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Old 14th August 2006, 11:02 PM   #1
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The NORAD 9/11 Response

The following is a timeline of the NORAD response to the hijackings on 9/11, as based on the transcripts from over 30 hours of recordings inside the NORAD command centre.

All times are in Eastern Daylight Time

AA11 departs Logan International Airport

AA11 is hijacked. Short after its transponder is turned off

0814 UA175 departs Logan International Airport

0820 AA77 departs Washington Dulles International Airport

0820 AA11 turns off its IFF (Identify Friend-or-Foe) beacon and begins deviating from its scheduled flight path

AA11 makes a 100 degree turn and heads for New York City

0837 Boston Centre notifies NEADS of the hijacking of AA11 and requests an aircraft scramble. This is the first incident of the morning.

BOSTON CENTER: Hi. Boston Center T.M.U. [Traffic Management Unit], we have a problem here. We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York, and we need you guys to, we need someone to scramble some F-16s or something up there, help us out.
POWELL: Is this real-world or exercise?
BOSTON CENTER: No, this is not an exercise, not a test.
0838 The two F-15s on alert status at Otis ANGB (Air National Guard Base) are put on “Battle Stations” (pilots enter their aircraft and await the signal to launch)

0839 NEADS contact Boston Centre and discover they do not know where AA11 is (because the aircraft’s transponder has been turned off).

WATSON: It’s the inbound to J.F.K.?
BOSTON CENTER: We—we don’t know.
WATSON: You don’t know where he is at all?
BOSTON CENTER: He’s being hijacked. The pilot’s having a hard time talking to the—I mean, we don’t know. We don’t know where he’s goin’. He’s heading towards Kennedy. He’s—like I said, he’s like 35 miles north of Kennedy now at 367 knots. We have no idea where he’s goin’ or what his intentions are.
WATSON: If you could please give us a call and let us know—you know any information, that’d be great.
BOSTON CENTER: Okay. Right now, I guess we’re trying to work on—I guess there’s been some threats in the cockpit. The pilot—
WATSON: There’s been what?! I’m sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Threat to the … ?
BOSTON CENTER: We’ll call you right back as soon as we know more info.
0842 UA93 departs Newark International Airport

0844 UA 175 is hijacked

0844 Despite having no coordinates for intercept, NEADS decide to launch the Otis aircraft anyway.

FOX: M.C.C. [Mission Crew Commander], I don’t know where I’m scrambling these guys to. I need a direction, a destination—
NASYPANY: O.K., I’m gonna give you the Z point [coordinate]. It’s just north of—New York City.
FOX: I got this lat long, 41-15, 74-36, or 73-46.
NASYPANY: Head ‘em in that direction.
FOX: Copy that.
0846 AA11 hits the North Tower of the World Trade Centre

0846 The stoplight at the Alert Barn on Otis ANGB turns from red to green, and the two F-15s taxi out to the runway.

0851 Boston Centre notifies NEADS that an aircraft has flown into the WTC. NEADS immediately call New York Centre, and discover they do not yet know about the incident. This is the second aircraft incident of the morning (NEADS do not know it is AA11).

ROUNTREE: A plane just hit the World Trade Center.
ROUNTREE: Was it a 737?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (background): Hit what?
WATSON: The World Trade Center—
DOOLEY: Who are you talking to? [Gasps.]
DOOLEY: Get—pass—pass it to them—
WATSON: Oh my God. Oh God. Oh my God.
ROUNTREE: Saw it on the news. It’s—a plane just crashed into the World Trade Center.
DOOLEY: Update New York! See if they lost altitude on that plane altogether.

Watson places a call to civilian controllers at New York Center.

WATSON: Yes, ma’am. Did you just hear the information regarding the World Trade Center?
WATSON: Being hit by an aircraft?
NEW YORK CENTER: I’m sorry?!
WATSON: Being hit by an aircraft.
NEW YORK CENTER: You’re kidding.
WATSON: It’s on the world news.
0852 UA175 turns off course and fails to respond to communication. New York Centre knows the aircraft has been hijacked.

0852 NEADS decide to direct the Otis fighters to New York City anyway.

NASYPANY: Send ‘em to New York City still. Continue! Go!
NASYPANY: This is what I got. Possible news that a 737 just hit the World Trade Center. This is a real-world. And we’re trying to confirm this. Okay. Continue taking the fighters down to the New York City area, J.F.K. area, if you can. Make sure that the F.A.A. clears it— your route all the way through. Do what we gotta do, okay? Let’s press with this. It looks like this guy could have hit the World Trade Center.
0854 AA77 is hijacked and its transponder is turned off. Indianapolis Centre loses contact with the aircraft and assumes it has crashed.

0855 Confusion begins to arise as to whether the aircraft that hit the WTC was AA11. Confirmation is required from the airline company (who independently track their aircraft), however American Airlines does not confirm the fate of AA11. Airlines routinely go into “information lockdown” when a crisis occurs.

BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yeah, he crashed into the World Trade Center.
ROUNTREE: That is the aircraft that crashed into the World Trade Center?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yup. Disregard the—disregard the tail number [given earlier for American 11].
ROUNTREE: Disregard the tail number? He did crash into the World Trade Center?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): That’s—that’s what we believe, yes.

But an unidentified male trooper at NEADS overhears the exchange and raises a red flag.

MALE NEADS TECH: I never heard them say American Airlines Flight 11 hit the World Trade Center. I heard it was a civilian aircraft.

Dooley, the ID desk’s master sergeant, takes the phone from Rountree to confirm for herself, and the story veers off course …

DOOLEY (to Boston): Master Sergeant Dooley here. We need to have—are you giving confirmation that American 11 was the one—
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): No, we’re not gonna confirm that at this time. We just know an aircraft crashed in and …
DOOLEY: You—are you—can you say—is anyone up there tracking primary on this guy still?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): No. The last [radar sighting] we have was about 15 miles east of J.F.K., or eight miles east of J.F.K. was our last primary hit. He did slow down in speed. The primary that we had, it slowed down below—around to 300 knots.
DOOLEY: And then you lost ‘em?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yeah, and then we lost ‘em.
0856 Indianapolis Centre notify the FAA that AA77 has been hijacked (realizing it did not crash).

0903 NEADS are notified of a second hijacking. (3rd incident of the morning).
ROUNTREE: They have a second possible hijack!
0903 UA175 hits the South Tower of the WTC. A number of NEADS personnel witness it live on CNN.

0907 FAA civilian controllers direct the Otis fighters to enter a holding pattern over Long Island. They are worried about the fighters colliding with civilian aircraft in the densely packed airspace over New York.
NEADS weapon controllers are not happy.

NASYPANY: Okay, Foxy. Plug in. I want to make sure this is on tape.… This is what—this is what I foresee that we probably need to do. We need to talk to F.A.A. We need to tell ‘em if this stuff’s gonna keep on going, we need to take those fighters on and then put ‘em over Manhattan, O.K.? That’s the best thing. That’s the best play right now. So, coordinate with the F.A.A. Tell ‘em if there’s more out there, which we don’t know, let’s get ‘em over Manhattan. At least we got some kinda play.
NEADS weapons controllers request the launch of the two F-16 fighters at Alert on Langley AFB (Air Force Base) in Virginia. However this request is refused by NEADS command. Instead the fighters are put on Battle Stations. NEADS command are concerned that the Langley fighters are the only remaining aircraft they have – if both pairs are airborne at the same time both pairs will run out of fuel at the same time.

0921 Boston Centre notify NEADS of a third hijacked aircraft, headed for Washington DC. (4th incident of the morning).

DOOLEY: Another hijack! It’s headed towards Washington!
NASYPANY: ****! Give me a location.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay. Third aircraft—hijacked—heading toward Washington.
0921 Boston Centre overhears a FAA conversation which mentions AA11 is still airborne. Based on this and AA11’s previous known heading they determine that it is headed for Washington DC. They notify NEADS.

NASYPANY: O.K. American Airlines is still airborne—11, the first guy. He’s heading towards Washington. O.K., I think we need to scramble Langley right now. And I’m—I’m gonna take the fighters from Otis and try to chase this guy down if I can find him.
0922 The Langley fighters are scrambled, however the pilots are not given a reason for a scramble. The Navy ATC handling them directs them east, over the Atlantic Ocean, to a military training airspace called Whiskey 386.

0928 UA93 is hijacked.

0934 In the course of a call to Washington Centre, NEADS finds out about the hijacking of AA77 (bringing the day’s total – from NEADS’ point of view – to 4 hijackings (one crashed into WTC) plus the first crash into the WTC as a 5th aircraft).

WASHINGTON CENTER: Now, let me tell you this. I—I'll—we've been looking. We're—also lost American 77—
WATSON: American 77?
DOOLEY: American 77's lost—
WATSON: Where was it proposed to head, sir?
WASHINGTON CENTER: Okay, he was going to L.A. also—
WATSON: From where, sir?
WASHINGTON CENTER: I think he was from Boston also. Now let me tell you this story here. Indianapolis Center was working this guy—
WATSON: What guy?
WASHINGTON CENTER: American 77, at flight level 3-5-0 [35,000 feet]. However, they lost radar with him. They lost contact with him. They lost everything. And they don't have any idea where he is or what happened.
0934 NEADS notice the F-16s are headed in the wrong direction, and contact the Navy ATC.

