World Trade Center was a small Cessna. There is increasing confusion on the operations floor at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) as to whether it was really Flight 11. ID tech Stacia Rountree is on the phone with Colin Scoggins, a civilian manager who is the military liaison at the FAA’s Boston Center. Scoggins initially seems to confirm that the plane was Flight 11, saying: “Yeah, he crashed into the World Trade Center.… [D]isregard the tail number [given earlier for American 11].” When Rountree asks, “He did crash into the World Trade Center?” Scoggins replies, “[T]hat’s what we believe, yes.” However, an unidentified male staff member at NEADS overhears, and queries: “I never heard them say American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center. I heard it was a civilian aircraft.” Master Sergeant Maureen Dooley takes the phone from Rountree and asks Scoggins, “[A]re you giving confirmation that American 11 was the one?” Apparently contradicting what he’d previously said, Scoggins replies: “No, we’re not gonna confirm that at this time. We just know an aircraft crashed in.… The last [radar sighting] we have was about 15 miles east of JFK [International Airport in New York City], or eight miles east of JFK was our last primary hit. He did slow down in speed… and then we lost ‘em.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] This confusion will continue later on, when NEADS will be misinformed that Flight 11 is still airborne (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Stacia Rountree, Colin Scoggins, Maureen Dooley, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

One of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11 is told by air traffic control that Flight 11 has crashed into the World Trade Center, and yet both pilots will later claim they are unaware of this crash until after 9:03 a.m., when Flight 175 hits the WTC. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 10/2/2002; Filson, 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 2004] Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy and Major Daniel Nash took off in their F-15s from Otis Air National Guard Base in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]
Controller Tells Pilot that Flight 11 Crashed into WTC - Duffy has just checked in with the air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center who is working at the Cape Sector radar position, and the controller has given him a new heading to fly toward (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). The controller now asks Duffy, “I understand you’re going out to look for American 11, is that correct?” Duffy replies, “Affirmative.” The controller then tells Duffy that Flight 11 has crashed. He says, “Okay, I just got information that the aircraft has been, uh, crashed into the World Trade Center, so I’m not quite sure what your intentions are, if you’re still going to head that way or you may want to talk to your operations.” Duffy responds, “Okay, we’re going to go over and talk to Huntress right now.” (“Huntress” is the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector, NEADS.) [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 2004] Although Duffy contacts NEADS (see (8:56 a.m.-8:57 a.m.) September 11, 2001), it is unclear whether he talks about the crash, as he indicates he is going to, since, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, “there are no NEADS recordings available of the NEADS senior weapons director and weapons director technician position responsible for controlling the Otis [Air National Guard Base] scramble” (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] It is also unclear whether Duffy passes on the information about Flight 11 hitting the WTC to Nash. But in later interviews, both pilots will claim they were unaware of Flight 11 hitting the WTC until they were informed that a second aircraft had hit the WTC, shortly after that second crash occurred (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 84]
Pilots Deny Learning of First Crash - The Cape Cod Times will report that Nash “doesn’t even recall hearing that the first plane hit.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] Nash will tell author Leslie Filson that when he and Duffy are informed of the second plane hitting the WTC, they are “still under [the] impression [that] American 11 was still airborne” and are “shocked, because we didn’t know the first one had even hit.” [Filson, 10/2/2002] And Nash will tell the 9/11 Commission that he “does not remember at which point during the morning of 9/11 he heard of the first crash at the WTC.” He will say he does “remember that the FAA controller he communicated with during flight told him of the second crash,” but add that “this was strange to hear at the time, since he had not been told of the first.” [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file] Duffy will tell ABC News that when he is informed of the second crash, “I thought we were still chasing American 11.” [ABC News, 9/11/2002] He will tell Filson that when he learns of this second crash, “I didn’t know [the] first one hit” the WTC. [Filson, 10/22/2002] And he will tell the 9/11 Commission that when he “received word that a second aircraft had hit the WTC,” he “still thought they were responding to a hijacked American [Airlines] airliner.” [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Daniel Nash, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, one of the two fighter pilots who took off in response to the hijacked Flight 11, contacts NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) to request information on his target, but apparently neither Duffy nor the person he speaks with at NEADS mention that Flight 11 has already hit the World Trade Center during the call, even though both men should already be aware of the crash. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001; Filson, 10/22/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 60; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] Duffy and another pilot, Major Daniel Nash, took off from Otis Air National Guard Base at 8:46 a.m. (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but they were unaware that at the same time, Flight 11 was crashing into the WTC (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 57; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20] Duffy has just spoken to an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and ended the call saying he would talk to NEADS “right now.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] Duffy will later recall that he contacts NEADS at about 8:56 a.m. or 8:57 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file]
Duffy Told His Target Is over JFK Airport - Duffy presumably talks with Steve Hedrick at NEADS, since Hedrick is responsible for controlling the two Otis fighters. [9/11 Commission, 10/27/2003 pdf file] As soon as he has checked in with NEADS, Duffy will recall, “I authenticate to make sure I’ve got the right person.” He then asks for “bogey dope,” meaning information on his target—Flight 11—“to try to find out where the contact is.” [Filson, 10/22/2002; Filson, 2003, pp. 60] Duffy is told, incorrectly, that his target is over New York’s JFK International Airport. Duffy replies, “Okay, I know where that is,” and then, he will recall, “we started heading right down to Long Island.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/2002; ABC News, 9/11/2002]
WTC Crash Apparently Not Discussed - However, it appears that neither Duffy nor the person he speaks with at NEADS mention the plane crash at the WTC during their conversation. Duffy will say that when he is subsequently informed that a second plane has hit the WTC (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:06 a.m.-9:07 a.m. September 11, 2001), he is unaware that Flight 11 has already hit the WTC. [ABC News, 9/11/2002; Filson, 10/22/2002; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file] And yet Duffy and personnel at NEADS have already been informed of that first crash.
Pilot and NEADS Previously Notified of Crash - Duffy has just been told of the crash during his conversation with the Boston Center controller (see 8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] NEADS personnel learned of it at 8:51 a.m. (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), although there is now some confusion on the NEADS operations floor over whether the plane that crashed was indeed Flight 11 (see 8:55 a.m.-8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] It will later be impossible to ascertain exactly what is said in the current conversation between Duffy and NEADS. Although tape recorders should be recording every radio channel at NEADS, because of a “technical issue,” the positions of Hedrick and his weapons director technician, Bradley Gardner, are supposedly not recorded (see (8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/25/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Duffy Searches for Flight 11 on Radar Scope - Duffy will recall that following the call with NEADS, he is looking at his radar scope “to try and find a radar contact over the Kennedy sector with the hijacked aircraft.” Duffy will again contact NEADS to request “bogey dope” a few minutes later, and during that call is informed of the second plane hitting the WTC. [Filson, 2003, pp. 60; 9/11 Commission, 1/7/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Steve Hedrick, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

