By Paul Thompson
|The 9/11 timeline
will be released as a book!
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Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
|Day of 9/11
Bush on 9/11
Approximate times are marked in parentheses.
Points to keep in mind when you read the below:
The scrambling (sending into the air) of fighter aircraft at the first sign of trouble is a routine phenomenon. During the year 2000, there are 425 "unknowns" - pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Fighters are scrambled in response 129 times in cases where problems are not immediately resolved. After 9/11, such scrambles go from about twice a week to three or four times a day. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/01] Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times. [AP, 8/13/02] General Ralph E. Eberhart, NORAD Commander in Chief, says that before 9/11, "Normally, our units fly 4-6 sorties a month in support of the NORAD air defense mission." [FNS, 10/25/01] Statistics on how many minutes fighters take to scramble before 9/11 apparently are not released.
"Consider that an aircraft emergency exists... when: ... There is unexpected loss of radar contact and radio communications with any... aircraft." [FAA regulations]
"If... you are in doubt that a situation constitutes an emergency or potential emergency, handle it as though it were an emergency." [FAA regulations]
"Pilots are supposed to hit each fix with pinpoint accuracy. If a plane deviates by 15 degrees, or two miles from that course, the flight controllers will hit the panic button. Theyll call the plane, saying 'American 11, youre deviating from course.' Its considered a real emergency, like a police car screeching down a highway at 100 miles an hour. When golfer Payne Stewarts incapacitated Learjet missed a turn at a fix, heading north instead of west to Texas, F-16 interceptors were quickly dispatched." [MSNBC, 9/12/01]
"A NORAD spokesman says its fighters routinely intercept aircraft. When planes are intercepted, they typically are handled with a graduated response. The approaching fighter may rock its wingtips to attract the pilot's attention, or make a pass in front of the aircraft. Eventually, it can fire tracer rounds in the airplane's path, or, under certain circumstances, down it with a missile." [Boston Globe, 9/15/01]
"In October , Gen. Eberhart told Congress that 'now it takes about
one minute' from the time that the FAA senses something is amiss before it notifies
NORAD. And around the same time, a NORAD spokesofficer told the Associated Press
that the military can now scramble fighters 'within a matter of minutes to anywhere
in the United States.'" [Slate,
The commander-in-chief of the Russian Air Force, Anatoli Kornukov, says the day after 9/11: "Generally it is impossible to carry out an act of terror on the scenario which was used in the USA yesterday.... As soon as something like that happens here, I am reported about that right away and in a minute we are all up." [Pravda, 9/12/01]
Supposedly, on 9/11, there are only four fighters on ready status in the Northeastern US, and only 14 fighters on permanent ready status in the entire US. [BBC, 8/29/02] However, any number of additional fighters could be in the air or ready to fly at the time the 9/11 attacks begin, but exact numbers are not known.
Additionally, the Air Traffic Services Cell (ATSC), an office designed to facilitate communications between the FAA and the military, had just been given a secure Internet (Siprnet) terminal and other hardware six weeks earlier, "greatly enhancing the movement of vital information." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/10/02]
(Before 7:59 a.m.) Hijacker Mohamed Atta on Flight 11 calls hijacker Marwan Alshehhi in Flight 175 as both planes sit on the runway. They confirm the plot is on. ["Just before 8:00," Time, 8/4/02] Do investigators know what was said in this call or are they just guessing, and if they do, what does that say about their data collection abilities?
(8:13 a.m.) Flight 11 is hijacked around this time. One flight controller says the plane is hijacked over Gardner, Massachusetts, less than 50 miles west of Boston. [Nashua Telegraph, 9/13/01]
8:14 a.m. Flight 175 takes off from Boston's Logan Airport, 16 minutes after the scheduled departure time. [CNN, 9/17/01, Washington Post, 9/12/01, Guardian, 10/17/01, AP, 8/19/02, Newsday, 9/10/02]
(8:20 a.m.) Boston flight control decides that Flight 11 has probably been hijacked, but apparently it doesn't notify other flight control centers for another five minutes, and don't notify NORAD for about another 20 minutes. ["About 8:20," Newsday, 9/23/01, "about 8:20," New York Times, 9/15/01] ABC News will later say, "There doesn't seem to have been alarm bells going off, traffic controllers getting on with law enforcement or the military. There's a gap there that will have to be investigated." [ABC News, 9/14/01]
8:25 a.m. Boston flight controllers notify other flight control centers of the Flight 11 hijacking, but supposedly they don't notify (NORAD for another 6 or 15 minutes (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.). [8:25:00, Guardian, 10/17/01] Why isn't NORAD also notified at this time? Note that this means the controllers working Flights 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of Flight 11's hijacking from this time. [Village Voice, 9/13/01]
8:31 a.m. NORAD employee Lt. Colonel Dawne Deskins later says that Boston flight control notifies NORAD of Flight 77's hijacking at this time, not at 8:40 as has been widely reported, even by Deskins previously (see 8:40 a.m.). [ABC News, 9/11/02] Another later report states, "Shortly after 8:30 a.m., behind the scenes, word of a possible hijacking [reaches] various stations of NORAD." [ABC News, 9/14/02] If Deskins' most recent account is right, Boston flight controllers wait about 10 minutes after they are sure Flight 11 was hijacked before notifying NORAD. Otherwise, Boston waits about 20 minutes.