NAVY A.T.C.: You’ve got [the fighters] moving east in airspace. Now you want ‘em to go to Baltimore?
HUCKABONE: Yes, sir. We’re not gonna take ‘em in Whiskey 386 [military training airspace over the ocean].
NAVY A.T.C.: O.K., once he goes to Baltimore, what are we supposed to do?
HUCKABONE: Have him contact us on auxiliary frequency 2-3-4 decimal 6. Instead of taking handoffs to us and us handing ‘em back, just tell Center they’ve got to go to Baltimore.
NAVY A.T.C.: All right, man. Stand by. We’ll get back to you.
CITINO: What do you mean, “We’ll get back to you”? Just do it!
HUCKABONE: I’m gonna choke that guy!
CITINO: Be very professional, Huck.
CITINO: All right, Huck. Let’s get our act together here.
0935 Boston Centre notify NEADS of yet another unidentified aircraft flying over Washington DC (6th aircraft incident).

ROUNTREE: Huntress [call sign for NEADS] ID, Rountree, can I help you?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Latest report, [low-flying] aircraft six miles southeast of the White House.
ROUNTREE: Six miles southeast of the White House?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yup. East—he’s moving away?
ROUNTREE: Southeast from the White House.
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Air—aircraft is moving away.
ROUNTREE: Moving away from the White House?
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Yeah.…
ROUNTREE: Deviating away. You don’t have a type aircraft, you don’t know who he is—
BOSTON CENTER (Scoggins): Nothing, nothing. We’re over here in Boston so I have no clue. That—hopefully somebody in Washington would have better—information for you.
0936 The Langley Fighters are directed to head for the White House.

NASYPANY: O.K., Foxy [Major Fox, the Weapons Team head]. I got a aircraft six miles east of the White House! Get your fighters there as soon as possible!
MALE VOICE: That came from Boston?
HUCKABONE: We’re gonna turn and burn it—crank it up—
MALE TECH: Six miles!
HUCKABONE: All right, here we go. This is what we’re gonna do—
NASYPANY: We’ve got an aircraft deviating eight [sic] miles east of the White House right now.
FOX: Do you want us to declare A.F.I.O. [emergency military control of the fighters] and run ‘em straight in there?
NASYPANY: Take ‘em and run ‘em to the White House.
FOX: Go directly to Washington.
CITINO: We’re going direct D.C. with my guys [Langley fighters]? Okay. Okay.
HUCKABONE: Ma’am, we are going A.F.I.O. right now with Quit 2-5 [the Langley fighters]. They are going direct Washington.
NAVY A.T.C.: Quit 2-5, we’re handing ‘em off to Center right now.
HUCKABONE: Ma’am, we need to expedite that right now. We’ve gotta contact them on 2-3-4-6.
0937 AA77 hits The Pentagon. The Langley Fighters are 150 miles away.

0939 After several transmissions from the hijackers, Cleveland Centre is now aware that UA93 has been hijacked. However they do not notify the military – standard procedure in the event of a hijacking is to hand control over to the FBI.

0940 Boston Centre notify NEADS of a possibly hijacking of Delta 1989. Unknown to Boston Centre, an ATC in Cleveland has already made contact with the crew of Delta 1989 and determined that there is no hijacking. This is the 7th aircraft incident of the day, as far as NEADS are aware.

ROUNTREE: Delta 89, that’s the hijack. They think it’s possible hijack.
DOOLEY: ****!
ROUNTREE: South of Cleveland. We have a code on him now.
DOOLEY: Good. Pick it up! Find it!
MALE TECH: Delta what?
ROUNTREE: Eight nine—a Boeing 767.
DOOLEY: ****, another one—
NEADS begin contacting ANG bases along the aircraft’s path, as there are no NORAD aircraft in a position to intercept.

0954 A base in Selfridge, Michigan offers up fighters to intercept Delta 1989.

SELFRIDGE FLIGHT OFFICER: Here—here’s what we can do. At a minimum, we can keep our guys airborne. I mean, they don’t have—they don’t have any guns or missiles or anything on board. But we—
NEADS TECH: It’s a presence, though.
1000 Some time between 0954 and 1007, NEADS receive a call from NORAD Canada Region, notifying them of a suspected hijack aircraft headed south across the border to Washington. This is the 8th aircraft incident.

1003 UA93 crashes into a field near Shankesville, Pennsylvania after passengers attempt to seize control of the cockpit.

1007 Baltimore Centre becomes aware of an aircraft over the White House. 9th aircraft incident.

PILOT: Baltimore is saying something about an aircraft over the White House. Any words?
CITINO: Negative. Stand by. Do you copy that, SD [Major Fox]? Center said there’s an aircraft over the White House. Any words?
FOX: M.C.C. [Nasypany], we’ve got an aircraft reported over the White House.
NASYPANY: Intercept!
FOX: Intercept!
NASYPANY: Intercept and divert that aircraft away from there.
CITINO: Quit 2-5 [Langley fighters], mission is intercept aircraft over White House. Use F.A.A. for guidance.
FOX: Divert the aircraft away from the White House. Intercept and divert it.
CITINO: Quit 2-5, divert the aircraft from the White House.
PILOT: Divert the aircraft.…
1007 Cleveland Centre notifies NEADS of the hijacking of UA93 – unaware that it has already crashed. 10th aircraft incident.