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. [New York Times, 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.” [US News and World Report, 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. [Guardian, 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). [New York Times, 9/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Robert Cauble, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar reconstructions performed after 9/11 reveal that FAA radar equipment tracked [Flight 77] from the moment its transponder was turned off at 8:56 [a.m.].” However, for eight minutes and 13 seconds, between 8:56 and 9:05, this primary radar data is not displayed to Indianapolis Center air traffic controllers. “The reasons are technical, arising from the way the software processed radar information, as well as from poor primary radar coverage where American 77 was flying.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] According to the Washington Post, Flight 77 “was hijacked in an area of limited radar coverage.” The Post adds that there are two particular types of radar system. “Secondary” radar “is the type used almost exclusively today in air traffic control. It takes an aircraft’s identification, destination, speed, and altitude from the plane’s transponder and displays it on a controller’s radar screen.” “Primary” radar, on the other hand, “is an older system. It bounces a beam off an aircraft and tells a controller only that a plane is aloft—but does not display its type or altitude. The two systems are usually mounted on the same tower.” Normally, “If a plane simply disappears from radar screens, most controllers can quickly switch on the primary system, which should display a small plus sign at the plane’s location, even if the aircraft’s transponder is not working. But the radar installation near Parkersburg, W. Va., was built with only secondary radar—called ‘beacon-only’ radar. That left the controller monitoring Flight 77 at the Indianapolis Center blind when the hijackers apparently switched off the aircraft’s transponder (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001), sources said.” [Washington Post, 11/3/2001] In its final report, the 9/11 Commission will include a rather elaborate explanation for the loss of primary radar contact with Flight 77, saying it is because “the ‘preferred’ radar in this geographic area had no primary radar system, the ‘supplemental’ radar had poor primary coverage, and the FAA ATC [air traffic control] software did not allow the display of primary radar data from the ‘tertiary’ and ‘quadrary’ radars.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 460] The Commission will note that two managers at the Indianapolis Center who assist in the search on radar for the missing aircraft do “not instruct other controllers at Indianapolis Center to turn on their primary radar coverage to join in the search for American 77.” [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: 9/11 Commission, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

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; Vanity Fair, 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.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002] The controllers start speculating what Flight 175 is aiming for, with one of them guessing the Statue of Liberty. [Vanity Fair, 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. [USA Today, 8/13/2002]

Entity Tags: New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim Bohleber

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Air traffic controllers at the FAA’s New York Center who are watching Flight 175 on the radar screen (see (8:57 a.m.-9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001) see the aircraft descending at an astonishing rate of up to 10,000 feet per minute. [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] From 8:58 a.m., Flight 175 is constantly descending toward New York. [National Transportation Safety Board, 2/19/2002 pdf file] One of the New York Center controllers, Jim Bohleber, is looking at his radar scope and calls out the plane’s rate of descent every 12 seconds, each time the screen updates, saying: “It’s six thousand feet a minute. Now it’s eight. Now ten.” [Newsday, 9/10/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Dave Bottiglia, the controller responsible for monitoring Flight 175, will later comment that 10,000 feet per minute is “absolutely unheard of for a commercial jet. It is unbelievable for the passengers in the back to withstand that type of force as they’re descending. [The hijackers are] actually nosing the airplane down and doing what I would call a ‘power dive.’” [The Learning Channel, 8/20/2006] While Flight 175 is in this rapid descent, it heads directly into the paths of several other aircraft, and narrowly avoids a mid-air collision with flight Midex 7 (see (9:01 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 73-76]

Entity Tags: Dave Bottiglia, Jim Bohleber, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

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?” [Wall Street Journal, 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]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim McDonnell

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

Martin Richard.Martin Richard. [Source: Kevin Mingora]Several F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts fly out over the Atlantic Ocean for a scheduled training mission, but the pilots are unaware of the hijackings taking place and the plane crashes at the World Trade Center. The fighters belong to the 102nd Fighter Wing. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 9/3/2011] Their mission is an “ordinary training session,” according to the Cape Cod Times. [Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] Major Martin Richard, one of the pilots involved, will describe it as a “normal training mission.” [Richard, 2010, pp. 9] It is being carried out in “Whiskey 105,” an area of military training airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Long Island. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 9/3/2011] According to most accounts, six of the 102nd Fighter Wing’s F-15s are taking part. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command, 9/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 155] But Richard will write in a 2010 book that eight of the unit’s F-15s are involved.
Training Mission Is a 'Mock War Scenario' - The “defensive counter-air” mission, according to Richard, is intended to have the fighters splitting into two teams: the “blue air”—the “good guys”—versus the “red air,” their adversaries. In a defensive counter-air mission, Richard will write, “the goal is [to] protect a point on the ground. Our training objective focused on ensuring flawless radar operations to be able to build an accurate picture of the threat’s formation, target the threat in the most effective manner, and ensure, through mutual support, that all blue air forces returned unscathed.” The “mock war scenario” that is played out is “an exciting sortie to do as a practice mission, and it took a great deal of organization to make happen,” according to Richard. [Richard, 2010, pp. 10] A KC-135 tanker plane from the 101st Air Refueling Wing in Bangor, Maine, is scheduled to refuel the fighters during the mission. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 153; Bangor Daily News, 9/9/2011]
Pilot Hears Unusual Radio Communications - The fighters take off from Otis Air Base at 9:00 a.m. [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file] They then fly out toward the Whiskey 105 training airspace. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Airman, 9/3/2011] Richard will recall that at this time, “[e]verything was exceedingly normal until we heard some unfamiliar radio communication between [the FAA’s] Boston Center and some civilian airliners.” He will say that this “got my attention, but more because it was out of the norm, not because it was especially noteworthy.”
Fighters Fly to Opposite Sides of Airspace - Richard commands the other fighter pilots to complete their pre-mission safety checks and then readies them “for the simulated war we had planned hours before.” After entering Whiskey 105, the fighters carry out a warm-up maneuver. Richard then sends the fighters simulating the “red air” to the west side of the training airspace, while the other fighters—the “blue air”—take up their position about 80 miles away, on the east side of the airspace. [Richard, 2010, pp. 12-13] But then, shortly after they arrive in Whiskey 105, at around 9:25 a.m., the pilots will learn of the first crash at the WTC and be recalled to their base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Some of the fighters subsequently take off again to help protect US airspace, but that will be after the terrorist attacks have ended (see (10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Shortly After 10:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; 9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006; Spencer, 2008, pp. 244-246; Richard, 2010, pp. 13]
Fighters on Training Are Unarmed - The fighters involved in the training mission have no ordnance on them. [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001] According to Technical Sergeant Michael Kelly, the full-time technician in the command post at Otis Air Base, they are “in an exercise configuration” and therefore “at a ‘safe guns’ (non-firing) weapons posture.” Furthermore, the fighters “more than likely had only one fuel tank.” (F-15s can carry three fuel tanks.) If these fighters were to be used for “long air superiority/sovereignty missions,” Kelly will say, they would need “‘hot’ (live) guns, missiles, and extra gas tanks.” [9/11 Commission, 10/14/2003 pdf file]
Fighters Scrambled after Flight 11 Also Fly in Training Airspace - The pilots on the training mission saw the two of their unit’s F-15s that are kept on “alert”—ready for immediate launch—taking off from Otis Air Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), but were unaware of the reason for the scramble (see (8:30 a.m.-8:59 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [102nd Fighter Wing, 2001; Cape Cod Times, 9/11/2006] (One of the pilots of those F-15s, Daniel Nash, is reportedly standing in for the usual “alert” pilot, who is “scheduled for training” on this day, presumably taking part in the training mission in Whiskey 105. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002] ) The two F-15s launched in response to Flight 11 were actually directed toward Whiskey 105 after taking off (see (8:53 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001) and are in the training area from 9:09 a.m. to 9:13 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m.-9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20]

Entity Tags: Michael Kelly (102nd FW), Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Martin Richard, 102nd Fighter Wing

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Training Exercises

The FAA’s New York Center informs the air traffic control coordinator at United Airlines’ headquarters, outside Chicago, that Flight 175 is missing from radar. Although Flight 175’s transponder signal changed at around 8:47 (see 8:46 a.m.-8:47 a.m. September 11, 2001), according to the 9/11 Commission the air traffic controller handling the flight only noticed the change at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m.-8:53 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 21-22]