8:37 a.m. Flight controllers ask the Flight 175 pilots to look for a lost American Airlines plane 10 miles to the south - a reference to Flight 11. They respond that they can see it. They are told to keep away from it. [8:37:08, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:37, Boston Globe, 11/23/01, the incident is not included in New York Times flight controller transcript of New York Times, 10/16/01]
(8:40 a.m.) Boston flight control supposedly notifies NORAD that Flight 11 has been hijacked (another account says it happens earlier (see 8:31 a.m.). [8:38, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:38, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:40, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:40, AP, 8/19/02, 8:40, Newsday, 9/10/02] This is about 20 minutes after traffic control noticed the plane had its transponder beacon and radio turned off. Such a delay in notification would be in strict violation of regulations.
(8:40 a.m.) Major Daniel Nash (codenamed Nasty) and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy (codenamed Duff) are the two F-15 pilots who would scramble after Flight 11 and then Flight 175. Nash says that at this time, a colleague at the Otis Air National Guard Base tells him that a flight out of Boston has been hijacked, and to be on alert. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] NEADS senior technician Jeremy Powell also later says that he telephones Otis Air Base and tells it to upgrade its "readiness posture." [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Duffy also says he is told in advance about the hijacking by the FAA in Boston. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Nash and Duffy put on their flight gear and get ready. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] They are already halfway to their jets when "battle stations" are sounded. Duffy briefs Nash on what he knows, and, "About 4-5 minutes later, we [get] the scramble order and [take] off." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] If this is true, why isn't the order to scramble given when the FAA called the pilots, instead of six minutes later? And even stranger, why does it take another six minutes (8:52) for the fighters to take off, if they had been given a heads up warning to get ready? Had the order to scramble been given now, there would be plenty of time for these fighters to reach New York before Flight 175.
8:41 a.m. The pilots of Flight 175 tell ground control about Flight 11, "We figured we'd wait to go to your center. We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure out of Boston. Someone keyed the mike and said: 'Everyone stay in your seats.' It cut out." [8:41, Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:41, Newsday, 9/10/02, 8:41:32, New York Times, 10/16/01] An alternate version: ''We heard a suspicious transmission on our departure from B-O-S [Boston's airport code]. Sounds like someone keyed the mike and said, 'Everyone, stay in your seats.''' [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] The last transmission from Flight 175, still discussing this message, comes a few seconds before 8:42. [New York Times, 10/16/01] Presumably Flight 175 is hijacked within the next minute.
8:42 a.m. Flight 175 veers from its official course.
Globe, 11/23/01] (An early CNN reports says
the deviation happens at 8:50, but that's probably when the plane, already off-course,
makes a complete U-turn north.) [CNN,
8:42 a.m. A flight controller says of Flight 175, "... looks like he's heading southbound but there's no transponder no nothing and no one's talking to him." [New York Times, 10/16/01]
(Before 8:43 a.m.) At some unknown time period, businessman Peter Burton Hanson calls his father from Flight 175 and says, "Oh, my God! They just stabbed the airline hostess. I think the airline is being hijacked." Despite being cut off twice, he manages to report how men armed with knives are stabbing flight attendants, apparently in an attempt to force crew to unlock the doors to the cockpit. He calls again and says good-bye just before the plane crashes. [Toronto Sun, 9/16/01, BBC, 9/13/01] This appears to have been one of only two passengers who call from this flight (an unnamed flight stewardess calls as well). Hanson also has a lot of trouble staying connected - is his flight too high up to enable people to easily call out?
8:43 a.m. NORAD is notified that Flight 175 has been hijacked. [8:43, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:43, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:43, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:43, AP, 8/19/02, 8:43, Newsday, 9/10/02] Apparently NORAD doesn't need to be notified, because by this time NEADS technicians have their headsets linked to the FAA in Boston to hear about Flight 11, and so NORAD learns instantly about Flight 175. [Newhouse News, 1/25/02] Note that this means the controllers working Flight 77 and Flight 93 would have been aware of both Flight 175 and Flight 11's hijacking from this time.