CLEVELAND CENTER: We got a United 93 out here. Are you aware of that?
WATSON: United 93?
CLEVELAND CENTER: That has a bomb on board.
WATSON: A bomb on board?! And this is confirmed? You have a [beacon code], sir?
CLEVELAND CENTER: No, we lost his transponder.

The information is shouted out to Nasypany.

NASYPANY: Gimme the call sign. Gimme the whole nine yards.… Let’s get some info, real quick. They got a bomb?
1010 The chase towards the White House continues, eventually ending when NEADS realize the unidentified aircraft spotted by Baltimore Centre is actually the two Langley F-16s.

NASYPANY (to floor): Negative. Negative clearance to shoot.… Goddammit!…
FOX: I’m not really worried about code words at this point.
NASYPANY: **** the code words. That’s perishable information. Negative clearance to fire. ID. Type. Tail.

CITINO: Quit 2-6, Huntress. How far is the—suspect aircraft?
PILOT: Standby. Standby.… About 15 miles, Huntress.
CITINO: Huntress copies two-two miles.
PILOT: 15 miles, Huntress.
CITINO: 15 miles. One-five … noise level please … It’s got to be low. Quit 2-6, when able say altitude of the aircraft.… Did we get a Z-track [coordinates] up for the White House?
HUCKABONE: They’re workin’ on it.
CITINO: Okay. Hey, what’s this Bravo 0-0-5 [unidentified target]?
FOX: We’re trying to get the Z-point. We’re trying to find it.
HUCKABONE: I don’t even know where the White House is.
CITINO: Whatever it is, it’s very low. It’s probably a helicopter.
MALE VOICE: It’s probably the helicopter you’re watching there.… There’s probably one flying over the [Pentagon].
MALE VOICE: It’s probably the smoke. The building’s smoked. [They’re seeing more pictures of the flaming Pentagon on CNN.]
HUCKABONE: Holy ****.… Holy **** …
CITINO: Yes. We saw that. O.K.—let’s watch our guys, Huck. Not the TV.… Quit 2-6, status? SD, they’re too low. I can’t talk to ‘em. They’re too low. I can’t talk to ‘em.
FOX: Negative clearance to fire.
CITINO: O.K. I told ‘em mission is ID and that was it.
FOX: Do whatever you need to divert. They are not cleared to fire.

HUCKABONE: It was our guys [the fighters from Langley].
CITINO: Yup. It was our guys they saw. It was our guys they saw—Center saw.
FOX: New York did the same thing….
CITINO: O.K., Huck. That was cool. We intercepted our own guys.
1015 NEADS are notified that UA93 has crashed.

WATSON: United nine three, have you got information on that yet?
WASHINGTON CENTER: Yeah, he’s down.
WATSON: What—he’s down?
WATSON: When did he land? Because we have confirmation—
WASHINGTON CENTER: He did—he did—he did not land.

Here, on the tape, you hear the air rush out of Watson’s voice.

WATSON: Oh, he’s down down?
MALE VOICE: Yes. Yeah, somewhere up northeast of Camp David.
WATSON: Northeast of Camp David.
WASHINGTON CENTER: That’s the—that’s the last report. They don’t know exactly where.
1015 30 seconds after being notified that UA93 has crashed, NORAD South East Air Defense Sector (SEADS) notifies NEADS of another potential hijacking. This is the 11th incident of the day.

POWELL: Southeast just called. There’s another possible hijack in our area.…
NASYPANY: All right. **** …
False reports of hijackings, and real responses, continue well into the afternoon, though civilian air-traffic controllers had managed to clear the skies of all commercial and private aircraft by just after 12 p.m. The fighter pilots over New York and D.C. (and later Boston and Chicago) would spend hours darting around their respective skylines intercepting hundreds of aircraft they deemed suspicious. Meanwhile, Arnold, Marr, and Nasypany were launching as many additional fighters as they could, placing some 300 armed jets in protective orbits over every major American city by the following morning. No one at NEADS would go home until late on the night of the 11th, and then only for a few hours of sleep.

Primary Timeline Resources

Vanity Fair article “9/11 Live: The NORAD Tapes”

Information on AA 11
Information on UA 175
Information on AA 77
Information on UA 93

It is interesting to note that between 0837 and 1015 (98 minutes) NEADS are notified of 11 different incidents involving commercial aircraft (many of these turn out to be double-ups, phantom aircraft, mistakes, etc...)

I also have a word document version of this timeline.


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