Entity Tags: United Airlines, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

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.” [Toronto Star, 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; Toronto Star, 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. [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001; National Post, 10/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector, Vigilant Guardian, Operation Northern Vigilance, North American Aerospace Defense Command

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Training Exercises

The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to the hijacked Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) are given guidance by an air traffic controller at the FAA’s Boston Center on flying into military airspace over the Atlantic Ocean, and then discuss details of their intended hold in that airspace with another Boston Center controller. [9/11 Commission, 2004; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
Fighters Heading into Training Area - Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Duffy, the pilot of one of the fighters, talks over radio with the Boston Center controller who is working at the Cape Sector radar position. Duffy says the two fighters are “proceeding [on] our present heading of 250 for about 100 miles,” and adds that “Huntress”—the call sign for NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS)—“wants us to hold just south of Long Island, to see if we can get any more assistance.” The controller replies: “Okay, that’s fine. You are heading into the warning area.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] By the “warning area,” he is referring to a military airspace training area over the Atlantic, just south of Long Island, known as “Warning Area 105” or “Whiskey 105.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 85] The original flight strip for the two F-15s gave a destination of New York’s JFK International Airport, but the fighters have recently been redirected (see 8:54 a.m.-8:55 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 9/24/2003; 9/11 Commission, 2004]
Fighters Told They Can Contact Navy Control Facility - The controller continues, “If you want, if you can’t contact me, you can go to Giant Killer on 338.1.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] (“Giant Killer” is the call sign for the Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility in Virginia Beach, Virginia—a Navy air traffic control agency that handles over-water military operations. [New York Times, 2/10/1997; Spencer, 2008, pp. 143] ) The controller then tells Duffy that he can contact Giant Killer, because “you’re going through their airspace.” Duffy replies, “Okay, I’ll do all that, thanks.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/11/2001] The Otis fighters are then handed on to another controller at the Boston Center. Stephen Roebuck, who is working at the Hampton Sector radar position, now communicates with them. [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 2004] The Hampton Sector covers the area that includes the Whiskey 105 airspace.
Pilots Unable to Give Specific Information about 'Hold' - Roebuck asks the pilots of the fighters if they know their destination. They reply no, and say they need to hold in the western area of Whiskey 105. Roebuck wants information on the position they will hold at in Whiskey 105, but the pilots say they cannot give a specific location. Instead, they tell Roebuck to keep them in a “published hold” in the area. Roebuck asks if the fighters want a “radial” or a “latitude/longitude” hold, but is told they will maintain themselves.
Controller Finds Fighters' Unspecific 'Hold' Unusual - Due to the lack of information the pilots have provided him with, Roebuck is unsure what the fighters are going to do, and does not know how to clear airspace for their potential course. Roebuck will tell the 9/11 Commission that “normally, clearing area for fighters is very specific, so this unknown generic hold [is] extremely unusual. The fighters had an altitude, but did not issue an EFC [expect further clearance].” He assumes the purpose of the generic hold is that “if the fighters needed to move rapidly, they did not want to be encumbered by an air traffic technicality.” [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 9/24/2003]

Entity Tags: Timothy Duffy, Stephen Roebuck, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

Gerald Earwood.Gerald Earwood. [Source: MaryJo Walicki / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel]Just one or two minutes before it crashes into the World Trade Center, Flight 175 narrowly avoids a mid-air collision with another commercial aircraft. [TMJ4, 6/25/2008] Midwest Airlines Flight 7 (Midex 7) is a DC-9 jet bound from Milwaukee to New York’s La Guardia Airport, with about 30 passengers and five crew members on board. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/24/2008] Pilot Gerald Earwood and co-pilot Eric Fjelstad have been concerned at the unusually slow radio responses they have been receiving from New York air traffic controllers. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 56-57 and 61-62] As they are approaching La Guardia from the southwest, Earwood is again frustrated as he awaits the controller’s response to his latest transmission. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/24/2008]
Instructed to Turn Left - Suddenly, the voice of a panicked controller comes over the radio: “Midex 7, are you with me? Midex 7, Midex 7, are you with me?” Unknown to Earwood, controllers have noticed that Flight 175 is now flying directly at his plane at over 500 miles per hour. Earwood replies, “Midex 7 is with you out of 7 for 4,000,” meaning he has just passed through 7,000 feet in his descent to his assigned altitude of 4,000 feet. The controller orders: “Roger, Midex 7, turn left now! Head two-four-zero degrees now, as quick as you can!” The pilots of Midex 7 begin a standard 30-degrees-of-bank turn. But even though they are doing exactly what they have been ordered to, the controller continues, “Left turn, Midex, left turn!” Several seconds later, the controller restates his order: “Midex 7, tighten it up! Roll left! Now! Now! Now!” Earwood looks out of the window for the plane he is meant to be avoiding, but cannot see anything.
Narrowly Avoids Collision - As Midex 7 is completing its left turn, the controller comes back over the radio even more panicked than before, ordering: ”Roll right, Midex! Roll right as hard as you can! Keep it tight, Midex. Roll hard right! Now! Now!” Midex 7 complies with the instruction, but Earwood is wondering where the plane is that he is trying to avoid. At the FAA’s New York Center, air traffic controllers watch as the radar returns for Flight 175 and Midex 7 get so close that they appear to merge on the screens. Finally, Flight 175 continues its rapid descent toward New York, after having narrowly avoided a collision. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 74-77] Midex 7 returns to its approach to La Guardia Airport, and then Earwood overhears a radio transmission from another pilot, who reports that a second plane has hit the World Trade Center. Earwood will later estimate that Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower 60 to 90 seconds after its near-collision with Midex 7. He sees the fireball coming from the tower, but does not immediately connect it with the aircraft he has just avoided. [Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 6/24/2008] Minutes earlier, Flight 175 almost collided with at least two other planes as it descended toward Manhattan (see (8:55 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and prior to that it had almost collided with Flight 11 (see (Shortly After 8:42 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Telegraph (Nashua), 9/12/2001; Washington Post, 9/17/2001] The incident with Midex 7 will not come to light until 2008, when it is described in the book Touching History: The Untold Story of the Drama that Unfolded in the Skies Over America on 9/11, by Lynn Spencer. [TMJ4, 6/25/2008]

Entity Tags: Eric Fjelstad, Gerald Earwood, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

The FAA’s New York Center contacts the New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) and asks for help in locating Flight 175. Different air traffic controllers scan different altitudes, and TRACON controllers only deal with low-flying planes. These controllers have remained uninformed about the fate of Flight 11 until about now. “We had 90 to 120 seconds; it wasn’t any 18 minutes,” one controller wil later recall, referring to the actual elapsed time between the two crashes. Another controller will say of Flights 11 and 175: “They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004]

Entity Tags: New York Terminal Radar Approach Control, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center contacts the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas, and informs dispatcher Jim McDonnell that the center is unable to make contact with Flight 77 and does not know the location of this aircraft. The same controller called American Airlines and spoke with McDonnell four minutes earlier, reporting that radio contact had been lost with Flight 77 (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001). McDonnell now says he has tried contacting Flight 77 but did not get a reply back. The controller then tells him: “We, uh, we lost track control of the guy. He’s in coast track but we haven’t, we don’t [know] where his target is and we can’t get a hold of him. Um, you guys tried him and no response?” McDonnell confirms, “No response.” The controller continues: “Yeah, we have no radar contact and, uh, no communications with him. So if you guys could try again.” McDonnell replies, “We’re doing it.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 30] Flight 77 made its last radio communication with controllers at 8:51 (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and deviated from its assigned course at 8:54 (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9]