8:44 a.m. The pilot of US Airlines Flight 583 tells flight control, regarding Flight 175, "I just picked up an ELT [emergency locator transmitter] on 121.5 it was brief but it went off." The controller responds, "O.K. they said it's confirmed believe it or not as a thing, we're not sure yet..." [New York Times, 10/16/01] This appears to have been the only plane in which the emergency signal is triggered by the pilot.
(8:46 a.m.) Two F-15 fighters are ordered to scramble from Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts to find Flight 11, approximately 190 miles from the known location of the plane and 188 miles from New York City. Fighters in nearer bases are not scrambled. This is six to fifteen minutes after NORAD has been told the plane was hijacked (see 8:31 a.m. and 8:40 a.m.), 29 minutes after losing contact with the plane. [8:39, Channel 4 News, 9/13/01, 8:44, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:44, Washington Post, 9/15/01, 8:44, Los Angeles Times, 9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01] Supposedly, the scramble order comes after only one phone call - the decision is made to act first and get clearances later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] So why did it take 6-8 minutes to issue the order? According to the two pilots, Major Daniel Nash and Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, they are geared up and walking toward their planes when this alarm to scramble sounds. As soon as they strap in, the green light to launch goes on, and they're up even before their jets' radar kicks in. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] Yet, supposedly, it takes six more minutes for them to launch.
8:46 a.m. Flight
11 slams into the north tower, 1 World Trade Center. Investigators believe it
still had about 10,000 gallons of fuel and was traveling 470 mph. [New
York Times, 9/11/02] Approximately 2662 people are
killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 175. [AP,
8/19/02] [8:45, CNN,
9/12/01, 8:45, New York Times, 9/12/01,
8:46 (based on seismic data), New
York Times, 9/12/01, 8:46, CNN,
9/17/01, 8:46, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:46,
Post, 9/12/01, 8:46, AP,
8/19/02, 8:46, USA
Today, 9/3/02, 8:46, USA
Today, 8/13/02, 8:46, Newsday,
9/10/02, 8:47:00, Guardian,
10/17/01, 8:48, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 8:46:26,
Times, 9/11/02, 8:46:26, seismic
(8:46 a.m.) Flight 175 stops transmitting its transponder signal, according to some reports. It is 50 miles north of New York City, headed toward Baltimore. [8:46:18, Guardian, 10/17/01, "about the same time" as Flight 11 crash, Newsday, 9/10/02] Another lie? Note that at 8:42, a flight controller said, "There's no transponder no nothing." [New York Times, 10/16/01] However, the transponder is turned off for only about 30 seconds, then changed to a signal that is not designated for any plane on that day. [Newsday, 9/10/02] This "allow[s] controllers to track the intruder easily, though they couldn't identify it." [Washington Post, 9/17/01]
(After 8:46 a.m.) Shortly after the WTC is hit, the FAA has an open telephone line with the Secret Service, keeping them informed of all events. [Cheney: "The Secret Service has an arrangement with the FAA. They had open lines after the World Trade Center was... " - he stops himself before finishing the sentence, NBC, 9/16/01]
(Between 8:46 - 9:03 a.m.) As soon as Boston flight controllers hear news that a plane might have hit the WTC, they know it was Flight 11. They have been tracking it continually since it began behaving erratically. It takes "several minutes" for Boston to report to NORAD that Flight 11 is responsible. [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F), Newhouse News, 1/25/02] However, flight controllers in New York City complain that they aren't given a conclusive report of what happened to Flight 11 until just before Flight 175 crashes at 9:03. "We had 90 to 120 seconds; it wasn't any 18 minutes," says one controller, referring to the actual elapsed time between the two crashes. Another controller says: "They dove into the airspace. By the time anybody saw anything, it was over." [New York Times, 9/13/01 (F)]
8:48 a.m. The first news reports appear on TV and radio that a plane may have crashed into the WTC. [New York Times, 9/15/01, CNN, 9/11/01] Many others don't come until a few minutes later. For instance ABC first breaks into regular programming with the story at 8:52. [ABC, 9/14/02]
(8:50 a.m.) Rich ''Doc'' Miles, manager of United's Chicago system operations center, receives a call from a mechanic at an airline maintenance center in San Francisco that takes in-flight calls from flight attendants about broken items. The mechanic says a female flight attendant from Flight 175 just called and said, ''Oh my God. The crew has been killed, a flight attendant has been stabbed. We've been hijacked.'' Then the line went dead. A dispatcher monitoring the flight then sends messages to the plane's cockpit computer but gets no response. [Boston Globe, 11/23/01]