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, Jim McDonnell

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) in Rome, NY, has just received a phone call informing it of the hijacking of Flight 175 (see (9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and several personnel have witnessed the plane crashing into the second World Trade Center tower live on CNN. There is considerable confusion on the operations floor over whether the plane seen on TV is the hijacking they have just been informed of. Tape recordings capture NEADS personnel in the background trying to make sense of things: “Is this explosion part of that that we’re lookin’ at now on TV?“… “And there’s a possible second hijack also—a United Airlines“… “Two planes?” Someone comments, “I think this is a damn input, to be honest.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Another person replies, “Then this is a damned messed-up input!” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 84] “Input” refers to a simulations input, as part of a training exercise. [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] 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] At least one military exercise this morning is reported to include simulated information injected onto radar screens (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Toronto Star, 12/9/2001] At the current time, despite the earlier crash of Flight 11, NORAD has yet to cancel a major exercise it is in the middle of (see (Shortly After 9:03 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Filson, 2003, pp. 59]

Entity Tags: Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight UA 175, Training Exercises

The head of the agency that provides security at the Pentagon informs another military employee that the Pentagon is unprotected against an aerial attack. In reaction to the news of the attacks on New York, Army Deputy Administrative Assistant Sandra Riley telephones John Jester, the chief of the Defense Protective Service (DPS)—the law enforcement agency that guards the Pentagon. She asks him, “What do we have in place to protect from an airplane?” He tells her, “Nothing.” According to the Defense Department’s book about the Pentagon attack: “The Pentagon did not have an antiaircraft system on the roof of the building or on the grounds. Even if DPS had received word of an inbound plane, it had no plan to counter a suicide air attack. Had a warning been issued in time, DPS’s only effective response would have been evacuation and dispersal of the building’s occupants.” [Goldberg et al., 2007, pp. 152] The Washington Post will similarly claim the Pentagon has “no anti-aircraft guns posted on its roof, nor any radars of its own for tracking local air traffic.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Yet, at the nearby White House, the Secret Service is believed to have a battery of ground-to-air Stinger missiles ready to defend the place. [Daily Telegraph, 9/16/2001]

Entity Tags: Sandra Riley, John Jester, Pentagon

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Pentagon

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. [New York Times, 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. [New York Times, 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]

Entity Tags: Mark Rosenker, Lynn Spencer, 552nd Air Control Wing

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

Bruce Barrett.Bruce Barrett. [Source: H. Darr Beiser / USA Today]The FAA’s New York Center declares “air traffic control zero” (“ATC zero”), which means that all air traffic is prevented from departing from, arriving at, or traveling through the center’s airspace until further notice. [USA Today, 8/13/2002; Freni, 2003, pp. 18; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 24] According to author Lynn Spencer: “ATC zero is designed for situations in which an air traffic facility is completely incapable of handling aircraft due to a massive computer failure, power outage, or even a large enough weather system. The declaration pushes all their aircraft onto neighboring sectors, and any new airplanes from adjacent sectors are turned back, at the sector boundaries if necessary.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68] The decision to declare ATC zero is made after the second plane hits the World Trade Center, confirming that the US is under terrorist attack. There are currently hundreds of aircraft in the skies around New York and the western Atlantic that the New York Center is responsible for. [Associated Press, 8/12/2002] Bruce Barrett, a senior manager at the New York Center, announces, “We’re declaring ATC zero,” and Mike McCormick, the center’s air traffic control manager, approves the order. Several of the managers there then start informing air traffic controllers of the decision.
Unprecedented Order - USA Today will report that this decision is unprecedented: “Controllers had gone to ‘air traffic control zero’ before, but only when their radar shut down or their radio transmitters went silent. The planes kept flying then, and controllers in other centers guided them. This time, ATC zero means something far more drastic. It means emptying the skies—something that has never been attempted. And not just the skies over Manhattan. Controllers must clear the air from southern New England to Maryland, from Long Island to central Pennsylvania—every mile of the region they control.… Controllers from Cleveland to Corpus Christi must reroute jets headed to the region and put some in holding patterns.”
Accounts Conflict over Whether Center Seeks Permission - According to USA Today, McCormick and Barrett declare ATC zero without first seeking permission from higher-ups, because a “call to Washington could take minutes, and they aren’t sure they have that long.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] But according to Lynn Spencer, a New York Center supervisor has already requested ATC zero in a call to the FAA’s Herndon Command Center. Ben Sliney, the Command Center’s national operations manager, assured the supervisor, “You take care of matters in your center and we will provide all the assistance necessary by stopping any further aircraft from entering your airspace.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 68]

Entity Tags: Ben Sliney, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Lynn Spencer, Bruce Barrett, Mike McCormick

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93

According to the 9/11 Commission, Flight 77’s radar blip, missing for the last eight minutes, reappears on Indianapolis flight control’s primary radar scope. It is east of its last known position. It remains in air space managed by Indianapolis until 9:10 a.m., and then passes into Washington air space. Two managers and one flight controller continue to look west and southwest for the flight, but don’t look east. Managers don’t instruct other Indianapolis controllers to join the search for the flight. Neither they nor FAA headquarters issues an “all points bulletin” to surrounding centers to search for Flight 77. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] Newsday claims that rumors circulate the plane might have exploded in midair. [Newsday, 9/23/2001] However, the 9/11 Commission’s conclusion that Indianapolis flight controllers did not look east is contradicted by an account indicating that American Airlines headquarters was told that Flight 77 had turned around.

Entity Tags: American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which was monitoring Flight 77 when it disappeared from radar (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), learns for the first time that there has been at least one hijacking—of Flight 11—this morning, and that planes have crashed into the World Trade Center. Yet, after he passes this information on to a colleague, neither controller suspects that the missing Flight 77 might also be hijacked. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24; Spencer, 2008, pp. 105-107]
Dispatcher Gives Details of Crisis - The controller, a sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center, calls the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas and overhears dispatcher Jim McDonnell on another call, discussing the morning’s crisis. He hears McDonnell saying, “… and it was a Boston-LA flight and [Flight] 77 is a Dulles-LA flight and, uh, we’ve had an unconfirmed report a second airplane just flew into the World Trade Center.” McDonnell then acknowledges the Indianapolis Center controller, who asks, “Did you get a hold of American 77 by chance?” McDonnell answers, “No sir, but we have an unconfirmed report the second airplane hit the World Trade Center and exploded.” The controller asks, “Say again?” McDonnell tells him: “You know, we lost American 11 to a hijacking. American 11 was a Boston to Los Angeles flight.” The controller seems shocked, saying: “I can’t really… I can’t hear what you’re saying there. You said American 11?” McDonnell replies, “Yes, we were hijacked… and it was a Boston-LA flight, and [Flight] 77 is a Dulles-LA flight and, uh, we’ve had an unconfirmed report a second airplane just flew into the World Trade Center.” The controller then abruptly ends the call, saying: “Thank you very much. Goodbye.” [New York Times, 10/16/2001; Spencer, 2008, pp. 106]
Controllers Make No Connection with Flight 77 - After hanging up, the Indianapolis Center controller immediately calls another of the center’s radar associates and repeats what he has just heard. They look through their flight plans but can find no record of Flight 11 in their system. According to author Lynn Spencer, the center’s host computer, which performs critical radar and flight management functions, only holds on to active flight plans. Therefore, several minutes after the system had stopped tracking the transponder data tag for Flight 11, its flight plan dropped out of the system. According to Spencer, the two controllers fail to connect what McDonnell has said with the disappearance of Flight 77: “The best the controllers can figure is that [Flight 11] was hijacked on the ground in New York and proceeded to take off for Los Angeles without a clearance. They’re not sure just how this is relevant to the disappearance of American 77, if at all, and they’ve done all they can do for now.… Confused, they return to their jobs.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 106-107]
Hijacking Not Suspected - At 9:08, the Indianapolis Center contacted Air Force Search and Rescue to request that it be on the lookout for an accident involving Flight 77 (see (After 9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and at 9:09 it informs the FAA regional office of a possible accident involving Flight 77 (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). However, according to the 9/11 Commission, it is not until about 9:20 that the center begins to doubt its initial assumption that Flight 77 has crashed, and discusses this concern with the FAA’s Herndon Command Center (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 31-32]

Entity Tags: Jim McDonnell, American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

The two F-15 fighter jets launched from Otis Air National Guard Base in response to Flight 11 (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) have been directed to “Whiskey 105,” a military airspace training area over the Atlantic Ocean, just south of Long Island. According to the 9/11 Commission, “To avoid New York area air traffic and uncertain about what to do, the fighters were brought down to military airspace to ‘hold as needed.’ From 9:09 to 9:13, the Otis fighters stayed in this holding pattern.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 20; Spencer, 2008, pp. 85] Otis pilot Major Daniel Nash will later comment, “Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do.” [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/2002]
'Pushback' from FAA Controllers - By 9:08 a.m., Major Kevin Nasypany, the NEADS mission crew commander, had learned of the second World Trade Center crash and wanted to send the Otis fighters to New York City. However, according to Vanity Fair, the NEADS “weapons techs get ‘pushback’ from civilian FAA controllers, who have final authority over the fighters as long as they are in civilian airspace. The FAA controllers are afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with a passenger plane, of which there are hundreds in the area, still flying normal routes.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 25; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006] Author Lynn Spencer will add: “[L]ocal FAA controllers are busy shutting down New York’s airspace and are less than eager to grant the fighters access to the civilian airspace. They’re afraid of fast-moving fighters colliding with the hundreds of airliners that are still in the area. Many of those flights are doing unpredictable things just now, such as canceling their flight plans and changing course, and controllers are not convinced that they can provide adequate separation if fast-moving fighters are added to the mix. They just need a few more minutes, they keep saying.”
New York Center Not Answering Phone - Nasypany tries contacting the military liaison at the FAA’s New York Center, but no one is answering the phone. According to Spencer, “He wants the Otis fighters over New York, not in military airspace 100 miles off the coast, but he has little choice. Without permission from the FAA to penetrate the civil airspace over New York, NEADS must advise the Otis F-15 pilots… to continue to remain clear of the city.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 111-112]
Director Wants Jets 'Closer In' - At 9:10 a.m., the senior director on the NEADS operations floor tells the weapons director, “I want those fighters closer in.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] NEADS weapons controller Major Steve Hedrick asks Major James Fox, the weapons team leader, “Can we give [the fighters] a mission?” Fox replies, “Right now their mission is to hold.” [Spencer, 2008, pp. 111] Then, at around 9:11 a.m., either the senior weapons director at NEADS or his technician instructs the Otis fighters to “remain at current position [holding pattern] until FAA requests assistance.”
Fighters Exit Holding Pattern for New York - Just before 9:13 a.m., the Otis pilots tell their controller at the FAA’s Boston Center that they need to establish a combat air patrol over New York. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 459] According to the 9/11 Commission, “Radar data show that at 9:13, when the Otis fighters were about 115 miles away from the city, the fighters exited their holding pattern and set a course direct for Manhattan” (see 9:13 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24]

Entity Tags: James Fox, Federal Aviation Administration, New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Kevin Nasypany, Steve Hedrick, Daniel Nash, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93

The FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia.The FAA Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. [Source: Federal Aviation Administration]Ben Sliney, the national operations manager at the FAA’s Herndon Command Center, puts the word out that he wants all air traffic control facilities around the US to inform him of anything unusual that occurs with the flights they are handling. In response, news of suspicious activity quickly starts coming in to the Command Center. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 125-126]
Command Center Calls Field Facilities - Sliney wants air traffic control facilities to notify him of anything out of the ordinary, such as a radar target disappearing from the radar scope, loss of communication with an aircraft, or an aircraft making an unauthorized change of course. He also wants to know immediately of any glitches that occur, even if these are common, everyday problems, such as a flight deviating from its course, missing a frequency change, overlooking a radio call, or getting a transponder code wrong. The center’s controllers at each regional desk therefore start calling their field facilities, and ask them to report any unusual occurrences. [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 125] The Command Center has telecommunications lines to all the major air traffic control facilities in the US, which enables it to reach out to those facilities and establish the big picture about aircraft activity. [Freni, 2003, pp. 64]
'More and More' Responses Received - Following the call for information, numerous reports of suspicious activity are received from the air traffic control facilities. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 125-126] Linda Schuessler, the deputy director of system operations at the Command Center, will later recall, “[W]e started getting more and more calls about bomb threats, about aircraft that we had lost communication or radar identification with.” [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 12/17/2001]
Center Lists Suspect Aircraft - Sliney wants a list compiled of the reportedly suspicious aircraft. A dry-erase board is set up in the middle of the room. On it a manager keeps track of the reports that are coming in, writing down where each suspect aircraft was last seen, who was working it, where the flight originated, and where it is going. Another person contacts the field facilities to follow up on the reports. [9/11 Commission, 7/22/2003 pdf file; Spencer, 2008, pp. 126]
Two Dozen Suspicious Flights - Author Pamela Freni will later describe, “[F]or the next several hours the call signs and status” of every suspicious aircraft will be recorded. Command Center personnel call “airline operations centers, trying to determine any crises on each flight. Only when each plane landed or was found safe did its identification information disappear from the board. Upward to two dozen were listed at one time, but ultimately the number was whittled to 11 highly suspicious cases” (see (9:09 a.m. and After) September 11, 2001). “Nine of those airplanes would land safely. Two of them—AA 77 and UA 93—would not.” [Freni, 2003, pp. 64-65]

Entity Tags: Linda Schuessler, Ben Sliney, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93

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. [Newsday, 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). [Washington Post, 11/3/2001]

Entity Tags: North American Aerospace Defense Command, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

An air traffic controller at the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which was monitoring Flight 77 when it disappeared from radar (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), receives confirmation from American Airlines that Flight 11 was hijacked, but apparently still does not suspect that the missing Flight 77 may also have been hijacked. [New York Times, 10/16/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] The controller, a sector radar associate at the Indianapolis Center, called the American Airlines dispatch office in Texas five minutes earlier, and was informed by dispatcher Jim McDonnell that Flight 11 had been hijacked and that two planes had hit the World Trade Center (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Spencer, 2008, pp. 106] He now calls the dispatch office and again speaks with McDonnell. After introducing himself, he asks, “American 11, you guys said he departed off of, uh, New York?” McDonnell replies, “Boston.” The controller continues, “Boston, he was going to LA, and it was a hijacked airplane?” McDonnell confirms, “Yes.” The controller asks, “And you, have you heard anything from American 77?” McDonnell replies, “No,” and then adds, “I talked to a winder in the center up there, and I gave them the information I got.” (What McDonnell is referring to here is unclear.) The controller thanks McDonnell, and the call ends. [New York Times, 10/16/2001] Despite receiving this information from American Airlines, according to the 9/11 Commission it is not until about 9:20 that the Indianapolis Center begins to doubt its initial assumption that Flight 77 has crashed, and discusses this concern with the FAA’s Herndon Command Center (see (9:20 a.m.-9:21 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32]