8:52 a.m. Two F-15s take off from Otis ANG Base, six minutes after being ordered to go after Flight 11, which has already crashed. [8:52, NORAD, 9/18/01, 8:52, CNN, 9/17/01, 8:53, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 8:52, Washington Post, 9/15/01, 8:52, ABC News, 9/11/02] This is 38 minutes after flight controllers lost contact with the plane. They go after Flight 175 instead. According to Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, one of the pilots, before takeoff, a fellow officer had told him "This looks like the real thing." He says, "It just seemed wrong. I just wanted to get there. I was in full-blower all the way." A NORAD commander has said the planes were stocked with extra fuel as well. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Full-blower is very rare - it means the fighters are going as fast as they can go. An F-15 can travel over 1875 mph. [Air Force News, 7/30/97] Duffy later says, "As we're climbing out, we go supersonic on the way, which is kind of nonstandard for us." He says his target destination is over Kennedy airport in New York City. [ABC News, 9/11/02] According to Major Gen. Paul Weaver, director of the Air National Guard, "The pilots [fly] 'like a scalded ape,' topping 500 mph but [are] unable to catch up to the airliner." [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01] ABC News later says, "The fighters are hurtling toward New York at mach 1.2, nearly 900 miles per hour." [ABC News, 9/11/02] NORAD commander Major General Larry Arnold says they head straight for New York City at about 1100 to 1200 mph. [MSNBC, 9/23/01 (C), Slate, 1/16/02] "An F-15 departing from Otis can reach New York City in 10 to 12 minutes, according to an Otis spokeswoman." [Cape Cod Times, 9/16/01] At an average speed of 1125 mph, they would reach the city in 10 minutes - 9:02. So if NORAD commander Arnold's speed is correct, these fighters should reach Flight 175 just before it crashes. Yet according to the NORAD timeline [NORAD, 9/18/01], these planes take about 19 minutes to reach New York City, traveling less than 600 mph.
(After 8:52 a.m.) William Wibel, principal of a school inside Otis Air National Guard Base in the Cape Cod region of Massachusetts, is inside the Otis base preparing for a meeting. He hears about the WTC attack and is told the meeting is canceled. He says, "As I drove away, and was listening to the news on the radio, the 102nd was scrambling into duty." [Cape Cod Times, 9/12/01] Given that the WTC story doesn't break on local news and radio until about 8:52, and it must take him some time to learn the meeting is canceled, go back to his car and so forth, he must hear the fighters take off well after 8:52. Yet NORAD says the fighters took off from Otis at 8:52.
8:53 a.m. A flight controller says to other airplanes in the sky regarding Flight 175, "We may have a hijack. We have some problems over here right now." [Guardian, 10/17/01, 8:53:23, New York Times, 10/16/01]
(8:55 a.m.) A public announcement is broadcast inside the WTC South Tower, saying that the building is secure and people can return to their offices. [New York Times, 9/11/02, click on interactive popup] Such announcements continue until a few minutes before the building is hit, and "may [lead] to the deaths of hundreds of people." No one knows exactly what is said (though many later recall the phrase "the building is secure") or who gives the authority to say it. [USA Today, 9/3/02] Given that at 8:43 NORAD was notified Flight 175 was hijacked and headed toward New York City, why weren't people in the building warned?
8:58 a.m. Brian Sweeney on Flight 175 tries to call his wife but can only leave a message. "We've been hijacked, and it doesn't look too good." He calls his mother and tells her what's happening onboard. [Hyannis News, 9/13/01, Washington Post, 9/21/01]
(Between 9:01 - 9:03 a.m.) Flight 175 is an unmarked blip to flight controllers in New York City. One controller stands up in horror. "No, he's not going to land. He's going in!" "Oh, my God! He's headed for the city," another controller shouts. "Oh, my God! He's headed for Manhattan!" [Washington Post, 9/21/01]
(9:03 a.m.) Flight 175 hits the south tower, 2 World Trade Center. Millions watch the crash live on television. Approximately 2662 people are killed on the ground between this crash and the crash of Flight 11. [AP, 8/19/02] F-15 fighter jets from Otis Air National Guard Base are still 71 miles or eight minutes away. [9:02, CNN, 9/17/01, 9:02, NORAD, 9/18/01, 9:02, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:03, New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 9:03, Guardian, 10/17/01, 9:03, CNN, 9/12/01, 9:03, AP, 8/19/02, 9:03, Newsday, 9/10/02, 9:03, USA Today, 9/3/02, 9:03, USA Today, 8/13/02, 9:05, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:05, Washington Post, 1/27/02, 9:02:54, New York Times, 9/11/02, 9:02:54, seismic records] The Otis Air National Guard Base is 188 miles from New York City. According to NORAD's timeline, fighters left Otis 11 minutes earlier. If they were still 70 miles away, then that means they must have been traveling about 650 mph, when the top speed for an F-15 is 1875 mph!