Entity Tags: Jim McDonnell, American Airlines, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA’s Indianapolis Center, which was monitoring Flight 77 when it disappeared from radar (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001 and (8:56 a.m.-9:05 a.m.) September 11, 2001), has learned by 9:20 a.m. that there are “other hijacked aircraft,” and begins “to doubt its initial assumption that American 77 had crashed.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] In fact, a transcript of air traffic controller communications will show that the Indianapolis Center was informed of the Flight 11 hijacking, and that two planes had hit the World Trade Center, at 9:09 a.m. (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001); five minutes later, it received confirmation of the Flight 11 hijacking (see 9:14 a.m. September 11, 2001). [New York Times, 10/16/2001] And television networks have been covering the crashes in New York since as early as 8:48 a.m. (see 8:48 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Bamford, 2004, pp. 16-17]
Other Facilities Notified - The manager at the Indianapolis Center now discusses the concern that Flight 77 may not have crashed with the FAA’s Command Center in Herndon, Virginia. This discussion prompts the Command Center to notify some FAA field facilities that Flight 77 is lost. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] Also at around 9:20, the Indianapolis Center operations manager contacts the FAA’s Chicago Center. He advises its operations manager of his concern that Flight 77 may have been hijacked, and says to be on the lookout, based on the events that have occurred in New York. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] By 9:21, according to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA “Command Center, some FAA field facilities, and American Airlines had started to search for American 77. They feared it had been hijacked.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24-25]

Entity Tags: Chicago flight control, Federal Aviation Administration, Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

According to the 9/11 Commission, NEADS is contacted by the FAA’s Boston Center. Colin Scoggins, Boston Center’s military liaison, tells it: “I just had a report that American 11 is still in the air, and it’s on its way towards—heading towards Washington.… That was another—it was evidently another aircraft that hit the tower. That’s the latest report we have.… I’m going to try to confirm an ID for you, but I would assume he’s somewhere over, uh, either New Jersey or somewhere further south.” The NEADS official asks: “He—American 11 is a hijack?… And he’s heading into Washington?” Scoggins answers yes both times and adds, “This could be a third aircraft.” Somehow Boston Center has been told by FAA headquarters that Flight 11 is still airborne, but the 9/11 Commission will say it hasn’t been able to find where this mistaken information came from.
Scoggins Makes Error - Vanity Fair magazine will later add, “In Boston, it is Colin Scoggins who has made the mistaken call.” Scoggins will explain why he believes he made this error: “With American Airlines, we could never confirm if [Flight 11] was down or not, so that left doubt in our minds.” He says he was monitoring a conference call between FAA centers (see 8:28 a.m. September 11, 2001), “when the word came across—from whom or where isn’t clear—that American 11 was thought to be headed for Washington.” However, Boston Center was never tracking Flight 11 on radar after losing sight of it near Manhattan: “The plane’s course, had it continued south past New York in the direction it was flying before it dipped below radar coverage, would have had it headed on a straight course toward DC. This was all controllers were going on.” Scoggins says, “After talking to a supervisor, I made the call and said [American 11] is still in the air.” [Northeast Air Defense Sector, 9/11/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
Myers Refers to Mistaken Report - In the hours following the attacks, acting Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers will apparently refer to this erroneous report that Flight 11 is still airborne and heading toward Washington, telling the Associated Press that “prior to the crash into the Pentagon, military officials had been notified that another hijacked plane had been heading from the New York area to Washington.” Myers will say “he assumed that hijacked plane was the one that hit the Pentagon, though he couldn’t be sure.” [Associated Press, 9/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, Northeast Air Defense Sector, Federal Aviation Administration, Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Colin Scoggins

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11, Flight AA 77

The air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport.The air traffic control tower at Dulles International Airport. [Source: Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority]The FAA’s Herndon Command Center informs a supervisor at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington Dulles International Airport that the FAA has lost contact with American Airlines Flight 77 and is trying to locate it. The Dulles TRACON then informs its air traffic controllers that a commercial aircraft is missing, and instructs them to look for primary targets on their radar screens. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 25; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] (A primary target is a radar track that provides an aircraft’s position and speed, but not its altitude, and which can still be viewed when the plane’s transponder has been turned off. [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; Salon, 9/10/2004] ) Dulles Airport is located 26 miles west of Washington, DC, and 22 miles from the Pentagon. [New York Times, 6/19/1994; USA Today, 9/13/2001] According to the 9/11 Commission, controllers at its TRACON will locate an unidentified aircraft on their radar screens at 9:32 (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), although other accounts will suggest they locate the target slightly earlier (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 33]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

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.” [Vanity Fair, 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.” [Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Kevin Nasypany, Colin Scoggins, James Anderson, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 11

The FAA’s Great Lakes Regional Operations Center notifies the Operations Center at FAA’s Washington headquarters of the simultaneous loss of radar identification and radar communications with Flight 77. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] This is almost 30 minutes after this loss of contact occurred (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 15 minutes after the Great Lakes regional center was informed of it (see 9:09 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

According to the 9/11 Commission, the FAA Command Center advises FAA headquarters that American 77 is lost in Indianapolis flight control’s airspace, that Indianapolis has no primary radar track, and is looking for the aircraft. [9/11 Commission, 6/17/2004] When exactly the Command Center first learned that Flight 77 was lost is unclear. The earliest time reported by the 9/11 Commission is when an American Airlines employee mentioned it when calling the center at 9:16 a.m. (see 9:16 a.m.-9:18 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24] American Airlines headquarters was notified of the loss of contact with Flight 77 before 9:00 a.m. (see 8:58 a.m. September 11, 2001), but had mistakenly thought this was the aircraft that hit the second WTC tower minutes later (see 9:08 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Federal Aviation Administration, American Airlines

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

Todd Lewis.Todd Lewis. [Source: NBC]After air traffic controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport notice an unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, approaching Washington on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), they initially think it is a military fighter plane, due to its high speed and the way it is being flown. [ABC News, 10/24/2001; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] Yet the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 77 has been known for his poor flying skills. [Washington Post, 9/30/2001; New York Times, 5/4/2002]
Aircraft Performs Elaborate Maneuver - The Dulles controllers are unable to identify the plane because its transponder—which transmits identifying information about an aircraft to radar screens—has been turned off (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 9/11/2001; Washington Post, 9/12/2001] It is flying at almost 500 miles per hour while approaching Washington, and then performs a rapid downward spiral, “dropping the last 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes,” before hitting the Pentagon (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). [CBS News, 9/21/2001; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Moving 'Like a Military Aircraft' - Controller Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.” [ABC News, 10/24/2001] Another controller, Todd Lewis, will recall: “[N]obody knew that was a commercial flight at the time. Nobody knew that was American 77.… I thought it was a military flight. I thought that Langley [Air Force Base] had scrambled some fighters and maybe one of them got up there.… It was moving very fast, like a military aircraft might move at a low altitude.” [MSNBC, 9/11/2002]
Alleged Pilot 'Could Not Fly at All' - Yet many people who have met Hani Hanjour, the hijacker allegedly at the controls of Flight 77, considered him to be a very poor pilot (see October 1996-December 1997, 1998, February 8-March 12, 2001, and (April-July 2001)). Just a month previously, an airport refused to rent him a single-engine Cessna plane because instructors there found his flying skills so weak (see Mid-August 2001). [Gazette (Greenbelt), 9/21/2001; Newsday, 9/23/2001] And an employee at a flight school Hanjour attended earlier in the year will later comment: “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all” (see January-February 2001). [New York Times, 5/4/2002]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Todd Lewis, Danielle O’Brien, Washington Dulles International Airport

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

According to the 9/11 Commission, the two fighters launched from Otis Air Force Base (see 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001) arrive over Manhattan at this time, after exiting their holding pattern off the Long Island coast at 9:13 a.m. They then establish a combat air patrol (CAP) over New York. The commission bases this conclusion on its analysis of FAA radar data and interviews with the two Otis pilots. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 24 and 460; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 26 and 92] However, numerous eyewitnesses on the ground will report first noticing fighters over New York significantly later, more than an hour after the 9/11 Commission claims according to some accounts (see (9:45 a.m.-10:45 a.m.) September 11, 2001).

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, World Trade Center

According to an FAA report, between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m., air traffic controllers at the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) at Washington Dulles International Airport notice an unidentified blip, later identified to be Flight 77, on their radar screens. This is several minutes earlier than the 9/11 Commission will claim they notice it. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9]
Plane Flying East at High Speed - The TRACON at Dulles Airport, which is about 22 miles west of the Pentagon, learned several minutes earlier that the FAA had lost contact with Flight 77. It then advised its controllers to look out for “primary targets” (see 9:21 a.m. September 11, 2001). [USA Today, 9/13/2001; Navy Times, 9/22/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 32] These are radar tracks that can still be viewed when a plane’s transponder has been turned off. [Salon, 9/10/2004] Several of the facility’s controllers now observe a primary radar target heading eastbound toward Washington at high speed, almost 500 miles per hour. Although the aircraft has no transponder signal to identify it, it is later determined to be Flight 77. [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file; USA Today, 8/13/2002]
Conflicting Times - According to the 9/11 Commission Report, the Dulles TRACON controllers only notice this aircraft at 9:32 a.m. (see 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 9] The FAA report, which is published less than a week after 9/11, will state that its time of between 9:25 and 9:30 is “approximate, based on personnel statements from Dulles Terminal Radar Approach Control.” [Federal Aviation Administration, 9/17/2001 pdf file] But this earlier time will receive some corroboration from a report in USA Today, which states that the FAA’s Command Center is notified by a Dulles controller of the unidentified aircraft at “just before 9:30 a.m.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] Furthermore, Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who is currently at the White House, will tell the 9/11 Commission that at “about 9:25 or 9:26” he overhears someone warning Vice President Dick Cheney of an aircraft approaching Washington (see (9:26 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 5/23/2003] Radar evidence obtained by CBS News will show that “at 9:30 a.m.… radar tracked the plane as it closed to within 30 miles of Washington.” [CBS News, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Washington Dulles International Airport, Federal Aviation Administration

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

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; Christian Science Monitor, 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; USA Today, 9/16/2001; Washington Post, 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; Washington Post, 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]

Entity Tags: Brad Derrig, Alan Scott, Craig Borgstrom, Dean Eckmann, Langley Air Force Base, Larry Arnold

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93

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; St. Petersburg Times, 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. [Washington Post, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Monte Belger, Norman Mineta

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Key Day of 9/11 Events, All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93, Dick Cheney

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. [USA Today, 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; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]

Entity Tags: Boston Air Route Traffic Control Center, Northeast Air Defense Sector

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events

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. [New Jersey Star-Ledger, 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.; Airman, 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. [Airman, 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. [Eielson News Service, 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.

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Vigilant Warrior, North American Aerospace Defense Command, Ellington Air National Guard Base, Amalgam Warrior, Richard A. Clarke, Richard B. Myers, Vigilant Guardian

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Training Exercises

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, who is in the White House Situation Room, requests a fighter escort for Air Force One and authorization for the Air Force to shoot down threatening aircraft. According to Clarke’s own account, when they see President Bush starting his short speech from the Booker Elementary School library on television (at about 9:30), he and others in the Situation Room briefly discuss getting the president away from the school to somewhere safer. Clarke then telephones the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) below the White House, which contains Vice President Dick Cheney and others. He speaks with Army Major Mike Fenzel and instructs him: “Mike, somebody has to tell the president he can’t come right back here [to Washington]. Cheney, Condi, somebody. Secret Service concurs. We do not want them saying where they are going when they take off. Second, when they take off, they should have fighter escort. Three, we need to authorize the Air Force to shoot down any aircraft—including a hijacked passenger flight—that looks like it is threatening to attack and cause large-scale death on the ground. Got it?” Fenzel replies, “Roger that, Dick, get right back to you.” This conversation appears to take place shortly before the Pentagon attack occurs, so roughly around 9:35 or 9:36, as soon afterwards Secret Service Director Brian Stafford slips Clarke a note stating that radar shows an aircraft heading their way (see (9:37 a.m.) September 11, 2001), and then Ralph Seigler, the Situation Room deputy director, reports an explosion having occurred at the Pentagon. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 6-7] However, it is unclear how long it takes for Clarke’s requests to be implemented. According to some accounts, fighters do not arrive to accompany Air Force One until an hour or more after it takes off (see (11:29 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Reports are also contradictory as to when shootdown authorization is given for the Air Force. According to Clarke’s own recollections, it is given between around 9:38 and 9:56 (see (9:38 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Other accounts, including that of the 9/11 Commission, state that it is not given until after 9:56, possibly as late as 10:20 (see (Shortly After 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 10:18 a.m.-10:20 a.m. September 11, 2001).

Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke, Mike Fenzel

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93, Richard Clarke

The air traffic control tower at Langley Air Force Base.The air traffic control tower at Langley Air Force Base. [Source: Langley Air Force Base]The air traffic control tower at Langley Air Force Base (AFB) instructs the three F-16s taking off from the base (see (9:25 a.m.-9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001) to fly east for 60 miles, even though the scramble order issued by NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS) (see 9:24 a.m. September 11, 2001) specified that they be directed north toward Washington, DC. [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 96; Spencer, 2008, pp. 142-143]
Controller Directs Jets Eastward - The air traffic controllers at the Langley tower responsible for getting the three fighter jets launched are Master Sergeant Kevin Griffith and Senior Airman Raymond Halford. [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file] One of them tells the jets they are “cleared for takeoff, 090 for 60,” meaning they are to fly east for 60 miles. [Spencer, 2008, pp. 143] According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, “A takeoff to the east on the Langley radial for 60 miles was the standard takeoff from Langley in order to clear local traffic and get the fighters to altitude as quickly as possible.” But this document will add that the 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]
Pilot Assumes Controllers Have More Information - The command post at Langley AFB has already forwarded the NEADS scramble instructions directing the jets to the north—“010, flight level 290”—to the pilots. According to author Lynn Spencer, lead pilot Major Dean Eckmann “knows that the scramble calls for a northerly heading, but he assumes they are being vectored eastward in order to fly around the traffic in their way. He doesn’t second-guess the instructions; he assumes that the controllers have more information than he does.” [9/11 Commission, 1/9/2004; Spencer, 2008, pp. 142-143]
Scramble Order Did Not Include Distance and Location - The 9/11 Commission will later try to explain why the Langley tower directs the fighters east. According to the Commission, the scramble order from NEADS lacked complete instructions. Though it included a direction of “010” and an altitude of 29,000 feet (“290”), it “did not include a distance to the target, nor the target’s location, two key components that are normally included in a scramble order.”
Generic Flight Plan Used - Additionally: “In order to launch aircraft, the Langley AFB tower was required to file an automated flight plan specifically designating the direction and distance of intended flight. Prior to 9/11, the standard—or generic—flight plan for aircraft departing Langley AFB to the east was ‘090 for 60.‘… Langley tower personnel assumed that once fighters got airborne they would be vectored to the target of interest by either NEADS or the FAA.” [9/11 Commission, 8/26/2004, pp. 96]
Operator Could Have Entered a Unique Flight Plan - According to a 9/11 Commission memorandum, Langley tower personnel follow established procedures and accomplish their duties “efficiently and effectively.” [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file] However, John Harter, an operations supervisor at the FAA’s Norfolk Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON), will tell the Commission that he disagrees with a claim made by Langley tower personnel, “that it was more efficient to enter a flight plan known to be acceptable to the system than to enter something different. That is an operator issue. An operator knowing what he/she was doing would have been able to correctly enter a unique flight plan.” [9/11 Commission, 12/1/2003 pdf file]
Tower Responsible for Establishing Flight Plan - The Langley control tower is one of four facilities that are notified when NEADS issues a scramble order. (The other three are the Langley AFB command post, the 119th Fighter Wing, and the Norfolk TRACON.) The duty of Langley tower controllers is to get a flight plan established in the system so the system will accept an aircraft’s departure. The Langley tower’s control over aircraft launching from the base extends only five miles off the runway, so scrambled aircraft are passed on to the Norfolk TRACON upon takeoff (see 9:31 a.m.-9:33 a.m. September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 10/6/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Dean Eckmann, Kevin Griffith, John Harter, Langley Air Force Base, Raymond Halford