(9:03 a.m. and After) The minute Flight 175 hits the south tower, F-15 pilot Maj. Daniel Nash says that clear visibility allows him to see smoke pour out of Manhattan, even though NORAD says he is 71 miles away. However, he says he can't recall actually being told of the Flight 11 hit. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] He isn't told about the danger of Flight 175 until after it too has crashed and he is 60 miles away. [ABC, 9/14/02] And instead of being ordered to New York City, the two F-15s are ordered to hover in a 150-mile chunk of air space off the coast of Long Island. Nash states,"Neither the civilian controller or the military controller knew what they wanted us to do." But then a few minutes later, they receive orders to head to Manhattan for combat air patrol, and they do that for the next four hours. At no point are these pilots given permission to shoot down any airliners. Nash points out that even if he had reached New York City before Flight 175, he couldn't have shot it down because only the President could make that decision and he was indisposed at a public event. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] The pilot of the other fighter, Lt. Col. Timothy Duffy, says that after Flight 175 has crashed, "at that point they [say] the second aircraft just hit the World Trade Center. That was news to me. I thought we were still chasing American 11." [ABC News, 9/11/02] Why are the pilots not being told of their targets? Why are they being sent out into the ocean? Why is Bush reading a book about a goat when all this is happening?
(9:06 - 9:16 a.m.) Bush, having just been told of the second WTC crash (see (9:06 a.m.)), does not leave the Sarasota, Florida, classroom he entered around 9:03. Rather, he stays and listens as 16 Booker Elementary School second-graders take turns reading a story called Pet Goat, about a girl's pet goat. [AFP, 9/7/02] They are just about to begin reading when Bush is warned of the attack. One account says that the classroom is then silent for about 30 seconds, maybe more. Bush then picks up the book and reads with the children "for eight or nine minutes." [Tampa Tribune, 9/1/02] In unison, the children read out loud, "The - Pet - Goat. A - girl - got - a - pet - goat. But - the - goat - did - some - things - that - made - the - girl's - dad - mad." And so on. Bush mostly listens, but does ask the children a few questions to encourage them. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] At one point he says, "Really good readers, whew! ... These must be sixth-graders!" [Time, 9/12/01] In the back of the room, Press Secretary Ari Fleischer catches Bush's eye and holds up a pad of paper for him to read, with "DON'T SAY ANYTHING YET" written on it in big block letters. [Washington Times, 10/7/02] Otherwise, Bush is completely cut off from outside developments. CNN reported in 1999, "Only the president has the authority to order a civilian aircraft shot down." [CNN, 10/26/99] The pilot of one of the planes flying to catch Flight 175 notes that it wouldn't have mattered if he caught up with it, because only Bush could order a shootdown, and Bush is at a public event at the time. [Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02] If that fighter had caught up to Flight 175, or if a fighter had a chance to shoot down Flight 77, would many have needlessly died because Bush didn't leave this classroom? (Note that three articles claim that Bush leaves the classroom at 9:12 [New York Times, 9/16/01 (B), Telegraph, 12/16/01, Daily Mail, 9/8/02], but the video of Bush in the room lasts longer than that. That video also has edits and ends before Bush leaves. The above time is a rough guess based mostly on the Tampa Tribune estimate).
9:15 a.m. American
Airlines orders no new takeoffs in the US; United Airlines follows suit five
minutes later. [Wall Street Journal,
9:17 a.m. The FAA shuts down all New York City area airports. [CNN, 9/12/01, New York Times, 9/12/01]
9:59 a.m. The south tower of the World Trade Center collapses. It was hit by Flight 175 at 9:02. [9:50, Washington Post, 9/12/01, 9:59, MSNBC, 9/22/01, 9:59, AP, 8/19/02, 9:59, ABC News, 9/11/02, 9:59 (based on seismic data), New York Times, 9/12/01, 10:05, CNN, 9/12/01, 10:05, New York Times, 9/12/01 , 9:59:39, US Army authorized seismic study, 9:59:04, seismic records]
(2:00 p.m.) F-15 fighter pilot Major Daniel Nash returns to base around this time, after chasing Flight 175 and patrolling the skies over New York City. [About 1:30, Cape Cod Times, 8/21/02, about 2:30, Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]