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77, Flight UA 93

Chris Stephenson, head flight controller at Washington’s Reagan National Airport tower, says that he is called by the Secret Service around this time. He is told an unidentified aircraft is speeding toward Washington. Stephenson looks at the radarscope and sees Flight 77 about five miles to the west. He looks out the tower window and sees the plane turning to the right and descending. He follows it until it disappears behind a building in nearby Crystal City, Virginia. [USA Today, 8/11/2002] However, according to another account, just before 9:30 a.m., a controller in the same tower has an unidentified plane on radar, “heading toward Washington and without a transponder signal to identify it. It’s flying fast, she says: almost 500 mph. And it’s heading straight for the heart of the city. Could it be American Flight 77? The FAA warns the Secret Service.” [USA Today, 8/13/2002] In short, it is unclear whether the Secret Service warns the FAA, or vice versa.

Entity Tags: Chris Stephenson, Federal Aviation Administration, US Secret Service

Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: All Day of 9/11 Events, Flight AA 77

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Day of 9/11

All Day of 9/11 Events (1368)Dick Cheney (55)Donald Rumsfeld (37)Flight AA 11 (145)Flight AA 77 (148)Flight UA 175 (87)Flight UA 93 (244)George Bush (131)Passenger Phone Calls (69)Pentagon (139)Richard Clarke (34)Shanksville, Pennsylvania (25)Training Exercises (56)World Trade Center (91)

The Alleged 9/11 Hijackers

Alhazmi and Almihdhar (343)Marwan Alshehhi (134)Mohamed Atta (206)Hani Hanjour (72)Ziad Jarrah (74)Other 9/11 Hijackers (172)Possible Hijacker Associates in US (79)Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training (73)Hijacker Contact w Government in US (33)Possible 9/11 Hijacker Funding (42)Hijacker Visas and Immigration (135)

Alhazmi and Almihdhar: Specific Cases

Bayoumi and Basnan Saudi Connection (51)CIA Hiding Alhazmi & Almihdhar (120)Search for Alhazmi/ Almihdhar in US (39)

Projects and Programs

Al-Qaeda Malaysia Summit (172)Able Danger (60)Sibel Edmonds (61)Phoenix Memo (27)Randy Glass/ Diamondback (8)Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal (67)Remote Surveillance (241)Yemen Hub (75)

Before 9/11

Soviet-Afghan War (105)Warning Signs (456)Insider Trading/ Foreknowledge (53)US Air Security (76)Military Exercises (84)Pipeline Politics (67)Other Pre-9/11 Events (61)

Counterterrorism before 9/11

Hunt for Bin Laden (158)Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11 (225)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (253)

Warning Signs: Specific Cases

Foreign Intelligence Warnings (35)Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB (39)Presidential Level Warnings (31)

The Post-9/11 World

9/11 Investigations (658)9/11 Related Criminal Proceedings (22)9/11 Denials (30)US Government and 9/11 Criticism (67)9/11 Related Lawsuits (24)Media (47)Other Post-9/11 Events (78)

Investigations: Specific Cases

9/11 Commission (257)Role of Philip Zelikow (87)9/11 Congressional Inquiry (41)CIA OIG 9/11 Report (16)FBI 9/11 Investigation (147)WTC Investigation (111)Other 9/11 Investigations (135)

Possible Al-Qaeda-Linked Moles or Informants

Abu Hamza Al-Masri (103)Abu Qatada (36)Ali Mohamed (78)Haroon Rashid Aswat (17)Khalil Deek (20)Luai Sakra (12)Mamoun Darkazanli (36)Nabil Al-Marabh (41)Omar Bakri & Al-Muhajiroun (25)Reda Hassaine (23)Other Possible Moles or Informants (169)

Other Al-Qaeda-Linked Figures

Abu Zubaida (99)Anwar Al-Awlaki (17)Ayman Al-Zawahiri (81)Hambali (39)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (139)Mohammed Haydar Zammar (44)Mohammed Jamal Khalifa (47)Osama Bin Laden (229)Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh (105)Ramzi Yousef (67)Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (57)Victor Bout (23)Wadih El-Hage (45)Zacarias Moussaoui (159)

Al-Qaeda by Region

"Lackawanna Six" (13)Al-Qaeda in Balkans (168)Al-Qaeda in Germany (189)Al-Qaeda in Italy (55)Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia (149)Al-Qaeda in Spain (121)Islamist Militancy in Chechnya (50)

Specific Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks or Plots

1993 WTC Bombing (73)1993 Somalia Fighting (13)1995 Bojinka Plot (78)1998 US Embassy Bombings (121)Millennium Bomb Plots (43)2000 USS Cole Bombing (114)2001 Attempted Shoe Bombing (23)2002 Bali Bombings (36)2004 Madrid Train Bombings (82)2005 7/7 London Bombings (87)

Miscellaneous Al-Qaeda Issues

Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks (89)Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements (102)Key Captures and Deaths (124)

Geopolitics and Islamic Militancy

US Dominance (112)Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links (255)Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism (83)Israel (61)Pakistan and the ISI (470)Saudi Arabia (249)Terrorism Financing (312)Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism (322)US Intel Links to Islamic Militancy (69)Algerian Militant Collusion (41)Indonesian Militant Collusion (20)Philippine Militant Collusion (74)Yemeni Militant Collusion (47)Other Government-Militant Collusion (23)

Pakistan / ISI: Specific Cases

Pakistani Nukes & Islamic Militancy (37)Pakistani ISI Links to 9/11 (73)Saeed Sheikh (59)Mahmood Ahmed (30)Haven in Pakistan Tribal Region (179)2008 Kabul Indian Embassy Bombing (10)Hunt for Bin Laden in Pakistan (154)

Terrorism Financing: Specific Cases

Al Taqwa Bank (29)Al-Kifah/MAK (54)BCCI (37)BIF (28)BMI and Ptech (21)Bin Laden Family (62)Drugs (71)

'War on Terrorism' Outside Iraq

Afghanistan (299)Drone Use in Pakistan / Afghanistan (53)Destruction of CIA Tapes (92)Escape From Afghanistan (61)High Value Detainees (179)Terror Alerts (50)Counterterrorism Action After 9/11 (353)Counterterrorism Policy/Politics (432)Internal US Security After 9/11 (125)
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